Believe it or not, most people don’t like politics — or politicians for that matter. In fact, the majority of people would rather have a root canal than spend time talking politics or listening to a politician.
You know when politicians are lying don’t you? When they open their mouths. There was a whole lot of lying going on in this last election. It got so surreal at times that we were seeing candidates on TV swinging baseball bats, discussing the merits of witchcraft, shooting off machine guns, threatening to take people out, etc. It was downright weird.
When you listen to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et al., on talk radio, you get the impression that you’re living in the twilight zone. One of them throws out an unsubstantiated fact and the others begin quoting the original source. Thus, the story takes on a life of its own.
For example, a “story” broke last week that Obama’s 10-day trip to India and three other Asian countries would cost the taxpayers $2 billion and that the Navy would have to commit 34 ships — 10 percent of its fleet — in order to protect the president. The source was an anonymous person in the Indian government, but that didn’t stop the Drudge Report from picking it up. Soon after, all the talk show hosts were jumping on the “story” and quoting each other, creating an atmosphere of indignant righteousness that only they had the real facts.
Of course, later in the day the Pentagon refuted the story as being ludicrous. Citing security reasons, the White House wouldn’t reveal any particulars regarding the president’s trip, but a trip of similar length by President Clinton cost roughly $43 million. Obama’s trip would likely add up to about the same.
Listen carefully the next time the Glenn Beck Show comes on the radio and you will here him state that his show is for the listeners’ “entertainment and enlightenment.” Ponder those two words if you would. If I am entertaining and enlightening you, am I held to any higher standards including the truth?
The point here is that this was the political atmosphere during the mid-term elections. It is safe to say that the elections were not so much about ideology or public policy as much as they were about fear. People are upset and for good reason. They have lost their jobs, their homes, their savings, their health care. Frankly, these are scary times. Fear sells well, especially when the only thing we have to fear is not just fear itself! It is reasonable to expect people to vote against those in charge. What else can you do when no one seems to have any two-minute solutions to problems that have been evolving over the past 10 years? It used to be “Are you better off today than you were four years ago”? Now it’s down to two years. Is yesterday next? Should we be voting online on a daily basis — kind of like the gladiators and the lions during the Roman Empire? Thumbs up, today you live! Thumbs down, tomorrow you die? I guess the slogan “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is long gone.
In 2008, Obama won the presidency convincingly by selling hope to the American people. Five million Obama voters sat out last week’s mid-term election. The answer to the question “Why” will determine his fate in 2012.
In the meantime, it is important that we don’t allow the next couple of years to become political gridlock. Our collective problems are so threatening that all of us — Democrats, Republicans and tea party members — must do our best to separate real from surreal, truth from lies and personal agendas from the public good in order to find some common ground on which we can solve some of these pressing problems.
People must have hope. They need to know that everything will eventually be OK.
Jon Beydler is a 32-year Valley resident and the former mayor of Fountain Hills who now lives in Chandler.