dirty rag

US Politics - Ugly Hubris, Mr. Patterson? - Jonathan Ida

I used to scoff at people who used words such as "alienation" and "disenfranchisement" when referring to their relation with American politics. What exactly does that mean?

Well, to me it meant that people no longer felt that they had any part in the political system that is meant to represent their goals and desires.

To which I asked, did they ever think that they really played a meaningful part in politics? Was it just because they voted?

One could also argue that disenfranchisement was a realization that whomever we vote into office eventually becomes a disappointment, because he does not rule the world alone.he cannot just institute his platform. While this seems shortsighted, this attitude accumulates over the years and "alienates" the citizens of our republic, until they just don't care anymore and no longer even attempt to participate.

Recently, I've come to understand the validity of these feelings, even though I avidly disagree with the apathy that they impose. I've become angry and disillusioned with the current state of affairs in Washington as a whole, and my feelings culminated upon reading an article published in this e-zine by a close friend of mine, Mr. Patterson, when he decided to "address" the issue of a failed presidential bid by Al Gore.

The campaign in 2000 was a contest between two career politicians who were more similar than they were different. And, by that very fact, it managed to create a tremendous divide in the public. Call it transference, call it sectarian; the truth is that because the candidates could not distinguish themselves from the other, the public divided itself along brazenly predictable lines, thereby mimicking the political situation in Washington. This allowed us to really see what business is all about in the capital. We always knew IT was there, but until now the politicians kept IT under wraps. IT can now be recognized by the public because the public has embraced IT as its own and people like me can finally see the roots of ineffective politics.

IT is the prevailing attitude in Washington and among the general public that addressing the issues is not what matters, but who addresses them. IT is the predominant idea that one votes for a party, not for a candidate (as evidenced by the nomination of two worthless candidates last year). IT is the inability to evaluate which is more important: That things get done or the way in which they are done. IT has infested and poisoned our entire political landscape.

Perhaps some clarification is necessary. The issues put forward by the two candidates in 2000 were identical, and while the methods they proposed to accomplish certain goals may have been slightly different, there is no reason to believe that one method would be better than another. Let us not pretend that we can predict the inner workings of economic plans or how well a prescription plan would relieve the 7-12% of seniors who cannot afford their medication. Or how much better one education agenda would address pertinent problems compared to the other. The point is that we had nothing by which to choose a candidate, other than minor intricacies in their "plans" which make no concrete, practical sense to us in the first place. We voted for a party, not a candidate! We voted for Bush because we identify ourselves as Republicans and it's better, therefore, for the president to be a Republican, as well. Just like that, we based our choice in 2000 simply on party affiliation. And nobody dared to vote for a minor party; it was a wasted vote.

But I seem to have found another evil with which to wrestle. Candidates and campaigns aside, I have come across an attitude that I find even more devastating. In this case IT takes on the form of voluntary gridlock, the attitude that a party would rather have nothing done than allow the other party to take credit for something getting done, whether it is beneficial to the public or not. The past eight years have been a testament to such politics. Bill Clinton was an extremely successful president and the Republican party did everything they could to stop his success. Five years and $50 million spent in an investigation that uncovered an affair, and attempted to threaten the president because he did not want or need the world to know about his indiscretions. That was a private affair, which should have remained that way. It was an atrocity that the president of the United States was subjected, on international television, to explicit questions about his genitalia. Such actions came from the party that accused Clinton of bringing disrespect to the office. And for what? Toward the political ends of the Republican party, as seen by the cessation of all charges against Clinton, the day he is out of office? Success!!!

Now we are seeing the beginning of the new era in this vile struggle where the roles have been switched, and the rules are exactly the same. It has begun with the opposition to Bush's cabinet appointments by slandering Ashcroft's name as a fanatical, racist extremist who would turn the laws of the Constitution on their heads if he could. That is utterly ridiculous, and ignores the fact that he is a competent, experienced, and intelligent man, with a great knowledge of the law and of Washington. I may not agree with his stance on abortion, but I more adamantly disagree with the mode of objection leveled against him. And the Democrats are watching carefully for their chance to defame Bush, as well.

Mr. Patterson's article is blasphemous and outrageous.it embodies this childish attitude pervasive in our political system. You know, Mr. Patterson, as well as I do, that likening someone to Richard Nixon does not compare the political and economic circumstances around which their campaigns and terms were spent. It calls someone a liar, a cheat, and a borderline paranoid schizophrenic, none of which can be leveled against Al Gore. You are absolutely right when you claim he will find a warm town with plenty of golf courses for his retirement, just like any other politician! But a man who spends 20 successful and productive years in public service deserves far better than to be called a "brilliant failure". And I'm sure he will have no trouble finding bookings for lectures around the country.

As a member of a publishing entity, such as this e-zine, Mr. Patterson should recognize a higher purpose than gloating that his Republican party won the election. He should also be able to understand that published material influences people, and he has done nothing through his article other than perpetuate the aforementioned attitude that promotes alienation and gridlock. Would it not be more effective and ethical, Mr. Patterson, to devote your energy, your political knowledge and written talent, to promoting cooperation toward a workable goal? What do we have to benefit from brazen gloating? Nothing. If you want "ugly hubris," Mr. Patterson, go read your article again, watch what is going on in our capital, and try to convince me I am wrong.

Confession time: I voted for Al Gore. I did not think he would be a great president, but I believed him to be the better of two poor choices. I did not vote for Nader, because he knew he could never win, and therefore, he sought to appeal to the radical and ultra-liberal parts of the voting public, of which I am not a member. I voted for the loser, but I am not willing to perpetuate an attitude that preaches, "I didn't vote for him, so why shouldn't I try and stop him from getting anything done." I am willing to proceed with a critical yet open mind, fully willing to disagree, but also willing to cooperate. The fact is that I want public education to improve. I want the economy to thrive. I want a thoughtful and active foreign policy. But none will happen if the 52% who voted against Bush behave like the 100% who work in Washington.