Monday, January 03, 2005

‘The Politics of Persuasion’

Perhaps the biggest problem facing our Republic (I use this word intentionally), besides an ignorance of history and a lack of interest in between elections, is the way competing political philosophies are described.

We hear the same things at every election. Most people become interested only when the media and those who run in the elections start pontificating on the issues; “left vs. right,” “liberal vs. conservative,” “Democrat vs. Republican.” Our choices are limited from the very outset. And what these choices claim to be aren’t necessarily true.

This is all part of what we are told is the “democratic process.”

But this process is in place to limit competition and keep the issues contained in simple terms, which can always be divided in the middle by anybody who happens to get elected, “liberal” or “conservative.”

The issues and stands are reduced to the lowest common denominator in every election we hold. Anybody who is not for the Democrat is a “right-wing nutcake” and anybody who does not support the Republican is a “liberal wacko.”

Politicians are never forced to hold onto an ideal or political principle and actually practice it, and voters aren’t challenged to examine the issues in that context. I contend that this is exactly the way those in power want things to be.

Whoever wins… wins, and most everybody ignores the one who wins until the next election. Likewise, the one who wins usually ignores the ones who elected him or her until the next election, unless forced by exposure to equivocate a pressing issue in the middle somewhere in an attempt to pacify those on both sides. The higher the office, the higher the tightrope can be… and the farther the fall.

This sort of thing can be exciting and mindless entertainment at the circus but it can also be poison for a free nation, which requires a bit more thought to be maintained as “free.”

The politicians who manage to play this game well are known as “Moderates,” but are, in fact, people who take no stand at all. As for the voters… they seem to put a higher value on “winning” than they do on the ideals they support when they elect either a Republican or a Democrat, a “liberal” or a “conservative.”

To be sure… most voters know exactly what they are. Ask anyone and they will tell you “I’m a liberal,” or “I’m a conservative” (a growing number claim, “I am a moderate”) Everyone knows whether they are a “Democrat” or a “Republican.” Ask almost any voter to name a “liberal” or “conservative” issue that their candidate has acted decisively on — out of principle — while in office… well, that’s a whole different story.

The chances are very good that if you visit here often, or visit other political blogs and web sites, you are already infinitely better informed than most of your fellow citizens. But, there is simply more to issues of left vs. right than we or most of our fellow citizens are willing to digest. It’s too easy to settle for the black and white.

For me the issues have always emanated from the history I’ve read. Not satisfied with the small amounts of history taught in school, as a child and young adult, I camped out at the library most of the time (yes, a nerd). I read one American History book and one biography after the other, learning everything I could about the Founding Fathers and the circumstances surrounding the beginning of our nation. I read whatever I could that the Founding Fathers wrote themselves. I simply could not get enough of it.

Our Founding Fathers were an amazing group of individuals. In fact, it can certainly be said that there has never been, before or since, a more brilliant collection of people. Although, collectively, they agreed on many basics they didn’t always agree with each other… which makes it more remarkable that our country ever came to be. It’s even more astounding when you consider that they created what they did without the aid of modern communication or any convenient device since invented.

They wrote one quotable and eloquent line after the other with quills when the politicians we have today can’t do so with the aid of a word processor or without marketing gurus. The Founding Fathers took stands, popular or not, and held to them. Politicians today equivocate and “misspeak.” We “parse” what they say.

These days the Founding Fathers are looked upon as childlike people who just wouldn’t understand the way things work in our times. They are denigrated as “slave owners” and simpletons who did not know as much as we do in the age of computers.

But I contend that it is we who have lost our way, our vision… and not the Founding Fathers who had a lack of foresight.

The Revolutionary War and Declaration of Independence are only part of what these incredible people began. Their main achievement came in deciding what form of government to establish afterward. To this end they intentionally decided against a “democracy.” The issue was debated heatedly. To them (and to me) “democracy” was simply the “tyranny of the majority.”

Because most of them believed that the influence of a national government should be limited to only the bare essentials (protection of individual rights and defense), ‘lest it gain further control over the people, or be manipulated by despots (sound familiar?), they created something brand new: A Federal Republic.

You don’t hear about this much anymore… and for good reason: A Federal Republic, if actually practiced, would severely curtail our government’s influence over us, as promoted by the Founding Fathers, and the one thing that both “liberal” and “conservative” candidates for public office absolutely agree on these days is that our government should grow, not be decreased. They believe in control and not “liberty,” whatever their rhetoric on the subject.

Modern-day politicians — even while pontificating about the Founding Fathers — tacitly or outright promote the belief that our Constitution declares we have a “democracy” and that we are much more knowledgeable about solutions regarding government now than the Founding Fathers could possibly have been back in the old days.

