Given my last politics post about Obama's promises seemingly not coming to fruition in the near future, I have done a lot of thinking about the state of politics for folks my age. No one needs to tell us the world has changed significantly the past few years; we just exited some of our most politically active years (college) during a time of two physical wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) and one war on a buzzword (terror) during a presidential administration that rivaled Nixon in cringe inducement. We rallied behind Obama only to see political causes we cared about (closing our generation's version of wartime internment manifested in Guantanamo, securing equal rights for our gay friends and coworkers) pushed to side to focus on inevitably falling short on true healthcare reform.
We saw a very similar thing happen in the late 70s with Carter taking over a sub-par Ford administration and coming up short. That ushered in Ronald Reagan. Reagan was the 1980s Republican Obama: a change from the previous administration, well-spoken, relatable, and popular. He was so popular that even after countless scandals (Iran-Contra being one of the largest), an incredibly reckless covert war in Afghanistan that led to the rise of the Taliban and one Osama bin Laden, an unbelievable increase in government spending and expanding of government, his vice president was elected president. The effect of Reagan's presidency did not end there, though, as Bush I's pledge of "no new taxes" was sacrificed in the wake of Reagan's aforementioned government spending and Clinton pounced on it in 1992. Yet Reagan is looked back upon as the father of modern conservatism; so much so that in the 2008 Republican primary debate held at his presidential library, the candidates sat around and tried to channel the Gipper to appeal to their base.
And this is where the problem lies for Republicans. Just like the Democrats are using their playbook from the 1990s (which, lest we forget, led to an embarrassing presidential election loss in 2000 in what would today look like Reagan-Mondale, with Bush clearing brush for the next 8 years instead of taking orders from Cheney), the Republicans are living in the past. Three of the major Republican candidates last election (Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo) stated that they did not believe in evolution. How can the party evolve when some of their most well-known leaders would like to make the Scopes trial relevant again?
So this is where we are: Democrats are stuck in the 90s and Republicans are stuck in the 80s. So where does that leave the people living in the 21st century? Stuck. If we become disenchanted by Democrats (which is a road many of us are heading down), where are we going to turn? Rush Limbaugh and his polarizing rhetoric? We don't want to cry with Glenn Beck and we don't want Michael Steele acting like our "hip" uncle who thinks he's "down" with us youngsters. It's as if we're entering another Gilded Age: as weekly wages of the average American have declined, payouts on bailout-laden Wall Street will see record numbers this year. Politics seems to be at a standstill and the two-party system is as broken as our healthcare system. Obama talks a great game, but just cannot seal the deal, while the Republicans are not even trying. The Democrats still have time to turn things around, but we'll have to skip a few evolutionary steps to get there. Peace.
Photo - Still from "Stuck on You" (Reeling Reviews)