05 August 2008

The Political Value of Crises

It seems that there is always, always a crisis on our hands. The economy has been in “crisis” mode for a long time. There is an oil price “crisis”, an energy dependence “crisis”, a mortgage “crisis”, and the dollar is in “crisis”. So many crises, so little time.

Actually, there are so many crises because there is too much time. And I’m not just talking about the unquenchable thirst of the 24-hour news cycle. The presidential election has been going on since…December 2006! During that month, two candidates announced they were in the running (Kucinich and Edwards). More than a full year passed before the first primary was held. More than a year and a half has passed, and we’re still not at the conventions. And yet these candidates have been running, and running, and running.

Such a long campaign requires endless energy, and not only on the part of the candidates. Issues have to have legs – serious legs. The more alarming the “crisis”, the further it can carry the pseudo-debate. The crises include: Iraq (in various guises and from various angles), Afghanistan, oil prices and energy dependence, mortgage foreclosure, global warming / climate change, and (somewhat) immigration.

We are in a state of perpetual crisis, or so we are lead to believe.

But crises are only of political value when something can be made from them, when they deliver a product to someone. In an election year, the beneficiaries of crises are easy to detect: those who hope to gain or maintain office through manipulation of real or imagined crises. I realize that the previous statement is a bit circular. Let me provide an example.

Speaker Pelosi has stated that her goal is to save the planet from destruction due to our dependence on oil. She has to date given no specific solutions for this crisis, which is shocking, seeing as the planet may be destroyed without a solution. Reasonable thought indicates that her refusal (and the refusal of her Senatorial cohort, Sen. Reid) to allow any debate or vote on off-shore drilling is really a sandbag tactic. Her hope is that the 111th Congress will coincide with a Democrat in the White House. The end goal is the power to push her agenda. The means to this end is perpetuating the oil crunch until November (and shifting all blame onto Republicans).

It seems quite clear to me as I sit and write, yet I feel a sort of fatigue. The constant roll of crisis on top of crisis can be overwhelming. However it is, in the end, somewhat more mental than actual (so I shan’t whine!). We would do well for ourselves to examine these “crises”, to look for their simple causes, to seek out reasonable short term solutions, and to plan ahead for the long term. But we must also look for those who would manipulate “crises” – indeed, manufacture them – for personal gain. Speaker Pelosi is the poster girl for the self-perpetuated and self-serving crisis.

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