Buy a Damned T-Shirt!
Volume 3, Number 11
November, 1998

One Man's Opinon

by Dave Lind

America's voters ought to be outraged. That they are not is a constant source of puzzlement for Republicans throughout our nation's Capitol. Why, they wonder, are not more Americans furious over the unspeakable atrocities committed by the man they elected to the highest office in the land, the man they chose to lead them, to lead all of us into the twenty-first century? Why are they not assembling en masse on the White House lawn, pitchforks in hand, screaming for his swift (and preferably bloody) removal from office? Do the voters no longer care about the sanctity of the Oval Office? Do they not care a whit about the character of those elected to serve them? Or have they simply abdicated their responsibility to keep a watchful eye on their elected representatives? Where, they cry, is the outrage?

Let me start by assuring our Republican representatives that the outrage is there, let there be no mistake about that. Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of Americans are far too obsessed with the sexual peccadilloes of our Philanderer-in-Chief to take the time to focus that outrage where it truly belongs.

No, I am not about to launch into a Hillary-esque assault on some vast right-wing conspiracy. Nor am I going to feed you a Rush Limbaugh-like line of BS about liberals and femi-nazis and how they're eating away at the very fabric of our blah-de-blah-de-yawn. The problem that plagues our nation, and will in time be the downfall of our government, cannot be laid neatly at the feet of liberals or conservatives or gays or illegal aliens or whatever. The problem is two-fold: (1) The two-party system, and (2) The American voter's ignorance of how our government is truly supposed to work.

Let's have a quick cram session on American Government 101. Let us begin by clearing up some misconceptions as to the definition of some commonly used terms:
Public Servant: (Common Definition)
One who works for the Government.
Public Servant: (Correct Definition)
One who works for the People.
Serve (Common Def)
To hold an elected office.
Serve (Correct Def)
To do the bidding of.
Representative (Common Def)
An elected official.
Representative (Correct Def)
One who represents a group of others.
There are many others, but I think you get the point. America has completely lost sight of how our Government is supposed to operate, and our national vocabulary is the number one indicator.

Now, the way our Government is supposed to work is this: The United States is comprised of a number (at present 50) of individual States, each with their own Constitution, Government, and individual outlook on how their lives should be governed. These States, in the interest of security and the common good, have united as one Nation under one flag. Hence, the United States. This Federal Government was tasked with little more than securing our borders and mediating disputes between States.

Periodically, we voters would assemble to select from among our ranks those persons who would go to either the State or National Capitol and Represent us. Thus, the people Serving in office would be people not unlike ourselves. People we worked with, socialized with, knew and understood. More importantly, people who knew and understood us. (Remember the words: ...Of the People...). These Representatives, chosen by us presumably because they reflect our beliefs and interests, then vote on our behalf and in our stead, enacting laws and policy under which we must then live (...By the People...). Then, when their term of Public Service was up, they would return to their jobs and they, themselves would live under the laws and policies which they enacted (...For the People). Public Service was never intended to be a lifetime career. It was meant to be a duty to be performed for little compensation by civic-minded average citizens who knew that the laws and policies they voted on would impact their lives and businesses in a very real way as soon as they left office.

This, then, is how our system of Government was meant to operate. Note that at no point did I mention anything at all about the two-party system. It is important to realize that while most of our founding fathers participated in partisan politics, there was never any intention of forming up into two separate and distinct political camps to the exclusion of all others. On the contrary, it was widely felt that the more strong political parties existed the more choice the voter would have and thus the greater that voter's voice in governmental affairs.

Now then, contrast all of what I have said above with what exists today. Today we have a strong, some would say oppressively strong, Federal Government which dictates terms to the individual States. The Federal Government, which remember, was only supposed to secure our borders, mediate between the States, and handle our foreign affairs, in now in the business of determining everything from minimum drinking ages to what sort of protective gear must be worn when riding a motorcycle. Forget how well-intentioned such laws may be, the bottom line is that they have supplanted the individual's right to decide such matters for himself and, more importantly, have usurped the State's authority to govern such areas.

Further, those Representatives ...of the People... are now little more than career politicians. In most cases they have gone straight from college (where they majored in Political Science) to Washington internships where they begin to learn the ins-and-outs of a horribly disfigured political system. They then will move on to become aides to bloated fat-cat career politicians until such time as they are able to sufficiently in debt themselves to enough people that they can themselves muster a campaign and become public servants Once in, they are in for life. Over 90% of all incumbents will be reelected to office in any given year. The rest accept some made-up job offer from one of their still-in-office friends while they lick their wounds and regroup for another run at some other elected post, which they will often as not win. Rarely does anyone ever fully leave public office and even then its usually to a cushy medium-to-high six-figure income as a consultant to whichever defense contractor most benefited from said Representative's efforts. We have a horrifying number of elected Representatives who have never held a non-governmental job, will never hold a non-governmental job, and will do nothing in the way of serving the public other than to produce a son who will ride his father's name to his own elected office.

