With this first entry, TOC begins an excursion to challenge the American voting public. By challenge, TOC means that voters must re-think the way political leaders are chosen. How is it that we could choose a leader in November 2008 and less than 18 months later, find that same leader at a barely 40% approval rating? How is it that President Obama’s signature accomplishment to-date, the Health Care Overhaul bill, has been so poorly received by the public when health care was one of the key issues of the election and each candidate presented a thorough health care overall proposal? How is it that, according to Gallup, the 111th Congress averaged a 25% approval rating? How is it that, according to a Zogby International Poll, over half of Obama voters could not identify that Obama’s own Democratic Party controlled both houses of congress at the time of the election. This is not a trivial fact considering that much of the rhetoric during the 2008 election was a referendum on the Bush White House with little reflection on the performance of the Democratically-controlled Congress of which then-Senator Obama was a member.
Were we completely distracted when we elected these leaders? Did we have a misunderstanding of what these leaders actually pledged to accomplish? Did we talk about trivial, inconsequential items, such as Sarah Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe, as opposed to the feasibility of a health care plan that would pay for itself, not require a mandate for citizens to purchase insurance and not tax health care benefits from employers? Why is it that we had such a dramatic episode of buyers’ remorse after the 2008 election that led to non-racist tea parties and the dramatic revival of the GOP?
Perhaps there is a tendency for us to choose leaders on superficial, non-substantive foundations. Not to say that the media focused only on the question of McCain’s “maverick”-ness, but one could argue that any time devoted to such a question is a waste in light of the complicated questions facing the nation during the Election of 2008. Perhaps candidates pay attention to the trivial, periphery “noise” because more and more of our attention is paid to that as opposed to taking that same energy to explain their solutions to complicated issues. Perhaps we are not ready to challenge proposals from candidates because we are not fed the facts in a proactive way from our news sources, so we cannot determine if a candidate is “promising the moon” or really can deliver. Was it realistic for liberals to believe that Guantanamo Bay could be closed in a year without jeopardizing American lives? Was it realistic to believe that American troops could be completely removed from Iraq after Obama’s first 16 months in office? Can you really expect a Senator who was completely invisible during his time on Capitol Hill to lead us into an era of “bi-partisanship?”
Such reflections are the motivation behind TOC. TOC is concerned that the time we spent discussing whether or not the tea party is racist could have been spent discussing whether or not the GOP could truly cut $100 billion from the federal budget and if that was even enough. TOC is concerned that the time we talked about John McCain’s infamous “That one” comment during the 2008 election debates could have been used talking about the need for a responsible unwinding of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. TOC is not saying these issues were not discussed, but questions whether each citizen was encouraged to participate in an objective discussion on their solutions.
In closing, we as Americans face a number of different challenges going forward. My hope is that more and more Americans use this and other sources to gather as much information as possible about issues facing the nation. I also hope that the words of this blog create an internal desire within citizens to learn as much as possible and not be distracted by periphery discussions. In the words of James Madison in 1788, “A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to Farce or Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”