In Soviet Russia (er… America), Politics Elect You

I don’t write much about politics. Not directly. I do pay attention to politics, among other facets of the world that combine to create our existence. My views could definitely be considered unsophisticated (just like my writing), and I make up for it by listening carefully to what other people say. The trick, of course, is to listen without adopting the wrong views. How do I define wrong? At this point in our history, it’s a very difficult task.

I was just listening to a guest on CNN talking about poverty, railing about the fact that American poverty is largely ignored in the great political discussions of our time. Before I get into my reaction, let me say that I consider any news outlet as another organization with an agenda, and I spend as much time reading between the lines as I do listening to what they say. In any case, I’ve seen real poverty in a number of places, both near to my home and far afield. I’ve met teens who look forward to a good set of false teeth like I looked forward to a cool car. I’ve held children who had never seen a white face before. I’ve done mission work in places where the wind blew freely through the outside walls of collapsing homes. I’ve seen people burning broken furniture for heat. Like many of you, I am struggling with the realities of our economy. Yet, I manage somehow to be one of those people who ignore the issue of poverty in this country. I place it into the category of “things that could happen” and fail to consider the individuals who actually live with it – right now, today.

Unlike most political maneuvering, I actually watched the Iowa results with interest. I think my curiosity comes from the fact that I can’t find a GOP contender who doesn’t seem to have some kind of deal-breaking flaw. This is no surprise, since finding a politician of any stripe without major closet skeletons seems impossible these days. If you remember the scene in the movie “Animal House” where one of the guys leads the marching band into a blind alley, you’ll have a good idea of my impression of American politics. The band continued to pile into the wall long after the false band leader made his escape. I did come away with an interesting impression. The disclaimer is that I have read Ron Paul’s books and hoped that we would have the courage to enact enough real change in our system. Is he radical? Yes. Is he ever likely to get elected? No. Why? He is talking about the kind of change that would cost our political class far too much power and money. Nobody who has it wants to let go of it. But… I watched the various speeches and heard the word “I” roughly eighteen million times. In Ron Paul’s speech, I heard the word “we” in the places that everyone else was using “I”. In fact, the only time he used “I” was when he was introducing some else. I came away from the evening with the idea that everyone was an individual seeking an office. If the words of his speech rang true, Ron Paul was seeking election for a cause.

Is his cause acceptable? I don’t know, and I’m open to your views. What I do know (yes, this is just an opinion, a belief) is that we’ve completely lost the original concept of elected office in America. You know, the one where we have a life, decide to serve our fellow citizens for a while, and then go back to that life. We’ve traded it for the idea of political career as a lifetime of privilege, power, and money that is only available to those who manage to hurdle into high office. Even the most generous assessment of career politicians would suggest that the very existence of those people would demand that they rapidly lose the ability to relate.  Those of us who get by without the perks of power in our back pockets probably come to look like strangers, a tribe of people found in the Amazon basin who somehow are not able to function without our political big brothers and sisters to show us the way.

That was the generous view. The cynical view is far more deliberate and sinister, but you don’t need me to explain it. Just look around.

The biggest issue, according to every news outlet I see, is jobs. Jobs are a subset of the economy, which we all know is in bad shape. I can see ways to fix it. You can see ways to fix it. Why aren’t our leaders busily fixing it? Could it be that fixing the economy – even on my simplistic, common sense level – is contrary to the true interests of our leaders? Has our leadership lowered itself to the point that it’s okay to sell out the future for a bulging set of trouser pockets today? I could slice off examples all day, but the one idea that really twists me up is the one that has led to our profound lack of middle class jobs. Everyone understands that it’s cheaper to buy products from cheaper foreign manufacturers. Everyone understands that companies want the cheap labor to become more price competitive and to improve the bottom line. Does everyone also understand that the support of this state of affairs equals a steady exporting of our quality of life? Should we allow it for the privilege of having cool stuff made in foreign lands? Should we allow our leadership to encourage the practice? If we do, it’s only a matter of time before the great American experiment is over. We’ll lose our livelihoods, then our freedom, and we’ll all stand in line for our minuscule slice of the once-delicious apple pie.

Poverty, service, jobs. Just tiny bits of fluff in the giant hairball we have created. It’s not just here in America, either. It’s everywhere. Can we fix it? Sure. Can we fix it without sweeping changes in the way we do business as a nation and society? I’d say it’s unlikely.

Two questions launched this piece. I ask and encourage you to answer them as you see fit.

1) What is your most patriotic idea of America? (Feel free to replace America with your own country, or if you prefer, the world)

2) What is your idea of the most perfect America you can imagine? (Again, I think this question applies anywhere)

Bonus question) If you were given total executive authority for one week and your decisions could not be reversed for a decade, what are the first three things you would do?

I’ll try to answer these questions for myself next time.

Thanks for reading.




