Reading Matt's comment on my Hillary post triggered a bit of a flashback. Sometime in 1995 or so, I was in grad school, talking politics with an office mate about ten years older than I was, and she was amazed by how cynical I was about politics, along with pretty much everyone else of my generation. Sure, she said, Watergate left her a little shaken, but the system worked, and they kicked Nixon out of office. That was her first real experience of politics.
Mine, I said, was Iran Contra. The executive branch didn't like the laws Congress passed, so they ignored them. And then, when the president was asked about it, he simply said that he didn't remember if he authorized it or not. And the country bought it. George H. W. Bush went on to do his four years as President, and he pardoned everyone involved. And nobody cared. And this was after Reagan trashed the social safety net in the name of fiscal responsibility while shooting the deficit through the roof with pet projects that fed money to his financial backers. And nobody cared. Sure, it hurt them a little bit politically, but they still got elected, and the media moved quickly on.
No wonder I was so cynical.
I can't even imagine what it's got to be like for a twenty-five year old today. In their entire adult lives, they've never seen government that works. The last time they saw a government that cared about the needs of average citizens, it was a Clinton administration paralyzed by sordid scandals. Frankly, I'm not sure the word "cynical" would even cover it.
Me, I'm becoming more hopeful. Partly because the Bush administration is about as bad as it could get, with a media that has completely abdicated its responsibility, and the American people have stood up to make their displeasure known (not a lot, but I have low expectations). But mostly because I've got a kid on the way, and I've got to hope that we can get our shit together in time to make a better world by the time it's time to hand over the reins.