Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When Leadership Died

When exactly the concept of leadership died in our country, I do not know. But the events of the past 24 hours focused a pretty strong spotlight on Congress and the White House. Of all the muddled, confusing, and frightening things that came out of the bail out debacle, one message was shockingly clear: there are no leaders in Washington.

It seems clear to me that we are experiencing severe effects of a long-term vacuum in true leadership due to a lack of people capable of both vision for their country's future and service to their country above service to their party or themselves. I am not talking about Republican leaders or Democratic leaders. I am talking about American Leaders. People with the ability to see good ideas, regardless of whether it comes from a Republican or a Democrat, the foresight to implement them, and the courage to explain themselves clearly to the American people. Instead, we have politicians who would rather be re-elected than make courageous choices in the face of party or constituent disapproval.  We have politicians who rather smear blame than bring people together when difficult choices need to be made. In a time of crisis, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Thank you, President Lincoln, I think I now understand your point.

I will leave it to more informed people than myself to assess how we got into this mess. I am an Independent, and I think both sides have brought us to this point. And this point is not good. We are at a point where there is no trust - there is no respect - within government or between the government and many of its people. Our government is obviously paralyzed by distrust between Democrats and Republicans. But it is also paralyzed now by a distrust between politicians and the American people. We have reached a point where politicians of both parties speak in convoluted phrases and out right lies, as if we are not smart enough to realize we are being lied to. The spectacular greed which has brought our country to this economic state has caused mistrust between ordinary people and our financial institutions. And special interest money coursing through Congress has caused the American people to suspect that our government is no longer Lincoln's "government of the people, by the people, for the people", but a government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, for the lobbyists. With all this distrust, yesterday's outcome was not a surprise. It was inevitable.

No good comes to any country at such an impasse. Especially one in the midst of two wars and potential economic collapse. While I privately hope that a real leader will emerge from this catastrophe, the truth of the matter is that right now we all need to be leaders for our country. Our politicians will not put our country above partisan politics until we demand exactly that. And by putting our country first, I do not mean 'my way or the highway'. I mean true intellectual discourse on the problems facing us, discussion of our differences on how to fix them, and real compromises across party lines. Until we ourselves say enough with partisanship and vote out of office those who insist on conducting themselves as if there can be only one political party, ... well, we get what we pay for. And I for one am not sure I like what we've bought.


Comrade Physioprof said...

If you are talking about the "bailout plan", the main issue is that no one has even the slightest fucking clue what the fuck to do to get us out of this mess, or even if there exists any possible thing we could do to get us out of it. In the absence of any idea what to do to make a bad situation better, politicians simply do not have any choice but to favor inaction.

None of this is to imply that I disagree with your general point.

River Tam said...

The "bail out" "plan" is but the stage for the clusterfuck that unfolded yesterday. I honestly don't know whether we need a bail out or not, but the Three Stooges act which was Congress yesterday highlighted for me that the situation in Washington which has been annoying and aggravating has now handcuffed the country. I just couldn't take it anymore.

yolio said...

I tend to be skeptical of the "good old days" when people had sense. I am pretty sure that politics has been a clusterfuck since the days of Rome. Our memory of the outrages fade with time, the edges dull. But if you pay close enough attention, you find that it is a wonder how our country has managed to survive like this for so long. As the say: democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all of the other ones.

It is an election year, the republican party is in complete flux, and there is no clear solution to the problem. There are options, and their wonky chieves of staff know what the options are, but it is far from obvious which is the right option. So they scramble, and manuever, and make self-righteous speeches hoping and praying that they can pull of some illusion of heroics that will keep them from losing their jobs in two months.

I just hate politics.