Presidents, politics and poverty

As we fall headlong into another presidential election season, I find myself in a surprising calm that does not align at all with my passionate sense of what needs to change in our country to make it a better place for the most vulnerable children, youth, and adults living here.

I’ve tried to engage in some deep reflection to understand the exact cause of this disconnect between my engagement levels and my passion.  I’ve wondered: Do I still believe the president’s role is important to social change and transformation? Am I fed up with D.C. politics? The list goes on and on. The reality is that it isn’t any of these things. I’ve found the conversations, while important, predictable. I sometimes wonder if I could sketch out the general flow of the debates and news stories before I even hear or read them.

Now, predictability is not a bad thing, necessarily. But in a world where we face very real issues, I want to believe that I’m listening to very real conversations. I haven’t been recognized for any special powers of discernment. However, we all have our own “hot air” meters. I wonder if we’ve turned the power of the vote into the pandering for the vote. I can’t be the only one who sometimes wonders if the real (insert the name of any political candidate here) would show up.

This feeling seems connected not only to our desire for candidates to be real, but also to our resistance to them showing up as human beings, as opposed to being superheroes. We expect these superheroes disguised as politicians to unite the world with a single speech, to leap over poverty with a few well-played policy decisions, and to improve the economy with the waving of a budget wand. It really does feel we need to challenge our entire system from campaign reform to candidate qualifications to how we approach our vote.

One of the biggest issues affecting our economy is the increasing number of people who can’t survive, let alone thrive, in it. We are not building a capable, ready, and competitive workforce for the future. In fact, many of the conversation turn me off not only because I’m waiting for the real candidate to show up, but because I’m waiting for a future-oriented plan. One that addresses some of our most basic challenges of poverty and inequity. We are people of the now. Yes, we live in the now, but the decisions of today must aim toward and support the “now of tomorrow” that we want to see.

All of that said, I am not saying everyone candidate is full of hot air. I’m not saying they are all false. I am not saying they all lack vision. I am saying though that there is a growing reality of form over substance and of short-term, issue-driven thinking versus vision-driven thinking. I agree with the pundits that politics in D.C. are out of control.

Our energy has to be equally on the places producing the politicians.  We have to get to the root cause. D.C. may be like a drug that has some life-altering effects. This is only a portion of the issues. We have to ask what is happening at the very level of our families and communities to understand the political system we are nurturing and neglecting.

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