Politics...fer Real Now
I just got a request, and you know that when you request I try my derndest to comply. So, back story: my good friend Christin has asked that I write a political post. More than happy to oblige, Christin. However, I feel like I need to take this one a bit more seriously and less satirically than usual. Why? Because it's late and I'm tired and I'm feeling nostalgic and I think it's actually really, really important. (TWO reallys. It's that important.) Sometimes people wonder what my real political viewpoints are--am I a fiscal conservative trapped inside the stunning law-student-body of a social libertarian? Am I a Republicrat? Am I apathetic? Am I (shudder) a Republican? Am I (hiss) a Democrat? Well, after reading this post, I don't think you're going to have any better clue than you already had. When it comes to politics, I'm cynical and sometimes bitter about the whole process. I'm constantly disillusioned. Even feel-good-story-of-the-moment VP nominee, Sarah Palin, has some not-so-feel-good baggage stashed away on the Straight Talk Express. I bring this up because it perfectly illustrates my point: The era of the public servant is dead. Long live the politician. Don't get me confused here. There are plenty of hard-working, dedicated, fantastic public servants out there. Erin's mom is the Mayor of Kaysville, and the living epitome of this-- concerned with, devoted to, and working for the welfare of her city and its citizens. I've seen her do it. It's impressive. But more and more, Mayor Roundy is becoming the glowing exception to the self-aggrandizing rule. This shrinking dichotomy is especially noticeable on the grander, more national scale. These "servants of the public interest" just tend to get less concerned with the public and more and more self-interested. It's sad. It's stupid. But it's human nature. I may be generalizing quite a bit here, but I think the human race as a whole is a lot like a mockingbird. When we see shiny stuff we grab at it. We can't help it. We're just interested in it at first. Technology is shiny. Fashion is shiny. Power is shiny. So when someone wafts that tantalizing scent of power our way, it's the most natural response to follow the scent and make a grab for it. The problem with that is, we as a nation don't want the natural reaction. The natural reaction has led to the most attrocious acts in history. War is, at its root, a natural reaction. Bill Clinton was a living natural reaction during his term of office. So was Richard Nixon. Power grabs, lobbyism, partisanship, pork barrel spending, debts--all natural reactions. So, whatever happened to the days when amazing men and women went to Washington, served one or two terms, made differences, made changes, represented their people, and fought for principle? What happened to the people who would really effect change? What happened to the public servants who went in to Washington, eschewed the natural reaction and stepped down or away from their pedestals? Where have they gone? The career track politician has swallowed them up. A very famous Utah Senator once ran on the campaign slogan that three terms from the incumbent Senator were too many years for any politician. That 18 years was just too much time to languish on the Potomac; that, with the passage of time, this senator had lost touch with his constituency. 30+ years later and you'd never hear Orrin Hatch make the same argument today. He's got seniority, he's got pull, he's got sway, he can make a difference with the connections and power he's gathered together. And I can't dispute that. The man is right. And he's generally done an excellent job in the Senate. But he's gonna have at least 36 years in the Senate before he might even leave office. Twice as much as the senator he replaced--Frank Moss. Has Orrin lost touch with his constituents? I don't know. But by his logic, he has. At the end of the day, I try to keep myself educated, up to date with the issues, and try and make decisions according to my own beliefs and convictions. To join one of the "teams" (ironically the Red or the Blue) and just follow the party line because that's what the team believes makes me sad. And I worry so much that our nation has sharply divided itself into teams, drawing a line in the sand with issue after issue. Stand on one side and you're OK. Stand on the other side, and you're the enemy. Worse, many times, the teams don't determine their side of the issue until they find out what the "other" guys think about it. Reactionary politics is a dangerous game. It leads to extremism in both policy and decision-making. Think I'm a radical? Think I'm too wishy-washy to dive into the "game?" Listen to what George Washington had to say at his farewell speech in 1796: "[Political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests. "However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion." And so, in this season of politicking, vote-garnering, stumping, speaking, and debates, it's more important than ever that we REALLY study the candidates and their views, and vote with our consciences and a healthy dose of reason. Don't just listen to your party. Don't ignore the "other" guy. Please study, please vote, please make the right choice. What that choice is, I won't tell you. That's one of the beauties of Democracy. So, there you have it, one of my rare serious posts. But until then, you can count on me lampooning both sides of the aisle. If nothing else, political satire will always enjoy a special place in my heart.