Kirby: Lousy politicians? Blame yourself
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I was born at the beginning of the Eisenhower administration. Dwight D. would be president of the United States until I was nearly 8 years old.

I don't remember much about Dwight's presidency. Mostly I remember that his picture hung next to the clock in my grade school. He looked a lot like my teacher except that she had hair.

So far I have lived during the administrations of 10 U.S. presidents. That's nearly a quarter of all the presidents (44) America has ever had. I remember all 10 of mine.

Mostly I remember the bad stuff. Kennedy was murdered. Johnson escalated Vietnam. Nixon resigned in disgrace. Ford fell down a lot. , Carter gave away the Panama Canal. Reagan got shot. Clinton lied about philandering and Bush had the oratory skill of a chimp.

I don't recall if any of these presidents did any real good. If you think America has reached a dire state of crisis, let's assume they didn't.

I'm looking at an 11th U.S. presidency in my lifetime, and it's almost impossible for me (or anyone else) to ignore the noise over who it should be. Democrats and Republicans both says it should be them again.

And they'll dredge up all kinds of statistics to prove it. Fifty-four percent of this. Twenty-five percent of that. Eighteen percent of the GNP…

I have some stats of my own. Of my 10 presidents, six have been Republicans and four Democrats. That's a fairly even mix. It's also the only real choice America's had since before any of us were born.

Our presidents have been Republican or Democrat since Millard Fillmore left office in 1853. Millard was a Whig or a Whiggan. Or however you say it.

I'm not going to look up the definition of a Whig. I don't care and can't think of a single reason why I should.

The point is that we've had a nonstop run of Republicans (58 percent) and Democrats (42 percent) since Millard. For 159 years, the two parties have traded off the White House at nearly regular intervals, each and every time promising to make things better than their predecessors.

They haven't. If they had we wouldn't be in the dire state of crisis we just agreed we were in. Funny how that works.

All of this leads to one inescapable fact: If America is in a mess, somebody is responsible for it, and it isn't the Republicans or the Democrats. The truth is someone else is the real problem.

It's you. You heard me. It's you. OK, and me. It's us. The Republicans and Democrats are just the two noises we use to convince ourselves that America's problems are caused by someone else when the truth is that it's all of us.

We could balance the budget if we were willing to subject ourselves to real austerity for a while. We could probably cure cancer if we took the money we pumped into pet food every year and used it for research.

Who knows where we'd be in 20 years if we paid education and science the same kind of homage we give Hollywood.

America is still the most powerful nation in the world. At least I think it is. We have the ability to fix the problems we have, but we don't. And there's a pretty good chance that we won't until we're forced to by disaster.

The question, then, won't be whether it's the fault of Republicans or Democrats. It will be whether it's too late.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.