“Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”
Those words struck a raw nerve when former Counterterrorism Chief Richard Clarke spoke to not only the grieving families of 9/11, but also to a wounded nation, in his opening statement before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
For once, we had a leader who held himself accountable even though it was not his cross to bear alone.
Unfortunately, over these past 15 years, our nation’s leaders have often cowered to please their electoral “base” rather than face any potential criticism. Failures in policy-making have been quite evident: President Bush’s tragic mismanagement of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and of Hurricane Katrina relief come to mind.
We witnessed the unraveling of the American economy through the Great Recession and our stagnant recovery, during which both Presidents Bush and Obama chained trillions of dollars in debt to future generations. These presidents and their congressional counterparts chose not to present America with the necessary tough choices, but to instead flaunt our constrained national “credit card” for short-term political gain.
President Obama, who once declared that we were not “red states or blue states” but rather the United States of America, has presided over the greatest polarization in this country’s history since the Civil War. This spirit of division has most clearly manifested itself in the fact that we have had two demagogues – Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders – who have explicitly lied to the American electorate.
Trump has exploited Americans’ fears and shown citizens that they should blame Latinos, Muslims, African-Americans and anyone who looks or believes differently. Senator Sanders has taken advantage of fears of those who have suffered from stagnant wages by perpetuating the equally dangerous notion that the “rich” are at fault, and that by increasing taxes he will be able to redistribute economic security. Have we forgotten that the only thing that protectionism and socialism spread equally is scarcity?
This nation has been most successful when our leaders charted a path of moderation rather than extremism. As President Eisenhower stated, “The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.”
President Reagan displayed principled pragmatism as a centrist conservative who reduced the government’s economic role, revitalized the economy and helped defeat Soviet communism.
President Bill Clinton made tough, sometimes unpalatable, choices to cut federal spending, but they ultimately led to great economic prosperity and five consecutive balanced budgets from 1997 to 2001.
Should we elect a man who has had superficial business success and would govern by belittling fellow citizens instead of confronting the issues? Our nation faces serious challenges, from rising national debt to inefficient healthcare, to totalitarian regimes rising once again in Beijing and Moscow.
We need a president with principled pragmatism to face these issues. The election will only have a positive outcome if Secretary Clinton is elected and she recognizes America’s need for centrism to reinvigorate this government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Aditya Shah is a junior majoring in microbiology, immunology and economics.
Featured image courtesy Pixabay user DWilliams