The election cycle is now in prime time, both on the local scene as well as nationally with next year’s presidential campaigning in full swing. As I began developing a plan for this week’s column my thoughts kept alternating between the local and national scene, with the common denominator being the frustration so many feel about our political system. There is an old saying about the definition of “insanity,” it’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. The older you get and more election cycles you’ve lived through you begin to look at that definition with an entirely different set of eyes.
In today’s society we’ve accepted the concept of “winning at all cost.” Spurred on perhaps by sports competition, talking heads, political figures, television shows and product advertisements, society seems to condone that “winning at all cost” produces collateral casualties. Still, we love winners… right up to the time they lose. Then we shrug our shoulders, jump off the losing band wagon and look for the next rising star to latch on to.
There is so much at stake both locally and nationally in the upcoming elections that we can not afford to get caught up in the hype of the campaign, nor can we as voters continue to be a part of the past election cycle insanity, doing the same thing over and over then being disappointed when the results leave us right back where we were. Perhaps it’s not the hype of the campaigns that needs to change but the manner in which the electorate responds to the campaigns. No longer can we depend on voting the party line, nor can we just “vote the bums out” because the new “bum” may be worse than the previous “bum.” Protesting the political system as the Tea Party has tried to do, has only resulted in them being marginalized and demonized by the establishment. So where does that leave us if we are truly looking to change the direction of government?
The political machines and candidates know what we want and they know how to make us feel like they will give us the results we long for. Every election cycle we bite at the same bait, so perhaps this cycle it’s not up to those running to make the changes we need, instead let’s agree that it’s up to the electorate to alter our course of participation or be prepared to suffer the same fate as in past years. Oh, we might get lucky and the right person or persons just happen into office, but ask yourself, do you want to risk the fate of your future or that of your children or grandchildren to pure luck?
More than ever we need to approach this cycle differently. We can not let the political machines, the political parties nor our past allegiance dictate our course of action. We must be far more inquisitive, take a much stronger role in listening to what the candidates are saying and research their true past voting record than listen to the spin doctors and take their word as gospel. Whatever method or methods you’ve used in the past to arrive at your choice for pulling the lever, you’ve got to approach this cycle differently. Be more informed, less gullible, less predictable and far more involved. We need to quit picking sides and look for candidates who will reach across party lines to address the concerns we all share.
We need to recognize the shared sacrifices we must all make to move the economy forward. It won’t happen solely on the backs of any one group, be it the rich, the middleclass or the poor or under-privileged. Class warfare only creates more infighting and we can’t allow the political systems to get us so focused fighting among ourselves that we neglect who lead us to this point and who keeps fanning the fires of class warfare. Our next elected leaders must address the injustices that exist within our systems and propose solutions immune to the influences of lobbyist and power brokers that have manipulated our elected officials and the system for their own advantage. This goes for national elections as well as state and local elections.
On the local side, because our communities are so small and so tight-knit, we must have even more transparency so as to avoid the appearance of personal vendettas while staying focused on the issues, facts and cost saving solutions that must be initiated.
Let’s face it, the system won’t get any better until we make it better and the only way that happens is for us to change how we respond and stay focused on common ground we can all agree on rather than allowing those issues we can’t agree on to irreparably divide us.