Friday, October 05, 2012

Political brief

Obviously, what's on most Americans' minds lately is the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but I've been a bad blogger and a bad citizen, and have not been following the campaign as closely as I should. As I've said before, I definitely lean to the left politically, and therefore am not a Romney supporter (PBS as first on the budget chopping block? With an increase in Pentagon spending? Maybe I'm naive, but that doesn't seem right). However, Obama has proven disappointing. Big business is as powerful as ever, many civil liberties violations that started under Bush continue, and unemployment has wavered (though today's report indicates that it's now at its lowest since Obama took office), as has the economy. People have been complaining about our political process for decades, and yet nothing seems to change. This highlights one of the core problems with a democracy; there are a lot of stupid people out there, easily swayed by hollow words about personal freedom or public duty. Another problem is, the person who is elected is not always the same person who we see at the end of the term. There are no guarantees that any candidate will, or can, keep campaign promises. This isn't to let the politicians who don't perform up to standard off the hook; one of the good points of a democracy is that the people can make their approval or disapproval known. But we simply have no way of knowing for sure how the candidate we elect will perform once in office. One of the other problems with the political process, the one I've been thinking about a lot with news of the campaign, is the nature of being a nation's leader. It's a thankless job (again, not letting bad leaders off the hook, just trying to make a point). An entire country is depending on them to make good decisions, many of which have to be made at a moment's notice. Since no two people are exactly alike, there will always be a group who doesn't like what the leader is doing, and may be quite verbal or even violent in their displeasure (the reason world leaders, even those no longer in power or just hopeful future leaders, travel with bodyguards). And, particularly in this era, every move is met with public and media scrutiny. Most of us, understandably, wouldn't want that kind of pressure, so obviously the ones who do, and actively court campaign dollars and spend months on the trail to get it, are very different from the rest of us, and maybe not in a good way. Maybe some of them just want the power. Then there's the fact that simply being in power significantly changes a person (a possible subject for another post, once I track down the studies I read), usually for the worse, even those who originally wanted to use their power to do good. Politics is a dirty business, and probably always will be. But the optimist in me (yes, there's an optimist in me now, not sure how that happened) thinks that if the public is better informed about the nature of the political game, we might be able to change it for the better. I'm not sure how, but, to quote a cliche, knowledge is power.

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