Friday, February 26, 2016

We Need a New Sense of Fundamental Decencies

The politics of our day is a deadening force. The angry divisiveness, the arrogant partisanship of it all, the refusal to cooperate with others, the obsession of winning at all costs even if it costs the nation its dignity and its worth, is a bitter reality.

I’m unclear as to what brought us here. Why our politicians failed to evolve and became instead a crowd of petty, juvenile, angry, warped and one-sided tyrants is debatable but it discredits all of us.

It is impossible to move the country forward if our chief lawmakers have no interest in anything but their own political careers; if they care about nothing but holding onto their elected offices even if it requires them to compromise themselves into some form of prostitution, the selling of themselves to corporate giants and the czars of finance. Which many if not most have already done.

Our current presidential campaign is a humiliating display of defective candidates. The Republicans have paraded before us a crowd of the most bewildering people imaginable as possible choices for president. Most of them long time politicians who have done little or nothing for America.

Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson are the only two candidates who are not politicians. And neither of them seems to have a grasp of the imperative issues facing the nation. Donald Trump is far more outspoken and charismatic and frankly shows at times a strange reasonableness in the midst of his cockamamie bluster. He wants to make sure no sick or dying homeless person on the street is abandoned without care. He wants to attempt to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He wants to honor and provide for our war veterans. His ideas on all of that are murky and if they can be believed I find them valuable. I actually think all of his bullying talk about immigrants and the wall with its beautiful door is a con. As a deal maker he knows he will need to find a way to assimilate the undocumented in this country in some fair and just way; and to use their abundant skills and work ethic to rebuild this country and pay them well to do it. He’s not going to deport anyone. Dr. Carson’s deeply held religious beliefs may be sincere but they isolate him into an irritating clique of fanatics who want to make Christianity a functioning part of government. Which when you stop to actually think about that is utterly absurd and frightening.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have nothing to offer the nation other than a pathetic scene of personal ladder climbing into endless ambition and self-absorption. Rubio is immature and flaky. Cruz is sinister and unprincipled whose motives seem born out of some dark forbidding compulsion of need and dysfunction. Both betray their own people, who need them, but are entirely dismissed by them.

John Kasich seems to orbit somewhere outside these other guys. And yet he is cabled to them even if in wobbly ways. He certainly sounds more reasonable and willing to at least try and work with Democrats. But there is a frequently worrying extreme conservatism that bubbles up out of him that in my mind keeps him questionable and unelectable.

On the Democratic side there is Hillary Clinton. I’ve made clear my fears about her candidacy. Her foreign policy record disturbs me. Unless she has all of a sudden been transformed by some Damascus Road experience of transcendence it seems unlikely to me that she would offer any hope of ending the war machine that America now is. Her attachment to big banks and the finance industry, which cannot be brushed aside as irrelevant, troubles me too. I get the feeling with her it’s play along to get along. Hold your nose if you have to but go ahead and operate in the stink for the rewards that are there. And tangentially if someone is helped by your presence in that arena, well, good has been done. Her gifts are extraordinary and expansive but I fear they stay located in mostly self-serving channels of operation that generously benefit the elite and throw crumbs at the rest. She boasts of her work at the Children’s Defense Fund early in her career but as First Lady she sided with her husband president Clinton and Republicans who axed the Dependent Children’s Federal Assistance program. That program had been in place for 61 years and was exchanged for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program which gutted the previous resources and as the title says was only temporary anyway. I see Ms. Clinton as an establishment politician.

Bernie Sanders, though a career politician too, has fought the whole time for progressive issues and has taken courageous stands against war, poverty, injustice, bigotry, high prison rates of blacks and Hispanics, corporate greed, and a corrupt Congress satisfied to serve themselves and not the American people. He has a vision for the county. Some call it idealistic, undoable, a pipe dream. Others are convinced it has the potential to revolutionize our political system and turn us toward a future of dramatic and healthy change.

One thing is certain. We need a new sense of fundamental decencies in this country. And we need political leaders who demonstrate them in their lives, their character, and their policies. We need politicians who actually care about all of our citizens, but especially about children in poverty, wounded vets struggling to live on the pennies the military pays them, people in addiction who need assistance in getting their lives turned around. We need politicians who work to end the murdering of blacks shot in the back or choked to death on the street or hassled endlessly by rogue cops filled with uncontrollable rage. We need politicians who have an intelligent and humanitarian approach to domestic violence, the right to abortion, equal pay, equal opportunities, and other women issues.

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt has written, “Anything that takes us out of ourselves and makes us feel we are listening to something larger is part of morality. It’s about pressing the buttons that turn off ‘I’ and turn on ‘we.’”

Give us a new president who can do that and politicians who will honor that and follow in kind and we’ll have a country proud again, growing, inspirational and humane, just and benevolent, far sighted and ingenious.

© 2016 Timothy Moody

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