You don’t need to be a political pundit to provide insight into the machinations of politics. I’m reading John Sandford’s mystery novel, Heat Lightning, an enjoyable repast full of murder and mayhem. In it a minor character, Richard Homewood, is expressing his frustration with local politics:
“”I testified for the Minneapolis Planning Board against a ridiculous, absurd proposal for low-income housing — and I’m in favor of low-income housing, don’t misunderstand me, but this was a fraud. A straight-out fraud. . .
“‘People don’t believe me when I tell them what’s going to happen,’ Homewood said. He shrugged. “˜Warren figured that out. If I’m not going to have any effect, why worry about me? People believe what they hope will happen, and that’s what Warren peddles to them — hope that something good will happen. Something good does happen, but only for Warren. And then the taxpayers wind up holding the bag, just like they have with Teasdale Commons.'”
The American people are basically optimistic. Recent polls show that, even in these stressful economic times, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that things will get better. For the most part, we tend to look for and believe the best about people — even politicians.
But there is a limitation to that optimism — that willingness to see the good in people and that limitation comes after being strung along over an extended period of time. And it has been an extended period of time.
First we had the Clintons — shady land dealings and cover-ups, influence pedaling and cover-ups, missing files and cover-ups, sex scandals and cover-ups, presidential pardons and cover-ups. All coupled with political gridlock as a result of the Clinton’s version of the “politics of personal destruction.”
Then we had Pres. Bush and the WMDs that never materialized, the Iraq war that drug on without an exit strategy, the promise of fiscal conservatism backed by a record spending spree and more gridlock as politics became personal instead of principled.
And the congressional leaders were worse than either of the presidents.
Sixteen uninterrupted years of expectations of our leaders that went unmet. Sixteen years of saying one thing and doing another. Sixteen years of self before country, of power before principle, and of special interest before common interest. It is no wonder that Barack Obama so successfully pushed the campaign of “hope and change.” He was appealing to the optimistic nature of America. He was appealing to the hope that something good would happen.
But just like Richard Homewood said, “Something good does happen, but only for Warren. And the taxpayers wind up holding the bag. . .” But in this case the something good happened to Barack Obama and his supporters. He became president and the taxpayers doled out billions in benefits to his principal supporters. Billions for the bankers and Wall Street whose greed and willingness to risk other people’s money brought us to near economic collapse. Billions for the public employee unions who have seen their ranks swell while private sector unemployment climbed above ten percent. Billions for the auto industry to pay for union healthcare and pension plans that management ignored while paying themselves tens of millions of dollars. Billions for every crackpot, far left boondoggle and academic pretense imaginable with no discernible benefit or increased employment. Trillions for a “new” healthcare system that will neither improve the quality of healthcare nor address the root causes of its inflated costs. All resulting in a staggering debt that not only will this generation not be able to pay, but which will serve as a drag on every future generation.
Yes, the American people are optimistic even to the point of perceived naivete. But the American people are neither naÃ¯ve, nor patient forever.
Thus arises the “Tea Party” movement. It is the accumulation of frustrations built over the past seventeen years — yes, the Clinton years, the Bush years and now the Obama year. It arises because the majority of America knows that nobody is listening to them. It arises because neither political party gave voice to the concerns of the average American, It arises because every special interest group is feeding at the trough of our tax dollars while the worries and concerns of average Americans are either ignored or used as a political punching bags for those who seek advantage and power rather than solutions.
I don’t know whether the “Tea Party” movements will succeed in changing the nature or practice of politics but its anger and frustrations feel right. The excesses of politics need to be restrained and the “Tea Party” movement is as good a place as any to start.