Last year I was speaking to a friend/professor of mine about the status of politics in Washington, we both agreed that things just were not working as they used to be. We weren’t talking about the efficacy of the agencies, regulations or social programs. We were talking about the state of discourse that exists and the nature of our political process. He’s a rhetoric professor, so this is something he knows about.
Neither of us are idealists. We understand how, for better or worse, things generally work. But we both agreed the current situation was actually making our politics worse. The full blown lack of political integrity of those in the positions of power – the willingness to lie, misrepresent, sensationalize, without any respect for any cogent principals – is poisoning outcomes of the political process. The big problems (no matter your politics) are not being addressed, let alone competently solved. Compromise is becoming impossible. Outright lies and misinformation are pervasive. So much is done for the sake of political expediency, whereas righteousness or regard for the benefit of the public is a low, if not invisible, priority.
Yet, people know what is going on. Disapproval of congress and the president are at historical lows. Constituents know they are not being served. Democracy is not working.
Neither parties deliver, and many begin to support the complete removal of every incumbent. When has that ever happened before?
What has happened to our most sacred process? Things were messy, but now they do not seem to be working at all. Most insiders I’ve spoken with, or read articles by agree that it has to do with the growing influence of money and the declining influence of retail politics. Politicians need only to serve and convert those who donate. The rest of the voters are taken care of by advertisements paid by the donors. This obviously results in the interests of the donors becoming universally more important than anyone else’s interests. The “Wall Street” crowd of America are thus both the rich and the politically powerful.
This is something to be angry about. This is something to protest. I think the fundamental inspiration of this protest is exactly what I’ve described. Everything everyone is angry about is a result of this system. People are not being represented and they know it, and they are probably right about the reasons why.
I’m a conservative in many ways. But I do not share the sentiments of republicans who are defending fundamentally unfair and the frankly indefensible status quo as class warfare. Just listen to the arguments. Fairness or efficacy of the status quo is not even part of their argument. Their central defense is a cry of “we’re under attack because we’re wealthy!” I thought I was a conservative because I have long been of the opinion that “you’re hurting me” is not something serious people talk about when discussing public affairs. Efficacy, fairness and freedom used to be the grounds for conservative debate. Those days are gone.
This is not a liberal movement. It is not a conservative movement. The people’s interests should be represented, that’s a small “d” democratic movement.
I do not know if it is going to meaningfully change anything. I have my doubts that it will result in anything at all. There is too much working against it.
At the end of our conversation, my friend/professor explained to me that America faced a horrible political chapter of during McCarthyism. It continued until a man named Welch asked “have you no sense of decency? At long last…” My friend predicted there would be a likewise moment in which someone would stand up and state with great consequence – “This is untenable. This cannot stand.” These protests may be the beginning of that. But they may also be a passing phase. What is clear is that our current situation, in so many ways is untenable. It must not stand.