Turn on your TV these days and you will hear a politician telling you what the American people want. As you listen to the politician you will wonder which American people the politician is talking about. The politician is not speaking for you ó thatís clear enough ó or anyone in your family, or anyone you know, or have ever met, read about, or heard of.
So how can he or, at least as likely, she, say they know what you want? Has anyone asked you? Did John Boehner drop by for a chat? Was that Mitch McConnell on the phone? Did Michele Bachmann ask you to lunch?
And how about Barack Obama ó heard from him lately?
What the American people I know want is for politicians to stop behaving like morons and do something constructive, constructive being the defining word here. What they want is for the politicians they sent to Washington to represent them, and the greater interests of the country, to stop acting like colicky infants with dirty diapers. What they want is for the Congress to be held to standards that once seemed to apply, at least some of the time, to those among us who claimed the mantle of leadership, those whom we entrusted with high office.
These standards included such unfashionable qualities as maturity, integrity, decency, and intelligence. And, although there are still many ó well, a few, anyway ó in the House and the Senate who live up to these standards, they donít seem to want anybody to find out about it.
What we are getting from our leadership in Washington now ó from both parties ó is nothing. The administration seems to be paralyzed and not many think Obama is still doing a good job. If the Republicans could come up with a candidate who didnít remind us of Red Skelton they might actually win the White House in 2012.
And meanwhile the Tea Party seems to have the upper hand in how the nation conducts its business. Or, more to the point, how it fails to conduct its business. For the Tea Party has no interest in wise and progressive government; it is interested only in destruction. It would happily wreck a hundred years-worth of social legislation that helped give the American people ó them again ó the highest standard of living in the history of the world. And the Democrats donít appear able to counter the Know Nothings with any sort of coherent opposition.
The next time you hear a politician tell you what the American people want, ask yourself a few questions. Do you actually know anyone who identifies himself or herself as affiliated with, or sympathetic to, the Tea Party? Do you actually know anyone who wants to do away with Social Security?
Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, and one of the many clowns seeking the GOP nomination for president, says he wants to do away with Social Security because itís a Ponzi scheme. But Rick Perry is a charlatan and a liar. The American people I know think it would be better to keep Social Security and do away with Rick Perry.
Do you actually know anybody who wants to do away with Medicare? Do you actually know anybody who thought it was okay for criminal Wall Streeters to award themselves multimillion dollar bonuses with bailout money from the government ó our money, yours and mine. What was your bonus last year? Or, to quote from those insufferable and endlessly repeated TV commercials: Whatís in your wallet?
And now ó as in some weird dream where whatever is going to happen never quite happens, where nobody can understand what youíre saying, where people you think you know (but donít) smile and answer your questions with more questions, where nothing is ever resolved ó now they send us emails and letters asking us to send them back to Washington, back so they can go on working for what the American people want. Because, well, because they know what the American people want, donít they?