As we prepare for another series of soundbites and finger pointing between the incredibly large Democratic field, a dark reality has begun to close in around the United States: it’s election season and the rhetoric is reaching a fever pitch that could shake apart the Washington Monument.
The Democrats are promising the sun, the moon, and possibly Pluto, with complete disregard for fundamental economics. Trump is promising what he promised in 2016: deportations, tough-guy posturing, reduced spending (nope), tariffs that China will pay (we pay them), and some kind of structure on the Southern Border, two-thirds of which will require federal confiscation of land. Meanwhile, Bill Weld is somewhere in the thermosphere, dodging the satellites transmitting coverage of Trump’s tweets.
I must ask the question, as I dread the day that I start receiving texts from every campaign that prompts me to respond with a snarky comment, regardless of party. When did we become so numb to party politics that we cannot even take a moment to consider that both sides have been lying, manipulating, and pandering to us for years? Or are we fully aware of this and we’ve simply come to accept this as the status quo? Either way, it’s time for a change.
Starship Troopers and Civil Discourse
While settling down to write, I spoke to my father and the topic of Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, Starship Troopers, came up. We talked about how it is arguably one of the most accurate predictions of what global military fascism would look like. I then mentioned how the movie adaptation, reviews and questionable acting aside, further satirized such a society through glorious depictions of pointless, unending war and public corporal punishment.
During the heart of the conversation, as we compared such a detailed example of fascism to the real world, my father remarked that such a conversation outside the comfort of our phones, would probably not be possible. Sadly, I have to agree. Conversations of complex issues or political philosophies often times devolve into mindless name calling and slogan shouting, preventing any real discussions to be had. I cannot publicly advocate for free market healthcare or education without someone accusing me of being a fascist or a greedy capitalist (“capitalist” is not a dirty word to me).
The degradation of civil discourse, which has become nearly impossible both between and within parties, is a product of a very loud few inserting themselves into public dialogue. And while the majority of Americans may despise such disruptions to positive dialogue, our leaders have come to rely heavily on the divisive rhetoric spewed from the mouths and keyboards of the blind and the benefactors.
In the spirit of bipartisanship, Congress passed a two-year budget, at the direction of the president and congressional leadership. For many, hearing those words would present a feeling of relief. But, to the keen observer of the ceaseless maelstrom of poor policy, this new budget has set up the country for a major economic disaster. As Congressman Thomas Massie pointed out in his attempt to have the bill renamed, this budget was an example of “A Bill to Kick the Can Down the Road, and for Other Purposes.”
The reality of such legislation, with literally no regard for the greater issue of our $22 Trillion national debt, is one of nefarious callousness: your party does not care about you. Your party does not care about you in the short term or the long term.
Ask yourself, do you agree with your party’s platform without any hesitation on any issues? I highly doubt it. I have to imagine that you disagree with at least some part of your party’s rhetoric. Maybe you are a Democrat who is opposed to drastic tax increases. Maybe you are a Republican who disagrees with heavy military spending. Maybe your differences fall on the philosophical spectrum. But god help us if we raise objections.
The dangers of political parties were highlighted by George Washington in his Farewell Address. Says Washington:
The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country is subjected to the policy and will of another.
In beautiful prose, Washington perfectly predicted our reality today. Perhaps he never saw someone as bombastic and narcissistic as Donald Trump or as pretentious and entitled as Hillary Clinton, but he knew full well the dangers that political parties posed.
Breaking the status quo of the party has become terribly dangerous for politicians who exercise a bit of conscience and reason. Justin Amash, who has been an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration, was vilified by the Republicans until he chose to leave the party and become an Independent, a move that is remarkable in today’s climate.
On the other side, Bernie Sanders felt the wrath of the DNC as he stepped wide to the left of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and was handily defeated. Today, the Democrats appear to be in disarray as part of the party has shifted further to the left and the rest have shifted left of the left. The Republicans, meanwhile, appear relatively whipped into order, particularly now that that rational radical Amash has left under his own power. Chaos and good soldiers appear to be the only options available to us.
The purpose of a party is not to serve the people, but to maintain political power at the expense of the people. When you consider that the aforementioned budget includes a two-year suspension of the debt ceiling, both parties are gearing up for wins in 2020 to open up massive spending increases for their own purposes. If political parties must exist, then there must also exist a plurality of parties. Without regard for the individual rights of the people, and the inaction of the people, change will never come. But, there is hope.
Leaving Money on the Table
2016 was a whirlwind that feels like a lifetime ago, mercifully. A hotly contested and wildly erratic race saw the highest voter turnout in US history with roughly 139 million voters casting their ballot. But this number isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. That marvelously large number only makes up about sixty percent of eligible voters, leaving ninety-two million votes on the table. When it comes to the presidency, that number climbs to ninety-four million as two million voters left that line blank.
So why does this matter? Well, Trump and Clinton received 61,201,031 and 62,523,126 votes, respectively. While the electoral college would come into play and would probably look like a Christmas tree on its way to the curb, ninety-four million votes would be such a disruption that the two-party paradigm would be shattered, regardless of the winner. Hope springs eternal from the glorious number of disenchanted voters.
Rediscover Your Reason, Reclaim Your Sanity
So often we hear about the power of the people, but that power is usually dictated to us by politicians and pundits. But, the people truly do have the ability to affect significant change, if we are willing to walk away from the establishment of the political elite.
Ignore the nonsense. Ignore the accusations and rhetoric. Ignore the singular promises designed to butter you up in the hopes of free things (that will cost you significantly) and unnecessary security that cannot be provided without abandoning the Constitution. Instead, embrace reason. Embrace the idea that there are more than two ideas. Understand that we have been manipulated and lied to by an elite establishment and stand your ground.
Speaking as a third-party voter, I am an eternal optimist. I believe in the power of the individual and that we can bring about palpable and positive change in our communities and country through the limitless amount of ideas that exist in the minds of people. I believe in the good nature of humanity and that nearly all people are naturally inclined to do right by both themselves and their neighbors. I believe that we are united far more than we are divided.
Perhaps I am naïve and should just knuckle under. Perhaps I should embrace the duopoly and accept my place as a cog in the wheel of American politics. But I cannot do that. As one who was politically agnostic for years before recognizing that there is another way, I will wade into the void where ninety-four million voters lie. Change itself is remarkably easy to accomplish. The challenge lies in convincing people that change is possible. Challenge accepted, America.