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Jeff, thank you for calling it for what it is. "DeNial" isn't just a "river in Egypt". It's some kind of mass delusion flowing through our society. When will we wake up from this national nightmare? God help us if we have already reached the tipping point.

Eleanor Mang

Everyone should read this great article by author Jeff Mariott, who once was a member of our Mesa Democratic Club.

MaryHart Frost

Thank you for using your writing talents to present the facts about our present political situation in such a readable and thought provoking manner. Your article clarified some questions I had and I hope it might open the minds of some other readers and make them question some of the lies they hear from Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox news before they vote and encourage some more of us who believe our vote can still make a difference.

Randy Johnsonl

Well said, Jeff. Now if we can only get people to read it and learn. A hard thing because, for example, the tea party's only interest is themselves and damn everyone else.

Jeff Mariotte

Thanks for the kind responses, folks.  Of course these are just my opinions, but I like to think they're based in fact. Feel free to spread the word. We have to save Congress from the forces of insanity.

Mike Gold

Nice work, Jeff. Well thought out, well said, and said at the most timely moment.

I lived through Vietnam and the 60s political movements, and I have never seen a more fractured environment full of outright liars who cannot tolerate facing reality. I'm always a bit skeptical about the impact such commentary has in such highly polarized times, but that doesn't stop me from saying it nor from appreciating the works of others.

Like most Americans on both the left and the right, I'm frustrated with Obama as well. DADT, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, the the California marijuana initiative, the weak health care bill... but in 21 months the man has also accomplished more than I've seen any president accomplish in the same time period. And I've been paying attention since JFK (my mother was very politically aware). America is NOT headed towards the abyss, it's crawling out of the abyss.

Jeff Mariotte

Thanks, Mike. I think you're a few years older than me (but not a lot), and your words ring true to me. We've been divided before, but things were different then--there's never been a time when there has been a major media effort pushing one particular storyline to the exclusion of all others, or a time when one of the major political parties was so willing to embrace the extremists on its fringe in search of short-term political gain.

When I wrote the comic book biography of Obama, I did dozens of interviews, and in most of them I said that I knew I would often be disappointed in him. He couldn't fulfill all the promise that we saw in him--he is a politician, not a god, and a lot of people were investing too much faith in his abilities.  But the other thing I said was that the biggest mistake people made in dealing with him was underestimating him, and I still think that's true. He's the smartest guy in most rooms, and his accomplishments so far--in spite of tremendous obstacles and opposition--have been enormous.

Mike Gold

I've got a lot of personal stuff in common with Mr. Obama. We both were community organizers in Chicago, we even both did some work in the same neighborhood (Altgeld Gardens), although I was there about 12 years earlier. We've both Chicagoans. We're both left-handed, We were both born on August 4th.

And I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that he's disappointed too. Not in himself (if he was, Rahm wouldn't be running for mayor), but in the outcome thus far.

It always looks a lot easier from the north side of the keyboard.

Jeff Mariotte

That is an intriguing list of similarities. I'm from the Chicago 'burbs, but never actually lived in the city, and left the area very young. It's a great city, though, and I used to love the excuse of a Chicago Comicon or ABA/BEA convention to visit.


I'm sure you're right about the disappointment, though. I believe he thought, given the severity of the various crises he inherited, the Republicans would be more interested in taking part in governing, and not so recalcitrant. And he probably expected that the bully pulpit would be a more formidable tool than it is. Still, he's made great strides--and I don't have to feel vaguely embarassed every time he opens his mouth.


Great piece, Jeff.
To me the Democrats have experienced a real problem explaining and promoting their accomplishments, letting Fox and a series of sideshow characters gain the advantage of public attention.

I'd think the 30 million people covered under the new health care legislation by Obama and the Democrats could be an effective voting block when properly organized.

Sharon Sampsel

I covet a peice from you on political polarization, viral lies, and lack of ethics in this whiplash world.....I have felt shocked at the garbage my 84 year old father is sending me. Unfortunately many in his generation believe every hateful thing that comes their way, because, well in the '50's people generally didn't lie as much. With such a gift of words, I think maybe just getting people to first realize the harm they can do sending inflammatory thoughts around the Internet, instead of spending time researching truths, and if we are lucky, coming up with some creative and productive solutions? Keep writing- please!

