U.S. politicians and archaic politics in a modern world

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One has to wonder about the people who run the world, and those who hope to run it. Not many of them seem too interested in running it for the benefit of most of the people on it or for future generations. If they were, things would not be in such a mess today. The more I watch the performance of world leaders and those striving to be a leader, like the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls south of the border, the more it is obvious that we are in a 21st-century society being governed by 18th and 19th-century thinking. That, of course, is assuming that there is much thinking going on at all.

Anyone following the Republican gong-show in the United States knows that Newt Gingrich took the South Carolina primary. In his speech upon winning, Gingrich said he won because "I articulate the deepest-felt values of the American people." American values have become one of the major hot buttons of the political scene down there in the past few years. Of course what those values are is something highly debatable. Practically every interest group has a different definition.

Claiming American values as the key to victory in South Carolina is particularly amusing. This is the state that misled the South into treason against the United States and started a civil war that killed over 600,000 Americans. This is the state that had the highest percentage of slaves. Are these the deepest-felt values that Newt is articulating?

When not beating up on each other, the Republican candidates take shots at President Obama. The President certainly deserves a lot of criticism, but not the silliness being dumped on him by these candidates catering to right-wing nutcases and demagogues. It is a wonder they are not making his birth certificate a campaign issue. Gingrich accuses Obama of getting his support from "people who don't like the classical America." Really! What is the "classical America"? A lot of Americans would say that the system that Gingrich is supporting has destroyed America. Americans in the Occupy movement and others protesting the takeover of the system by big money and corporate privilege do not think that the Founding Fathers intended the country to look like it does today.

Mitt Romney says of Obama that he ".... has divided the nation, engaged in class warfare and attacked the free-enterprise system that has made America the economic envy of the world." Given that Obama is a pretty solid member of the same ruling establishment as Romney, one has to wonder how much this wild rhetoric contributes to that division. I am sure that if we dig back in the archives and look at FDR we might find the same kind of criticism. Conveniently, those on the far-right side of the ruling class either seem to forget that FDR saved their bacon with his programs, or want to deny the fact outright. Could it be that likewise Obama is trying to save it now?

Many progressives would argue that Obama is nowhere near similar to FDR, and they would be much happier if he was. They see him bending over backward to appease those who oppose him instead of delivering what he promised in his election campaign. The far right on the other hand thinks that being more radical is exactly what he will do if re-elected and use that as one of their bogeymen to scare the gullible public. Reality is that he is part of the upper class having more in common with the Romneys and Gingriches than with average Americans, and in his own way will protect the existing system.

Recently Obama shot down the Keystone pipeline that was to take Alberta tar sands oil to American ports. Environmentalists were ecstatic while the Canadian government and Obama's opponents were more than disappointed. What generally gets missed in the commotion is that he left the door open for another plan to move the oil down to the U.S. Intuition says that the pipeline decision was not an act of environmental responsibility but just another political card trick.

Political card tricks are preferable to brute force, but they are still part of the old way of doing business in a world much changed from what it has been. A massive population increase along with increasing industrialization and communication have changed things radically, including stretching the ecosystem to the breaking point. Traditional models of expansion and conquest and all of the gore that go with them, are no longer sustainable, either physically or socially. If we are to survive in any decent form for more than a few more generations, the political and economic models of past centuries need to be replaced with new ones that are more open and responsible to the public -- ones that consider the long-term ecological well-being of the planet and all things that live upon it.

Current events show us that we have a long way to go yet to reach that point. The question is, what price we will pay before we get there.

Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada's West Coast.

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