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Politics: there is no more hope

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This originally was going to be a piece discussing the famed infrastructure bill that likely will never happen given Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and the Democratic Party’s inability to function properly. I had almost written the entire piece when I decided to delete the whole article in inconsolable rage and go back to the drawing board. I try my best to not be as subjective while writing opinion pieces, but analyzing Joe Manchin’s statement about why he decided to randomly oppose the infrastructure bill felt personally insulting and degrading.

One of my favorite professors in political science here at Carnegie Mellon often repeats the following mantra: “What are the decision processes undertaken that drive actions and institutions?” I think about this mantra a lot, especially when reading about the state of domestic politics. Our institutions were designed to be strong, and in many ways, they still are. Even under the extreme circumstances of the past few years, the bureaucracy of unelected technocrats was able to create some coherent policies to balance out the insanity and inconsistency of the elected officials, even if those policies were not great either.

But how long can this country continue to function if those who we elect to represent us are not doing their jobs? We have one party that fundamentally exists to obstruct and serve the interests of the elite rather than average Americans. On the flip side, the other party fundamentally exists to, well, also serve the interests of the elite rather than average Americans. But these elites pay lip service to the average American, so that at least counts for something.

There is a litany of research that has shown that elites have different policy priorities than the majority of Americans. Our elected officials are in that camp. Despite what they might tell us, their priorities are not motivated by service to the people. They are motivated by monetary gain. As dark money continues to seep into the political system and political spending from the wealthy defines senators like Joe Manchin, it begs the following question: What incentives do our elected officials have to legislate in favor of the people?

So much effort went into hyping up this infrastructure bill for Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda and into wooing the support of moderates and Republicans. Yet two senators from Biden’s own party are about to kill it. They are more interested in empty rhetoric and their corporate donors than the livelihoods of their constituents. It is reminiscent of when former senator Joe Lieberman decided to flip-flop on healthcare legislation in 2009, and it feels surreal that something similar is happening again in 2021. Even if this bill manages to pass, it does not change the fact that the political elites do not care about us. If anything, it will show that enough Americans were fed up with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema’s antics that they had to reverse course on their empty rhetoric this one time. But I doubt this will happen.

When I signed myself up to study politics, I still believed in a world that could be changed with enough collective effort despite my deepest cynicism. I do not believe in that now, and that is what drove me to delete the original draft of this piece. As I was writing the final paragraph of the original draft, I lied to myself that the state of affairs will look up eventually. I lied to myself that the Democrats will learn from their mistakes and decide to keep their party in line because they want to win. For them, winning is all about enriching themselves while manipulating the concerns of their voters.

I feel sad when I think about the future. I do not feel any hope. The planet is dying, the cost of living is skyrocketing, and the job market is getting more volatile. Yet our political representatives are more interested in their personal enrichment and performative stunts rather than honoring their duties and obligations to serve the people. What hope are we supposed to have? Should we wait for another disaster before elites that control the system realize that their methods are unsustainable? We have had a major economic meltdown and a pandemic in the last 15 years, but that has not really changed the behavior of the political establishment.

No amount of voting can fix the way the system is constructed. No amount of protesting and calling senators will change the way the political elite vote on policy matters. No amount of donating to the Democratic Party will get them to develop a good strategy because they want your donation and nothing else. Revolution is a pipe dream and would not even work anyway because most revolutions do not. If this sounds like I am giving up, it is because I am. I do not want to lose hope, but I sleep better at night knowing that there is nothing I am able to do.