Jeff Mariotte

Thanks, Sharon and Leonard. You're both right. People have a tendency to believe what they read, especially if it comes from a "trusted" source--doesn't matter who originally wrote it, or how much malicious intent was originally behind it. And the right is particularly effective at sending out hit pieces via viral e-mail (and using the big megaphones of Fox News, talk radio and the many right wing think tanks to distribute and amplify the talking points). The left has its propagandists, too, but they are not as organized or efficient as those on the right. And if they become more so, then the polarization just gets worse.  The truth is a great story--this administration has made definite, important progress--but the story too often gets lost in the noise.

Bryan Forslund

Stop pretending Democrats are better than Republicans. Legislation should be as easy as a Denny's menu because if it were they couldn't create countless loop holes and steal billions from the average american who doesn't have the time or education to understand thousands of pages of legal jargon.

Jeff Mariotte

I think you're underestimating the complexity of the issues most legislation deals with. Legislators have staffs to help with that complexity (and too often, those on both sides of the aisle turn to lobbyists and corporate interestes to "help" as well). But in the end, the decisions rest with the elected officials, and I'd rather have smart ones in there than stupid ones--or worse, those who aren't necessarily stupid but are so willfully ignorant they don't understand the First Amendment, for instance. 

Bryan Forslund

No one wants a stupid leader. The best thing about these new candidates is that they clearly show that the american people are willing to do whatever it takes to root out establishment politicians on both sides. As for complexities I never thought you could tie yourself out of a knot, the bes thing to do is to cut right through it.

Bryan Forslund

The problem with the Obama administration is the idea that we need sweeping change in this country. We don't. Change is something that every American can agree on, but you have reach that change through attrition and victories in debates over key issues. The problem is that no one is debating the issues. People on both sides think they have all the answers and that anyone that thinks differently is either an idiot, or trying to sell you something for their own gain. We need to come together as a country and realise we don't have the answers, but we can find them together.

Jeff Mariotte

I agree that the best change is that agred upon by people from all sides, working together. I don't agree that in some areas sweeping change is unnecessary. With 45,000 Americans dying every year because they couldn't afford health care, I think sweeping change in that system was absolutely necessary. Compromise--and the unwillingness of the Republicans to negotiate in good faith, since even when they were handed everything they asked for, they just threatened to vote against the legislation unless they got even more--took the best options off the table. The result was legislation that helps, but still shortchanges some. It keeps the health insurers in the picture, and the best way for them to maximize profits--which is, after all, the goal of private industry--is to take in ever-higher premiums while finding every excuse possible not to pay claims.

That's also an example of the complexity of legislation. Congress was trying to make sure the health insurance industry stayed in the game, so they delivered tens of thousands of new customers. But many of those customers are in the higher-risk categories those companies were trying to dump. Only by requiring everyone to get insurance (thereby giving the industry healthy customers who wouldn't need their services [except in the event of accident or emergency]) can you bring the industry's bottom line back into balance once they have to cover those who really need it. Every element of this complicated equation has to try to balance the needs of giant corporations and average Americans and the poor and the hospitals and doctors and nurses, etc., etc. No platitude about knots really addresses how to make this kind of legislation simple and straightforward--it just doesn't happen, and if it could, there would be so many holes in it that it'd be in court for the rest of eternity trying to iron it out.

I don't think you want stupid legislators, but I think there are people who don't care about intelligence, or education, and who would be willing to cast a vote for someone even though she believes (for instance) that American scientists have created mice with fully functioning human brains. To me, someone like that getting a single vote is scary. I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with establishment politicians as a class, but there are problems with individual members of that class. I'm much more comfortable with trying to replace those dysfunctional members than I am with attacking the whole species. And I'm more comfortable with arguments made on the basis of facts than on imaginary ones.

By the way, Bryan, thanks for coming over and offering a different opinion. It's really appreciated. And I suspect we'd agree that it would be good to see some people in Congress who were truly independent--who might side with one caucus on economic matters but with the other on social issues, or bouncing back and forth--this side on abortion and that side on net neutrality, this one on defense but that one on border security, etc. It would not only shake things up but it might get some things accomplished.

Bryan Forslund

I've never been comfortable with that 45,000 number. Where did congressman Grayson come up with that number anyway and how was it determined? I always thought the more interesting question was how many americans died last year from a medical issue who did have health insurance? I'm willing to bet that it was a lot more than 45K. This points to the larger problem of an unhealthy america which is the real problem with our health care system. I think Republicans would have been a lot more responsive to health care reform if the Dems had stuck to the parts that everyone could agree on like the pre-existing conditions, letting your kids stay on their parents plan longer, and finding a way to make care less expensive. To the Democrats credit they did accomplish 2 outta 3, we'll have to wait and see with the 3rd because even the CBO has flip flopped on what this bill will cost americans.

