Lethargy By Another Name

We all have a problem and we shouldn't be ashamed to talk about it. Yes, America, we have Electile Dysfunction. Don't be embarrassed, it's obvious. I'll spare you the smutty analogies except to say this is classic E.D. Nobody is passionate about any of the candidates.

We've gotten to the point that we don't vote FOR someone, only against. What is the key argument that all Democratic hopefuls make? That they are not George W. Bush. Republicans? Usually, they run against Hillary Clinton, who makes it easy with campaign slogans like "If the Hsu fits, wear it."

So what? you ask. Here's what: The country has lost its energy. And no wonder. We are so worn down with the feeling that the Iraq war is a hopeless mess. The current presidency seems to be less an administration than an oligarchy. Anybody who suggests that the nation's wealth should be more equitably spread around is drowned in demagoguery.

Along with that there is the pervasive feeling that participatory democracy, whoever is in power, is overrun by political bribery — excuse me, campaign contributions. Add the widespread impression that public officials are largely feckless bureaucrats who can't even issue passports and it's easy to understand why most of us hold a "What's the use?" view of our government and institutions.

As for the media, we have gone from keeping the electorate informed to titillating the audience. We've even come full circle with that. Here we are, back to O.J. Simpson again. We just can't get enough of the guy. He's a regular Britney Spears.

And when we actually do report on important issues, we are superficial to an extreme. Let's take healthcare. It's such a huge problem that even the candidates have to deal with it. Or pretend to deal with it. So each of them trots out his or her plan. But almost all of the coverage focuses on the politics. Very little on the substance of the various plans or on whether all of them just dance around the real question. Shouldn't we be debating whether we should just go to a single-payer system instead of the current one, which is merely a bureaucracy made worse by insurance company profit-mongering?

What we get instead of bold proposals are sound bites, carefully calibrated to create the illusion that the campaign is dealing with the national issues of the day. What they're really doing is pandering.

Both sides try and whip up enthusiasm, but the best they can do is turn on immigrants, if they're conservative, or engage in immature name-calling if they're liberal. The only ones who really benefit from this chaotic din are those who would prefer to leave things exactly where they are.

And where we are, as a country, is in a rut. It will be very difficult to climb out, impossible if we continue to suffer from this Electile Dysfunction. None of the candidates seems to have a prescription for it. In fact, they're probably contributing to it.