Something like a political statement
I post mostly cynical political comments, and try to affect an air of political independence, here, in a single note, is where I stand:
I am a Democrat, but I really, truly loath the partisanship that functions like the NFL. I agree with the Libertarians on civil liberties. I agree with the extinct moderate Republicans on debt. I agree with the Greens that our national priorities are woefully misdirected. I don’t think an American empire is a good thing for us or for our friends in other nations. I believe that an intro Econ course is essential for everybody, but upper level econ courses seem to be taken largely by Democrats. I believe that ethics is as important as economics, and that a person who mistakes a truth of intro econ for a moral imperative is a dangerous person to elect to office. I believe government is not a business, and should not be run like one, but I also think that government needs to be held to an extraordinarily high and public standard of accountability. I think most decisions, most of the time, should be left to individuals and markets, but that some things genuinely require government and we shouldn’t be embarrassed by that. I think we make personal and market decisions about health, education, and (often) at the fringes of disaster and the fringes of melting glaciers that are great for individuals and lousy for the country. I think we have short historical memories. I think that the safety net protects more of us than we think it does. I think that when we treat politics as an ends and not a means, we accelerate national decline. I believe that there is abundant evidence that President Obama truly wants to work across party lines, and I believe that he’s a good man with good judgement. I am appalled and will continue to be appalled by the excesses of our security and defense apparatus, even and particularly under President Obama, and believe that we squander lives, money, and international good will and would be better served pouring every bit of that effort into green energy and fighting global warming and poverty. I believe that corporations are not people, that banking should be a utility, and that investment bankers should be regulated like casinos if they’re going to behave like casinos. I believe that campaign finance is almost irrevocably broken. I believe that we have a lawyering culture that interprets law as a mesh of loopholes to be exploited rather than a code of ethics and responsibilities on which life can be reliably conducted and which, if it all breaks the right way, civilization can be advanced. I believe that almost every single person I disagree with is either a good person or seriously mentally ill, and thus – either way – worthy of forgiveness. I wish that Americans, of all political leanings, could remember the relatives and acquaintances they disagree with but love, and remember that the political opposition is not the enemy, but the other party in a negotiation that could be mutually beneficial. I believe that there are bad guys, and that they got that way through the usual storybook ways: power, greed, lust, and sloth. But I think there are more good people, and that they should vote. I think we still live in a profoundly racist and sexist and homophobic society, but I also believe we are making progress, and that the progress is accelerating. I believe that progress sometimes makes us think we’re done when we’re not. The most depressing thing I see regularly is a bumper sticker mocking hope and change. It’s sad that a person’s political beliefs would preclude the possibility of a better world.
My favorite class at every level of schooling was always Social Studies. Civics, government, history. Perhaps my cynicism is the result of such great stories being so regularly dashed by reality. But I can’t become entirely cynical: I think those stories are still mostly true. And my daughter’s entering school soon. I’m going to have to help her with her homework, and I don’t want to lie to her: this stuff has to bear out.
That’s why, on balance, I am a Democrat. I don’t believe my party is perfect. I look at the Republicans and I see a party in the clutches of wealth and power in one camp, and of religious fundamentalists in the other. I look at the Libertarians and see a party that too often ignores the complexity of the real world. I look at the Greens and I see a party that ignores the complexity of real politics.
Ideally, politics is a conversation and negotiation, but there’s very little that’s ideal about our current political moment. My main hope for President Obama is the same as it was four years ago: that somehow, out of this morass, we can find firm footing. That a man with the power to command, who consistently extends an offer to negotiate, will finally be heard. He’s been asking. He’s been asking in the face of the most ridiculous attacks and the most irresponsible abdication of responsibility on the part of Republican leaders. I think he’s going to continue asking. Maybe it’s foolish to think such a thing, or believe that such a thing could work. But it’s what I think.