They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Somehow, given the choices and dire predictions for the upcoming elections, it would seem that American politics are now tipping on the very edge of insanity. We continually shift one party or another out of power, both of whom are far too loyal to their corporate sponsors, and then we expect different outcomes. So, is the electorate, by definition, insane—or is it the political system?
There are plenty of good reasons for people to be angry, frustrated and dissatisfied in America today. Our unemployment figures haven't budged from nearly 10 percent nationwide despite spending a trillion dollars bailing out banks, investment firms, automotive companies and insurance giants. Foreclosures continue to pile up at a record pace, tossing more people out of their homes and businesses every day. And of course we are still mired in two wars, maintaining 837 military bases worldwide and losing far more freedoms than we are gaining via our government's continuing aggression in the domestic theater of the War on Terror.
It seems hard to believe that just two short years ago, the nation united behind the cry of "Hope and Change" and "Yes We Can" to put an eloquent and inspirational black man in the presidency and to give the Democrats solid majorities in both the House and Senate. Truly, after eight long years of George W. Bush, "change" was a powerful mantra to those grown tired of the lies, the secrecy, the insider deals and billions in "no-bid" contracts to friends of the Bush-Cheney administration. We were ready to try anything to change the course of our nation's future as young and old rallied to bring a fresh face and, hopefully, better and more visionary and equitable policies to Washington.
Yet, as we all know, "change," like so many things, is a lot easier to say than do. This columnist, joining hundreds of others across the country, bemoaned the decision to simply declare single-payer health care reform "off the table" at the very outset of the national debate. Likewise, either someone pulled the teeth from the so-called "financial reform" bill or, perhaps from lack of actual enforcement capabilities, they simply fell out. And that says nothing about record-setting military budgets and huge personnel increases in Afghanistan while most predict we are losing that war and will eventually leave in defeat.
Added to these significant concerns by those who helped elect Obama and the Democrats, are the continuation of numerous Bush policies that many find intolerable. Domestic spying, from all accounts, has increased, not decreased in the last two years. Building walled borders continues unabated, with the latest debacle being the laughable effort to spend millions on the Whitetail border crossing, only to have the Canadians shut it down from their side. When we are told by our own Democratic senator that "the border is only as secure as its weakest link" it's a pitiful excuse for further isolationism when we had hoped to engender vastly better relations with other nations—including our own great northern neighbor—instead of continuing the prickly aggressions and paranoia of the Bush-Cheney administration.
Truly, the Democratic base—as well as the numerous Independents who voted for change—have not been well-served. We got the same mystery meat hot dog in the same mealy bun, only now we're supposed to believe it's tube steak. And so the Democrats are disenchanted, the Independents are abandoning Obama, and the dire predictions for the electoral outcomes clog the media all day, every day.
But what is our choice?
The Tea Party isn't a party—it's a collection of disgruntled people who, by and large, don't much care for either Republicans or Democrats, but who are more likely to side with the Rs than the Ds on major issues. Yet it is undeniably clear that there will be no Tea Party majority in the House or Senate, no matter what the elections bring. At best, those who run under the Tea Party banner may win some seats and, as predicted, will likely wind up being subsumed by the Republican Party caucus.
So what does that leave? Oh yeah, the Republicans. Now why on earth would anyone want to return the Republican Party to power given its recent track record? Who gobbled the Clinton surplus and replaced it with trillions of dollars in massive deficits that eventually led the nation into its worst economic recession in 80 years? Why, the Republicans—the same people who were elected on promises of fiscal conservatism and budgetary responsibility.
Who seriously decreased individual freedoms and privacy for America's citizens? Once again, it was the Republicans. Relegating habeus corpus to the junk heap of history, flying prisoners around the world to secret torture cells under the rubric of "extraordinary renditions," destroying our international honor through Guantanamo's inhumanity and implementing warrantless wiretapping and search and seizure? Yep, all fully accredited to the Republicans, despite their rhetorical promises to "get government off our backs."
So what song are the Republicans singing now? Why, the only one they know: Democrats bad, Republicans good. Democrats tax and spend, Republicans responsible. Democrats big government, Republicans limited government. We've heard it all before and we'd be plum nuts to dance to their fallacious tune again. Tragically, it's not because they deserve another chance, are promising new policies or will deliver on those promises. The Republicans are poised for a comeback for one simple reason: Voters are angry with Democrats.
But if we put Republicans back in power, isn't that like doing the same thing over and over and expecting different outcomes? And isn't that the definition of insanity? Sure it is. Which is one big reason to carefully consider the votes you cast in this election. Our political system certainly seems insane right now. But that's no reason for all of us to follow suit.
Helena's George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at firstname.lastname@example.org.