I found most of them had a very poor opinion of the first year of President Obama's presidency. The top complaint was that the crimes and misdeeds of the previous administration had not been pursued, the guilty remain unpunished, and warfare in the middle east continued despite the wishes of the majority of those who elected him.
The president should be much tougher, they all said.
Tougher on who or what? Elected and appointed officials in government who used torture, who lied to Congress; contractors with the government who've used the wars in the middle east to line themselves in solid gold and who've been guilty of fraud, abuse and much worse; and the many financial misdeeds from Wall Street and beyond into the banking system who broke laws and then begged for bailout from the Bush administration and the Congress of '08.
Another complaint - attempting to build a consensus in Congress was a bad idea. Congress is a source of trouble, not open to any meaningful consensus or bi-partisan behavior.
In short - The Very Bad Powers That Be are still The Very Bad Powers That Be.
It wasn't that they had lost all support for President Obama, but they expressed some mighty disappointment.
That discussion of course had many forks -- into talk about the recent Supreme Court decision to essentially allow limitless corporate donations to political campaigns, as well as local politics in towns and counties across East Tennessee. My favorite part of this discussion was the reality that there was no Left and Right Wings here - it's all Right-Wing and Not As Much Right-Wing politics. And the current reality in U.S. politics which already allows for foreign-owned nations to create U.S. shell companies which have been donating to political campaigns.
There were such healthy doses of vigilant skepticism of our current system, it seemed to me that, despite any sudden changes, there remains a growing population of very smart folks who have not lost their passion or their will to demand more changes, to call out hypocrisy on the current state of Left and Right Wing tactics and policies.
There were, as well, a strong and growing sense that local media is in a very poor state, with no change in sight, other than a continuing change for the worse.
As for me, I think President Obama and his team have faced more tough challenges than most administrations. It isn't going to get any easier in 2010 either. I do think he has the support of the majority of Americans, but we remain in an economic turmoil created over the last few decades and altering that course significantly is but one of the toughest jobs he faces.
And politically, I remain pretty much all over the political map - I'm very much a less-government-is-best believer, sometimes landing in the Right, the Center and the Left. No single political party holds much weight for me. And it was heartening to me to see a continued belief that real change and activism begins on the local level and grows out from there.
Still, there remains much passionate anger over the disastrous course the Right has been demanding for many years. And I know from talking to those who are on the Right they too are angry, sensing their own forecasts of Left Wing Doom in every situation imaginable.
It is puzzling that the central notion of a government gone haywire is a part of both the Left and Right and among Independents too, but fixing it is where everyone diverges.
As I have opined here on this humble but lovable blog since Day One: Being an American requires constant vigilance.
Oddly, for a long time now, I have often been reminded that today's political landscape was seen and expressed astonishingly well by a World War 2 General and President, Dwight Eisehnower, in his 1961 "farewell speech" which you can read here. Perhaps these excerpts will show why I hold that speech in some regard:
"Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.
But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration."
"Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow."