I know you are, but what am I?
How many of us remember that retort, that reflexive self-defense, when someone -- friend or foe -- derided you on the playground? On the playground of politics there’s a lot of name-calling and the attaching of labels to people to describe their sympathies, or leanings, or to simply “put them down.”
Is it really necessary? Is it helpful, let alone in good taste in any way, shape or form? Questionably, though some would say it’s helpful for telling the good guys from the bad guys. Which are which? Depends upon which side you favor.
I’ll tell you what you can call me, and you should be impressed. Why? Because I’m a revolutionary. I’m one of those determined to try and set America right again. I’m one of the growing vanguards of American voters who refuse to put up with out-of-control and out-of-favor Democrats and Republicans any longer.
I’m a political Independent and, today, that makes me a revolutionary. Today, my Independent compatriots and I outnumber either the Democrats or Republicans; we are a plurality of the American voting public. We’re “king of the hill,” though admittedly we don’t recognize it yet, and you can be damned sure the others aren’t going to encourage us to think about that.
Be impressed. But more important, think about what I just told you: Independents represent the potential for political change. And by that I mean a different philosophy of how government needs to approach governing resulting in a different outcome.
What do I mean by “set America right again?” I mean reverse the policies and practices that fuel the overwhelming public perception that America is headed in the wrong direction; that America is on the wrong track. Not to mention the generally expressed belief that we can’t trust our government to do the right thing … at least most of the time. Nor to mention the growing perception that government really doesn’t govern for most of the people, at least most of the time.
The law of large numbers, the wisdom of crowds here, tells us that Uncle Sam must have gone deaf, or he simply isn’t listening to us. And in the end, as you know, he’s responsible to us. Now that’s not being naive, folks, that’s simply keeping in mind the rules of the democratic game.
This is simply unacceptable -- it’s a revolting situation. Then why don’t our elected representatives do something about it? Because today they’re a part of the problem and few, if any, seem interested in being part of any solution. Why not? Political suicide, that’s why not.
In plain-speak, increasingly ideological politics has created the problem, and it is responsible for perpetuating it. This seems to be why more and more Americans are becoming dissatisfied with our two-party system. That’s why so many, like me, have turned to revolution to express our displeasure. We disavow, we revolt against any attachment to the two parties when registering to vote.
Well, you might say, that’s not the same thing as becoming a revolutionary -- just because you don’t want to publicly express any support for the two parties. Well, then, I’d reply, just what would you call the exodus from the two parties over the past 25 to 30 years?
Does it represent a basic change or movement in the ideological profile of America? Are we becoming more liberal, moderate or conservative? No, the numbers deny this. We Americans are just about as evenly divided today in this regard as we were 25 to 30 years ago.
If this is the case, what’s causing this “exodus?” Where is everybody heading? Is this just a regional phenomenon? No, it’s a nationwide happening. So, what’s going on here if it’s not a congregating of the disenchanted -- not a prelude to a revolution in the making?
Well, you say, it’s probably just a personal expression of rejection of the parties insofar as continuing to represent your feelings about government. An attempt to “let your party know you aren’t happy with outcomes.” OK, I agree.
But he or she did this any number of years ago now, and is still “expressing unhappiness” by registering as an Independent. Apparently, from a perspective, nothing has changed within the party to convince him or her to resume support of it; government continues to be out of control and out of favor.
Here is the irony of this situation: We Independents continue to vote for the two parties, at least most of us, most of the time. That makes us what the political status quo calls “leaners.” Now tell me that makes a lot of sense.
We don’t individually or collectively support them, but we vote for them anyway. Ironical as that may be, there is a rational explanation here. We may be independent of party affiliation, but we are not independent of ideology, at least most of us aren’t. We tend to be, to some degree, conservative to liberal in our political preferences.
Most of us are probably somewhat moderate in this regard. If we weren’t, you’d see us drifting off toward the more extreme ideological options available. This isn’t happening. We continue hanging around an Independent political street corner, waiting to see which of the two choices we don’t approve of offers us the least worse political option come election time and then take it for that one time. What a way to run a railroad, not to mention a democracy!
We vote for the same old out of control and out of favor political duopoly for the simple reason that we don’t, practically speaking, have a choice. They represent the only game in town come election time. And folks, that’s exactly how they want to keep it. It’s their way or the highway. They load the dice, they make the rules about allowing competition into the game, and to date have been pretty successful in closing the door to potential competitors. Oh, yes, there are third parties, and some do vote them, but everyone knows none of today’s can challenge in any threatening way.
So given all this, is it any wonder that the idea (take action) and goal (positive change) of revolution is called for? How else is change going to occur, change that will set America right once again? We’ve seen what the duopoly produces: politics for politics sake, not primarily for directing our country.
That’s not going to get the job done. We’ve experienced the occasional individual who shouts “change” from the rooftops. We vote him in but little or nothing happens. Today’s model of politics defeats any serious attempt at change.
In most cases, when politicians say “change,” all they really mean is switching from the opposition’s policies to their own. That’s not change. That’s business as usual. But that’s all they know how to do. To a large extent, they’re prisoners of the system they are a part of.
We need a new paradigm, a new political pattern for making government work, and it’s pretty far from the ideological “politics as usual” we experience today.
We need a change, meaning a different way of addressing the issues that government is supposed to not only address but resolve to the satisfaction of at least most of the people. How many of you believe this is happening? No doubt, some do. But “some of us,” some minority who either favors present policies or benefits from them isn’t authorized to have the final say about how government performs for all of us. That’s a task for the ballot box.
It’s not the system, it’s the parties; it’s excessively ideological politics. We need a change.
Thomas Richard Harry is the author of Boom! A Revolting Situation: The Failure Of Ideological Politics And The Disappointment Of Ideological Government.