Today’s Courier Herald Column:
I’ve got more than a few friends who have grown tired of politics. Truthfully, we all are. At least, those of us who are paying attention are. There are many reasons to be cynical about this system we use to create and maintain a government.
Social media has brought us together in ways thought unimaginable just a decade or two ago. As such, there is more potential for participation in the process. This also spotlights the inherent problems within representative government. We are a government by the people and for the people. Social media connects us with more and more of those people. It reminds us what people are really like.
Those of us with an active interest in politics have constant reminders that many more of us do not. News stories are much more likely to be on a “most emailed” list if they contain the name Kardashian or Bieber than if they are about tax policy or feature key legislation nearing a crucial vote.
The frustration will only continue to grow as most political coverage approaching the November elections will focus on undecided voters. The 80% of us who have already decided how we are voting will continue to be amazed at those who don’t seem to understand the differences in candidates or positions just days or hours away from the votes. Yet it is these voters and not the active and informed that will ultimately decide the election. This is what democracy looks like.
This frustration with the uninformed is not terribly new among the politically aware. Where I do detect a bit of a shift is from those who are active and aware but consider the system flawed to a point that their participation is no longer warranted. For the sake of continued viability in representative government, this is a much bigger problem.
These problems stem from two main areas. Money and patronage have overtaken a system that the efforts of us common folk seem futile against a system that is designed to protect incumbents. As we deal with more corruption and more inside deals, there are more questions not of how to stop the problem, but if we can stop it. And the questions are now rhetorical. Many are giving up.
The additional problem is one of the interested and pragmatic versus the single issue zealots. Competitive partisan races are few and far between courtesy of Section V of the Voting Rights Act and a unbridled dedication to gerrymandering. The result is that most races are decided in primaries, and the partisans of both parties are in no mood to coddle independents or their independent thoughts.
As such “moderates” – now defined as those not solely dedicated to partisan talking points – have found themselves outside the system and feel there are few opportunities to actually influence the message of their respective parties. Many have or are considering giving up, based on anecdotal conversations I’ve had with a few friends this week as well as comments I continue to observe on blogs.
For those who value this country, giving up is not an option.
This week we marked the anniversary of D-Day, when members of the greatest generation put fear aside and stormed the beaches of Normandy. Their task ahead was much more daunting, and the consequences for them were much more dire. They risked everything to preserve representative democracy as the guiding force for western civilization. Many were buried nearby. All were and are heroes.
What is asked and required of us is not nearly as daunting nor are the personal consequences as dire. All we must do is continue to influence the process as best we can. That does mean continued causal engagement in the process. It means continuing to attempt to educate those around us who are not participative. It means standing up to zealots when necessary. It means calling out the corrupt insiders who put self interest above public interest.
Not all above is easy or convenient. But it certainly isn’t storming the beaches of Normandy.