Politics is disheartening to follow, and spiritually draining to care about, because it never ends. Like professional wrestling, no conflict ever has resolution, because the lifeblood of the activity is keeping viewers engaged. In the case of politics, it’s the voters. American voters are the American public, and decades of the entertainment industry have taught politicians (and the news media that exist in a symbiotic relationship with politics) how to raise hackles among the electorate, thus today’s politics is wrought with drama.
What’s paradoxical about this reality is that politics does its best to engage with voters emotionally, but only so the voters will head out of their homes and participate on election day. On a day-to-day basis in Washington, money rules. Lobbyists and large donors are the ones with real access to lawmakers, the ones whose concerns get addressed on a consistent basis, because, whether lawmakers like to admit it or not, they are the ones that can provide a quid pro quo for political services. It’s not just that Washington is for sale. Rather, it’s a self-reinforcing loop of access, the town filled with professional politicians that move from the public to the private sector with ease, leveraging their access to enrich themselves, and their colleagues. It’s only a bug in the system that every once in a while the high-ranking members of the political elite have to go to the people for permission to continue their ruse.
But unlike professional wrestling, there are real issues that affect the lives of every person in this country. While politicians of all stripes (the elected and the appointed or hired) play their games, the majority of people in the country suffer at the hands of politicians’ indecisiveness and corruption. Politics is not a game. It is not a sport. It has consequences that reverberate beyond the affected outrage and talking points of cable news and the Sunday shows. In Washington, it seems only Washington matters, but there are 300 million of us out here, and we don’t need petty squabbling. We don’t need zero sum games that the ideologically rigid choose to inflict on a very fragile economy and a very vulnerable people. In a country this large, we are all strangely alone, because the best parts of western civilization, the sense that all of us are in this together, that existential worry is something left behind in our savage past, seem to have passed us by.
Politics is so heartbreaking because the toughest problems of our age can be solved. Americans as a whole have the will to tackle any task, no matter how daunting, or even, how multi-generational. But we are led by scoundrels with vision that fails to extend beyond either their terms in office or their ability to rack up billable hours once ensconced on K Street. I have faith in the best of us. But the worst of us always stand in the way.