Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Novel Idea – Pick a Party and Put It in Power

I’m just full of good ideas . . . or something. But I have a new one to present today. After reading Gail Collin’s light-hearted, but serious, description of the recent session of Congress in the New York Times, I’m convinced we must do something to remedy the inaction in Washington, D.C.

Of course I’m not unaware that inaction, when it stops incompetents from acting, may be a good thing. But we assume that those we place in the Congress of the United States are not incompetent. We know that many of them are clueless when they first arrive there, having no idea about their responsibilities and certainly no expertise in dealing with the complex global problems they are asked to address. (Example: In our area we have a man running for Congress basing his claim to competence on the fact that he has competed in lumberjack competitions and can still shinny up a telephone pole with the aid of a belt and spiked shoes. His opponent counters by showing that he is an affable man who knows how to gracefully fall off a log.) But still, we assume that over time they will learn to wear a suit and tie, and appear to become competent.

Our founders assumed, I think, that members of the privileged class (like themselves) would be put forth for election and that the common people, knowing that they themselves were not up to the task of governance, would select from the two or three noble men who were nominated as public servants.

But times have changed. The class of noble men has shrunk. An attempt has been made to fill out their thinning ranks with recruits from among the wealthy, famous athletes, actors, media stars, etc. In short, notoriety has been confused for nobility. But even more to my point – which I will arrive at soon – everyman (including everywoman) now feels qualified to sit in the highest halls of government and pass on matters of life and death for the nation and the world. If you have a valid birth certificate and it shows you have reached the legal age for the office you seek – you are qualified to serve.

And who can deny an out of work college drop-out (or was he dismissed for cheating?) the opportunity to achieve great things in politics. Our Constitution says he is qualified and that is authority second only to Scripture. So we have followed the trajectory that our Founders unwittingly projected for us, government of the people, by the people, and (for?) the people. We have a Congress filled with sheep who are committed to narrow agendas by the promises they made to get elected, and corralled and commanded by powerful leaders who control the sources of money they will need to get re-elected. The rules of order in both the House and the Senate have been so rigged that the minority can block any action through manipulation rather than debate and conversation. Compromise has become a traitorous action punishable by a political death sentence. Consequently, nothing can get done in Congress unless one party or the other has full control of the legislative process.

And that brings me to my point. We must surrender. Give up the foolish idea that petty, unprepared, unqualified, incompetent, unreasonable men and women could ever work together for the general welfare of the nation. It will never happen. The only way to get anything done in Washington is to give complete power to one side or the other, give them four years (or twenty-four) to run (or ruin) the country. It would be best if there were no opposition members to harass them. Let them have free reign until their leadership becomes so oppressive and destructive that the people rise up, burn buildings, tear down statues, attack symbols of authority, and demand a new set of elections. In fact it might be best that elections not be scheduled on a predicable recurring basis. Let the party who wins the most recent election do its will until the people revolt.

I know this isn’t a novel idea. It is the usual form of government in two-thirds of the world. It has been the norm for human government for all but the last two or three hundred years. So why should we turn our noses up at it?

The only alternative would be to elect reasonable men and women of genuine character who seek office for the purpose of serving, rather that to wield power, and who know that truth seldom lies wholly on one side or the other, and therefore compromise is the greatest tool in the hand of the wise leader. Compromise! Someone said it is “the art politics.”

I would love to present a list of reasonable men and women of genuine character that deserve our votes. I believe there are a few, but even they are sullied by the sad electoral process we have allowed to develop. My only suggestion is to listen for the word “compromise” or at least listen for a tone of civility; a willingness to admit that there is more than one way to understand an issue. Listen, not for promises of things the candidate will get done, but for proposals of ways to get things done. Insist on hearing proposals of ways to get things done. Listen and look for evidence of a narrow agenda that serves only the interests of a few at the expense of the many.

We really only have those two choices: 1) reject those who seek a narrow, divisive agenda, electing men and women of intelligence, morality, and good will or 2) take a gamble – vote a party line and let the chips fall where they may, realizing that they usually pile up in front of the sharks.

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