Perhaps I came off as a tad snarky last week when I declared that the pending presidential election is meaningless and I’d rather watch President Obama and Mitt Romney duke it out in a bare-knuckle boxing match than show up to the voting booth. Perhaps people like me with their rotten attitudes who take their citizenship in a democracy for granted are as much a part of the problem as the corrupted state of our democracy. I don’t know. What I do know is where that bad attitude comes from.
My generation doesn’t have any leaders. We’ve never had anybody worth looking up to, we’ve never had anyone who gave us the feeling that they deserved our trust. We’ve never had leaders with any real leadership qualities. It’s considered the norm to take everything that everyone in Washington says with a grain of salt. They have proven nothing to us other than the fact that they’re only out for our votes, not our best interests. The soothing soundbites that their PR staff and speechwriters puppeteer out of them might work on people from a different time, a time when politicians were thought capable of integrity, but not us. Most people I know consider the American political process a cruel joke. Most of us vote not because we’re proud to exercise our democratic freedom, but because it’s better than nothing. We know we’re settling no matter what.
As disdainful as I am toward the powers that be, I gotta give credit where it’s due. I must admit that Barack Obama was an exception to this rule. He is the only politician I’ve ever seen who ever made me feel like he was on my team. Unlike almost anybody else in the political machine, with their stiff and impersonal posturing, Obama seemed like someone you’d actually be able to have a conversation with if you met him on the street. He seemed human. He’s the only politician whose words have moved me in any way. The speeches he gave early on sounded so nakedly earnest and honest, and his voice resonated with such conviction that I couldn’t help but believe in him. It blew my mind when he admitted that he was just as worried and scared as the rest of us, when he admitted that we had a long, hard road ahead of us and that he was going to need our help as much as we needed his. He was the very first person I ever voted for not as a toss-up between “the lesser of two evils,” but as someone who I felt really deserved my vote.
4 years down the line, that aura of hope has faded and a lot of the reactions have been unforgiving. Some say he was just leading us on, some say he got in over his head, some say he had to adapt to the corrupt terrain to survive it. I can’t imagine how much pressure he’s under and what that pressure can do to a person, so I wouldn’t dare pass judgment. I still want to believe in him, but I can’t believe in the job he signed up for. The very nature of the job seems at odds with what he intended to do with it.
But I guess there’s nothing for us to do but ride out the election season and wait and see.