A democracy is characterized by the regular, peaceful transition of power based on equitable choice (one citizen, one vote). Voting is the act of choosing the best person(s) to represent your voice in the governing process. Governing is the enforcement of laws and creation of policies that improve the citizens’ wellbeing today and tomorrow.
Seems simple enough. What could possibly go wrong?
Today “our” elected officials care little about governing; winning is the only thing, and they will do anything, anything to win.
Why do we tolerate this?
- We are stupidly easy to manipulate.
- We have very selective memories.
- We can’t see past our fears.
Think back to any primary election - did even one candidate treat their opponents with respect? Can you name them? If you can (John Huntsman), did they have hope of winning? What happened?
What does it say when candidates within a Party family so viciously eviscerate each other? Sadly, despite the hate, the “base” rallies around the winner because they've been manipulated into thinking the other Party is even more evil.
Candidates actively avoid “thinking” voters; no one wants an open, cogent discussion on policy bereft of vitriol. Look at the Party platforms - they only come up when an opponent finds a weakness to exploit. They are completely ignored by the candidate.
How to win?
- Raise a ton of $$.
- Identify “wedge issues.”
- Pepper the electorate with abusive ads.
Without #1, everything else is moot - fund raising is THE priority for every Party, even above the candidate. How to raise money? #2. Even the smartest among us are susceptible to #2. (Pun intended.) Pollsters are the most influential people in any campaign; they “help” the candidate focus the message for maximum provocation and agitation, and thus more donations. Evil.
Witness the recent Romney defense of free speech - no coherent person associates the embassy’s actions as siding with terrorists, but then coherent people aren’t the target audience, are they. He just needed to paint his opponent as pro-Islamic fanaticism and anti-America, and thus raise more $$. The President’s reaction was also wrong - why stoop to your opponent’s level? Maybe because that's also your level.
With the secret recording of the Romney fund raising speech, the Democrats (and media) went off on how evil Romney is because he doesn’t care about half the country. Romney was responding to a question about campaign strategy, not governing; he said the pro-Obama 47% will never vote for him anyway, so why bother campaigning to them. I guarantee President/candidate Obama has spoken similarly about demographics and districts that hate him. Romney was pandering to his audience and he chose words that resonated with them; tell me Obama has never done that.
When an election is based ONLY on vilification, both the winners and losers emerge as blood enemies. Their abject hatred prevents any hope of collaboration (governing), and even if they can rise above it, they can’t be seen to cooperate or #1 dries up.
What about the victims of our politicians’ hatred - the Chinese, Latinos, Muslims, Olympics, gays, pro/anti abortionists, etc? Can you guess at their “favorability” towards America, Americans, and the American government??
Are you really surprised that with every election in the last 30+ years, our country has become less happy, less sustainable, more hateful, and more hated? A recent president once said, "Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos." Can you guess who it was?
It is time for we, the voters to reject cynicism and chaos, and reform our imperfect union.