It’s easy to be cynical about politics and politicians. Yes, government is inefficient. Yes, wealthy people exert undue influence, and receive benefits that others don’t. There’s even some truth in the statement, “All politicians are the same.”
But cynicism is a luxury, to be indulged in when times are good. When times are bad — people come to the startling realization that politics matters. Government matters.
We’ve had eight years of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their friends, inside and outside of government (Haliburton, Blackwater). That bitter experience has moved many people to re-engage in the political process.
David Kurtz, a contributor at Talking Points Memo:
I was practicing law in Missouri, more or less happily, and enjoying our two toddlers, when Hurricane Katrina hit my home state. It was wrenching to watch from afar, a maddening combination of an intimate knowledge of the people and the place, a powerlessness to help, and a growing rage over the inhumane response and the cynical indifference.
Katrina crystallized for me what I wanted for myself. Within a year I’d decided to leave the law and return to journalism, trading a stable traditional career for a chance with a small start-up, TPM.
Publius, a contributor at Obsidian Wings:
I started blogging because of a deep anger about Iraq and the exploitation of 9/11 that bubbled in me during 2003. This deep anger caused me to return to politics — to see its importance. In short, Bush woke me up from a long slumber. And I’ve been very engaged since.
But I’m just a small inconsequential fish in a big ocean. The bigger story is that this same anger — this same frustration — has led liberals to organize in more numerous and consequential ways. In the last few years, we’ve seen new think tanks. We’ve seen blogs flower. We’ve seen the rise of media sites like TPM and Huffington with real journalistic chops. We’ve seen unprecedented efforts to register and canvass voters.
In short, we’ve seen a new energy driving liberals back to politics. …
When your strategy is to make half the country hate you [referring to Karl Rove’s polarization of the electorate], that half is ultimately going to fight back, and it’s ultimately going to win. Tonight, it did.
And this outpouring of relief from Hilzoy, another contributor at Obsidian Wings:
After eight years of assault on our Constitution, we have elected a President who teaches Constitutional law. I cannot express what this means to me.
This morning, Talking Points Memo is rejoicing over a chart on a Barack Obama web site. It is a graphic representation of the U.S. government: showing the Constitution in authority over the President, and consigning the Vice President to the Executive Branch of government.
(Readers may not understand the significance of the latter point.)
Government matters. Politics matters. That’s why we’ve seen such a dramatic outpouring of emotion at the election of Barack Obama. Here’s how Publius ended the post quoted above:
Maybe I’ll come to regret saying this — but I believe Obama truly wants to end this kind of [nasty, divisive] politics. I also think he’s capable of doing it. It’s hard for a generation raised on Seinfeld irony to admit these things — to let go of easy sarcastic defense mechanisms. But what the hell — I believe in him. And that’s a new thing for me.