In viewing the remaining landscape in this election, I was thinking what is the right prism through which to view the presidential debates and the remaining part of the campaign. And what is the right frame of mind in the ballot box come time to vote. I am sharing this opinion piece with this in mind. I also think it might put Vice President Joe Biden‘s comments in context.
Today, at this very moment, America needs leaders who are not first a Democrat or a Republican; but American. I see that in President Barack Obama. I see he is leading from his heart, from an inclusive vision deep within. From his belief in America, being himself on an historically improbable path, fulfilling an American Dream. A man rich in character, able as a young man to work through personal challenges about his roots, his father, and his very being. Emerging in a positive, uplifting place with an amazing grace.
Obama is doing what is right, despite being fettered by current American politics; shackled as it were to the ground, by the Lilliputian right, the little men trying to contain a giant. Obama and America are also challenged by America’s electoral and political system too. The main challenges are twofold; (1) Congress is broken and (2) there are only two ideologies; crafted precisely as opposing ones by only two opposing parties.
These politics weigh on America, weaken her; and afford Lilliputian tragedy, at the expense of Americans who, as Biden so aptly stated, remain “buried” these past four years. Under the economic and financial sins of the fathers, the next generation(s) shall struggle if amends can not be made. Amends that demand a strong program and a strong mandate from this election. Even if Americans can ‘t put their finger on it or articulate it; these challenges reflect in America’s unhappiness with its Congress and concern about its direction.
Beginning with the latter of the two, America has only two political parties. Entrenched parties; a power duopoly with insurmountable barriers to entry for any other. Mostly, the barrier is money; but also political process, and political culture. In terms of the process, you just have to look at Gov. Mitt Romney, the perennial Presidential contender; it’s a personal marathon consuming years of time, oceans of money, and galaxies of energy. Plus requiring personal strength and deep reserves of equanimity and confidence to endure personal attacks and insults, and withstand the sledgehammer of character destruction. Just to become a party’s nominee; then comes the election race!
In terms of the political culture, the visibility and importance placed on party affiliation is beyond reason. For example, “declaring” your party when voting; it’s like declaring your religion when introducing yourself. Maybe worse. And changing it is perhaps harder, even for a single vote. It is pervasive in American politics; yet think about it – why is your party affiliation asked when you vote? To remind you of your allegiance to your party before you vote for your nation? To remind you of your ideology? While it is there to support the primary voting system, this can be handled in other ways. It is not really any part of what you do at the ballot box. When you are there, you are simply an American, seeking what is right for you and your country.
Now also let’s think for a moment about “independents” who are the bane of the political parties; the ones being chased this moment and until election day. Yet they are the truest practitioners of democracy. What’s happened to individual political freedoms? You should have your personal, private, undeclared choice of vote for whoever and whatever. Any time, all the time and on every issue! Do not vote one party or the others philosophy, principles or I dare say, propaganda; and certainly not on wedge issues. It is not right for politicians to draw imaginary dividing lines through the country along old civil war fault lines, for political gain. And stoking the flames. Not right at all! Vote your belief about what America needs at this moment for her best future. Your patriotism comes here in the ballot box, to your Nation, not your party.
Now to discuss the other major challenge of Congress. Just think filibuster. It’s tantamount to a four letter word, actually. Some may not grasp precisely what it is; all understand what it does – nothing; big time! As witnessed these past four years. It has been the darling of Congressional leaders, too many Lilliputian little men with little strings. Trying, trying, and ultimately tying Obama, the Nation, and you, to the ground.
Add to that the modus operandi of both parties’ congressional leaders. This includes obstruction through filibuster and other tactics, slander, stretched truth and outright lies (mis-leaders as much as leaders?), and blind ideology. Such ideology spouted so often for so long, the parties and partisan hacks start to believe the fiction and start making decisions with it – Ayn Rand anyone? This obstructionism is more reflective of the GOP, in my opinion. Indeed, I think it’s been done to an extent unheralded these past four years. Brazenly. Overtly. Proudly, and fully on record. For a stated single inexplicable purpose – to stop Obama, whatever it is he is doing. Lilliputian small men indeed.
Now add to these political process and culture issues, the literally limitless money flow from narrow pools of people and yet narrower pools of interest. The money is wrapping round the politicians, warping their decisions and the nation. The red states and blue states notion that Obama has for some time been decrying? This is a symptom of the underlying problem and hopefully can be changed. But how? For one thing, bust the filibuster; kill it, make it a ghostbuster. The partisan minority must not thwart the will of the majority, by definition, that is “anti-democracy”. The other thing is more political parties; democracy must enable and support a more open political arena. This must be at the heart of the American way, the democratic way for an enduring civil society. Of course, this takes more time than the blink of an eye left until election day!
So what can you do now? Simple. Vote out obstructionist politicians. That’s it, just vote against any politicians more focused on limiting Obama’s future, than expanding America’s and yours. Do it right now! Let’s go! Just say “That’s it for you (fili)buster”! This will send Congress a message. A strong one. American’s are not going to take this any more!
This gives Pres. Obama‘s good efforts leverage to propel the country Forward. Obama deserves another 4 years to move America along his well defined, worthy path and direction. I think he is focused more on doing right by America and Americans than most politicians in living memory. President Reagan is perhaps a good comparison.
So you can do it. It’s in your hands. The change is you!
See Building a Nation; the change is you for a larger discussion of the challenges in American politics.