The Decline of American Politics
(published on this website in 2015
Copyright 2015 (all rights reserved)
and for publication as a guest column/op-ed piece)
Was Pope Francis’s visit to our country a week after the Republican Party’s second debate pure happenstance? Or divine providence? No matter the answer, the juxtaposition of these two events tells us much about a broader issue, the sad state of our country’s political affairs.
I’ll start with the pontiff’s message to Congress.
He first referred to four, prominent Americans and their importance to our nation’s history. In discussing their work, he was reminding us, I think, of our obligations not only to ourselves but also to others in conducting our affairs of state.
He spoke on immigration, referring to Martin Luther King’s dream that inspired all of us, and the millions of foreigners who have come through the years to pursue their own dreams, reminding us that we too were or descended from, immigrants.
The pontiff addressed this country’s and the world’s poverty.
He spoke of the environmental challenges that we face globally. Stating without reservation, “we can make a difference”, he added, “I have no doubt that the United States—and this Congress—have an important role to play.”
He brought up what he referred to as the “creation and distribution of wealth”. No doubt some conservatives might conclude that the pontiff was referring to what they fear, taking from the rich and giving to the poor, a redistribution of wealth system. But I believe that he spoke in the context of how we manage our wealth and meant that by the “harnessing of the spirit of enterprise,” and the application of new technology, jobs would be created, thus increasing the prosperity of all.
Finally, he discussed the ever-important arms trade issue.
So how does our politics figure in with what Pope Francis had to say? Very well, I’d say.
These issues are the challenges facing our country and the world. Yet, are our two major parties’ candidates sufficiently and substantively addressing them along with potential solutions? Some of these issues surfaced at the debate, but only superficially and with skant substance.
People ask, “What’s wrong with our government?” when they should also be asking, “What’s wrong with our politicians?” I’d answer: plenty!
Today, politicians on a soapbox are more concerned with their own interests instead of our citizens’ interests. Both parties are at fault, but I must say that the Republicans seem to have such candidates in abundance, as evidenced by the debate.
Political and economic thinking and concepts have been labeled “isms” through the years, such as capitalism and communism, but today, we’re in the era of “phony”ism. The dialogue during the debate was replete with phonies trying to muscle their way into the limelight and hopefully into our voting hearts.
To be sure, political phonies have existed for decades, even centuries. But the annoyance of their presence has evolved to an all-time high. Yes, it’s a sad state of affairs, and only one group can put on their thinking caps and do something about it—the electorate. So let’s get on with the task at hand and weed out the phonies like the ones we witnessed a few weeks ago. Our country’s future is at stake.
Is it stretching it to say that the debate worked well as entertainment and a broad display of big egos lacking substance? The stage was certainly wide enough to accommodate such a display of arrogance mixed in with dishonesty and deception. After such a display, most of them are lucky they’re still in the running. But if that’s the best the Republicans can offer us, their party’s in deep doo-doo.
Trump took the dubious honor at the debate. To the credit of his opponents, they refrained from the name-calling that Trump is so good at. They held steadfast to the notion that one doesn’t fight a bully by becoming bullies. I too usually refrain from name-calling when confronted by adversaries, even if they deserve it. But assuming I didn’t practice such restraint, I’d for certain exercise my right to call Trump what he is: a bully, egomaniac, blowhard, and above all that, a buffoon to the max.
No matter my dismay, I remind myself not to lose faith in our voters, hoping they will eventually be able to see through the deception and dishonesty of self-serving politicians who have stained politics and tell them what they want to hear.
What I’ve said here applies equally to Democratic candidates, but, risking that I’ll reveal my party loyalty, I dare say that the Republicans take the prize for empty rhetoric, empty promises, and downright lying to the American public.
In his final remarks, the pope reminded us of the “richness of [our] cultural heritage,” and “of the spirit of the American people.” He spoke of his “desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that [our youth] can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.”
Sadly, I saw not one hint of that spirit in the debate.