Forget the economy: the election itself has been a failure

There are so many things about this election season that should bother people, but no one seems to notice that our candidates as well as our national media have taken our attention away from the really important issues. We have become so inundated with reports of our failed economy and which tax plan will save all the average Joes that no one is talking about the bigger picture. Yes, taxes and economic recovery are very important, but the office of the president is not meant to direct economic or tax policy. In every presidential election the candidates promise tax cuts of some sort, and the American people jump at the chance to save a percent or two at the end of the year. These promises rarely, if ever, become reality; however, we soon forget about campaign promises as quickly as we've forgotten about the Rev. Wright and Charles Keating and as rapidly as people discarded their American flags when they went out of style.

You're probably wondering what my political gripes have to do with fraternities and sororities at Rutgers, which are the topic of this column. The simple answer would be that they're completely unrelated. But it is a fact that Greek life and politics have always been closely related. The vast majority of U.S. presidents and members of Congress have been fraternity men, as have many governors, Supreme Court justices and cabinet members. As undergraduates, Greeks have historically been the most vocal and politically active students on campus. This tradition is certainly true of Rutgers, and it continues today.

If I may return to my original point for a moment, I think it's extremely important for Rutgers students — and everyone else for that matter — to remember what is truly at stake in this election. Making domestic politics central to the election has become an easy way for the candidates to avoid answering tough questions about our foreign obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the genocide in Darfur, Iran's nuclear program and Russia's growing antagonism. The president doesn't even have direct control over tax or fiscal policy. Congress makes those decisions and formulates those policies. Even with a democratic Congress, there is no guarantee that Sen. Obama will be able to push his tax plan through both houses, and Sen. McCain's plan has almost no hope of slipping past the Democrats. So why are we still talking about tax plans, bailout plans and an alcoholic plumber from Ohio (is it fair to assume that "Joe Six Pack" and "Joe the Plumber" are one in the same)?

Instead of repeating the same thing for weeks on end, the talking heads at CNN and Fox News — both of which are pathetic excuses for "fair" or "balanced" news stations — should be discussing real ways to reduce our national debt, secure our borders, protect our only true ally in the Middle East — Israel — and repair our broken relationship with Europe, among many other important issues. I don't want to detract from the importance of our economic failures, Wall Street's shaky future and the fact that media analysts can't get enough of the phrase "Main Street." However, there is more at stake in this election that this narrow approach to politics.

In an effort to return to the purpose of this column, I want to expand on the fraternal influence in politics, and vice versa. Fraternities and sororities in themselves are political organizations. They operate with prescribed democratic ideals and offer all members the opportunity to advance to the upper echelons of leadership. Fraternity men and sorority women at Rutgers have been and currently are involved with student government and other politically minded organizations on campus, and at a higher level, Rutgers Greeks have pursued positions with local and state political parties, the United States military, the federal government and other important American institutions.

It can't be a coincidence that Greeks have ascended to control the highest level of American government and business. The political nature of fraternal affairs likely contributes to these accomplishments. Being a part of a fraternity's bureaucracy as an undergraduate provides necessary skills and knowledge of how to operate in a larger bureaucracy after graduating. A major difference lies in the fact that a Greek organization's bureaucracy is usually successful in accomplishing tasks while the federal government moves quite slowly. Despite my gripes surrounding the state of election politics in America today, this remains one of the most important elections of the past several decades. Fraternities and sororities at Rutgers have always been a source of strong leaders who have gone on to successful positions in government and public service, and they will continue to be a well of talent due to their ability to shape students into successful politicians and leaders.

Michael Locke is a Rutgers College junior majoring in political science. He is also the director of public relations for the Rutgers Interfraternity Council. His column, "Fraternity Forum," runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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