14 August 2011

Imagine That I Am Running For Congress


Now, imagine that I am an idiot.  But I repeat myself.

Paraphrasing Twain is important, dear reader, because this is a truly imaginary exercise. I am going to pretend I am a candidate because what I want to hear from a candidate is not remotely likely to emerge. 

That’s because these days no one in politics is anywhere near honest or sensible when it comes to the task of governing.  They do, say, whatever it takes to win, because It is all a game, a very expensive game, and the prize is power. 

It is also an industry.  Like baseball, politics may be a game, but in the end it is a for profit industry and we, the citizens are at most means to the power not an end in ourselves.  And that’s precisely the problem.  The usual suspects are engaged in a perpetual boxing match, which we the citizens watch and yell about.  In this prizefight, though, when they hit each other we bleed.

Do I sound angry?  Well, who isn’t these days?  Anger is a great motivator, of course, as the Tea Party proves.  But it is not wholly owned by conservatives or libertarians.  These days, everyone is angry at politics and politicians.  What I also know is that anger may get you moving, but hope keeps you going.  Right now, there is no vision of hope out there that makes people want to do the hard work – and I mean citizens not politicians.  For this much I am sure about: we get the leaders we earn, and for some time we the people have been phoning it in when it comes to doing our civic duty. 

That’s why my imaginary campaign begins with a call to citizenship.  If we want better politicians we need better citizens.  Sure, we could elect new folks, and we will, but until we expect more and better from those we elect, we will just be drinking the same political kool-aid from different color cups.  Real change in DC or Lansing requires real change from us.

Step One:  End the Game.  Politics is a business, an industry, which does not care who is elected and long as the operatives, advisors, pollsters, media consultants, and so on get work. 

Joe Nocera shared an idea from his column recently, not his own.  Howard Schultz says we the people ought to sign a pledge – no more campaign contributions.  Great idea, I have my doubts.  Those who leave the field leave it to whoever remains.  It amounts to resignation. 

Find people worth supporting.  America Elect is another idea, that seeks to nominate a president without parties at all.  This has a flaw, too,  Even if it worked, a president without a party would be even more powerless than the current president, as I have noted before.  Like it or not parties are how votes are gathered and laws made. 

What we need are people willing to run for congress and legislature who are worth supporting with our money because they are not packaged by the election industry.  But to that means they do not stand a chance of winning.

Exactly my point.  We need people who reject the horse race, prizefight, sports industry culture of politics.  Such people are not interested in winning but in serving. 

That’s why I am doing this.  I am such a person.  The idea of actually being elected gives me the willies.  But the idea of campaigning for ideas, for visions, for hope, in honest words not massaged by pollsters or scripted by consultants, just telling people what you think and hope, that appeals to me.

I did some research.  The game is rigged in many ways.  Getting onto a ballot takes money and work, like gathering signatures. What sort of person has that kind of time and money on his/her own?  You could run for one of the smaller parties.  That takes less personal work, but they have lots of baggage, often being rather marginal and weird.  That means working within the two major parties, who helped create the game. 

We need people who are willing to stand for hopeless races – political Don Quixotes, St. Judes, Jonathan Kennedy O’Tooles – to be candidates for positions the other party has locked up (which is how the game works, remember) and then refuse to play by the rules.

A mentor of mine (via his writings) Edwin Friedman, said that the best way to change a stuck system was to ‘defect in place.’  That is, be part of the system but refuse to collaborate with it. 

That’s what we need.  We need Democrats who are fiscally sensible and Republicans who are genuinely compassionate, people who know the other side is not the adversary but the other partner, who know that democracy presumes that no ideology is perfect and no party is infallible, who see elections are choices people make about America and not about who is right or wrong.

That’s not all we need to do to end the game of course, but without that nothing else will happen. 

Next time: creating a nation of citizens not customers or even taxpayers. 

1 comment:

Sherron said...

There is way too much of a game in the political arena. I look forward to your continuation along these lines.

Meantime, my political comment is going to be, "Who is Grover Norquist? And how come he can tell our legislators what to do?"