You know you've missed it: it's time for another Political Rant. This time, I swear I'll try to keep my argument fairly non-partisan, because I'm equally pissed off at both sides.
The president is set to give a big jobs speech tomorrow (which I can't watch, owing to not having a tv), and there's a lot of speculation as to what he'll say. Republicans, naturally, have already come down like a hammer on his as-yet-unaired remarks; several are even saying they will skip the session entirely, sounding a bit like whining children stamping their feet. They will have drafted their responses to his address already, in a time-honored tradition of not-listening that seems to go on regularly in Washington.
I can get mad at Republicans, of course; they're such an easy target. With one hand they say they care about the "Average Joe" Everyman, promising they have America's best interests at heart. With the other hand, they tax those same Americans into poverty and give more and more breaks to the wealthiest two-percent, to corporations who still stingily hold out on new jobs creation, to the lobbies that busily fill the coffers of their reelection campaigns. Republicans are the great non-listening hypocrites.
But, I cannot in any good conscience defend Democrats. No one, on either side, is even remotely interested in listening to or doing anything concrete about the issues facing real Americans today. Thousands and thousands of these Americans will tune in tomorrow and listen with baited breath, hoping for a real, actual plan that can help them crawl out of the deep hole they're in. I'm not immune or uncounted amoung them: I am one lost paycheck away from ruin myself, and I'm deeply interested in what will be said as well. But, instead of a sweeping "New Deal", with actual figures and data and plans behind it, this is what will be delivered on Thursday:
I love our president; I proudly voted for him, and was at the rally in Grant Park to see him in person just moments after he was elected. I know that in his heart, he wants to do something tangible to help ease the country's suffering. But, no one in our current political system is allowed to have the courage to ever actually do anything at all. Every decision, every movement, is wrapped up in layers and layers of the cotton wool of arguments and empty promises and vagueries, so that no one ever needs to step forward and claim a possible mistake. No accountability. No blame, or rather a system where blame can be leveled by everyone on everyone else, because no one ever firmly says anything.
Remember watching "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" for the first time? Remember the swell in your chest when Jimmy Stewart rails against the fat-cats in a painfully raspy voice, refusing to be silent until he literally collapses? What about a newer film like "The American President", and the speech where Michael Douglas says he was "so busy trying to keep my job, I forgot to do my job"? There's a reason why these are both from films. These types of leaders don't actually exist, not in the real world.
The American people need something real: real leadership, a real plan for jobs and economic stimulus, real listening from both political parties. Promises with real follow-through. We don't need more band-aids, like extending unemployment benefits yet again, or vague statements about a new "green economy" that will build new jobs. We want to feed our children and take them to the doctor when they're sick and bring home a paycheck every two weeks that will keep our gas on. We want to be proud to be Americans again.
Maybe I'm wrong, and tomorrow's speech will mark Obama as a new FDR, stepping forward with a startlingly bold plan for waking this country from its stupor, Republican scorn be damned. Maybe he will stand up and stop caring so much about 2012, and care more about 2011. He'll stop trying to keep his job, and remember to do his job. Maybe his aides and advisors will let him. Maybe Congress will stop shouting at the rain, shut up, and listen to what real people want and need, and then set about doing it without all the childish finger-pointing and name-calling and dead-locked futility. Maybe Joe Everyman really will have his voice heard, and the lobbyists and corporations will have to sit in the corner for a change.
And, maybe Michael Douglas really could be President and Jimmy Stewart really would be elected to Congress.
One of my favorite films is "Dave", where a real everyman (played by Kevin Kline)who happens to be a dead-ringer for the President is forced to masquerade as him when the real President has a debilitating stroke. He proceeds to make real changes, balancing the budget, caring about homeless and jobless Americans, trying to get people back to work. His opponents try to crush him, and he is forced to fake his own death when he realizes he can no longer be effective. He gives a speech to Congress near the end that has always stuck with me:
I wish that could actually be true."I think there are a few thinks you ought to be able to expect from your President: I ought to care more about you than I do about me. I ought to care more about what's right than I do about what's popular. And I ought to be willing to give all this up for something I believe in. because if I'm not, then maybe I don't belong here in the first place."