Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Malaise is back

WASHINGTON – The cab ride from Reagan National Airport into Washington is always an awe-inspiring trip. Or at least, it always was. Especially at night, when the Capitol dome and the gorgeous monuments along the National Mall stand brightly illuminated from the rest of the city.

Now, the trip is a little less exhilarating. The buildings, of course, are just as beautiful as they have always been, and the wisdom of our forefathers, memorialized throughout the city, still endures.

Yet there is a very prevalent sense that Washington is not as special as it was only a few years ago. It is not an issue of the architecture, but rather the spirit of the country that lies behind the incredible landmarks.

It is a feeling that the great pride that our capital city once represented has deteriorated. It is the knowledge that the great and industrious people who make up this country are losing confidence in the institutions housed in the majestic structures.

This sense is rooted not in the current economic doldrums, although the recession certainly contributes. It is, more significantly, a result of diminishing faith in our future and our leaders.

The U.S. has indeed faced great challenges before. During the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the aftermath of Sept. 11, the nation rallied together to overcome. Even in the immediate wake of this Great Recession, the country rallied behind its young new president, hoping he would provide the type of leadership on which he campaigned.

Today, there is no such unity. Rather than standing together, the country is tearing itself apart. National leaders are moving in one direction even as the public demands a different course.

Democrats, dismayed by President Barack Obama’s inability to advance his liberal policy agenda, bemoan that the country has become ungovernable. In reality, they have just proven inept at governing.

For all the blame the left heaps at the feet of the Republican party, one thing is surely undeniable: Obama entered office with more goodwill and political capital than any of his recent predecessors. The subsequent erosion in his public support means only that he has squandered an enormous opportunity.

The national mood is despondent not because the public, working through the political system, has rejected the president’s agenda, but because the president and his allies have advanced proposals very disconnected from the needs of the public.

Those needs – more jobs, more cost-effective health care, more accountability in school systems – could be advanced on a largely bipartisan basis. Indeed, just last week the Democratic chairman and ranking Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee negotiated a jobs bill that would have received overwhelming support in the Senate. Then Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid killed the plan and substituted a partisan proposal of his own.

Conservatives, for their part, have responded by congregating at anti-government tea parties. While these events are noble protests against government excess, they hardly inspire confidence in our country and its future.

There are, in fact, some things government does well, and some government programs that generate great national pride. Going to the moon was one such program. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s recent budget proposal would cancel NASA’s planned return to the moon and the next generation of its manned spaceflight vehicles.

So, here we are, left to be governed by an administration whose most significant legislative changes have been regulating cigarettes and boosting the debt ceiling. That record does not inspire hope for the next three years.

Perhaps, though, the administration will turn towards the center. Instead of continuing to operate according to the Emanuel doctrine, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” it could adopt a new creed, such as “Never let a crisis remain a crisis.”

One pressing crisis is America’s status in its own eyes and the eyes of the world. For Republicans searching for a narrative in an election year appearing increasingly favorable for their party, that’s it: a return to American greatness and American exceptionalism. Because America and its people are still great and exceptional. They just need a political class capable of harnessing that greatness and rekindling their national pride.

Tray Smith is a freshman majoring in economics. His column runs biweekly on Wednesdays.

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