Thanks for listening Mr. Mariotte. I think this country needs a healthy dose of debate. To be honest my political IQ is low because I'm just now becoming a news junky. But I want to hash it out as much as possible. I want to debate without the fear of losing and with a mind thats willing to change. Of course that becomes a lot easier to do if WE ALL are willing to change for the benefit of all americans.

By the way wingnuts on all sides scare me. From Grayson to Odonnell, they are leading the conversation in this country and its going to end up in political trench warfare

Jeff Mariotte



The 45,000 comes from a Harvard Medical School study reported in September 2009 (  There are certainly also a lot of deaths caused by access to substandard medical care (and it's sad that our medical care in general, as indicated by statistics like life expectancy, percentage of certain diseases, etc. is not much higher, as compared to other countries, given our overall wealth as a nation).  Before the housing market imploded, medical bills were also the number one cause of personal bankruptcies in the country.   I don't know if that statistic has changed over the past 19 months or not.


The Republicans in Congress gave away their game a little too early in that debate, having announced that they would vote against anything the president backed.  I'd have liked to have seen more authentic give-and-take from both sides. Ultimately, I'm in favor of single-payer--that really would be a "government takeover" of the health care system, but it could result in a healthier, more financially stable country overall. Instead we have legislated the continued existence of a health insurance industry that exists not with the goal of keeping people healthy, but with the goal of increasing profit, and healthier customers is only a side-effect of that.


I always appreciate healthy, respectful debate, and sadly don't get enough of it here, so again, thanks for coming around.  I hope you'll be a regular and keep me honest.





Kevin Huxford

Don't take this the wrong way, because I agree with everything you said...but with all the finger pointing necessary in the discussion, I was kinda disappointed that you stopped short of naming Clinton and a bi-partisan vote in repealing Glass-Steagall, which many point to as the biggest mistake that led to the problems with our financial institutions. I always feel like, if we want to have a real conversation, it helps to admit the "side" we identify with most also participated in creating a problem.

Drew Bittner

Wow, Jeff! What a great post. Will be sharing via FB.
Hope all is great!

Jeff Mariotte

I understand your point, Kevin, but I did say the economic problems went back "decades," which definitely includes the Clinton administration. I know neither party is blameless here, and both have been too beholden to financial interests.

Jeff Mariotte

Thanks, Drew. Share away!

Kevin Huxford

Both parties definitely have been. I do think the Democrats more often have the common man's interest at heart, though. Just figured with the laundry list of items pointed out directly with Republicans, it'd bring more openness to the topic if we pointed out that the repeal of Glass-Steagall (that Republicans wanted through the 1980s, but couldn't get done w/ Reagan & Bush) happened with 90 yeas in the Senate (meaning a larger number of Dems) and Clinton's signature. Heck, NAFTA was his baby (and started the ball rolling on all the other "free" trade agreements), which has been such a huge factor in manufacturing jobs leaving our country and so much more outsourcing. As much as I would have burned Reagan in effigy if I was college age at the time of the air traffic controller strike, his policies more or less forced Toyota to open plants here in order circumvent high tariffs. Clinton started the movement that erased so much motivation for foreign companies to create more jobs here.

I think the political climate leads us to not want to willingly point out the mistakes of the party we favor, because conversations tend to be as honest and productive as the relationship between the Dems and the GOP in Congress these days. But the only real path to changing things is continuing to take the chance that the person you're talking with won't be as willing to admit the failings of their representatives as you are of yours, because it will bring the sane, thoughtful and rational folks out of the woodwork to participate in the dialogue. Anything that might help lessen the "us vs. them" feeling of current politics (which your "I know neither party is blameless" definitely works towards lessening) is probably the healthiest thing we can interject into political discourse these days.

Thanks for making such excellent points in the entry above, by the way. Like I said earlier, I do strongly agree with all of it...and appreciate you taking the time to say it all. I hope my minor quibble didn't make it seem otherwise. :)

Jeff Mariotte

Not a bit, Kevin, I appreciate the participation and the insight. NAFTA's long-term consequences were crushing. I live 12 miles from the Mexican border. On the other side of the line, there's infrastructure and plants set up for maquiladoras that benefited from NAFTA--temporarily. Now they're sitting empty because that manufacturing has moved even farther off-shore, mostly to China, and the people who were employed there are some of those who are working illegally in the US. We never know for sure how things are going to turn out, even when the ideas seem like good ones at first blush, and members of any party are likely to make mistakes.

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