It is almost hard to believe that it has only been ten years since the events that took place on September 11th 2001. Everyone can still remember the events like it was yesterday. Where they were, what they were doing, who they called, and particularly how horrified they were. But as Americans tried to keep pushing on with their lives so many other events took place that either reminded them of 9/11, or our leaders did not act responsibly to effectively gage the conscious of the country.
At the same time reality television was becoming popular, the best show turned out to be during the presidential election. After 9/11 America was just getting through the most contested election in its history. The Governor of Texas was accused of letting people in nursing home’s die, and there were television advertisements that accused the Vice President of selling our security to Communist China. On top of that there was an election debacle in Florida that lasted over a month. Then in a controversial ending, the Supreme Court took it upon itself to decide whose America’s next President should be. But whether you voted for George Bush or Al Gore, no one was happy with the results. During the first few months of Bush’s presidency he had almost no legitimacy and his approval ratings were already low before he was actually able to introduce any legislation or sign a bill into law. During his inauguration, he was not even able to go outside to shake people’s hands because of all the protestors.
It is hard not to blame Bush’s tenure in the White House for the situation America is in today. His approval rating was in the high ninety’s and he had the opportunity to bring the country together like he said he wanted to during his campaign. But instead, he decided to ignore the economists and media who were asking what he was going to do about a slowing economy, and took unilateral action invading Iraq and driving up America’s debt. It was the first time America went to war without raising some sort of revenue to pay for it. Plus the fact we have an all volunteer military, most American’s did not feel the effects of the war between their family or friends. It ripped another seam into the countries social fabric that only resulted in more political attacks in 2002 fueling American’s discontent with Washington.
Instead of offering a different alternative to the status quo in 2004, Democrats picked a career politician who had voted for the Iraq War. There was no reason to think anything would be different if Senator Kerry was elected President, and Karl Rove’s political games continued with the swift boat advertisements. It should not have been a surprise there were two historic elections within the next four years. The first resulted with the first ever female Speaker of the House when Democrats offered alternatives to what was coming out of the White House. Now that Democrats had a winning strategy and knew what their talking points were, it set the stage for something radical to happen. Senator Barack Obama was already known as a great orator from the speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. But when he started talking about change in 2008 it hit the chord all American’s were looking for.
Everyone knew something different was needed, and fast, if America was ever going to feel like the country was on the right track again. Obama presented himself as a smart person who understood what many American’s were going through. He was not rich, he did not own three houses, or inherit a large sum of money. He was working just like everyone else and knew what it was like to provide for a family. During the campaign Obama presented himself as someone who would reverse the course his predecessor set the country on. But when Obama moved into the White House the change many hoped would happen turned out to be a lot harder than they thought.
Liberal bloggers wanted Obama to push for stronger policies and use the voice they heard during the campaign to push his agenda. Instead it looked as if he was willing to let Nancy Pelosi not only do the arm twisting of her caucus but also most of the talking. Many were wondering where the desire to enact new policies went, and with having control of both houses of Congress why it was so hard to do. But they also refused to believe anything but a single-payer health care system would be a win for the American people. Seeing this and other items they believed were different to what they were told put them at odds to a President they had a large part in electing. It caused strife between extreme and moderate liberals which made the media focus on the differences rather than the good things in the health care bill that was eventually passed. It also wound up digging a deeper hole in America’s confidence when it came to their elected officials.
In the mean time, Republicans continued to be the opposing party refusing to work with any Democrat to get anything done. The Tea Party scared them enough to thinking they could lose their seat if they were deemed not conservative enough. Colleagues saw their friend’s fall last year to ideological zealots who at this point only want to increase their political influence. But instead of Republicans standing up to them and acting responsibly, they embraced it. It has lead to the same political tricks Americans saw take place during the 2000 and 2004 election and left Congress unable to get anything done.
American’s knew that one man would not be able to fix all their problems when the economy crashed in 2008. In fact, most probably did not know what Barack Obama’s plan for the economy was. In his memoir Obama will probably admit he did not fully know either because events were still unfolding. But the people overwhelmingly voted for him because he said he would change the way Washington works. They were sick of people who were running for office looking out for themselves and doing whatever it takes to keep their job. Particularly now when a lot of people are having trouble finding one for themselves. That is the type of change people voted for in 2008, and unfortunately has not happened.
We keep hearing how it is going to cost Obama one billion dollars to win reelection next year and that he needs to fight the Republican caucus. So far all we have heard from the Republican presidential candidates is how Obama has failed to fix the economy. When Americans complain that nothing has changed in the past ten years, they’re talking about the rhetoric and how instead of trying to bring people together they seem to want to push them farther apart.
Ten years ago people came together. It had nothing to do with your background, income, or where you lived, it was about facing the future together. Maybe they did not know exactly what was coming, but everyone knew it would not be easy and the best way to get through it was as a team. Whether you voted Democrat or Republican it didn’t matter as long as you were an American citizen. So while Americans tried to move on, so did Washington, and the change they voted for in 2008 is still being sought.
The one thing about September 11th 2001 I will never forget was how beautiful of a day it was. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and a breeze just when you needed it. I hope it rains on Sunday. Not because I do not want the families of 9/11 to get wet during the ceremonies, but because it would be different. Different from when the towers fell and you can smell the asbestos and smoke all around the city. Different from when the stock market had to close for the first time in its history. And different from seeing people rush to banks to get as much money out as they can.
History has a funny way of repeating itself. The event everyone compared 9/11 to was of course Pearl Harbor, which was another event that brought Americans together. People around the country did what they had to do to get things moving again. This was of course during huge political rhetoric with close elections such as 1948 (Truman), 1960 (JFK) and 1976 (Nixon). All the candidates worked hard to get their party’s nomination and then the party used any means necessary to get their candidate elected. So far, the 2012 election is looking like it will be the same old same old as well. But that does not mean it is impossible to learn from other peoples mistakes. While we cannot say a lot has changed since 9/11, one thing we can all do is take responsibility even when our politicians refuse to.