People tend to think of American politics in terms of the two major political parties and the apparent drama that perpetually exhibits itself between them in the public arena. You might have keyed on one word in the last sentence – apparent. Good eye. I say apparent, because much of what is common perception regarding Democrats and Republicans is not reality. More on that in a moment.
The fact is that America has two major parties and one non-party. The ‘non-party’ has, within the last dozen years or so, become a potent force in elections. I refer to the ‘non-party’ of Independents. A third or more of the voting population identifies as independents. Much of the growth of this category can reasonably be attributed to a personal sense of betrayal in response to the behavior of the Democrats and the GOP – a ‘loss of innocence, if you will.
Most of the elements of this disillusionment have been in play throughout our nation’s history. Hypocrisy, duplicity, backroom deals, bribes, excessive taxation and the growth of suffocating government are all signposts leading to the state of distrust of the average American. None of this is news, but all of it adds up to a collective resentment of elected officials and the process itself.
A great deal of time, effort and especially money is expended by the leadership of the Democrat and Republican parties in fostering the notion that each has core principals that dictate their agenda and their legislative policies. Each points with pride to their ‘brand’.
When it all gets distilled down to the central themes, the main characteristics – Democrats will remind you that they are the party of the ‘little guy’, the working class and the poor. The Republicans will boast that they are committed to constitutional principals, less spending and smaller government. These traits are how the parties define themselves to the voters they are attempting to attract. Excuse me, but at this point – the notion that there is no such thing as a ‘Fat Cat Democrat’ is hilarious. Ever heard of James Cameron, Michael Moore, David Geffen, George Soros, Warren Buffett? As to the Republicans with their mantra of smaller government and fiscal responsibility – who had control of the White House and Congress for 8 years of colossal pork and earmarks?
When the struggle between these two entities favors one or the other at any given point, they will employ symbolism that reinforces these traits. For the liberal minded voter, the Democrats will trot out the glorious (and to them, unassailable) virtues of the New Deal and its icon – FDR. Republicans attempt to perpetuate the notion that they strive to actuate the principals of the ‘Great Communicator’ – Ronald Reagan.
The problem is that these core principals are not genuine or authentic in any way by virtue of one simple and verifiable truth – these political parties do not exist for the purpose of championing a set of fundamental beliefs, principals or core values. They exist only for the purpose of acquiring more power, influence and material wealth.
It’s absurd on the face of it, to believe that either party would seriously consider any legislative plan that would either shrink the size of government or dramatically reduce the dependency on government. For those addicted to the perks of elected office, such actions would be suicidal.
What then are these political parties, really? They are in reality, more like corporations with mission statements. The mission statement of the Republican party is not to strengthen America’s national security, create energy independence, defend traditional values – or any number of other things that are incessantly dangled in front of the would be voter as ‘Red meat’.
By the same token, the Democrat Party is not committed to abortion rights, gay rights, racial equality or any of the other ‘red herrings’ that they are constantly hawking in the manner of carnival barkers. No, my friend – that’s all window dressing and nothing more. It’s necessary to continue the illusion, because there are enough citizens that are easily misled by the powerful influences of political speeches and advertising to validate the effort to deceive. They specialize in spewing forth whatever the prevailing winds whisper in their ear at any given moment.
But you might say – “wait a minute, aren’t you painting with a pretty broad brush? My congressman seems to be a pretty good guy. Certainly, not all politicians are schmucks?” Yes, you are correct. Thank God, there are many exceptions among those we send to Washington, the State Capitol and even the local City Council. But that is not the point of my comments. Malfeasance and shenanigans have been going on since the days of the Roman Empire and Ancient Greece.
Certainly, page after page of any account of American History will recount examples of the corruption of elected officials and the influence peddling they get entangled in. By now, the quote “Money is the mother’s milk of politics” by a legendary California politico, Jesse Unruh – is part of the vernacular of any discussion about business as usual in the political realm. Nevertheless, the fact remains that first on the agenda of the national political parties is self-aggrandizement and last on the list, if it is even there, is serving the citizens.
So, as I don’t suggest that any of the appalling actions and behaviors of the Democrats and Republicans are in any way new, neither do I know of any kind of ‘Silver Bullet’ that could be found to put an end to it. I do think that by exercising vigilance, we can at least defend ourselves from a fair amount of their plans and objectives. That’s why I see the rise of the independent voter as such a healthy and encouraging trend in America. In Europe as well, citizens skeptical about the intentions of the traditionally entrenched national parties, are beginning to oppose the European Union, unchecked immigration and the transfer of wealth, to failed socialist governments.
The short term strategy that independents as well as faithful party members, must employ, is to send the message that we are not sleeping while the political class sells America to the highest bidders. That is one reason, why although I may not entirely agree with Ron Paul on foreign policy, I am hoping that his warnings about the Federal Reserve, the gross accumulation of debt, the exponential growth of the Federal Government and the corresponding threats to liberty, are well heard and considered at the GOP convention in Tampa at the end of August.
My romance with the GOP has long since completely ended. The process of estrangement has been over a course of years. The way they spent incredible sums of taxpayer’s hard earned money when they had control of Congress. The neo-conservatism (read Globalism) of the Bush administration and W’s partnership with Ted Kennedy to try to force amnesty for illegals on us. Just a crescendo of betrayals.
Yes, because there is not at present, any viable alternative and because, indeed there are a few people in the party that have not violated my trust, I typically still select their candidates on the ballot – with a healthy degree of discernment. But, I think it’s best to remain aloof and at arm’s length. And as far as giving money to the GOP at the national level? Hah! While they are taking money from special interests and ignoring mine? – I don’t think so. An individual, exceptional candidate? – possibly.
My ideal, long term solution to the political parties is to strip away the ‘mother’s milk’ and in so doing, remove the attractions and enticements of political careers. One move afoot in some states, is to convert over to part-time legislatures. I hope that gains some traction. The ultimate reform would be to level the playing field in Washington and the state capitols, so that lobbyists are unable to do anything more than you or I can do – write a letter or place a phone call or an email.
I can dream, can’t I?