A Real Lemon

30Sep08

What faith Americans have in our country. A deep trust that no matter what happens, our nation will always prosper. We are utterly confident in the future – or, at least, in our own ability to manage it. Consider the rejection yesterday of the bailout.

…a majority of those politicians anointed by the U.S. Constitution to reflect the will of the people voted no. This is a remarkable event, the culmination of an historic sense of betrayal that Americans have long felt for their representatives in Washington D.C. The nation’s credit crisis exposed Monday a much deeper and more fundamental problem — a political credibility crisis that now threatens to harm our nation further, should the markets freeze up and more companies begin to fail, as many experts predict.

We were promised by the most powerful people in the country that the solution offered may have been ugly, but it was entirely necessary. We didn’t believe them.

Asked to take a leap of faith regarding a dizzyingly complex problem, a critical mass of voters refused to trust their leaders, turning down the medicine that was offered. And so the politicians who are most exposed to popular whims have run for cover.

The deal was too cozy – the players too interconnected, the problem too abstract – for us to buy in. We’ve always heard that our trust in politicians was just a notch below car salesmen, and yesterday we confirmed it.

Years ago, the trust between the people and their politicians was broken. The credibility was lost. The reserve of goodwill went bankrupt. And when they needed it most, our nation’s leaders found they had squandered their ability to exert influence over the people who chose them to lead.

Our elections reflect this disdain. We’re willing to throw anyone into office, figuring it can’t make things any worse. A governor from Arkansas who chases women uncontrollably? Sure. An inexperienced Texas governor whose main claim to fame is that his father was president? Ok, we’ll try that.

We’re passive aggressive. We don’t feel any control over what our government does or what our society is becoming. Like teenagers bending rules to escape their feelings of powerlessness, we express our resentment with an “I don’t care,” shrug of the shoulders.

Nearly every major political leader in America supported the $700 billion financial bailout bill. The President of the United States. The Vice President. The Treasury Secretary. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Democratic and Republican nominees for president. The Democratic and Republican leadership of the House and the Senate. All of them said the same thing. Vote “yes.”

We wanted a “no,” so that’s what they gave us.

I don’t know if it’s unique to our country, or unique to our time. Perhaps it’s just human nature. Sometimes being impetuous feels good… very good. Even when the stakes are incredibly high.

Which is why the worsening economic situation bodes well for Barack.
If anyone can be made the American Idol, then why can’t anyone be made president? The more we need someone with proven abilities, the less faith we have in experience. The more we need someone we can trust, the more intrigued we are by someone who hasn’t earned it.

Because we don’t really think that it’s all about the government. We figure, in the end, it’s about us. And we trust in our own ability to pull through. So we’ll take it our way rather than theirs. And we’ll live with the outcome. No matter how painful.

The irony is that the desire to act out cuts across party lines. The same instinct that makes Republicans want to lash out at the corruption in Washington by refusing their imperfect bailout makes Democrats want to elect the man so uniquely unqualified to be president.

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