I’m not a political analyst. I’ve taken some political history classes and a political communications class, but I don’t have the background of paying very close attention to the news which would help me really say something extremely intelligent on the topic.
Still, as we begin to gear up for the election next year, I have a few thoughts (as usual).
I think the main thing that politicians need to keep in mind is that the American populace feels unrepresented. From the Tea Party movement to the Occupy movement, people who have something to say feel that they must say it with their own voices. People with power, people chosen to represent the populace, are apparently not saying what their constituents want said. The government is stalling on details of economy bills and wasteful foreign wars, gridlocked in a powerplay, and so the chaotic voices of the discontent must take to the streets and call attention to themselves. A politician who wishes to make a truly successful run for office must demonstrate that she or he will accurately represent the concerns of the American public.
It’s true that there is debate among political theorists whether a politician is supposed to accurately translate the voices of the populace or is supposed to do what she or he believes is the best for her or his constituents, but Tea Partiers and Occupiers are interested in the former. Personally I think a politicians’ job is a mixture of the two, but in this particular opinion climate, it seems that Americans are tired of experts, and just want their voices to be heard.
Unless a particularly polarizing candidate emerges from either side, I expect that third parties will see a surge in popularity. Not, perhaps, enough to actually disrupt the election (the two-party focus has too deep a hold on America to be disrupted by only a few years), but enough to cause worry for Republicans and Democrats. Especially with the younger generation, a faith in one particular party seems to be waning.
Unfortunately, the average American is hardly the driving force behind politics. Perhaps that is why many average Americans are expressing so much disillusionment with the system. In a world where money is power, we know that politics is driven by corporations, banks, anyone with enough cash to back increasingly expensive campaigns or to wine and dine the elite. This is also, perhaps, why we distrust politicians’ attempts to levy harsher taxes on the wealthy – we feel that the powerful always grow more powerful while those in the middle or on the bottom like us are just a vast sea of nobodies in the grand scheme of Washington. Ultimately, politicians will choose to make things uncomfortable for us rather than for the wealthy and powerful whom they do not wish to estrange.
So although a really successful campaign could be run by someone who supports the American populace, it’s doubtful that such a campaign would have access to the money it would need to really compete with the big dogs. I don’t believe that 2012 will see any earth-shattering differences from earlier elections. I expect reasonably insipid candidates spouting non-answers to non-issues and crowds of frustrated voters who feel they have no good choices. Hopefully we can avoid the mud-slinging three-ring-circus we’ve seen in the past few elections, but I doubt it.
Am I cynical? Yes. But I think that’s the way we all feel, now. So, politicians of America, what are you going to say to a group of disillusioned, cynical people who are desperate for their voices to be heard?