The Dumbing Down of Our Politics

It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force. The First Federalist Paper

In 1787, when Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wanted to convince the American people to ratify the Constitution, they wrote 85 articles and essays called The Federalist Papers Today, our politicians use 140 characters on Twitter to imply that the current crisis in Crimea is directly related to non-interventionist action in response to Benghazi. This is the logical conclusion of sound-bite politics, offhand remarks associating two non-associable events for political gain during a tough reelection campaign. Our politicians of the past were philosophers and thinkers. Our politicians of today are figureheads and carnival acts who can only respond to the worst elements of the party they are trying to please.

The very idea that the Crimean crisis is somehow the result of actions, or lack thereof, taken by the party in power in the White House is ludicrous. The Crimean peninsula has long been a contentious area that Russia has coveted and gone to war over. Implying that Putin would have been unlikely to send troops to the area if only Obama had reacted with American force to Benghazi is pandering. And yet that pandering is the logical conclusion to a political environment where the American populace is disengaged, unemployed and taught to blame external factors for its problems. Because we are no longer engaged in the political process and because our national attention span revolves around 24 hour news bites from CNN, it makes sense for career politicians to engage tactics suited to those facts.

There are many on the right who have mocked the Obama administration for responding to Putin’s actions in Crimea with words instead of appropriate action. But in this case, as in many others before it when we ran off to war, words are the correct action. America has no business becoming involved in another far off war in a far off land over interests that do not even affect her people. We no longer have the resources to be the world’s police state and haven’t for 30 years. Yet that is apparently what many on the right wish to do when they blame Obama for inaction. They do this because their pool of solutions at home is empty and they can only suggest exogenous events as a distraction from the unsolved problems at home.

Our political discourse has been reduced to chunks only extreme partisans can appreciate. When Lindsey Graham says “Crisis presents opptnty to truly reset our relationship w Russia by standing up for the right of the Ukrainian people to form new democracy.”, has he really come to the conclusion that a show of military strength is the only way we can stand up for the right of the Ukrainian people? Have we learned nothing from Iraq? Because our attention span has gotten so short, we forget that democracy building requires an effort the American people are unprepared for. Our politicians proscribe military action in response to actions in places like Ukraine because they know that we have lost the ability (or perhaps never had it) to understand a key point: every dollar spent on the military industrial complex in some foreign land is one less dollar spent on necessary projects at home like infrastructure, unemployment and health care. Predominantly, our Republican leadership are more than happy to send American dollars and American soldiers off to disappear in foreign lands but they are ironically opposed to spending dollars on American citizens in need.

Sadly, there is no alternative party to support in the US. Both the Democrats and Republicans are flip sides of the big spending, kick the can down the road coin. The tea party has largely become a caricature. When Sen. Ted Cruz is asking why the most recent military budget suggests cutting 6 brigades versus alternative energy research, it becomes clear that he’s just as beholden to the military industrial complex as any other GOP senator. Because our politicians are in it for a career (or the cushy lobbying job they’ll get upon leaving politics), their only goal is to keep getting reelected regardless of the harm it does to the country. No politician will get reelected by saying America needs to tighten its collective belt and return to some of the discomfort of the post World War II world. Jimmy Carter learned that the hard way. And that’s why we’ll continue to get Senators like Lindsey Graham who offhandedly suggest that a military interaction in Ukraine is the right response to Russia’s actions there.