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The Dark Side of US Politics

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In a perfect world, we would have enlightened political representatives willing to put the interests of the American people ahead of their own political careers. Instead, we live in world where elected officials play Russian roulette with economic policy in the hopes that their jobs will be renewed the next election cycle. When Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) suddenly reneged on the “big deal” deficit and debt goals, Boehner was exemplifying some of the worst tendencies in U.S. politics.

Many of us talk now as if it is “practical” or “rational” for elected representatives at the national level to look out for the interests of a rather narrow section of the American people. Our “political speak” also implies that the only individuals who matter in the country are the ones able or likely to vote. Of course, you’ll say, that’s simply how politics in the U.S. works. But we, the people of America, have the ability to make politics in Virginia and throughout the country more equitable, less intrusive, more efficient, and less self-interested.

What lofty goals, you may respond. But since when has the U.S. become so cynical as to believe that the U.S. is not capable of “enlightened” government? I do not refer here to the philosopher-kings of Plato but the wise representatives of the Founding Fathers of America. The goals I speak to are well within the reach of a people who value them and are willing to stand up for them in the political sphere.

Rep. Boehner could have done the right thing and pushed towards a $4 trillion deal in the debt/deficit discussions, taking on the disorderlies in his party for the greater good of the country. Instead, he has chosen to take the path of least resistance and, for now, to save the precarious hold he already has on his leadership role in the House. But while Boehner eases a tidal wave of protests among some in his party, the certainty of the U.S.’s economic outlook continues to deteriorate. One has to hope that the momentary elixir of political survival outweighs the potentially lifelong consequences of a catastrophic showdown on the country’s debt ceiling and deficit spending.