Saturday, July 3, 2010

Politics and Practicality

Back in mid-May I wrote about my disenchantment with all politicians, even those I worked hard to elect. It was a long diatribe, a rant of almost epic proportions, but no one read it or, if they did, agreed (or disagreed) with it.

Here it is, a month and a half later and my cynicism about politicians remains unchanged. While the level of vitriol running through my veins may have diminished somewhat, it remains high. That is a dangerous thing because such high levels of loathing can turn one into a Republican if one is not careful. The same fundamental disregard for the human race that is a core Republican values can chokingly emerge from those pools of acidic animous.

Rather than allow myself to transmogrify into another Karl Rove, I've decided to take the only logical course of action and that is to acknowledge that I helped elect an administration that is not nearly as glorious as I had hoped. While the people of the Obama administration are not nearly as bad as those in the Bush years, they do not hold a candle, from bottom to top, to the people in charge during the Clinton years. Yes, even with all the ugliness and arrogance of those people, the collective "people of the Clinton administration" remain the gold standard, in my book.

Did Clinton's policies help lead to the housing fiasco of the last couple of years? Yes. Were egregious mistakes made that should never have been done? Of course. But the Clinton years were marked by growing prosperity and a generally positive direction for the country. Clinton, himself, was largely responsible for a massive right-wing religious backlash when he couldn't keep his pants zipped and he will always be remembered for those blunders and subsequent lies. But despite all his flaws and his administration's screw-ups, Clinton led the country through a recovery from Republican idiocy.

Back to my acknowledgement. Yes, I supported Obama. And when compared to McCain and Palin and their cronies, I still do. In spades. But he's fallen far short of my hopes and expectations. I now cringe when I hear him speak, knowing I will hear him give bald-faced lip-service to one thing or another that won't get done, or done well. I find his entire administration to be lackluster, dull, and generally full of impractical and uninspiring zealots who have a rough idea of the dreams they'd like to achieve, but have no idea how to achieve them.

But just like Republicans who have made plenty of bad choices of their own that they regret (to wit, Shrub), progressives (I choose not to use the term Democrats because I firmly believe the "party" at large is equally as screwed up as the administration that leads it) should find a replacement who can help to rebuild their hopes. We need to identify people who share a passionate belief in our ideals and a fierce commitment to practicality in acheiving them and then do all we can to get them elected. And when we find that some of them fail us, and we will find that some do, we should move them aside and replace them until the visions are achieved.

I can't stress enough that practicality is vitally important. For all their failings, Republicans tend to have a better appreciation of what's practical than do progressives. For example, it was the Republicans who, almost from the beginning of the BP fiasco, pushed for allowing the State of Louisiana to build sand berms to keep oil from flowing into the marshes and wetlands along the Louisian coast. The reasons for the delay were, ostensibly, to evaluate the potential ecological damage that would be done were the berms permitted. There was no TIME for evaluation; an immediate decision, based solely on instant-best-guess was required. So, instead of protecting the environment, the government effectively guaranteed that a flood of oil would wash into fragile coastal ecosystems. If President Obama had issued an emergency order temporarily staying some environmental laws, he could have helped mitigate what became an unparalleled disaster. Instead, he used his power to stop deep-water drilling, which was, in terms of immediacy, a far less important issue. While I happen to agree with the deep-water drilling ban, I think it was short-sighted and impractical and, ultimately, environmentally irresponsible for the administration to prevent creation of berms.

That's what I mean about practicality. There are times when core values conflict so utterly with the needs required of the situation at hand that a decision to suspend adherence to them must be made. This was one of those times. Lest you argue that I am a proponent of situational ethics, I ask you to consider this (assuming that one of your core values is that it is wrong to murder another human being): The person you love most in life is threatened with death at the hands of someone who appears poised to kill your loved one. Your options are to wait to see if your loved one is killed or to kill the one threatening him/her. If you suspend your core values and kill the one making the threats, I forgive you. It's OK with me. Call it situational ethics if you will, but call it the right choice.

I think the same can be said about very, very tough decisions that the President can and should make. Even if the decisions go against his grain and his beliefs, if they will have far greater long-term value than short-term pain or embarrassment, they must be made.

I've drifted from my original position. I forgive myself. Will you forgive me?

No comments: