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On Space, Politics, and Americas Destiny

written by Brian Rudo on November 12, 2002 | author profile | forum profile | contact me
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35th President of the US.
35th President of the US.
"Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take…I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership….I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." President John F. Kennedy, 1961

In the early years of the sixth decade of the last century, the United States found itself in a period of great turmoil. The Vietnam war was ramping up to become a major national issue. United States-trained troops had just disastrously failed to end the communist regime in Cuba. Perhaps most importantly, the Soviet Union was shocking the world by establishing its superior intellect and technology through the rabid conquest of the last frontier, space. Kennedy knew he needed to strike back, to show that America was still the greatest nation on Earth. Near the end of his long "Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs" in May 1961, he managed to single-handedly revitalize the American spirit and start the project that would achieve the unthinkable for the time: land a man on the moon, which not long ago had been the province of cheap science fiction magazines. Thirty years after this grand project was completed, we have regressed to the point that we no longer have the ability to progress past Low Earth Orbit, and are highly unlikely to do any more than that in the next thirty years at least. Kennedy's speech was full of dire warnings that, "If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all," but we have not listened. We have lost so much and have achieved so little because of a massive corruption of the ideals of democracy and the American people as a whole.

This did not start at some nebulous time between the Vietnam War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, nor during the rise of Silicon Valley. This corruption has always been with us, since George Washington's first warnings were ignored. To see why we must look at what truly makes up our government.

Our government today is essentially a combination of the Democratic and Republican parties. No other party has made a significant challenge to either of these since Roosevelt's Bull Moose party in the beginning of the last century. This simply does not make sense. If parties represent a set of ideas that a group of voters wishes to be implemented, or simply a common mindset, then the persistence of even a single party from the beginning of the nation to the current day is simply preposterous. It is a solid fact that societies change, and the ideas should change with them. It is impossible that every registered Republican believes in what Thomas Jefferson pushed for. It is equally impossible to assert that there is not an element of the political machine that was made infamous in Tammany Hall in the present-day political structure. It is simply not the case that so many people could vote the "party line" so many times. While individual candidates' ideas certainly are a deciding factor in all elections today, they are much less of one than should be present in a democracy.

The symbol of the American Republican Party.
The symbol of the American Republican Party.
Credit: Unknown
History texts assert that the two-party system has helped to balance the political structure of the nation, while minor parties have been instrumental in forcing the major parties to implement parts of their planks into the major parties' own. While this may be true, where is the democracy in that? Voters vote the party line, or if a situation gets out of control enough to detract votes from the major parties, the major parties change a bit to get back lost votes, with few true actions. Polls have shown that few voters know what the candidates they are voting for stand for except in times of major conflict, or many times not even what their party stands for.

The system is built for stability. Through simple selection, this is the most likely result of any system; it is logical that the one that survives the longest does so because it is good at it.

A reasonable reply to this would question the accomplishments that we have achieved as a nation and as a people in the present political system. We did land on the moon, and we have split the atom, and we have achieved an unparalleled level of social equality.

The truth is that we have accomplished all that we have through the gripping claws of the status quo's every effort to halt us. The exigencies of the Civil War, which was a primarily economic struggle at first, allowed President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. The female presence in the workplace is due to a large part by the call for materials during the world wars and the drastically changing world afterwards. And the landing on the moon was done because Americans were worried about communistic threat. President Kennedy washed the address that was later to become famous only for the ninth section concerning space flight with warnings and messages concerning the communistic threat in Southeast Asia and Russia. It was through this that he managed to achieve so much, and it was for this that he even attempted at all. Since then the space program has been only successful where a politician thought it would benefit him or her, and in fact has generally been subverted for social programs designed intentionally or not to make the government more popular, but which long lasting benefits have been nonexistent. We have not made a significant advancement in space for decades, and it is my firm belief that we will not as long as there is no major crisis that would cause a benefit for a party politician to push for space, or a revival of the spirit of America, of the ideals of democracy and freedom.

Works Cited:

1) President John F. Kennedy, Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs. May 25, 1961

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