The first thing I noticed this morning when I ended my one-week voluntary vacation from politics is that the world didn’t end this past week. In fact, it seems to be spinning around just as it has for billions of years. What a relief.
One week ago, the Left was in extreme disarray. With the loss of Ted Kennedy’s senate seat, health care reform seemed dead. The president seemed to be on the ropes. Many on the Left, led by the firebaggers and PUMA crowd, were ready to start calling for impeachment. One short year into President Obama’s administration and the Left seemed ready to throw in the towel. Oh, woe is me.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression here. The Left had plenty of reasons to lament. I was feeling pretty down myself. But that’s not why I decided to take a vacation from politics. I decided to take a vacation because I could sense that I had lost perspective.
One thing I’ve learned in the nearly half-century that I’ve been following politics is that the political game is filled with ups and downs. Think of the high Democrats were on with the election of JFK in 1960 then think of the down they were on in November, 1963. Think of how high the progressive movement was flying in early 1968 with the campaign of Bobby Kennedy and then think of the plunge into despair that began with his assassination in June and Nixon’s triumph in November of that year. Nothing I’ve seen in the last 40 years can compare with the dramatic swings in mood caused by the events of the 60’s. Nothing, not even Reagan’s ascendancy, comes close.
Now, here we are in a new century with a new president and we are fighting many of the same battles that have been ongoing in this country since its birth. The Founders warned of the creeping power of corporations, as did Lincoln 80 years later. So did Teddy Roosevelt and FDR. Yet, here we are still fighting to keep them from polluting the political process. Teddy Roosevelt started the debate about universal health care and social security nearly 100 years ago. Progress has been made, but the process moves on. Progressives are fighting to expand on the gains made on both of those policies while conservatives, despite their dissembling on these issues, are fighting to kill both initiatives.
I think the phrase my fellow piscator, Alphonse Karr, wrote 160 years ago sums up politics better than any other saying. “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – generally translated as “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
As I said in the beginning of this diary, one week ago, Democrats were in disarray. Now, after a strong SOTU address and the performance of President Obama at the GOP caucus retreat and Dems are flying high. One thing I’m sure of, it won’t last. The more things change…
So here I am, refreshed and revived after one short vacation (with occasional slips) from politics and ready for more. The next 9 months should prove interesting. There will be bitter defeats to swallow, blows to be taken, victories to be celebrated, and all with the knowledge of more battles to come. Welcome to the wonderful world of politics.