I used to write a lot about politics in some of my early blogs. Politics is really an almost primal form of human psychology, understanding what it takes for people to control other people. Sure, we construct governments and organizations based around order and justice, but at the end of the day it’s about power and control, who has it, and who does not. Thus we’ve spent nearly our entire existence killing each other for the faint self-satisfaction that we’re superior to someone while ignoring the fact we’re powerless against a thousand and six other things that are just ignoring us right now for something else. I often wonder if this is what fundamentally makes me afraid of death, not so much that it is inevitable, but that it can often come at the hands of someone extremely stupid.
Presidential politics almost feels the same way. In my thirty-plus years, I’ve experienced only five presidents of this country, starting with Reagan. Five seems like a pretty small number given the number of years, but everyone there served two terms except for Bush Sr. so the math adds up. The first election I was eligible to vote for was 2008, and like many others my age, we bought into the euphoric sense of wonder that was Barrack Obama. I’d like to say I regret that vote, but honestly I wanted to believe that he was a different politician, that he wasn’t a billionaire tycoon, former military vet, or crony career-politician trying to spend eight years wining and dining his supporters off the country’s dime. He certainly pitched a good campaign and won well. Sadly, he did not live up to the expectations I think a lot of people had for him, myself included. My two main complaints will be his supporting Bush W’s bank and auto bailout, and his arrogant manner in how he conducts executive orders and trying to circumvent Congress.
But really, I can’t say the same thing wouldn’t have happened under Hillary Clinton, John McCain, or Mitt Romney. The state of this country in today’s high-tech, high-information world has shine a very interesting light on old-style politics, and illuminated many people into realizing how corrupt and crony politicians are. Much like how small startups are able to leverage the internet for funding unlike decades ago, independent politicians are seeking social networking and communications to boost their message and imply that we could break away from our traditional two-party system some day.
Listening to Republican candidates do their monolouging is often painful to listen to. It’s difficult for me to believe that most of these people actually know what it’s like to live a day as a median, average-income American of any race or sex. Most of these people are either rich, well-connected, or have been in politics longer than any private industry. I wouldn’t trust a single one of these people to act as if they know what it’s like to have to worry about a dozen things each day and still conduct your day accordingly. The phrase “out-of-touch” is often used in the media towards people who don’t get it, but really almost everyone involved in politics are “out-of-touch” with the American people. That’s because politics has been allowed to balloon beyond its means. Most people in local politics, like small towns, simply serve alongside their normal lives and jobs, seeking only to offer their input and assistance to town matters. State and federal politics have warped this role into their job. They’ve acquired power and control, and without term limits or any means to usurp them, they proceed to hold on to it and defend its corruption by any means possible. “Out-of-touch” is a laughably horrible phrase really, because the media knows that it is an engine with which to drive these people’s voices and influences to everyone, and everyone will lap it up because they don’t want to be bothered to learn how politics work, or analyze speeches for double-speak and implications. They have far more important things to do, so they willfully ignore the real message behind politicians.
The sort of voter politicians like are those like my wife. I love my wife dearly, but she is the quintessential “low information voter”. She has values and beliefs, but understands that our political system is not made for the everyday citizen anymore. She understands that not being the 1%, she has no effective power to feed the hungry, cure cancer, and battle racism, and she is okay with that. She is okay living in a status quo world because she, or rather we, have no means to do anything significant about it. So she feels her vote is wasted, figuratively and literally with the electoral voting system still in-place. I tend to be the more pragmatic half of the marriage, I analyze and break down things, I pay attention to news and editorials, and I offer opinions on what I believe in consistent with my values. A lot of people think I am a right-wing advocate because I dislike most liberal politicians, or I don’t immediately support traditional liberal/liberal-authoritarian policies. I am in fact more left-libertarian in that I have no problem with social programs and helping people, but I believe it means more, and costs less, when it comes from other people and not the government, who bloat, twist, warp, and inflate everything they touch. I very much respect my wife’s reasons for not engaging in politics, because politics lead to a lot of misinformation and bad feelings with other people, especially those who feel their identities are constantly under attack if you so much as casually disagree with them. It pains me that people put their politics before their character and judgement, and turn-and-burn friends over things that don’t directly affect either one of them. I bump heads often with people who don’t like the fact that while I do not appreciate right-wing authoritarians badgering with religious propaganda, I still believe those with religious convictions should be allowed their beliefs like anyone else. My core has always been pro-freedom and pro-choice, because I believe people can make intelligent decisions, and for those who don’t, consequences will be had in accordance with our customs and laws. We have judicial systems to ensure fair trial, and when all of these systems work, we have a functioning society that doesn’t need “war time” to constantly prove our self-worth to others.
My message to people about politics and voting is simple. Find some good aggregate sites on the candidates and the issues, and read about them. You don’t have to have a deep understanding of everything to get a surface glance about someone and what they claim to bring to the job. If you really want to arm yourself with knowledge, read Separation of Powers Under the United States Constitution on Wikipedia and understand how the President plays their role within government. Obama likes to insinuate that he has the power to pass anything he wants into law, but the fact is he can be stopped by Congress and the Supreme Court. Understanding the basic fundamentals about our government means you vote for someone you feel will be an effective leader, domestically and abroad, and also be someone who can communicate with the other branches of government and work towards mutual compromises, ideally someone who is not polarized or party-line who is just using the position to tow their own agenda. If you know all this, you are making a difference, and the more people armed with this, the more we can push for multiple parties, getting money and lobbyists out of Washington, and in general retaking the democracy our country was founded on.
Democracy is not dead, it’s just been buried under a mountain of apathy and indifference, and it takes well-informed and knowledgeable people making intelligent decisions to bring it back to power, and drive out the blood-sucking career politicians controlling government for their own means.