AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Friday, July 12, 2013
Our Politics Reflect Our Own Attitudes
This column orginally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, July 12, 2013
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
of getting older is reminiscing about “the good old days”. Maybe that accounts for my recent wistful
longing for the politics of the 1970’s and 80’s.It has to be more than the fact I’m rapidly
approaching qualification for a series of senior discounts.
You seldom hear folks speak glowingly of the
politics of those particular decades.We
all thought it was a rough and tumble climate back then, with candidates too
wrapped up in themselves to pay proper attention to the public good.But compared to the self-serving political
world today, they were on a par with the founding fathers.(That’s sarcasm, in case any of their descendants
three or four decades ago, it was still possible for government to achieve
something.There were elected and
appointed officials working towards a practical end, and trying to accomplish reasonable
goals in a respectable manner.Sometimes
they were successful, and sometimes they were not.
they couldn’t get their legislative proposals approved, they moved on.They worked out compromises with those across
the political aisle.They still
complained and whined and pontificated, but also understood the people’s business
had to be done – and constant deadlock was simply not an option.
is not the case today.
in the last 20 years has become a giant game of Tic-Tac-Toe between Democrats
and Republicans.Actual victories by
either side are extremely rare, but both players have become experts at
blocking the other from winning.They
keep making X’s and O’s in the hope that just once the opposition will make a
mistake.But the ultimate goal is no
longer victory – it is just not losing.
it is easy to blame that on the officials themselves.They are the ones who get drunk on the power,
fame and money that comes with high-level politics.They are the folks who often decide the need
for votes is more important than the need to do the right thing.
is it really their fault?Are their
actions influencing the public, or is the public creating the monsters they
have become?As it usually does, the
truth no doubt lies somewhere in between.
the 1980’s this country had real leaders.Ronald Reagan was the conservative President, and Tip O’Neill the
liberal Speaker of the House.President
Reagan was considered pretty far to the right of the political spectrum, and
Speaker O’Neill was his left side counterpart.They did not always refer to each other in the most glowing of terms.
behind the scenes, each knew and understood the true role of leaders.They treated politics like
it should be treated in a democracy – as the business of running
government.Sometimes they won,
sometimes they lost, and each was always looking ahead with an eye towards the
next battle.But despite protestations
to the contrary, neither ever really took it personally.
each of these elected officials would be considered moderates in the overall
scheme of things.But would either have
been able to continue to be themselves in this cutthroat political environment,
where even the hint of being willing to compromise is considered a weakness of
the highest order?
don’t know.But I’m not sure it is our
leaders and their backbones (or lack of same) that has brought about our
current political climate.I think it
might be us.
the voters (in many areas of the country at least) are why politicians have to
run to the extreme end of their party’s limits.When people of moderate views stay home and leave voting to extremists,
we get the government they want and we so ignominiously deserve.When we reward obstructionists and punish
those who are willing to consider opposing views, the result is officials who
govern based upon fear rather than wisdom.
Reagan and Tip O’Neill were no more or less principled and dedicated than many
of today’s leaders.But they existed in
a world and a nation where doing and accomplishing nothing was not considered
enough to get re-elected.
have lowered our standards in this country when it comes to leadership.We are rewarding and almost requiring
extremism.And that is nobody’s fault
but our own.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at