Friday, April 7, 2017

Politicians Who Provide Hope Part One - Bernie Sanders

Politics usually has not been a cheery or encouraging thing to think about or discuss since for as long as I can remember, although things have been going downwards consistently. Over time, it seems that the quality of our politicians has grown worse and worse, and so it is perhaps not really surprising that the condition of the country has declined simultaneously. 

Perhaps some would disagree, but things have taken an especially egregious turn lately. Never before have things seemed as grim and hopeless, almost, as it feels right now. We have Donald Trump in the Oval Office, regularly displaying his monumental levels of both ignorance and arrogance. Together with his fellow Republicans in Congress, and a Republican majority basically already in the Supreme Court, there is a pro-corporate, neocon political agenda that, in fact, does not reflect what the majority of Americans actually want. 

Indeed, the fact that a majority of Americans do not want what is going on is what makes it all the more frustrating. Seeing President Trump, who lost the popular election by nearly three million votes, boast and brag about how big his election victory was like the overgrown brat that he is just really can grate on people. Frankly, it is embarrassing as an American to see a leader that supposedly represents us behave in such a ridiculous manner. The way that he conducts himself would be laughable, if it were not so serious and, frankly, sad. 

Repetitive as it might be, I will again mention how the United States seemed, not long ago, to be in so much better shape than it is now. Back in the 1950's and 1960's, this country was probably ahead of the rest of the world like no other country ever before, to the point that it was likely the envy of the world, and the model of where things should be with a country. There was greater economic power than anywhere else, and the standard of living was the highest in the world. Hard as it might be to believe it now, the United States ranked first among all nations in terms of the education system. It was the leading power of the world economically, militarily, politically, and culturally. 

It should then not be much of a surprise that back then, the country seemed to have higher standards with their political leaders, as well. In the 1950's, we had a respected World War II general who knew the cost of war enough not to make a point of getting the United States involved in wars, and then we had a young and idealistic president who embodied the energy and optimism that the country felt. When President Kennedy was shot, it seemed that the country lost something, somehow, that it has never since recovered. 

The downfall was not immediately apparent, but perhaps on that day, the first of many dominoes lined up that would keep falling and pressing their weight down upon us. Yet looking back, it seems clear indeed that this singular event, the Kennedy assassination, is what many, if not most, Americans seem to point to as the beginning of the end of what was considered the golden age for the United States. Whatever the problems that might have existed at that time - and there certainly were problems - there also seemed to be a sense of hopefulness and belonging that was shared by a vast majority of Americans. Nobody that I know of ever expressed embarrassment that John F. Kennedy, or his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, served as president. These were not men who made fools of themselves, or made a mockery of the country before the whole world. 

Afterwards, however, skepticism set in. Americans and people all over the world did not believe the Warren Commission report. They also did not believe the Johnson administration's sunny reports about how well the war in Vietnam was going. They were shocked to find how hungry for power Nixon was, how crass his language and mannerisms could be, and they did not believe in his innocence when it came to Watergate. And it seemed that they grew intolerant, for a little while anyway, towards any politician who tried, flawed as they might be, to put all of this in the past and try and heal the nation's wounds. They were angry - with some justification - when President Ford pardoned Nixon, although that was not necessarily a vindictive decision, but one that Ford might have made just to try and help the country get past it. People were also not tolerant towards President Carter when circumstances around the world proved too challenging for the quick solutions that Americans desired, and which Carter could not deliver. 

Then came a decline in standards, as Americans seemed to collectively grow tired of scandals. Suddenly, President Reagan and the first President Bush got away with some serious crimes, particularly the Iran-Contra Scandal and the Savings and Loans scandal. Reagan even earned the nickname "The Teflon President." Then, Bill Clinton was considered the new "Teflon President," as he also weathered the numerous storms of endless scandals throughout his presidency. George W. Bush tried to redefine torture, set up American concentration camps (albeit on foreign soil), started an illegal and immoral war that turned into a quagmire based on a false premise, failed to respond to the national emergency following Hurricane Katrina, and endured one corporate scandal after another before nearly running the economy to the ground with his relentless pursuit of trickle down economic policies that benefited wealthy corporations and the very rich, while hurting most of the rest of the country. Yet, all he had to deal with, at the most, were low approval ratings during the second term, when he was already in office and did not have to worry about running again. President Obama had a largely scandal-free presidency, although his opponents certainly tried to make everything that they disagreed with him over into a scandal. Finally, in the present day, we have a man who seems born to generate controversy and scandal both in and outside of the White House. Not only that, but he seems to hold himself as infallible, and tells the American people time and time again how he is essentially smarter and greater than anyone else, and how he and he alone can save this country.

Meanwhile, he has made corporations dumping chemicals and waste into our water much easier, he is trying to revive the coal industry, trying to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, and generally trying to weaken what remain of the country's environmental laws. His healthcare bill failed, and he continually tries to launch investigations without offering a shred of evidence. He never did divorce himself from his corporations, which means that the influence of his business interests create an obvious conflict of interest. And his fellow Republicans in Congress seem to support him, and are themselves targeting many of these same things that Trump is targeting, perhaps including social security and the retirement savings of hard working Americans. 

Add to that the $20 trillion of debt that is projected to grow because of Trump's policies, and how so many of the jobs that Americans are working do not offer solid salaries or benefits, and just how sick and tired of the endless scandals and corruption coming out of Washington, and things are grim indeed. The golden age, if it existed, certainly no longer really exists, at least not when one judges the American political scene right now.

However, I wanted to focus on some positive figures, by which, I mean some prominent politicians who are indeed making a difference, and who have a high profile to perhaps effect serious change. I know that this might seem unlikely, but we need to have some kind of optimism to balance out the top heavy skepticism that is itself starting to feel like part of the problem - and a major part of it, at that! - in this country right now. You might not agree, but to me, the politicians that I will focus on have kept their integrity despite the troubling times, and have remained consistent to their convictions, even if you and I might not agree with everything that they say or do. 

First and foremost, is a man who by now really needs no introduction. Bernie Sanders changed the election last year, and frankly, he should have been the Democratic nominee, if not outright the president! So, Bernie Sanders comes first, although I have already written quite a bit about him here in the past, and do not want to simply regurgitate this material. 

So I added some videos of him.

Also, I even met him last fall! That was really cool, and I will republish that particular blog entry to buttress this one. 

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