Herb Paine: Drowning by political neglect

June 18, 2012

What sane and responsible person leaves their baby unattended in a pool?

It's an unconscious act. It's an unconscionable act. But it is, for all intents and purposes, precisely what's happening in American politics today, nationally and locally.

Always it seems that the caretakers point to some distraction to explain why the eye was taken off the baby. Is it possible the phone call or hike to the refrigerator can be more important than safeguarding the life of the child? Or is there some delusion the baby can fend for itself for a while? Or is the narcissism, the insidious fixation with self, so strong that other lives and interests are secondary?

In politics, in today's legislatures and in the campaigns that bombard us with manipulations of fact and diversions from critically important issues -- I mean the really important issues -- we are witnessing the equivalent of drowning by neglect. Drowning in debt, in polarization, and eroding infrastructure and the degradation of the environment.

Frankly, I have election fatigue. I'm tired of watching too many elected officials and those aspiring to be elected who are absorbed with themselves, whose commitment to self-power and reelection transcends any sense of selfless service for the common good. Who shrink from daring the public with bold and constructive ideas.

I think about this, and then I think, what are our votes worth if it costs a billion dollars per presidential candidate to buy them. That's what it's going to cost. And for what? Summer-long blistering TV ads and spinmeisters and billboards. Let's get real. How many drownings will it take before we retain our sanity and demand more from ourselves and our politics. By November do we really expect to have heard any bold calls to action to revive a lagging economy? To put people back to work? To rebuild our infrastructure and restore our educational future?

I am sad to say I have lost faith in the system. I have little trust that either Romney or Obama, Republicans or Democrats in Congress or the state legislature have the will or the way to lead us to balance.

I may sit this next election out. I may focus on just being a good babysitter, a good caretaker of my community. That's what I may do. Prevent one drowning at a time in this summer of our discontent. Otherwise, give me, who has always believed in the sanctity of the vote, good reason to restore my faith in the system.

 

Herb Paine is a business strategy consultant, former candidate for Congress, and social critic.