Looking out at the field of politicians vying for positions of power in Washington, one gets a sinking feeling that we, as a nation and, perhaps, as a political system, have officially jumped the shark.
The bargain that we have made all these 235 years is that in exchange for our votes, the person who would eventually hold political office would represent our interests. Whomever had the right message and platform would garner the most votes and thus rule the country in a way consistent with the prevailing will of the people. The man or woman who was elected could be trusted to carry out the promise of their campaign and merely be a human projection of what the people said they wanted. That was the democratic system that the founders of this country put in place.
Today we have a funhouse version of that democracy where the will of the people is hard to discern and their votes are easy to hijack. The people only really get to pick from the crop of candidates most aligned with private/corporate interests and thus better able to raise the money required to buy the advertising and manpower to persuade more people in more places to vote for them. That and they are made of Teflon. (11/4/11: Slight correction, Herman Cain is apparently NOT made of Teflon).
"Both the Democratic and Republican proposals represent a total hijacking of the by the 1%. Members of the Super Committee and other elected officials may not feel the urgency of America's unemployed and underemployed, but if they keep ignoring the will of the people, they will join the ranks of those unemployed, come election day." Nancy Altman, Huffpo Politics, 10/29/11
Most of the candidates today wouldn't even have a campaign platform if one wasn't outlined for them through the complex web of campaign donors, filtered through the team of campaign strategists, approved by party wags and focus grouped and focus grouped and focus grouped until it started to sell. Once elected, that all goes out the window anyway because it was just a strategy to get elected. Once elected, it's government by favor-granting and the mathmatics involved in keeping people aligned with you. Gone is the promise of more jobs, better education for our kids, more benefits for our veterans, stricter banking regulations, more oversight in corporate America etc. etc.
"Campaigning for president of the United States is essentially a marketing process, in which candidates present themselves as products, differentiate themselves from the other products and make proposals on how they will perform if they get the job." Forbes Magazine, 8/10/11
Most of the real radical changes that career politicians "propose"/"promise" are completely unrealistic anyway. That's because governance today is merely a byproduct of the party-driven roller derby in Washington and private interests asserting themselves. While something might be good for the country and the people, and in fact expressly requested BY the people, neither party wants to grant the other one a "win" of any kind. So instead of good ideas implimented well we get an amagamation of a million horse trades, favors, and side deals that together make up some sort of change in policy only partly related to the problem that the people wanted fixed. Case in point: Obamacare. Step forward? Barely. Arguably a step backward.
Think about it, if the people's will had been done, would we be in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay? Not today we wouldn't. We wouldn't have bailed out the automakers or the big banks. The former AIG exec sitting in his hottub in his penthouse overlooking the Manhattan skyline wondering how he's going to spend your tax money would be budgeting the remainder of his savings account and wondering how he's going to put his kids through college. We would have a jobs-focused administration. We would have hope and change. But instead we have death abroad, instability at home and a bunch of very very rich people at the tippy top of the food chain that aren't trickling their money down.
In other words, we do not exactly have government by the people, for the people. It's a full blown three ring Ringling Brothers enterprise. But instead of being merely a grumbler, I have a solution and it's not what you might think. If you want a better run government (like I do), you need to stop buying what they're selling. I'm not saying "don't vote." Oh no, that would be the predictable thing to say at this point. The problem with not voting is that it's very unempowering. You have this gift of a vote. A voice, however tiny, in the cocophony of this sideshow. If we don't use our voices, nothing will change. But if we all used our voice to say, roughly, the same thing, the people who are bought into this system will have to take notice. In November, 1989, a Czech poet naned Vaclav Havel raised his keys in the air and shook them in fury against the Soviet occupation. A million Czech people did the same thing and the roar that those keys freed the nation and, in time, brought down the Soviet empire.
What I propose is simple: vote who you want to vote for - which is to say, not these overly polished human products you see before you in the press. Ask yourself, who do you think would do a good job? Certainly not Mitt Romney. That guy doesn't stand for anything. And not some crazy pizza guy. Not even Barak Obama. Those are the guys that this political circus put in front of you. Vote for anybody you think would do a good job. Literally anyone. The butcher. Your doctor. You're lawyer. A business leader that you admire. Or even a public servant in another kind of leadership role. Shit, vote for your Dad if you want. Whatever you do DO NOT vote for the field. Make sure those billions of dollars that went to convince you to vote for someone who eventually will not be representing your interests DO NOT WORK. By collectively not voting for the field we will be collectively saying the same thing: We, the people, don't buy it anymore. Bring us the real thing.
Spread the word around. Vote with your heart this time.
11/4/11 FOLLOW UP: Since I wrote this, a friend sent me a link to Americans Elect, a non-profit organization that is gathering votes for a ballot slot in all 50 states for a 3rd party candidate that the people will choose. Brilliant. If you actually give even half a shit about this nation, please go sign the petition. If you don't, then join the other 150 million who are voting for Mitt Romney because he's barely electable.