The morning was overcast, and eventually the rain came. And then it went. They say a hurricane is on its way, but the sun has fought back the storm at least for now – still, the clouds are lingering. There’s a strange calm that signals we’re on the fringes, for sure. I can feel it in my bones. Some primal beast inside of me can feel the savage movements of nature. There’s a sudden rush deep down when the winds finally pick up and lightning zips through the clouds as if they were a convict taking his seat for the last time.
Everyone can feel that we’re on the cusp. The telltale anxiety and adrenaline underlie every interaction. We all know that something isn’t quite right. That something is just beyond the horizon; something big.
The animals in Washington are ramping up their propaganda machines for mid-terms this fall and the 2016 presidential chatter is becoming more prevalent. It’s already starting to feel like campaign season with the ideologies on full display. Here in New Jersey things have been steamy for a while. On-going controversy surrounding the governor hasn’t helped the massive budget shortfall, but it did give him a chance to prove his faithfulness to the GOP by squashing the Democrats’ attempt to raise taxes on millionaires. So, the early stumbling out of the gates for Christie 2016 has a silver lining – at least for the short term. And Christie’s total pig-headedness is a boon for any Republican candidate these days. Bombastic arrogance scores almost as many points with the Republican faithful as AR-15s, or Jesus Christ. The recent showdown might not be such a bad thing to have on your resume when the crowded GOP primary finally comes. But good old Chris using the Port Authority as one of his foot soldiers and reneging on the state’s pension obligations may not be a good track record to bring into a general election. And he’ll be competing in a packed field of diverse philosophies as the Republicans try and put their identity crisis to bed once and for all.
On the other side of the aisle it already feels like Hillary Clinton is the candidate. The Democrats seem more or less committed to the idea that she’ll be the standard bearer in the next contest. There certainly is a lot of time, but it’s hard to see anybody posing a legitimate threat to her campaign. The blue strategists are adamant – America is ready for a woman to lead her to war. There will be more challengers that come out of the woodwork as things develop of course, but it’s doubtful that they will dislodge Clinton, whose only weakness is a relatively defensible calamity that took place in Libya. It’ll ding her, but it will take more than that to keep Hillary from restoring the Clintons to the White House. Clinton will have to keep her hawkish tendencies under the radar for long enough to keep her liberal base in her corner. But, if Elizabeth Warren jumps in Hillary may have to scramble to make up the difference.
But this isn’t about early projections and predictions of who will be facing off in the far away general election. As the primaries draw nearer we will inevitably start hearing people echo those all too common words: “I’m only voting for blank because I can’t stand blank,” as they always do. Like clockwork, a fairly good cross section of people with different political convictions and various intelligences will utter this statement of uncloaked apathy.
And this apathetic approach is well justified.
In the last 15 years, Americans have had to stand face to face with the reality of the Dream. Many have responded by retreating into a strange patriotic fervor. I believe the folks at AA call this ‘denial.’ Still, the political efficacy of the American electorate seems to be dismal. Nobody seems to have much faith in the government, and the polls show it. And why should we? As if the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq weren’t bad enough, Americans watched in dismay as two presidents from two different parties sold the country out to the bankers and constructed a harrowing surveillance state that spans the entire globe. It’s no wonder Americans feel unrepresented in their capitol. Top that all off with the era of inconceivably large campaign contributions and the systematic neutering of the American press — the public has good reason to believe it has essentially been shut out of the process. Our democracy is not functioning.
This is the sentiment behind the apathy in peoples’ voting decisions. It’s a general discontent that is being directed mainly at one party or the other, instead of at the establishment that empowers them both. This is not such a bad thing. It is this sort of discontent that gives rise to great social movements. In fact, it would be more worrying if people weren’t agitated – given the state of affairs at home and abroad it would be insane to be calm. Focusing the public frustration upon the real source of our problems is the biggest challenge facing the United States. The key is to collectively realize that it’s not about which party you support, it’s about the values you hold. We have to ask, “Are our values being represented by our political leaders?” Disagreeing about how to achieve those values is one thing; strong, contentious debate is necessary in a democracy. But the current divisions between the American people are the reasons our democracy has been wrested from us. Bridging the gaps that we’ve built between ourselves will not come easily, but it must be done if we will once again have a government by the people, and for the people.
As I sit on this grassy hill a flash of lightning touches down off in the distance. The star spangled banners that surround me are starting to flap a little harder, a bit faster. Thunder rolls overhead and I can feel the ground rumbling as the first few drops of cool water land on my wrist. Something big is coming, and it’s bubbling just underneath the surface.
I can only smile. I love this weather.