Victory casts a veil on truth, and crushes critical thinking with an anvil. It's as true in politics as it is in sports. You win in American football, and all the persistent clouds over execution are overlooked by the shiny object of the victory. In politics, too, the clouds over unexecutable policy statements and personal failings are burned away by the cognitive dissonance that emanates from the glow of election night acceptance speeches. The voters have spoken. The fans screamed their support. We won. Go team.
To some, for whom ambition applies more to policy than personality, the votes are a starter's pistol, a referee's whistle, a signal that the clock has started and it's time to get busy. But to others, the win is a rush of serotonin - engaging, enraging, empowering - a call for blind loyalty that builds a brick-brained wall of silence against detractors, even when they're right.
The Republican victories of 2010, as those of the Democrats in 2006 and 2008, were spun by the winners as an unquestionable mandate, an embrace of their agenda, as opposed to what the results of those elections really were - a repudiation of the actions - and inaction - of the sitting Congress.
These are politicians "who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington," as President Obama said, last week, referring to Republicans on the Super Committee, a construct that itself was a nod to stubborn stupidity, and that truly, and sadly, represented nothing good about our republic - only the constipation of compromise, the lowest common denominator of what passes for political discussion in the District of Columbia.
It is only within the beltway bubble, that the GOP can rail against higher taxes for millionaires because, as Speaker Boehner's office claims, it would be a "job-killing tax hike on small businesses," while also railing against the president's plan for tax breaks for small businesses to spur hiring. There's no disconnect, for them (or their followers), because they're the ones saying it.
Similarly, when the president announced, last month, that he would withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of the year, effectively concluding the war there, the Republicans pounced on his policy as "cut-and-run," even though the agreement to pull troops out by December, 2011, was negotiated by the Bush "Mission Accomplished" administration.
But this cognitive dissonance doesn't just cut against the GOP. The Democrats are guilty of it, too. Otherwise, the mid-term elections of 2010 would have had a much different result.
Much of the dissatisfaction is brought about by a perception of overreaching, whether it's the Democrats with the Affordable Care Act (which really di dn't reach far enough), or Republican actions, like the recently overturned Ohio collective bargaining law and Mississippi's controversial Personhood Amendment. Extreme, anti-populist, anti-middle class, legislation like that is "too much, too soon," as Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) admitted that night.
Politics like that have put us on an increasingly unproductive political course.
"Our politics have become so polarized that both parties seem to be getting pushed farther and farther from the center, which means farther and farther from where most voters reside," Republican pollster, Whit Ayers, told the Los Angeles Times, after the election.
Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster, seemed to agree with his colleague, admitting to the LA Times, in the same story, "This is a passionately unhappy electorate."
It has gotten so bad, that even popular legislative proposals, like the tax hike on millionaires, are re-framed as left wing socialism, solely because they are supported by most of the Democratic caucus and President Obama.
"The President can't get anything done without the support of Congress," then DNC chair, Tim Kaine, told a group of students in 2010, before the elections. He might have added, that without the agreement of the president, nothing can get done, either.
Our Founding Fathers intended the separation of powers to be a check and balance against overreaching by any single branch of government, with the expectation that reason would prevail. Instead, it has become a catch-22, where leaders are available only when they're not there, and parading in lockstep is a fool's obsession. "I'm with stupid" may make a cute T-shirt, but it's a lousy name tag. Time for the real leaders, in all the policy making branches, to cut the cord.
I am of the undertow of the Baby Boomers, the last third of a generation, unwilling to let go of our ability to subvert the tide and change the world, defined for us by our older brothers and sisters. Born between 1957 and 1964, we are the President of the United States, the governors of ten states (only three states have chief executives younger than we are), 16 US Senators and almost 100 members in the US House of Representatives. We are Democrats and Republicans, atheists and adherents, activists and apathetics.
The older Boomers who came before us were born in a time of a great, nationalist, moral validation brought on by the victories in World War Two, born when the world was trying to right itself after the end of European colonialism and the beginning of the Arms Race with the Soviet Union. By the time we, the remnants of a generation, came along, it seemed all the hard work had already been done.
From Occupy Dallas, Dept. of Defense, UW Digital Archives & other public domain sources
Our younger brothers and sisters in the Occupy Movement have made that hard work worth doing again. Many more choose, once again, to link arms in unity against the enemies of social progress, like wealth disparity and growing national poverty, like a government controlled more by a complex of corporate corruption than by the needs of the people who elected them. The money promises to get our overpaid representatives reelected, and the new Super PACs, like the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity, and legislative ghost writers from ALEC, promise to keep their political opponents at bay by working to inhibit voter access through laws passed in more than a dozen states.
Just today, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) formally requested that US Attorney General Eric Holder investigate "whether new state voting laws resulted from collusion or an orchestrated effort to limit voter turnout," the Miami Herald reported.
In one instance, a teacher in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, unknowingly violated that state's new voter registration laws while trying to teach her students about the importance of becoming a voter. According to a story in the Daytona Beach News-Journal:
"What happened is that [high school teacher Jill] Cicciarelli helped her 17-year-old seniors with the paperwork to preregister for the voting rolls, as she does every year. She'd been on maternity leave in the spring when the Legislature passed a voting law that, among other things, requires third parties to register with the state before they help sign up new voters.
"The law has proved so daunting that the League of Women Voters suspended voter registration efforts in Florida for fear of exposing volunteers to up to $1,000 in fines."
Nelson told the students, "It is voter suppression," the Daytona Beach paper reported.
But it's not just voting rights. The entire debt ceiling debate last summer, and the current travails of the resulting Super Committee, now in session, are about the tax breaks for the wealthiest versus the needs of those who depend on government help to feed themselves and their families.
More to the point of the younger protesters participating in the Occupy Movement, the Census Bureau report continues:
"An estimated 5.9 million young adults aged 25 to 34 resided in their parents' households in 2011, compared to 4.7 million before the recession. By spring 2011, 14.2 percent of young adults lived in their parents' households, representing an increase of 2.4 percentage points since spring 2007."
Why do so many more live at home at an age when the rest of us couldn't wait to get out of the house? The report points out, "45.3 percent had income below the poverty threshold for a single person under age 65 ($11,344)."
Some people have folded their arms, unwilling to embrace Occupy because they do not understand what the movement stands for. That might be because there is so much not going right for the future of our country, that one can throw a dart and hit an issue of concern to Occupy's participants and adherents.
That's why it is important not to greet them with folded arms, but with linked arms, the position they are proud to take before they arrested for calling attention to the vanishing American Dream.