Some people contend that after WWII our best and most able citizens shunned politics in favor of business, the academics, and other pursuits. I would like to believe we have always had some people in politics with leadership skills. But now, many fear we are running very low.
Politically, I think we started drifting in the cold war and especially from the mid-sixties on. A lot of the problems that are showing up today had their beginnings in the seventies and eighties. The electoral process got corrupted in the seventies with the rise of PAC’s. Politicians become more interested in retaining positions than running the country.
We have watched all kinds of gimmicks. In the seventies it was discerned that conservatives, by voting “no” on issue after issue would be perceived as “negative” and voted out of office by a disenchanted electorate. Trying to fix up their image they come up with a device called “revenue sharing” that would remain consistent with their philosophy. The scheme involved sending money from taxpayers to Washington and perfume it up and send it back to the states as grants without any strings attached. States had the liberty to spend as they wished. The conservative columnist William Buckley questioned the round trip. Why not just leave the money with the states or taxpayers? But, the politicians loved it and it gave them the appearance of being “positive”, thus, contributing to their job security from a pliant public.
Politicians are very good at re-naming offensive language. The one I enjoyed most was called “revenue enhancement” from that seventies and eighties era. Tax is a fearsome word that produces general loathing. But, “revenue enhancement” sounded sophisticated and even scholarly. We had a Tennessee politician who contributed greatly to popularizing the phrase.
We are entering into a time that will be stressful enough to help build leadership. Any cream left will have to move to the top. Yet, before it is all settled out the electorate will recognize they have paid a ton of a price for their laxity.