How Broken Are Our Politics? Will Gen X Save The World?

Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United ...
Knew something about this.

A good friend engaged me about this via email this week.  I think it’s just about beyond question that our national political structures are utterly, fundamentally broken at the macro level.  A broad survey leaves little to the imagination: special interests, Big Whatever…in too many ways our politicians are not our own and are accountable first to their fundraisers and donors.  There are exceptions.  There are micro-level organizations of integrity, there are good candidates and great public servants.  But the system itself exists for itself in perpetuity.  Don’t believe me?  Try running for Super Congress.

Are our politics broken beyond repair, or can they be fixed according to the rules they’re governed by now?

How anxious are you?  If you’re between 18 and 100, are tech-savvy and engaged, your answer should be very.  If you’re between 30 and, say, 45 (the Upper Cusack Limit), you might also consider the total refusal of anyone to move a sane agenda forward as an unprecedented opportunity to lead.

Babyboomers, heel-graspers that they’ve been, have been uncannily quiet in all of this at the national level.  Sure, they’ve been the public face of so much chicanery since the Clinton Administration, but they’re not seizing any real opportunities to create something new or leave us with much. Barack Obama, young Boomer that he is, out to be the virile head of some great movement.  Alas, there is nothing.  If I’m being fair, and I do want to be fair, Obama has lead on a few key policy issues, but the wither, blister, burn, and peel of support from the progressive base is not news.  It happened for reasons.

We, the USA Network demographic, don’t trust national Republicans or Democrats.  We love the idea of hope and change and progressive causes but we don’t believe in attendant hype or machines. We like the idea of populist movements but have seen them be hijacked by agendas that couldn’t be further from our ideals.

We are displeased.  What to do? (If you’re picturing Billy Zane as an evil tycoon who doesn’t give a shit, good. We’re being taunted, everyday, by people who will never want for anything, people we’ve put in power, many of whom are apathetic at best toward our well-being or future.)

One impulse is to turn local, and I believe that localism, rightly channeled in all of its healthy forms, will go a long way toward changing our communities in radically sustainable ways.  But that won’t happen without you, Generation X.  You who are parents, you who are holding down jobs, paying bills, paying taxes, you great middle class getting screwed.  I’m asking you to do more.  I know, I know.  The good news is that in places like Allentown, PA, and, I imagine, its analogs everywhere, there are indeed many Boomers doing great things and looking for help.  Your vested interest is your children’s future.  Determined as you are to make damned sure the world they inherit is better than the shit-storm left you, you don’t really have much of a choice.  If you’re not already, please get connected.  Please make a difference.  Please build communities.

But we haven’t forgotten about you, Great National Mess. You are Das Nichtige, the unchosen nothing, the aggregate mass of political sin, of omission, of shirking, of all that is wrong with our government, our economy, our budget, our laws. You are our misplaced priorities. Your time is over, we cannot sustain you, but your enablers have said that you’re too big to fail, too big to move.

But you’re not.  We know your coordinates. You thrive at the intersection of political parties and the military industrial complex.  George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, two Citizen-Generals, warned us of you, but we were too busy moving west, killing Indians, too busy moving west, building suburbs, to listen.  We’re listening now.  We won’t support your national campaigns or your friends in Big Anything.  We don’t want Monsanto or Super Congress.  We don’t want your labels, your symbols, your platforms.  We want clean water, clean air, and safe food. We want safety nets and renewable energy.  Sustainability is our ideology, our children are our constituents, and our political leaders will answer to us.

And who will they be if not us?

9 thoughts on “How Broken Are Our Politics? Will Gen X Save The World?”

  1. Just an hour ago, while failing to fall back to sleep, I was fantasizing about running for Congress, using Washington’s farewell address as the basis for my Independent campaign, and being one of the few who would rather do what is best for the country than their party / donors / self. Then I remembered that no sane person would want to join the fetid swamp that is the federal government.

    I hate to be fatalistic, but when considering the world as it really is I think our politics are so broken as to be unfixable. The Tea Party may bring down this government just as it did George III’s, and if I were not abjectly terrified of them running the country, I might be ok with that.

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  2. A interesting post. I do wonder what will generation X leadership will be like since we are next and up to bat for leadership within the next decade. Will we continue to cater to the baby boomers or will we figure out solutions to re-aligned our government?

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  3. Great thought-provoking post. I wouldn’t go as far saving the world. The majority of us – especially we Gen X.0’ers are way too busy raising kids and just surviving it in this economy like you said.

    My optimistic side says the idealogues and the status quo politicians will eventually die off (intentional insensitivity), and our numbers will increase in government. Provided we are not idealogues or interested in maintaining the status quo, we have a real shot at creating a much better future for the kids.

    The pessimistic side is “fatalistic” like Chad’s post. The system is too broken. We might even let it implode. Whatever we create out of that mess remains to be seen.

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  4. I love these comments. That we’re all sensing or convinced of a need for change, and an impending end to the status quo is encouraging in so far as we’re doubling-down on the conviction that change must happen with us, beyond (or underneath) the power of our parents’ generation or of the things that make the current system work. The extent to which President Obama has failed to translate the change mandate is, in some senses, a favor to everyone…his generation simply will not make it happen and it’s important for us to see that writ large everyday. And I say that with all due respect…there are, indeed, some things he’s lead on that others wouldn’t have touched (some for better, some for worse), and, of course, the very fact of his presidency is significant in ways that are monumentally historic.

    But we’re beyond the party stuff, aren’t we? If I lean X politically and you lean Y under definitions that don’t really matter anymore, both 30 or 40 and have families and mortgages and jobs, don’t we have much more in common than not? We’re equally fed up, equally anxious about the future, equally convinced that the bullshit labels of the past have been more effective at dividing and conquering us than they’ve been in bringing about anything like a sustainable, healthy, political or economic system.

    Thanks for your comments, friends.

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  5. But are “we” beyond the party stuff? (Not those of us who have contributed to this conversation, but our generation broadly.) If so, I haven’t seen much evidence of it. On the contrary, it seems like most people have moved from merely thinking people who disagree with them are misguided to instead assuming that everyone except for their chosen ideologues have ulterior, nefarious motives.

    You may recall that in the buildup to the last presidential election I was very excited about Unity ’08, an organization intending to break partisanship by using an online, transparent process to nominate a ticket containing one conservative candidate and one liberal candidate to run against the party cronies. Long before the election it ran out of funding and closed its doors. Americans Elect 2012 seems to have similar goals, but I have no confidence that they will be any more successful.

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  6. I think both of you (Chris & Chad) are correct. I agree with you, Chad, that on the surface people are more polarized than ever. Political conversation amongst us common folk rarely gets off the ground due to a handful of conversation-stopping political landmines. IMO, these are peripheral issues more often than not; issues that are close to our hearts but that keep our attention off of America’s rotten political core. Our leadership must love this; we fight over scraps while the good ol boys (in both parties) and the corporations bleed us dry. I think our polarization is also due to the lack of a meaningful alternative. Since nobody believes that the status quo is working, we’re enticed by more extreme versions of liberal or conservative, only to be let down again.

    I agree with you Chris that deep down most of us know the system is broken and nobody near the top has the ability (or will) to change things. I think the time is ripe for an anti-hero to articulate an alternative vision for the American political landscape; the alternative vision that is already percolating in the hearts and minds of most. We need a voice from outside the ruling caste to point out our common discontent and unify us.

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