In all, the government has become a ruling class unto itself. Laws which will apply to the average citizen are debated and haggled over by people who are as far removed from the average citizen as the Grand Canyon is from the average pot hole.

The will of the people has been suborned to the good of the country whatever that is. Whenever the people speak out and say "this is what we want" whether it be to legalize medicinal marijuana or to outlaw bilingual education in schools, the ruling class decides that the will of the people is not in the best interest of America and just does whatever the hell it wants.

Worse, this new Ruling Class which now is so entrenched that we cannot remove them without installing one of their ilk, has formed itself into two separate and distinct parties with opposing ideologies. On the one had is the Republicans, who have so positioned themselves as the party of all that is wholesome and good that they have left no room for tolerance of actual freedom. On the other is the Democrats, who have become so obsessed with righting every wrong, correcting every injustice, and feeding every hungry child that they have excused every man woman and child in America from personal responsibility.

The system has become so polarized that it has created a binary form of government. Either A or B, black or white, republican or Democrat. When was the last time you heard of a pro-choice Republican or a pro-gun Democrat. They're out there, I assure you, but they are not permitted by their party to vote or even to speak their honest mind for fear of losing their party's support. Thus, even the good of the country has now been suborned to the "good of the party".

This is best exemplified by the recent events in Washington. In a recent vote of 434 Representatives on the matter of President Clinton's impeachment, all 227 house Republicans voted in favor of impeachment while 175 of 206 Democrats voted against. Is it not highly coincidental that ALL 227 Republican members happened to agree on a matter as highly contestable as a Presidential Impeachment? Are they, then, voting according to the wishes of their constituents or even in the best interest of the country? Or are they simply toeing the Party line? and voting in the best interest of their party?

In the days immediately prior to the vote, Richard Gephardt, the Democratic minority leader from Missouri, publicly gave his permission to all of the rank-and-file Democrats to "vote however they need to to secure their own reelection."

Am I the only one here who sees how horribly, horribly wrong this is, that our system is so screwed up that this statement could me made, listened to, accepted and not even questioned as to its appropriateness. First of all, MY elected representative's primary focus should not be whether or not he gets reelected, it should be to vote his conscience. We presumably elected him because he represents our views and beliefs, therefore, he should vote as he sees fit secure in the knowledge that he is upholding his contract with his constituency. Second, if the Representative from the Great State of Missouri has to grant his permission for MY Representative to vote as he sees fit, does that not mean that MY Representative, caretaker of the votes of myself and legions of other Californians, is somehow subject to the will of the Representative from Missouri. If so, in what way is my voice being Represented in our Government? And what of the voices of millions and millions of Americans who have the misfortune of not living in a State with a senior Representative. If a single Representative is capable of controlling the votes of all of the other Representatives in his party, that means that some plow boy in Muzz-ur-uh has more of a say than all of California's voters combined.

America's voters have a right to be angry, but not over the sexual exploits of one of many career politicians who plague our Government. America's voters should be furious over the manner in which our noble ideal of self-rule has been so perverted into its current condition where even the limited voice we do have has been silenced in the name of partisan politics. If we want our voice back, if we truly want to govern ourselves, we must agree to the following:
  1. To strive to truly understand our Government and how it is meant to work.
  2. To stop voting for the incumbent over and over again, even if we believe he is doing a good job. It is foolish to believe that because one man is doing a good job that there is no one else who could do as well or better.
  3. To stop voting along party lines simply because "that's the way Dad voted"
  4. To vote for more third and fourth party candidates in the hopes that these parties will grow strong enough to one day provide the voters with an actual choice on election day.
  5. To stop rewarding career politicians by electing them to office simply because we've heard their name before.
Our system is broken, and it is failing us. But there are no laws that can be passed, no one simple, easy fix to restore us to the path our founding fathers set us on. It is only by chipping away at the wildly-dysfunctional two-party gridlock that is slowly strangling our nation that we can hope to restore and retain our individual freedom. And we can only chip away one election at a time, one vote at a time.

I promise you, that vote will begin with me. The question is, will it continue with you?
[an error occurred while processing this directive]