Politics and Despair

I hate this election season. I hate hearing about the debates. I hate reading posts that have anything to do with politics. I hate reading status updates about politics. I’m starting to even avoid facebook (something unheard of for me!) because I hate hearing about politics so much. For a while, I thought that it was all because of the nastiness of people over politics. I thought I was just sick of people yelling at each other, tearing each other down, and accusing each other of all manner of idiotic things over politics. But I sat down at the computer just now, all ready to write a nothing post about how my teeth hurt, when it hit me: I am sick of those things, but mostly, I have no hope in these people.

No hope. Not any…or at least, very little. If Obama gets re-elected, it’s likely that my husband will lose his job when Ave Maria shuts down because of the HHS mandate. Even if the university manages to survive and the Ogre manages to keep his job, our health insurance premiums will skyrocket, and we’re barely scraping by as it is. We’ve got piles of unpaid medical bills. A premium hike would drown us.

If Romney gets elected, I have only the very slightest bit of hope that he’ll overturn the HHS mandate. I don’t believe Obamacare will be overturned, which it ought to be. We need real health care reform, not a crappy, hastily-cobbled-together-monster that serves political special interest groups far more than the actual people of America. I don’t have much confidence that Romney will do anything to slow the tide of abortions. At best, he might be able to keep our limping economy from totally self-destructing…maybe.

The saddest part is that I really want to like Romney. Honest, I do. I saw this picture and wanted to like it, wanted to share it, wanted to feel happy about the Romneys.


I wanted to believe that they are who they say they are. But that was shouted down by a louder voice, who wryly observed that it was probably a political stunt to capture the affection of “everyday Americans” who have to do such pedestrian things as laundry.

I like Paul Ryan. I want to like him a lot more than I do, but crap like this makes me wary. A person is a person, no matter how they’re conceived. Ryan knows that. So it scares me that he would change his tune in an intense political moment. I don’t want to watch Ryan become the next Stupak, the next Nelson.

I hate that I’ve become so cynical. I wish I wasn’t. I wish I could be confident and have faith that people in politics can stand for something and can hold to their principles. But I don’t anymore. I’m tired of watching men and women in positions of power abandon their consciences, or at least what appeared to be their consciences, to curry favor and gain votes. I’m starting to see the average American’s nastiness over politics as a side-effect of the moral decay of politicians themselves. It’s not just the right; Obama made lots of promises that appealed to liberal morality (closing Guantanamo, anyone?) with no follow-through. He promised radical reform, particularly in the areas of health care and the environment, and the only thing he’s delivered is an unwieldy nightmare of a law that no one has read and that was man-handled through Congress with shady backroom deals, bribes, and threats. He promised a “new era of non-partisan politics” and then spent the next four years blaming the GOP when anything didn’t go his way. I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008 because I didn’t agree with his politics, but I wasn’t crushed when he was elected. He seemed like a well-intentioned, if misguided, person. He seemed competent.  He seemed essentially decent. Now, he seems like a petulant, nasty child who doesn’t care what happens to anyone else as long as he gets his way.

When this is the caliber of the people we are forced to choose between, no wonder everyone gets upset. No wonder people get nasty. No wonder people choose to put on blinders and insist that one candidate is blameless and the other is evil incarnate. It’s a lot more attractive than the reality.

But I’m pretty sure my despair over the political situation of our country isn’t much better than willful ignorance. So my question to you, readers, is this: how do you acknowledge political realities and view candidates objectively without feeling as if it’s all hopeless? How do you bounce back from a Stupak, or if you’re liberal, how do you bounce back from an Obama? (Or if you’re liberal and you think Obama’s done a good job, insert two-faced politician of your choice here.) How do you keep going, keep hoping, and keep having faith that we can be better than we are when every politician in Washington seems hell-bent on proving you wrong?

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  • http://makingthetrek.wordpress.com TracyE

    You have written this for me, far more eloquently than I could, so thank you. It captures completely my feelings on this election year, I know who I WON’T vote for, and I’m not all together thrilled with who I WILL vote for, however, I WILL vote.

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  • http://catholicpostergirl.stblogs.com Emily

    Before we start–I work in politics, so part of me loves the process, especially the campaign process. I cut my political teeth on the two GWB campaigns in the early aughts.
    The first thing we have to stop doing is letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I see this from a lot of conservative bloggers, but especially Catholics. We want “our guys” to get out there and denouce Obamacare with everything we have; we want no rape or incest abortion exception; we want X, Y, and Z. Politics is about the *possible*. A candidate might hold views that are politically unpopular (see: Paul Ryan rape/incest/abortion) but if he says them on the trail, he’s toast. He won’t get elected. As Catholics, we have to look at the best possible candidate who actualyl has a chance of winning, and is the closest to our values. I put those in that order because we might think Ron Paul is closest to our values, but he is not going to win this election.
    The Romney/Ryan ticket will be vastly better than another term of Obama/Biden. I believe Mitt when he says he will repeal Obamacare. It’s wildly unpopular. I believe him when he says he’s for our religious freedom and won’t keep the contraception requirement. We can’t let ourselves be jaded and say, well, neither one is good, or they’re just politicians, they don’t mean what they say, they just want votes. Once you start doing that, then how will any politician be able to appeal to you? You’ll think everything they’re doing is for votes. There are many good, real people in American politics.
    My general point is: As Catholics, we can’t afford to not be a part of the political process. It’s our job as citizens to educate ourselves as to candidates and their positions on the issues *currently*. I don’t care if Mitt Romney was pro-choice in the 1980s–I care that he’s prolife NOW.
    And yeah, the Romneys have to do laundry. They run errands. They had five boys, for pete’s sake, I’m pretty sure a lot of laundry was done!

    • Ted Seeber

      “Politics is the art of the possible” is what has given us the Culture Of Death.

  • thule222

    Politicians always lie when they’re running for office. They are who they are when they aren’t running for office. If you watch them over time and ignore the election claims, they’re actually pretty consistent.

  • Pnkn Moonshine

    Frist, thanks for the wonderful blog and welcome to The Big World Outside, Lincoln.
    What I read in the article that you linked:
    “Rep. Paul Ryan on Wednesday said he was backing Mitt Romney’s position on abortion, which allows exceptions for incest or rape, but defended his own record on abortion rights issues, including a bill he co-sponsored with embattled Rep. Todd Akin,” according to The Hill.
    I’m a Catholic who believes in the right to one’s life from conception (Church definition) until natural death. I agree that a how a person was conceived doesn’t have anything to do with their being a human individual. So I disagree with both Romney and Obama when it comes to “exceptions” allowing murder depending upon how the person was conceived. But I also know that of the two men, one will offer protection to some people that the other will not. So I, too, will stand behind Mitt Romney and his positions, even though I disagree with some of them. And since we don’t have the quotation from Ryan, we don’t know exactly what he said. I am in that unfortunate position where I have to support someone who offers hope for progress in safeguarding the right to life, as opposed to supporting someone who flat out does not belief that a person has a right to life until after they are born.
    So I am hoping that what we read about Ryan supporting Romney’s position is just what we hope it is. Ryan is in the same bind that we are.

  • Magdalen

    I survive mostly just with Jesus and good Christian friends who will agree on politics :)

  • Jamie

    What Ryan said was “Romney administration will….” His personal views do not seem to have changed. And given that out of all of the sponsors of the bill, that story called out Todd Akin as if he and Ryan were the only two sponsors, I definitely wouldn’t accept their summary of events.