Welcome to the Party! Grab a Seat and a Program.
“I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.” –Thomas Jefferson
If you are as disgusted by the NFL lockout, or as scared for your fantasy football season as I am, this is for you.
All politics are local – meaning the city and county district you live in. You and your neighbors are on a shared mission to find, elect, and monitor the leaders who best represent your specific needs, from potholes to prisons to Somali pirates.
All team sports have a simple objective – ensure your team wins at all costs. Here lies the beauty of our democracy that the founding fathers had envisioned. The government buildings within the capital provided the field of play for our infant society – on which the Washingtons and Jeffersons and Adams left their source of daily livelihood to fight for the specific needs of their geographic constituents – their team.
Of course there were alliances and partnerships in the politics of those days – but the beauty of their design fell within the local teams that took the field of play. They battled one another over how a piece of legislation or tax would affect North Carolina versus Virginia, or how Massachusetts might require a greater portion of the national defense budget spent within their borders. The teams had their own specific agendas, but their objectives were in lock step: to keep these United States free from tyranny and embraced with liberty, so that we may hand our children an even better place to live.
So what then, you ask, is the difference between this and what we have today?
Sounds the same, right?
The difference is a small one that flies just below our radar today, like a dive bomber carrying a cargo hold of nitroglycerin, and packs the same dangerous punch that could end this beautiful experiment of ours. It is similar to our modern day professional sports, where the players are not suiting up after a hard day on the farm to do what they love… but instead are paid millions, moved from team to team until allegiance is engulfed by individualism, and are immersed in the sport as a career.
The difference is the teams are no longer made of the local neighbors selecting their captain who makes the sacrifice of representation. The teams are now comprised of the representatives themselves, who view the people of their local district as an alliance or partnership driven by necessity. Somewhere along the US timeline, the representatives decided their river view offices, expense accounts and power could be more than a sacrifice.
It could be a career.
‘But this was no regular tenured position’, they must have thought. We can be periodically fired by our neighbors for this sacrifice, which can be a nagging hindrance to any career. As these new teams began to change in makeup, so too did the fundamental objectives. The new core objective became staying in power – being reelected. So the newly forming teams of representatives began to discuss the challenges to these objectives, and the solution was simple: we need unions to protect these jobs.
Thus, the two-party system was born.
Sure there have always been 2 predominate forces in the history of our government – starting with the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists – but I am speaking more of the point in time when the most fundamental objectives and loyalties forming the foundation of our country switched FROM the United States TO the two-party system.
Just like the NFC and AFC, it brought together the new, splintered teams of representatives – who were practicing on playgrounds throughout our country – into the big-times… with a rulebook, referees, TV timeouts, the SportsCenter sound bite of the day, and standard folding seats for the now cut local neighbors to pick their favorite team and enjoy the show… all leading to the federal-level Superbowl between conferences, which due to popular demand kept getting bigger every year. It has to after all, right? We have record level viewership!
So what are the downstream impacts of this less than scientific history lesson, you ask? The media’s open credit line at the sports book betting office causing them to pick a side on news before it happens? The billions of special interest dollars that are required to run campaigns each year? There are many to choose from, but I would say that only one rises to the top of this sad list.
The lethargic and sluggish disconnection of the voting public from the political process.
It was the moment that someone walked into a voting poll with an approved list of candidates that we jumped backwards on the sled heading down a triple black diamond slope covered with razorblades. We were so enthralled watching the regular season games we were no longer playing in, that we started rooting for our favorite teams to win – but no one told us the dirty little secret that the objectives had changed away from our best interest. It became easier to not do our own homework and sacrifice our limited free time – but instead listen to the commentators do our work for us. It came to a point where remembering to bring the list of who we were allowed to vote for got too difficult – so they gave us the straight party ticket.
So now that I hopped off my soapbox, you might ask why I am a Republican if I hate all parties so much. The answer is a simple one – whether you like the game or not you must make decision – sit home and don’t complain or vote, or pick the team that most closely matches your principles, and work every day to convince people to judge candidates based upon their views. I believe in a small government upholding the constitution and working for a free enterprise market, individual liberty, and personal accountability. That is why I chose the Republican Party as my best fit for a home – but I am under no delusion that every, or even most representatives in my party walk this kind of talk.
So here is the bad news: there is no magic bullet to fix this situation. In fact – it is our deep desire for magic bullets that got us into this predicament in the first place. We can, though, take one step at a time to recapture the teams of local districts that are willing to sacrifice for their neighbors. It doesn’t really matter if you are listed as a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Independent – as long as you are not regurgitating the talking points handed down by your party without really thinking about them. As long as you are not voting for someone and all you know is that a party endorses them. As long as you are not choosing your party because your friend is in it, or your favorite celebrity is a member, or you look like most of the people there.
As we approach November, understanding the issues, knowing the candidates, and voting based upon your principles and not your party is what our new generation of leaders must embrace. Voting is a right. Educating yourself and being accountable to your principles is a duty.
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