12 March 2010

I - Political History

When I was young, I wanted to go into politics. I even wanted to be President; I started a campaign for the 2024 election, in fact, and I think I was more serious about it than I want to admit now. I intended to be a politician, to start running for office probably by the age I am now, if not sooner. I thought I’d be an architect for a few years first, so I could have a “real job,” but I wanted to be in politics and naught else.

Of course, when I was younger still, about four or five, I wanted to grow up to be a tiger. I didn’t know then that I couldn’t actually do that.

These days the two ideas seem equally ridiculous.

Which is not to say that I’m not still interested in politics. As the years have gone by I’ve retreated to mainly being interested in the horse races and changes of power; predicting elections is more fun than other forms of gambling, and the great thing is I can pay attention to the British and Canadian and Mexican and Brazilian and every other election for the exact same reason. There are hundreds of horse races around the world and I follow several of them. In some countries, who wins even actually still matters, something I’m not convinced is true any longer here.

Lately I’ve gotten more and more depressed and ornery about the state of American governance, both at the state and national levels. It’s been almost ten years since I actually worked in politics, and while that initial experience was key in changing my mind about ever being a politician, if every subsequent year hadn’t reinforced the idea I might still be considering it. As it is I feel prematurely old, already convinced it was all better back in the day, that today’s pols don’t care about fixing things, and that somehow that’s new.

Some days I feel like it’s hopeless, like there’s virtually no chance the United States can avoid default or crippling taxes in the medium term, right when I should be hitting middle age and in the prime of my career, in the middle of raising a family—in other words, at the worst possible time. Did previous generations have the same worry? I don’t know.

Smittywife and I agree on some things: we can’t count on Social Security, for example, and are better off actually assuming it won’t exist by the time we reach retirement age. The same goes for Medicare. Politicians do seem more divided, more combative and more resistant to compromise than I remember, but how accurate is my memory? Twelve years ago the government ground to a halt so some GOP hacks could smear a Democratic president over his sexual peccadilloes, while nine years earlier the same thing happened so some Democratic hacks could grill a Republican court nominee over trumped-up sexual charges; it’s not as if the preference for grandstanding and scoring political points over actual accomplishment is something new this decade. Yet in 1998 the economy was riding high and the government was running an apparent (though not in fact a real) surplus. That’s hardly the case now; I think it’s almost impossible to argue that 2010 is not a much more difficult environment for leadership than was 1998, or even 1989. At least this time we’re not arguing exclusively about sex; both parties may have decamped to their fringes but at least they’re taking potshots at each other over actual issues (Eric Massa, Eliot Spitzer, and others notwithstanding). Still, I often feel fairly despondent about the future of American governance and wonder whether our leaders still have the stones to fix our largest current problem (debt) or whether we are doomed to an eventual default.

It is my general intent to avoid too much politics talk on this blog. I had a previous blog that I talked politics on a lot, though not exclusively, and in one memorable instance it got me into rather a bit of hot water. That’s unlikely now, but it seems like one can either discuss politics to the exclusion of much else, or talk about it very little. But I don’t have enough followers to risk alienating anyone (and I’m not writing this as a job or for pay anyway) and sometimes when I’m feeling confused or put out I find the best way to figure out my mind is to sit down and write. And why not post my thoughts? Knowing they’ll be publicly consumed, even if only by a very small sample of the public, forces me to be more organized in my writing, and thus in my thought process. That’s a good thing. I’ve already written the next few posts and so I plan to post them over a few days, maybe one a day, maybe every other day, something like that. This, then, is just a warning post.

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