Monday, August 1, 2011

A Profound Lack of Leadership

Hello friends. Sorry it has been so long.

I just finished watching American Experience on KQED. You may recall from previous posts that I am a big fan of public media, though I watch PBS infrequently. Much more of a public radio person.

But tonight's episode is the final one of "A House Divided," about Lincoln's final 6 months of life. The passage of the 13th Amendment. The end of the Civil War. And then, merely four days later, assassination. Horrible. I cried, which should come as no great shock to those who know me.

Lincoln was a great president. One of character, deep abiding principle, and tenacity. He fought for what he believed in. He managed incredible division across the country during our most trying time. And he fundamentally changed our country for the better.

President Obama is a big fan of Lincoln, and I would love to say that his legacy will be viewed in future years as similarly transformative. Since those are huge shoes to fill, I would have settled for a progressive legacy at least. But based on what happened over the past few weeks, I just cannot see myself in years hence looking back on his presidency with anything but disappointment and dismay.

Of course, I'm thinking now about today's debt ceiling vote and the travesty I feel that it is. Spending cuts to hurt many if not most, tax increases for none, not even for those who can afford it. So much for sharing the pain and the social compact. I'm told they spared food stamps from the chopping block. I suppose I should be thankful for that, though that is setting the bar really, really low. And God only knows what else will be cut in the coming months.

Maybe this can still be salvaged from the depths before it's all over, but I have my doubts, because I feel that our politicians, particularly the Democrats, lack those qualities attributed to Lincoln. Principle. Responsibility. Courage. The only people who stood up for anything, misguided and wrong that they are, were those super conservative "Tea Party" Republicans. They have successfully led their constituents down the primrose path towards what I (along with Paul Krugman, someone far more qualified) fear will be further economic disaster, and at the end, middle class America will be sacrificed on the altar of big business.

Throughout all this, Democrats stood for very little. They were the party of "No, please, no..." and never made a case for themselves and their viewpoint. They rolled over. President Obama asked us to tweet our disapproval to Congress. How's that for leadership?

So tonight, I am left feeling that people I thought cared about what I care about are pathetic and spineless and are undeserving of my political devotion. They didn't try hard enough to convince people that they were right. And so, we will have to deal with the consequences of truly misguided policy that will result in a wider gap between rich and poor for years and years to come.

America's house is divided. But unlike in 1865, we do not have a President who will stand up and do what is right. It is a sad, sad day, not only for progressives, but for everyone.