“There are few people who are not ashamed of their love affairs when the infatuation is over.”
- François, Duc De La Rochefoucauld
The end of an infatuation is always rather sad – we have many expressions for it, “the bloom is off the rose” comes to mind. Falling out of love is often a moment of maturity, a moment of coming out of an illusion – never wholly welcome.
We have had many decades of uncritical, wholesale adolescent-style adoration, heartbreak and hate towards our politicians. We have been capable of sustaining illusions and uncritical thought with support from a similarly dazzled media. This has been done for years on both sides of the aisle. This kind of idealism says that we have finally found the man (party) who will (choose one) solve our problems, understand us, have complete integrity, be able to function in a trustworthy and honest fashion. This idealism comforted us by putting some in black hats and some in white. The comforts of certainty, zeal and clarity, even if untrue, are hard to resist. How long we can sustain this with any one politician or party depends on the filter we have, and how much attention we are paying. This is how crushes are sustained, in romance and in politics.
There are signs on the ground that we are beginning to grow up. We are beginning to understand that the corruption, self-interest, special interests and spin exist symbiotically on both sides of the aisle. With the deeply personal debate on health care and its associated reform costs, our need for honesty and successful policy to save our country is suddenly more important to us than the comfort of bedtime stories. This is political maturity.
What are the signs of this? Take for example, the publics’ realization that our representatives have not read a bill in its entirety. This conversation did not even occur as little as ten years ago – we assumed a level of expertise by our elected officials, or we didn’t care, but somehow, and this is the point, the illusion was maintained. In retrospect, I would imagine few bills were ever read page by page – and that the fact that they are not now is nothing new. What is new is that we now care about this. What is new is that we now see that legislation has a direct impact upon us. What is new is that we realize this congressional neglect shelters corruption in the form of deals, earmarks and policy that the public would not support if there was transparency. And we now see that there is transparency not provided by a beneficent body of elected officials or trusted news sources, but rather there is transparency because of the internet. It is unprecedented that we can summon chapter and verse of any bill onto our own computer – almost in real time.
This is a game-changer.
We are now (as voters) in a position to demand that legislation (including I daresay health-care reform) occur in incremental, transparent, understandable terms that voting citizens can vet themselves. Not thousands of pages of nearly incomprehensible gobbledygook. Anything short of that has become unacceptable, in part because we are also now able to contact our representatives at a moments notice. In years to come, we will now look back and see the final lipstick-on-the-collar moment in our relationship with Congress as the ramming through of the unread, un-vetted Stimulus Package.
The bloom is off the rose. It’s time for a new kind of politics: a mature, unprecedented realism.
Politicians should dismiss the public as “not ready for this” at their own risk.
"When patterns are broken, new worlds can emerge."