Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Think Outside The Party

Things are not working like they’re supposed to. We set out to elect a president who is supposed to be a president for all the people, yet in the campaigns leading up to the elections we see Republicans demonizing Democrats, Democrats disparaging Republicans, and Independents calling both parties the ‘same party in different suits’. Actually, the Independents probably have that right, but as they grow to actually be a party equal to the other two, we will then have one party masquerading as three, but in different suits. There is also the ‘Peace and Freedom Party (I’m not willing to protect my family from the bad guys, and I’m not willing for you to protect them for me either). There’s the Green Party (you should give me your money so I can use it to protect the environment from people like yourself, and for people like me). There are other parties as well. In fact, I am even the sole member of my own legally registered party, the ‘T.U.F.T. Party’ (Tell Us the F___ing Truth). I hope that Independents will not become a major party. I hope they will be people who vote for the person they feel is best suited to serve the interests of the country, without the blind loyalty to party affiliation, but I don’t hold out much hope for that. If I vote for the Independent Party candidate because I am a member of the Independent Party, I am, in effect, just signing on to an ideology that is no different from the Democrats or Republicans. I have voted the party line. Once I have done that I have relinquished the power I hold as an individual. How independent is that?

So anyway, after all the personal attacks hurled back and forth during the election season, we then end up with a new president who pretends he never said any of those things about any of those people, or that his henchmen were not on the payroll to deliver the blows for him. Even though only half the country voted for him, he now pretends that he is the President of ‘all the people’. Some candidates are more adept than others at that pretense, and at the illusion of unity, even while disparaging half the people in the country for not sharing their views. I, for one, don’t mind a President not sharing my views, but I do mind the disparagement, and I do mind the pretense. I am not about everybody thinking the same. That makes for a dangerous concoction. I don’t want everybody thinking like me, and I certainly don’t want to follow somebody else’s thinking either. I’m more about making stew. Throw in a little of this, a little of that, a little of the other, and whaalah, we’ve got something cooking here. I would bet that most of you who read my blogs disagree with me on many issues, or at least on some. Disagreement is how we achieve balance, and that’s how we protect ourselves from, ultimately, being ruled by the new aristocracy.

But back to candidates disparaging one another. A politician usually attacks his opponent if he has nothing of value to put forth himself. What if they actually advanced ideas to be elected on, rather than ideologies, or personalities? What if they actually had a plan? Ideas, and workable plans that would benefit the American people, rather than simply garnering favor with their particular party? What if they spent their time convincing the voters that they were intelligent enough, qualified enough, and persuasive enough to actually carry out their plan? Instead, they spend their time arguing and attacking each other, or their rival parties, but, at the same time, trying to appear to be humble in the not-so-subtle deification of themselves. I happen to like Barack Obama as a person, but if you have listened carefully to him over the past few months you will note that it is exactly what he does. However, because he is so eloquent, it just doesn’t seem like he’s doing it. I have some respect for John McCain, but he does it also. Because he’s clumsy about it you’re more inclined to notice. In this country, our freedom of speech is supposed to be protected (that’s another matter altogether), but just because we can say something about somebody doesn’t mean that we should. It’s cheap, it’s unbecoming, and it’s not leadership.

What if these candidates knew they would end up working together, and for each other? What if, rather than having strategically chosen a vice presidential running mate, someone who could bring in the votes of a particular demographic, a presidential candidate knew in advance that the loser of the election would become the Vice President? I’m not talking about a Vice President with little, or no, real responsibility, but one with significant power and influence. For instance, the president would get to submit names, to be approved by the Congress, for Secretary of State, the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, and Secretary of the Interior; but the Vice President would get to submit names for approval for positions like Secretary of Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development; but they would, for instance, have to agree upon jointly, and submit names together, for Secretary of Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security? The President would get to choose his own non-cabinet officials and appointments to the Supreme Court. But think about it, Al Gore and George Bush would have been thrown together. Gore would have continued on through Bush’s second term, or even run against him, were he, rather than John Kerry, endorsed by the democrats. Barack Obama and John McCain. Think about that. They would be required to compromise for the good of the people. They would be forced to conduct themselves with political dignity, to cultivate ideas, to extend a measure of respect for one another, to set the example for Congress and the Senate. The bi-partisan infighting and filibustering would be minimized among those representatives. Everyone would have a political stake in co-operation, rather than in elitist petulance.
There could be numerous political parties represented in the general election. Only the two highest vote getters would be appointed to office, but at least the majority of Americans would be represented.

Many regard the Constitution as a sacred document to be framed and guarded behind tamper proof glass, and some regard it as a living organism designed to serve its authors.
I am of the latter. I’m not a constitutional scholar, or a political scientist, but I do know that the Constitution provides a blueprint for governing our country. I don’t know what it would take to enact these kinds of changes, but I do know that it would have to come from the people. The politicians would never support such an idea. They have too much at stake in the status quo.

As some of you know, we are not a democracy, but a republic, with every state having its own representation in congress and the senate, but also having autonomy from the federal government. And in the great tradition of federalism, cities, towns and other communities defer certain powers to a central government, such as foreign affairs etc., but retain for themselves the power to enact and enforce their own elections, laws and practices. That is our freedom, and that is how it should be. The way the politicians seek to break the back of that independence is to consolidate everything under one roof, their roof. And we’re all aware of how these same officials offer cities, towns and communities funding in exchange for their co-operation. Or in effect, withholding government subsidies earmarked for local projects in order to illicit the co-operation of a particular local government.

It’s important that we have more than one party in the political process. History shows us that when there is only one party, or one primary, dominant party, the end result is, more often than not, a dictatorship. A benevolent dictatorship, or a brutal dictatorship. Often a combination of the two. It is why it is so important that, in this country, we not allow the political parties to continue to blur their differences. The ‘unity’ politicians are, in fact, those most likely to believe in a ‘one world government’. It is they who are most determined to lead our country into a ‘one party system’, but they pretend otherwise. They will never say it in those particular words, but they will enact laws to accelerate its arrival. Be very careful about political saviors. Be just as careful about long established, and entrenched, politicians. One will lead us over a cliff, and the other will keep us stuck in the mud. But if the two had to co-operate on policy, and strategy, it is far more likely that the American people would be the beneficiaries of that co-operation. It is only when people begin to think, and vote, independently that we will begin to raise up public servants, rather than the usual array of carbon copy politicians.

And it is only when politicians, of differing parties, are forced to work together
that they actually will.