Stepping Off The Carousel

Stepping Off The Carousel

If the politicians and media won't stop spreading the political illness, the voters will have to.

This election year is going to be big. The Citizens United decision, which essentially opened the flodgates to special interest funding of political candidates and campaigns, was given a trial run in 2010 and is now calibrated and greased for 2012. Obama has already raised a staggering amount of money, and Mitt Romney's conservative fundraising machine is not hanging back. A recent study highlighted in The Washington Post, showed that nearly 50% of GOP campaign advertising has been negative this year. Compare that to just four years ago, when only 6% of GOP ads were designed to attack other candidates. Of course, the polarization of the parties is only likely to intensify as we crawl closer to November. For these reasons, it's more important than ever to guard oneself again partisan politicking and special-interest spin.

Capitol Hill has been flailing in a swamp of political gridlock since the notorious debt ceiling talks of last summer. The upcoming expiration of the Bush tax cuts, a nearly decade old set of tax cuts that comprises fully 3.5% of GDP, may be morphing into a replay of that summer-time embarassment. An embarassment that ultimately lead to a national downgrade in the U.S. credit rating. Unfortunately, both sides of the aisle grow further disinclined to reach toward the middle, often to spite the other. The bad blood of the last 12-24 months of legislating runs deep, and depending on the result of the presidential election, there may not be much of a release valve until after November.

Truly, the question of political party is actually a question of priority, and the conflicting interests of the party ideologues seems to be inconsistantly applied. The new conservative right, which has a distinctly more libertarian slant than any other time in the last decade or more, pursues policies of austere proactive intervention. At state legislatures around the country Republicans have been pushing deep public spending cuts, balanced budget amendments, and the ocassional social conservative agenda like North Carolina's recent ratification of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Democrats, on the other hand, see economic recovery as relying on the thick social safety nets the country has in place for a population of vulnerable Americans that has swelled in the last several years. Many on the poilitical left see austerity measures, combined with Republican efforts to stimulate economic growth by the private sector, to be heartless. Republicans see Democratic efforts as naive and destructive.

The problem is that no one is right. Not entirely. The problem is that "rightness" is an incredibly short-sighted and naive idea in and of itself. "Rightness" in the 2012 election is a carefully manufactured set of talking-points of policy ideas that are being strategically sold to voters as a candidate or campaign position. In fact, more often than that, it's just a collection of soundbites, emotive video clips, and other media designed to create an emotional state. The country's problems can't be solved in an emotional state, because by definition, it negates a logical state. It's going to take reason, unbiased information, and divergent groups of thinkers in order to create sound policy decisions. The political landscape, particularly the political landscape now, during this presidential election year, is not that.

So what's to be done? Do the opposite of what voters have been doing the last 12 years (probably longer). Educate yourself, find others willing to do so, and generate your own answers. Afterward, vote for the candidates that are most likely to bring about a real change in the political arena. We're not going to be able to make the sausage in Washington with our present set-up. There's too much money, too much undue influence, and too much of that bad blood. Instead, try to remain objective, and when you see those negative attack ads (or any campaign ads), turn them off.