As the midterm U.S. Senate and House of Representatives elections draw nearer, some things are becoming increasingly apparent about both the system of American elections and the current (and very disheartening) state of events in our nation.
I’ve come to realize a couple of things about elections and running for office – and what I have to say could be interpreted as a homage to the oft-misunderstood President Jimmy Carter. Carter delivered a speech (known as his “Malaise speech”) during his term that essentially told the American people to suck it up and weather the storm – and, most importantly, to make sacrifices.
Carter learned the hard way that the public cannot accept the idea of ‘the greater good.’
The American people face a plethora of undesirable circumstances: the federal deficit is enormous and growing at an unbelievable pace, the economy is in the tank (so to speak), and Congress seems unable to come to any conclusion besides mutual distrust.
The explanation behind this is the simple fact that the general public blindly refuses to give up personal benefits when it would accomplish mutually beneficial goals (that is, things that would help more people than just yourself). Tax cuts? How could some people – I’m looking at you, GOP – demand so adamantly a lower deficit and yet still cling desperately to the old Bush tax cuts? It all goes back to helping oneself and not thinking about consequences.
It is my belief that hardly any human being can have the skill set required to effectively and successfully run for office in the American election system and also have the traits appropriate in an effective and successful public official.
The current process for running for office – a grueling, press-infested cesspool of corruption (not in ALL campaigns, of course) – requires the kind of shameless ambition that could create problems in office.
Consider recent changes to campaign finance laws: corporations can pour money into any candidate they choose, thanks to this year’s Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC. What’s to prevent that tendency from spilling over into their actual government terms? If Capitol Hill is a sterile and honest place to begin with, this type of politician – the survivor – is not the wise, moral decision-maker I could accept as a truly reliable leader.
An American population that can’t see clearly into the future in terms of the best interests on the whole will inevitably vote in ways unlikely to serve everyone’s best interests.
But these elections – perhaps the most important midterm elections in decades – could stifle all Washington attempts at being useful once and for all.
As we saw with the WCPSS school board, sometimes the only people who vote in droves are the ones who are angry; those are the voters who desperately want something to change. If those are the only people whose voices are represented in the voting booth, everything could be thrown into even more chaos then we already have the misfortune of witnessing.
Rarely are the radically angry thinking rationally.
So when you step up to the voting booth, are you voting for the party and the beliefs? Or are you standing confidently behind a politician and saying, “YES – this person is who I want to represent my views”?
…that is, if you choose to vote this year. Will you?