Ben Franklin even said, “Now you have your Republic… if you can keep it.” How astute was that line?

These days politicians rely on the art of complicating the obvious and trivializing the momentous. It’s very much the art of “baffling them with bullshit.” But how can a politician present himself as the solution to problems unless he complicates the issues?

The safeguard the Founding Fathers put into place was the Constitution. They intended to keep government small because they knew that once expanded beyond the boundaries they established there would be no holding government back. They may not have known about future mass media but even then they believed that people could be manipulated out of freedoms and liberties with labels like “liberal” and “conservative.”

In illustration, the moment of truth for me came when I first came of voting age. There was a great man who said, “Government IS the problem”… and he was right. He campaigned against a growing government that believed it should be in charge of peoples’ lives, and he preached against the myriad of socialist experiments that had failed the people and grown beyond control. This man gave people like me hope for what our Founding Fathers wanted for this nation.

You may have heard of this man. His name was Ronald Reagan.

I voted for Reagan and promoted his stands so much that people I knew took to calling me “Reagan breath.”

I still believe that Ronald Reagan was a great man, but even the election of this “arch-conservative” politician could not curtail our government, which continued to spiral out of control. Reagan learned that the growth of government for its own sake was a philosophy entrenched in both major political parties. Where he believed that the federal government should be restricted he found that there were many — Republicans and Democrats alike — who believed it should not. Even after Reagan our government was larger by one-third and every un-Constitutional device was still in place.

After Reagan, the issue for me was no longer the one the politicians wanted me to think it was… “left vs. right,” or “Democrat vs. Republican,” or “liberal vs. conservative.” My beliefs came to be defined in several other ways, “Republic vs. Democracy,” “history vs. ignorance,” “common sense vs. obedience,” “liberty vs. control.”

I have no illusions about whether Franklin was right or wrong… we have not been able to keep our Republic. I also doubt our chances at getting our Republic back. It slips away from us a little more each day.

But most voters don’t even know that we ever had a Republic (which can probably best be defined as “competition in government” and no single person having more rights than any group of people… and vice-versa). The difference isn’t taught in our schools and the media ignores the issue.

The two major political parties do nothing but enhance the deception. They count on the ignorance of at least 50.1 percent of the people or the apathy of 49.9 percent… “the tyranny of the majority.”

And… this formula works toward gaining and maintaining control. Although it must be said that it would NOT work were it not for the fact that both major political parties practice it.

There was a time when what is called “liberal” and what is called “conservative” meant the opposite of what they are supposed to mean these days. I believe that now, however, they mean exactly the same thing: Total government control. This new form of government in this country — with those of either purported political persuasion — doesn’t help anyone, doesn't provide additional freedoms, so people can help themselves, or base its practices in the Constitution. It’s main mission is to gain more control over its citizens and further entrench its power.

For instance, when something is described as “bi-partisan”… rest assured it is bad for the people of this country, both liberal and conservative, and good for those in power.

I appeal to those of you who hold the same love of our country and the same appreciation of history as me to study the issue and be even more aware of the ones who call themselves “leaders” today, whether they claim they are “liberal” or “conservative.” A simple reading of quotes from many of the Founding Fathers would do much to open the eyes of those who believe what they hear on television.

It’s always a challenge to ask the right questions of our political leaders in a Constitutional context. They avoid it but it must be addressed. Ultimately, it is OUR responsibility to make them address it… even in between elections.

The “lesser of two evils” philosophy is a cancer on our nation. It is correctly pointed out by many that, with the “lesser of two evils,” we still end up with “evil.”

There may be some difference in the stated positions of each major political party but I don’t usually see them in many of their practices. I see the major power-drunk parties as two giant sledgehammers chipping away at the foundations of our nation’s liberties.

I believe that the only way to gain any control back from government is with competition from other political parties. There just isn’t any other way to force the majors to conform. The two majors are so entrenched in power that they can never be changed for the better from the inside. Liberals have no more chance of changing the Democratic Party for the better than conservatives have of changing the GOP.

But I suggest, to both liberals and conservatives, that the life of our nation is at risk if they do not recognize the problem and work toward arresting its growth.

A good analogy would be the four gas stations at the intersection; if they are all independently owned you will always find more affordable prices at this intersection. But if the same company owns them all (as they do right now)… expect to pay a very high price indeed.

The cloak that covers all issues, ‘“liberal’ vs. ‘conservative,’” is an opiate for the voters, as our nation has slipped from being a “Republic” to a “Democracy” and, after our interlude with “Socialism,” will arrive at “Totalitarianism.”

