Much ado about nothing

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Please, just cut it with the drama.

The political drama, I mean. Cut the smart remarks, the inconsequential press releases, the irrelevant speeches, the waste-my-time-and-yours political “debate” that resembles Jerry Springer more than honest and meaningful discourse.

Just quit it with the petty political theater.

Last week, a video surfaced in which Mitt Romney accused 47 percent of Americans of being shamelessly dependent on government handouts and woefully lacking in initiative — basically, he called half of America lazy. The determination of the American people to work hard and improve their lives has never once been doubted in political campaigning before. Now, the Romney campaign is doing its best to tear that notion apart. Given Romney’s clear distaste for the American entitlements system, he might have at least explained the ballooning cost of Social Security in its current state, or expanded on his plans cut federal programs. But, alas, no such explanation — only imagined American laziness at the root of American social problems.

And the left isn’t innocent either — in the wake of attacks on American embassies across the Middle East on the anniversary of 9/11, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to blame the violence on an obscure American anti-Islamic film trailer. Perhaps this is more a sin of omission, considering the film did play a role in inciting the unrest, but it’s ridiculous to accuse a cheap movie of being the actual root of the problem. Sure it might have been the spark, but isn’t there more to this story?

The immediate aftermath of the attacks on the embassies might have been a turning point in American Middle Eastern policy, a time to reconsider the U.S. position on a plethora of issues. But the Obama administration chose instead to merely skim the surface of this nation’s foreign policy predicament by simplifying a complex national issue into a play-nice-America parental lecture about religious respect in the entertainment industry and an enormous “What-the-hell-did-we-do?” glare at the Arab world.

It’s as if both Romney and President Obama are grabbing at straws, grasping for substance simply to utter to the American public precisely … nothing. They’re failing to innovate, failing to generate enthusiasm, and worse, failing to help the American public face the dauntingly real issues it desperately needs to address. When politicians have nothing to say, they say more than their opponent. It’s a contest between two candidates, increasingly shallow in their approach, to see who can make the most noise and so win the American people. The Berkeley community, of course, also excels at this kind of dramatic yet meaningless political discourse.

Remember the January 2012 Berkeley City Council resolution which recognized the Berkeley Tibetan-American community and commended self-immolators in that country as repression-fighting patriots? The resolution “strongly urges” the Obama administration to act on Chinese repression of the Tibetan people, and while its intentions are commendable, the City Council has to recognize that U.S.-China relations are more important to China, President Obama and, ironically, Berkeley. The whole affair is fresh in the minds of students after last week’s downtown candlelight vigil, but I can’t help but wonder if this is nothing more than a public relations pat on the back for the persecuted Tibetan people. Tibetans continue to suffer and Berkeley continues sitting idly by. It’s absurd.

Then there’s the city ordinance no one can forget. Measure S, which is awaiting a vote this November, would ban sitting on city sidewalks in commercial districts between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Is this a joke? Is this the best solution to homelessness the city has to offer? Scaring bums off the sidewalks of the city only relocates the problem — if the City Council and Mayor Tom Bates want to affect any real change, they’d better be a little more creative than this. Good grief.

Let’s just say the last few weeks and months of ongoing political dialogue have been more than a little disheartening. For a political aficionado who grew up reading, watching, engaging and otherwise soaking in all things political, this utter lack of class and maturity in political campaigns and governance is disillusioning and disappointing.

It’s time for politicians to wise up and grow up. We need members of Congress who aren’t afraid of diving into complex ideas and telling the truth to voters. We need candidates who care more about service than one-upping their opponents. We need Presidents with great honor, great ideas, and great courage.

Simply put, we need leaders.

Unfortunately, with the way things are going in this petty campaign season, it doesn’t look like we’ll find them anytime soon.

Image Source: DonkeyHotey via Creative Commons

Contact Connor Grubaugh at [email protected]