In my column at First Things today I expose some of the cynicism I constantly battle within myself as my mistrust of all politics and politicians continues apace:
Assuming it was ever real, the notion of electoral downtime, of productive governance, mindful that a day’s evils are sufficient thereof and that futures are dealt with as they arrive, appears to be over. So too the idea that one runs for office in order to serve by representing the desires of the voting populace. When they elected Michael Bloomberg to a third term as New York City Mayor, few if any Gothamites believed they were voting for an executive declaration against giant soft drinks, about which their thoughts were neither sought-after, nor deemed relevant. When Americans voted Barack Obama into the White House on the strength of genial “post-partisan” rhetoric and promises of transparency, they surely did not expect him to use his congressional advantages to ram through an impossibly complex, constitutionally suspect piece of health care legislation—with a promise that once we saw it, we’d love it—over the objections of 68 percent of the country.
Actual public service, and even the creation of policies in-line with the thinking of the majority, has become almost incidental to the full-time job that is holding-and-keeping a public office in the era of fly-by social media and the ideologically stocked News Marts that are, so to speak, open-all-night. At the risk of sounding cynical, which is not my intent, there is no longer any sense of certitude that whoever emerges the victor of today’s election will care about advancing any interests beyond his own.
Barack Obama has already indicated that he prefers congressional end-runs to constitutional processes, and should he win re-election, he will be freed from concerns about polls or popularity, free to all the more forcefully insist that the rails of the republic run his way or not at all. Mitt Romney is currently tracking on Obama’s old lines of bi-partisan cooperation, but given the deep partisan divisions within the country and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s already stated unwillingness to “work” with a President Romney, how long will it be before he too decides that paternalistic know-betterism is preferable to messy, slow-moving democracy. If Romney ends up following Obama’s imperious bent, should we be surprised?
The feeling of many is that today’s election is the most meaningful in the nation’s history. More than once in my email I’ve found a missive saying, “okay, I know everyone always says that every election is the most important in their lifetime, but this time I really think it is . . .”
Then I throw a bucket of cold water on our hyperventilation, and marvel at the simple means by which our equilibrium may be restored. You can read it all here.
A Must-Read: Calah Alexander on the “Johnny Foreigner” aspect of the voting Catholic populace
Msgr Charles Pope says keep the faith perspective, through this season of doubt and worry
Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who is also a Benedictine Oblate, has more thoughts on elections and eternity!