I guess I can say that we live in “unique”, for lack of a better term, political times. Never before in my life, do I remember this kind of dynamic between people and politicians. Growing up, and in my youth, I learned that politicians are the people who run things. Not always trustworthy, always glad handing, speaking, and making promises, but people who ran things all the same. There was then, as now, a certain level of cynicism regarding the process (especially since I live in the Chicago area) but, you could generally count on the politicians to go to Springfield, or Washington and “bring home the bacon” as it were. You voted for the guy who got that done, and that pretty much was the way it went, or, it was my perception of it, There was also the sense that the person in office, be it in Springfield, or Washington, was part of the place he or she came from. You knew where that person grew up, what Chicago neighborhood, or suburb they came from. That person carried with them some of the traits from where they grew up, one could identify with them, one could actually feel, that that elected person, knew from whence they came. It was comforting in a way, because the person that everyone elected was “one of them”. If you lived in the same town, or neighborhood where an elected representative was from, you got to hear stories from the people who knew that person as a child, or student, or altar boy, or cheerleader, or whatever. They may have been a politician, but they were “your” politician.
Not only that, you could count on seeing them at the local neighborhood festival during the summer, or at the County Fair, Village Picnic, or “Gathering on the Green”, walking around shaking hands, swapping stories, greeting old friends, and neighbors. In many cases, whether forced, or sincere, these elected officials acted as if they were still part of the old neighborhood. You could actually talk to them, shake a hand. Perhaps they walked about with a couple of assistants, but they were there and they were visible.
Yes, it was still politics, and yes, they were still politicians, doing what politicians do, but at least, back then, they gave the impression that they wanted to talk to their constituents, and remind the voters that they themselves came from the same place, and they were their champion in Washington, or the state capitol. As I stated, in a way, it was comforting, if I cast my vote for my Congressman, or State Representative, I felt more or less, that they would take my interests to Springfield, or Washington with them. Of course, it wasn’t always the case, but, hey, these were politicians, we expected this from them. There was still corruption, scandal, and all of that, let’s be honest, politics has always been that way. Back then, however, I always had the impression that most politicians devoted some effort to connecting with their constituents. It’s never been perfect, and never was, but back then, 25, 30, 40 years ago, it was different in some ways.
That was then, this is now.
Back then, the impression I got, was that my elected representatives were accessible, on some level. If you spoke to them, wrote them a letter, sometimes you got a form letter, other times, you got a personal response, but, you got a response from them. These days, I am not so sure.
Regardless of the charm they try to exude, many of our elected officials come across as fake, and arrogant, and above the rest of us. Condescension seems to be the norm. We are dismissed with a pat on the head, and a condescending form letter reply to our concerns. Sometimes, we don’t even get that. We might get a tweet, or even, a Facebook response with an emoticon. It feels like a brush-off, a “Get away from me boy, you bother me”. In Springfield, as in Washington, we have elected people who just don’t mesh with us anymore. Summer Festivals? Sure, their staff is there, with pamphlets, and a booth, and brochures touting accomplishments. Questions? Concerns? “Sure, the Congressman is on Twitter, and Facebook, be sure to “Like” us!” The elected representative might even show up at the event for some photo oppurtunities, with other local politicians, and perhaps labor, or civil rights leaders, but not with the people who put them in office.