7 thoughts on “In Soviet Russia (er… America), Politics Elect You”

  1. Nice rant! I take it that you have read Ron Paul;s “Manifesto”. Have you read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” or “We the living”? You are so right when you say that those in power are not ready to give it up. Yes, that’s why Ron Paul will most likely never be president. Your assertion that there is a disconnect between those we elect and those being allegedly served by them. In answer to your questions:
    1. I’m not sure what you mean by “patriotic idea of America” . I’ll admit that I have an elitist view of my country. America is the home of the “great experiment” as our founders called it. I see it as it could and should be to me. A light of hope to those who want to achieve success on their own and choose their own path to success.

    2. The most perfect America I can imagine is America as it was founded. The government being a necessary evil that is a true servant of the people. The government staying out of commerce in every way. No political entanglements with ANY other countries. As Thomas Jefferson said “commerce with all and entanglements with none.” A government that doesn’t protect us from our selves. A government that will and can allow both success and failure without getting involved. A country where there are no professional politicians only citizens who serve their term and go back to their personal lives. I could go on all day…… Other than roads and a standing military, I don’t have much use for government in it’s present incarnation.

    Steve in Weaverville.

  2. +1 Steve

    I would just pretty much duplicate your answers.
    Amazing that we are so restrained by our government that we as individuals have lost the power to fix things ourselves.

    I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that anyone running for a political office isn’t someone that should be elected. If we all got together and picked one person that we all agreed would be a great leader and suggested it…he/she would most likely decline and run for the hills.

    I’m worried about the future of America and feel like there really is damn little I can do about it.

    But the sun is shining and I’ll pull a Scarlett O’Hara, just like most everyone else:
    ” Tomorrow I’ll think of some way . . . after all, tomorrow is another day.”
    Except one of these days, tomorrow will come and we just might not like what comes with it much.

    • Steve does have some nice answers, Pocofish. I wish I could argue with anything you say, but I think as long as we are allowing representatives who set the rules differently for themselves than the rest of us, we’re pretty well screwed. The snake will continue to chew on its own tail until its fangs get repossessed. I’d start with term limits, no lavish retirements for elected officials, the same laws and regulations for everyone, and reducing the entire tax code to a maximum of ten pages.

      In the wild ideas file, my brother and I talked about a thing called the “Hundred rules.” If any organization or agency can’t operate on a hundred rules or less, they need to go. Also, there’s the idea of eliminating campaign finance shenanigans by having each office have a general pool for campaign funds. The more people running for any given office, the less money they have to spend on the campaign. After watching our Congress spend the last year doing not much more than extending debt, taking care of themselves, and peeing on each other’s shoes, I wonder if we would be better off just randomly selecting representatives within a loose set of criteria, putting them in office for two years, and letting them do their best. But then, what would news channels do for the two years leading up to every single election?

      I have a sneaky notion that, as you say, anyone who spends the time and money it takes to get elected doesn’t need to be in office.

      To stretch the point, the upside of human adaptability is that we are at the top of the food chain. The downside is that we can get used to anything. Given what I see, two years of adapting to Congress is probably equivalent to losing all understanding of how people actually live in this country.

  3. I enjoyed your article and you make some good points. I have to ask you one question though, isn’t the government we have the one we deserve? After all we voted it in and we can vote it out. The main problem with America and Americans (me included) is we bought the line that we can have it all at little or no effort and we support the elected officials that enable this sense of entitlement. I have heard almost every candidate claim they will repeal Obama care. No they won’t, unless they have a like minded congress and Supreme Court. I guess what I am saying is we are willing to believe the lie because it is what we want to hear. We all want to live in a big house and even though you know you can’t afford it is easy to believe the lie that you will be in the future but you can have it now.
    1.) What is my idea of a patriotic America? The best way to help your neighbor is to not become a burden on him. A hand up should be repaid and a hand out should not be given.
    2.) The ideal America? Out of great risk comes great reward or great failure.
    The biggest problem with the primaries are that by the time the majority of the country gets to vote the candidates will have been either picked or weeded out by the media, the party, and three states that in my mind do not represent a cross section of America. I would have liked to at least had the opportunity to at least cast my vote for Rep. Bachman now I am having to settle for what’s left of the pack. Sorry not Ron Paul.

    • Well, to a certain extent, I’d have to say yes. We do have the government we deserve, and I think you made a good argument for why we, as a society, have ended up with what we have. But it’s never that simple. Some people would argue that we have already pushed into territory where our votes have much less power than they should. Whether that’s due to the power of money in our political process, or the simple watering down effect of trying to vote for change in a country in which we all seem to be driving to the middle (or the bottom, depending on your point of view), it’s an open question. Another question is who defines that middle, and how do they create our mass definition? Are we all victims of someone else’s vision? If so, what purpose does it serve? I think it’s safe to say it doesn’t serve those of us who are just trying to live a nice middle class life.

      I just had a conversation with someone who has decided that the best we can do is to try to minimize the impact of government in our lives and to live an example of a lifestyle that does not depend on our current American definitions of… Let’s call it “free success.”

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