The older I get, the more it seems that politics have become more like a circus arena than an actual platform to enact policies of diplomacy and democracy. I can’t be certain if it is maturity that is the eye-opener for me or if politics have just truly degraded so much over the last several decades that our country’s best and brightest want nothing to do with it.

Take, for instance, the 2008 presidential election. Come time to vote, our choices were: Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain, 71, aka the maverick and older than any elected president, with his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, notorious for blaming the media for the “gotcha” questions that she had trouble answering; and Democrat Barack Obama, 47, who had served less than three years as Illinois state senator before running for president, and his running mate, Joe Biden, who served 26 years as a U.S. senator for Delaware.

Given our choices, the answer was obvious — with a seasoned politician at his side, the apparent only option was Obama, a young, vibrant yet somewhat inexperienced Democrat who promised to get us out of the mess left behind by the former administration. (Admittedly, there seems to be some sort of mess, after eight years with any president, that leaves voters disgruntled.) With his positive and refreshing attitude, Obama almost reached savior status with his promises of hope and change, as we were left with two wars, a burgeoning federal deficit and our economy ona downward spiral after the Bush administration.

With the emergence of the Tea Party, the atmosphere of fear propelled by the idea that Obama was pushing a socialist agenda, and the slow, if not, at times, nonexistent recovery of the economy, among other issues, the general public shifted away from Obama’s promises into a more conservative mindset. A newly elected yet divided House and Senate at the end of 2010, which only stalemates on key issues, has left the president without much power to get anything done.

Now that campaign season for the 2012 presidential election has begun, we have seen a number of GOP candidates considering the position — Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a dedicated Mormon who conceded to McCain in 2008 in the presidential primaries race; former House speaker Newt Gingrich, whose chief staff recently quit and whose personal past is tainted with affairs while married; Ron Paul, the 75-year-old representative from Texas who also failed to get the presidential nomination in 2008; and Sarah Palin, the Fox News contributor who maintains, “I’m not the conventional, status quo politician.” According to an ABC News report, Romney, Gingrich and Palin, along with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Baptist known for his fiscal conservatism, are the front runners for the GOP primary race.

With various polls showing a consistent decline in Obama’s approval ratings over the last six months, the 2012 presidential race is sure to be an interesting one. We have a virtual sideshow of GOP candidates and a president basically so bogged down by trying to make everyone happy, it is leading to compromises that make no one happy.

Somehow the pride and sense of accomplishment that comes with becoming an elected official, even, becoming the president of the United States, seems to have disappeared. If it were still intact, would we be left with only these choices? I am not sure when leaders like Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, even Jimmy Carter with his Crisis of Confidence speech, stopped stepping up to the plate. I can’t help but believe they are still out there, that this nation will once again elect a strong leader to get us back on track and that this person will help create a legislature that will work together. In the end, though, we are who we elect into power; and if this is as good as it gets, for both parties, we are in trouble.