An American Editor

July 29, 2010

November’s Around the Corner, Yet Here We Go Again

The campaign season has gotten into gear. Here in New York State, we are still in budget crisis yet our politicians want us to reelect them. The irony is that most of them will be reelected even though most voters think the politicians should be kicked out.

What really gripes me is that yesterday the state legislators were called into special session, costing us taxpayers $100,000, and what did they do? They pledged their allegiance to the U.S. flag, had the call into special session read to them, and then adjourned. Nothing was discussed, nothing debated, but we taxpayers owe them another $100,000.

To top that off, I was annoyed last evening with a “research” telephone call regarding the state senate race in my district. The caller identified themselves as a pollster and asked if I would participate. So far, so good. Then the questions came. Only an idiot wouldn’t have seen through the smokescreen. It wasn’t really a poll; it was a fake poll designed to boost the incumbent and deflate his challenger. The questions were so biased toward the incumbent, I finally asked for the pollster’s complete contact information, at which point the polling stopped and the pollster hung up.

Politics has always been a dirty game. When I read about the election contests at the birth of our nation, it is clear they were as riddled with fabrications as today’s campaigns, and equally as dirty. Subsequent campaigns were no better.

The fault is that of the voter, so I stand up and accept my share of the blame. First, we allowed politics to become a permanent occupation. Why should any officeholder be allowed to be elected to an office more than a couple of times? We talk about the Kennedy seat, the Rangel seat, the XYZ seat, but never about the people’s seat. Was Ted Kennedy entitled to the seat? Or how about Robert Byrd? Charlie Rangel’s ethical problems are a result of his character and his district’s constantly reelecting him without question.

Second, we always believe that the politicians are doing us dirty as citizens — not necessarily a wrong belief — but then reelect our politicians. It is always someone else’s politician who is doing us dirty. It’s pretty hard to thrown stones when you live in a glass house yourself. It was recently reported that 70% of Americans think Congress is doing a horrendous job and all those up for reelection this November should be voted out of office. Then they were asked whether they intended to vote for their current incumbent, and slightly more than half said yes. What it means is that 434 Representatives and 98 Senators are ruining America but our 3 aren’t. Mr. Smith went to Washington in fantasyland, not in real America!

Third, we have created a culture in which our politicians believe they are entitled to everything they can get. How many of us have health insurance plans that equal or surpass that of our Congressperson, both in coverage and in cost? How about our retirements? And no need to go that far — what about our incomes. If it is true that fewer than 5% of American households have incomes greater than $250,000, why is it that so many congressional households are in that plateau? Perhaps if Mitch McConnell had to stand in an unemployment line he would understand the need to extend unemployment benefits. Perhaps if congresspersons had no health insurance coverage at taxpayer expense, they would better understand the need to do something about the problem; maybe they would recognize that it is a problem.

Which brings me to my last frustration with politicians (well, the last for this article; I’ve got a whole list more): Why is it we can afford billions upon billions of dollars for foreign wars, unusable/unwanted weapons systems, aid to foreign countries, pork-barrel projects, and tax cuts and special tax legislation that do not demonstrably bring jobs to Americans, but we cannot afford better healthcare, better education, and to feed, clothe, and shelter every American reasonably? I’m not suggesting, for example, that our military doesn’t deserve a lot of its budget or that a congressperson’s pork for a local children’s museum isn’t a good thing; rather, I want to understand the underlying thinking that rarely ever addresses budgetary deficit resolution with these things in mind. Yet, we voters tolerate that thinking, if not outright endorse it.

Which brings me to my voter frustration. We voters tend to focus on a specific, narrow issue when deciding for whom to cast our vote. A neighbor who is significantly underemployed and has had to put his house up for sale is solely focused on the candidates’ Second Amendment positions. He will vote for the candidate who he thinks will best promote his right to own and use guns without restrictions. I don’t dispute that to him it is an important issue, but THE issue? He doesn’t care about any other issue, just that one issue. It is more important to him than issues about funding schools for his children to attend, supporting the food pantry where he occasionally goes to supplement his larder, healthcare in light of his loss of coverage because of his sporadic work in this economy, and matters of his retirement, which isn’t many years away, and future employment prospects.

I guess politicians are simply a reflection of the voters — neither seem to be able to look at the big picture and act on it for the benefit of all. I get so tired of hearing a politician say it is good for her constituents even if it is a disaster for all the rest of the country so she is supporting it. I’m not sure America isn’t more divided today than it was in 1861; I am sure that politicians and voters haven’t evolved any since then.


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