Saturday, November 18, 2006

Losing the Election Disfunction Syndrome

Well, the election of 2006 is over, the results are known, and whether we are satisfied or not with the results, as my friend Buffalo says, “it is what it is.”

Trying to look objectively at the political landscape is much easier after the election than before it, because we don’t have to wade through the accusations, allegations, false charges, bloviating and all the rest of what makes up an American political campaign. Now that the people have spoken all the crap that went on before is for the most part irrelevant.

Politics has become, or maybe always was, a search for power, when it should be a quest for the opportunity to help guide your country in the right direction. It should be a contest of ideas for how to do that. Instead we have come to accept political campaigns as contests to see who can be the nastiest and dig up or make up more dirt on their opponent instead of a contest between two differing sets of ideas to move the country/state/city forward. Tragically, and too often, the nastiest candidate “wins” the election and the people lose. Millions of dollars are wasted on advertising and speechifying to denigrate, demonize and malign the opposing candidate, not on candidates promoting their ideas.

If you have principles, you try to figure out which candidate or party best reflects your positions, which is no small task since campaign rhetoric avoids discussing such things much of the time. Even those of us who aren’t partisans end up becoming a partisan as the campaign progresses, because while we are focused on our principles and the best candidate we can find that represents them, the real action is somewhere else. So we find ourselves either defending someone from the attacks of his or her opponent and criticizing the opposition; we are forced into either indulging in the unsavory business of dirty tricks or gutter politics. Or we just get fed up with the whole mess and drop out.

I find myself doing the former: indulging in the business of strongly supporting the candidate and his or her party, and pointing out the weaknesses of the opposition. Even though the candidate I have chosen to support is in some measure less than perfect—sometimes far less—I must become a strong supporter in the hopes of persuading others to support him or her. Case in point: in 2000 I supported George W. Bush not so much because I agreed with him down the line, but because the prospect of a President Al Gore was simply intolerable. In 2004, even after realizing that George Bush was not nearly strong enough on curbing Big Government and holding spending down, as conservatives believe we should, and his position on border security was unsupportable, he is so much better able to lead the country than John Kerry. Even with the Iraq situation, Bush was the better choice. History will bear that our, I’m sure.

The truth is, however, that our system, as imperfect as it has become through political maneuvering, bad legislation and judicial activism through the years, is still the best in the world. It is still plenty strong enough to survive a Gore or Kerry presidency, and likely even strong enough to survive a Democrat Congress that tries to change all the Democrats told us needed to be changed starting the day after George Bush was inaugurated six years ago. Although it will take a long time to undo all the damage, if they are successful.

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