What has been even more transforming over the last twenty years or so, is their transition from “politicians” to “Ruling Class”. It started with Bush and Clinton back in the early 90’s. You could see it, the sense among the elected, that they were there, because somehow, they knew better than us. The attitude is prevalent on both sides of the aisle. There are no more “men and women of the people” in our Statehouses and especially in Washington. We are given the brush off, we are spoken to like wayward children. Even campaign literature has a note of condescension to it. They are, for the most part, Ivy League educated, or products of elite universities. Taught by the same professors, the same theories, and develop the same attitudes and outlooks. In the “Ruling Class” Democrat and Republican are indistinguishable. Through the 90’s the Clinton’s and their ilk began to solidify the “Ruling Class” as it were. If there were starting point for the elite arrogance that pervades these people, it would have to be the Clinton Administration. Yes, the first Bush Administration had it too, but the Clintons and their ilk brought it home. They institutionalized it in Washington. They made it part of the landscape. The attitude, however, infects every one of them in Washington, even to the lowliest intern. The Clintons were the first to tie the bonds between Washington and the Hollywood Left. No longer did we matter, here in the rest of the nation, we became “Fly-over Country”. Hollywood’s big and powerful slept in the White House, hung out with the Cliintons, testified in Congressional hearings (remember the whole Alar thing? Actresses giving speeches to Congress on the dangers of the chemical, because they played a farmer in a movie) Spoke on Climate Change (then “Global Warming) policies. All of the sudden, we had Hollywood types telling us to listen to Washington because they knew better.
Through the Bush Administration, it ease off, but not much. Hollywood may not have been visiting as much, but the arrogance and elitism were still there. Government became bigger, and more bloated, and more bureaucracy With Obama’s entry into the White House, it only got worse. Hollywood was back in the White House, bigger than before. The arrogance grew in volumes, and politicians turned their backs firmly on the American people, and began a process of dividing us against one another, and also beginning to show shades of the tyrants they wish to be. Obama began acting like the emperor that he wished he could be, what he displayed he wanted to be with his “I have a phone and a pen” comment.
What also changed was everyone’s perception of the government. Instead of being ‘the government” they became “The Government”. Back in my formative years, Washington was viewed with a bit of disdain, and cynicism. Why not? Bureaucracy moves slowly. Getting anything done requires massive amounts of time, energy and paperwork. Washington was an annoyance, something to gripe about, but not really worry too much about. We could go about living our lives without worrying about the government doing anything to us for the way we lived, unless, of course, we ran afoul of the law, and got the FBI’s attention.
That is definitely the one thing Obama changed.
I never used to fear the government. I do now.
Are they going to come kicking my door down, and take me away somewhere? No, I don’t think they will, but I live with the fact that now, it is much easier to run afoul of the government than it was at any time in the past. More regulations, more rules. Special interest groups that used to be fringe organizations, are now sitting in the White House helping to draft policy. Groups that want to take away our rights to speak our minds, to own guns, to travel where we wish, even groups that want to regulate the lunch you send with your kid to school. It was never like this. I didn’t have to worry about my barbecue grill and it’s capacity to pollute. Now I do. I never had to worry about “Carbon foot print” or “thought rape” or “hate thoughts” or “white privilege”. I have to now, however. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to have to worry about my grill, and the smoke it emanates, or if something I say is going to come back to haunt me in some way, or even worse, demonize me for simply having an opinion.
As an everyday American, I feel less like a citizen, and more like a subject. When looking at the broader landscape, it is not hard to see how a Bernie Sanders and a Donald Trump are rising now. Many people see Washington the same way I see it: Overbearing, intrusive, and bigger than it needs to be, as well as totally disconnected from the needs of this nation. American citizens are wary, suspicious, and cynical, and we feel like no one in Washington even knows we are here. Crisis come and go, people die, and the President picks and chooses where he is going to get involved. His disdain for American people is evident in the way speaks, and his actions while in office. A crisis finds him on the golf course more often than not. Only the plight of certain people and groups in this country garner his attention, and then, it’s fleeting at best. There is no leader in Washington. The Republicans we elected have waffled and caved, disappointing use even further.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are packing in the crowds, garnering TV time, and dominating news cycles. I do not support either Sanders, or Trump. But, I fear either one of them could get into office, simply because a sick and tired America wants someone who will do something to fix what is wrong with this country, and not really care how it is done, just so long as someone pays attention to us, and fixes some things. Or, at the very least, kicks most of the elites out of Washington.
On the GOP side, we need to dispense with The Donald and his Circus. We need to take on Hillary, and Bernie, and repudiate their ideas. We need to unite everyone as an American, and find a way to begin healing this nation. Four years of Trump, Hillary, Biden, or Sanders will just make things worse.