“Institutions – government, churches, industries, and the like – have properly no other function than to contribute to human freedom, and in so far as they fail, on the whole, to perform this function, they are wrong and need reconstruction.”
American Sociologist – 1866 – 1928
Americans are looking toward 2012 with an air of optimism and expectancy of better days to come, with a discerning eye on the country’s institutions, none more importantly than that of the Office of the President, the Senate and House of Representatives. These social institutions are often described as “groups of social positions, dealing with different aspects of life, connected by social relations, performing a social role. They are an important element in the structure of human societies and affect individual lives through other aspects of society such as culture, socialization, social stratification, and deviance.” The five major social institutions in society are: family, education, religion, politics and economics.
President Obama’s first term in many ways attempted to address some of the major ills facing these social institutions and the nation. Over the past four years, I have traveled across America reporting on various businesses, political and cultural issues. During that time, I have spoken to many people who have voiced how they felt about the overwhelming disrespect shown to the office of the president and the first family during Obama’s tenure.
A number of the actions and comments made toward Obama during his term have appeared to imply racist overtones. No one seems to want to focus on this aspect since the mainstream media has declared that Obama’s election ushered in the post-racial era. It’s true that former presidents Clinton, Bush and others have also faced death threats, insults and criticisms during their terms.
However, it has been fully documented that the level of hatred, death threats and criticisms expressed toward Obama and his administration have gone far beyond any witnessed by the Secret Service to date. The American cultural experience today has become more of a-reality show style addictedness to quick-fix short-term thinking and solutions that don’t weigh the long-term consequences. Reason and compromise are now dirty words.
We now live in a time where America’s institutional icons have been tarnished, destroyed or sold to the highest bidder. Many see the last pillars of American democracy and idealism as The Office of the President, the Senate and House. Once confidence erodes in these institutions and they fade away, what will “we the people” be left with to hold on to and respect?
From the early shouts of “You lie!” by South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson during Obama’s 2009 September speech on healthcare or Senate Republican Leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell saying his “top political priority is to deny President Obama a second term; when will the political posturing and braggadocio end. Millionaires in both the Senate and the House are playing with the fate of citizens like they would play with marbles; threatening to take them and go home if they don’t get their way.
It’s become obvious from looking at the political stage during the Iowa caucus that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to unleash the floodgates of unlimited cash into the election process has proven effective. Just ask Newt Gingrich if you have any doubts. Obama will need lots of money to counter the PAC’s and shift power back to the people.
Republicans and some democrats have shown a lack of real compromise on behalf of the American middle class and families. As a result, 2011 was seen by many as one of the most contentious ever between democrats and republicans. The refusal to work together creates more polarization, further degeneration of the country’s institutions and ultimately plants the seeds of anarchy. How much economic pain do we have to experience before realizing that voting against the interest of the middle class and disadvantaged does not bode well for the country.
I wonder whether Americans have the character, fortitude, discipline and courage to force its leadership to do what’s expected and what’s right? Or, are we still selfishly interested in only what we want individually? Would we be able to survive a “Great Depression, Holocaust or World War?” Each of us must take an honest appraisal of what sacrifices we would make and continue to make in order to get what is needed to succeed and move our country forward as one people? You can no longer blame the political system for its ills. If you participated in the election process, it was up to every one of us to stay awake, stay diligent to make sure our candidates stayed the course.
President Obama has shown true resilience through it all and has managed a few accomplishments along the way, such as taking out America’s number one terrorist threat, Osama Bin Laden, averting a total financial meltdown of American capitalism, assisting military families, signing the Veterans Job Bill, bringing troops home from Iraq and making healthcare available to millions.
Regardless of overcoming many of these challenges, Obama is continually attacked and berated on every issue through mostly conservative radio, television and online bloggers. As a result, the country is more divided than ever. Yet many of the people complaining about the economy and jobs also elected the very obstructionist in the House and Senate who are representing the interest of the so-called “job creators” or wealthiest one percent.
Obama will have to guide his home stretch campaign like a captain navigating the waters of a perfect storm. In his 2012 bid for a second term, rougher seas await him as new and old fights arise over the legality of the healthcare bill, his birth certificate, national defense and more. One thing is certain… voters will have to participate fully; this will not be a time for standing idle on the sidelines.