Not actually, but I am slightly annoyed and confused.
The biggest problem facing my generation is a dysfunctional legislature handicapped by it’s own antiquated rules and procedures that no longer serve any meaningful purpose. It’s a problem that supersedes the rest; it stifles our ability to tackle any other major issue successfully.
That was the question asked by the editors of The Nation for their annual student writing contest: what is the biggest problem facing your generation. What were selected as the winning essays are nothing more than filler, subjects barely worthy of having 800 words devoted to them—except one regarding climate change, but as has been evident, and like I’ve said, I double-dog dare you to do anything meaningful about climate change in a de facto 60-vote Senate.
I don’t have much to say regarding the first place entry, a beautifully written retrospective on the Virginia Tech shooting. While it would be deserving of publication on it’s own merits, it doesn’t really address the question.
Answers from the other essays include apathy, evidenced by low turnout on election day. That’s definitely a problem, but the biggest? This is universal; every generation, when its members were ages 18-24, was lazy and apathetic toward politics. (Save for the kids that were newly allowed to vote immediately following the passage of the 26th amendment, but that’s totally different). Another essay espoused the evils of mobile telephones, or technology, or rampant ADHD. Hard to tell what the point was, or how on Earth it could possibly be classified as THE biggest problem facing our generation.
There was, for what is probably the 1,000th time in the past couple months, a condemnation of mixed-market capitalism. That there are currently millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans isn’t a refutation of our economic system as much as it is a refutation of our policymakers and the institutions they inhabit. We’re in what essentially is a textbook financial crisis/balance sheet recession. There are policies that could have had us out of it by now, but unfortunately…well, see step one.
There was one other essay, on the terrible state of American journalism, that was poignant. Some may recognize it as “The Cult of Balance”. James Fallows of the Atlantic and Paul Krugman have been hitting at this for a long time. Climate Change, while existentially important, is obvious; it’s nice to see someone hit on a more subtle and nuanced topic.
I’m sticking to my guns, though. The political realities of today are incompatible with the political systems they must operate within. Is it really surprising, though, considering those systems were designed in the 1700s? Hardly.
There is an observable phenomenon here. It’s the inability to get an incredibly important point specifically related to congressional procedure across, regardless of effort; to be rendered mute by the popular discourse. It shall be christened henceforth as EKS, or Ezra Klein Syndrome, after its first victim (at least, the first victim I cared to notice). Read this interview he conducted with Matt Miller, who with many other equally naïve men and women have been crooning for a third-party candidate to run for the presidency. It’s a stunning example of the cognitive dissonance that inundates the airwaves and broadsheets.
People can talk all they want about how the passage of the PPACA was heated and controversial due to President Obama’s inability to sell it to the public, or because it wasn’t “bipartisan”. It’s all trash; Representatives and Senators are big boys and girls, and they hold the ultimate power in passing legislation. The truth is that the Senate has become a dysfunctional, paralyzed body wherein a dedicated and unflinching minority can halt everything and relax in full confidence, knowing that no political harm will be meted out. Better yet, not only has such a minority continued to steamroll every rule and norm that has been established over the entire history of the chamber, they will do so knowing that they’ll actually come out net positive thanks to the opaque and insipid nature of these tactics.
If only parliamentary procedure was sexy! Maybe then there would be some hope of doing something about it. Here’s to hoping that my generation has a moment of clarity and realizes our actual handicap. My losing entry for the contest follows, after the jump.