It was certainly an interesting choice to take a vacation from blogging the weeks before the past election. Some of the reason for my absence was what has always been a struggle for me, balancing the demands of an incredibly time-consuming job with finding time to write, but over the past few months, there has been something deeper, a sense of exhaustion that goes beyond merely being busy.
Some of what I’m feeling is what Jay described in his departure post from Left in the West: I’m tired of reading through my RSS feed, tired of reading the same six stories in Montana’s papers over three days, and tired of reading anonymous comments.
But there’s something more: I’m tired of the whole cynical game of American politics. While I’m certainly disheartened by the election results last Tuesday, they’re just symptoms of a system that treats political problems as issues to frame for media dissection rather than as real concerns.
The nation is facing deep systemic crises and is past due on making critical choices about budgets, domestic policy, and power projection in an increasingly complex world. No matter what Chris Matthews might imagine, the sound bites offered in the 24-hour news cycle are unlikely to address those problems. It’s time that both sides move past posturing and sloganeering, but that doesn’t seem terribly likely when the media doesn’t demand more.
So, is this a farwell for me as well?
To be honest, I was planning to shut down rather than continue the slow fade away from this site, but then I did some soul searching this weekend about why I’ve always been interested in politics. I still believe that, when practice to improve our society rather than score points in the press, the political process can be authentic, can seek answers, and can actually make a difference.
When I read the story that featured a few of my students in the New York Times, it became clearer: what I want to feel again is idealism. Those students have taken the stand they have not for appearance or to score points in the endless partisan debate that makes bad community theater look authentic, but because they care deeply about something. Cynics are fond of tearing down idealists as naïve, and perhaps they are, but couldn’t we use a few more idealists and a lot more ideologues? I’ve always described myself as a cynical idealistic, and it’s time for more of the latter and less of the former. It’s not time for me to quit yet.
So, I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to try to do a better job of highlighting solutions, focusing more on local issues and education. I can’t promise that the snark’s going to go away—we have a legislature that will probably honestly debate UN withdrawal, for God’s sake—but a little more time on what’s right can’t hurt anyone.
We’ll see how it goes.
Matt and Jay, thanks for showing us all how it’s done and what blogs can be. We’re all going to miss your contributions and insights about Montana politics.