So who is to blame for the way things are? Is it the leadership in the political parties, the media that deceives the voters or the voters who ignore history and fall for the ruse?

The answer is “YES.”

It is the theory of competition in government that both liberals and conservatives need to explore and talk to others about. Believe in the principles of one philosophy or the other but do not look for them to be practiced in either major party to your satisfaction or with anything resembling conviction.

It isn’t in our Constitution, it was never in our Founding Fathers’ statements and it isn’t in our history that we should be limited to a two-party system. It is this idea that both major political parties fear most of all.

Many are turning to newer parties against the two majors. Liberals are exploring the Green Party, some conservatives are looking into the Constitution Party, and strict Constitutionalists continue to support Libertarian ideals. It is not one viable third-party we need but… several.

There are other political parties as well…

America First Party

Independant American Party

The American Party

Liberals and conservatives, naturally, do not trust each other. But, the biggest mistake that those of either persuasion can make is to believe that there are no patriots on the other side and to allow the political parties to define us instead of their own principles.

I challenge you to affirm your political beliefs by deciding if either major party actually practices what it preaches to you and then look at the platforms of these other parties and decide if their beliefs are closer or not to your own.

What is it that you “win” if neither major party, once elected, practices the philosophies or ideals you voted for them to implement?

It can either be an informed electorate that will decide our future or an ill-informed one. The time to think about this is now and not just before the next election.

We are paying a high price for simple nuances between BOTH major parties and it continues to exact a toll on our foundations.

Do any of these nuances make us “conservative” or “liberal”?

I don’t believe so. Regarding the two majors these terms no longer mean anything at all.

The truth is that if you support either major political party… you are both.


At 6:47 PM, Blogger Cranky Liberal said...

This is fantastic and exactly this kind of conclusion I have come to myself. WHile I tend to vote on the other side than you, it isn't because I feel a strong allegience to that particular party - if anything I'm disapointed over and over again by many of their stands. There needs to be other options, real options, so that people who are more alike than different can let their voice be heard. Who knows, maybe this whole blogging thing will finally allow us to throw off the shackles of the Pary System. It's a fantasy but then again so was winning a war against the mightiest COlonial power and starting this Republic.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Kerry R. Fox said...

"WHile I tend to vote on the other side than you..."

Strange... many conservatives stop by this page and assume that I am on the other side from them...:-)

"It's a fantasy but then again so was winning a war against the mightiest COlonial power and starting this Republic."

Yes. Actually, it was more like a "miracle" the way things occurred. No less than a miracle is required now but... I believe in them.

It's not people that need to be manipulated, it's minds that need to be changed. This is always in the realm of possibility.

At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

*No Blogger Account*

Excellent post! Excellent points presented lucidly.

The need for a viable 3rd (and 4th, etc.) party is great but this two party system is so strong it seems invincible (at least for many years to come) UNLESS people start opening their eyes and start seeing where we're heading. It'll take something DRAMATIC for that to happen.

Keep up the great writing and thinking.


At 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right on the money. However, until this 2 party mentality is broken, there's no chance. Too many folks sitting on their asses whining about the lesser of two evils don't have the nuts to move from the plantation... and that's on both sides!


At 1:56 PM, Blogger Dave said...

Like so many other things, our political system has become what it was never meant to be. I think the two major parties would have to be completely dismantled for there to be any chance of success of any third party. I've become completely disgusted with the Democrat party, but what am I to do? Years ago I was a very active Democrat. I became burnt out and disillusioned, and for a bunch of years I sat on the sidelines. When I heard about Wes Clark, I joined the movement to draft him as a candidate. I didn't care what party he'd join, I thought he'd make a great leader. I guess we need great leaders to step forward and choose a party which is not one of the two major parties. I don't see that happening at all. The parties -- the third parties, I mean -- are there and they choose their candidates. But they've got nothing, nothing for people to really get excited about. Just platforms of issues and disagreement with the establishment. Where is the next Adams or Jefferson and which party would they join?

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Kerry R. Fox said...

"Where is the next Adams or Jefferson and which party would they join?"

Who knows? But I certainly enjoy that question and I agree with you that real leaders need to abandon the established parties or that an unknown and effective leader needs to emerge from among the third parties.

As to your question I pose a guess that Adams would be in the Constitution Party and Jefferson would be with the Libertarians, JMHO.

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Steve said...

I read this post this morning, and it scared the hell out of me.

I pondered it all day, and then I read yours now and it made me feel better. One key thing the Bush Diaries latest post states is the level of fear from our old freedoms that we are "losing". A strict two party system feeds those fears because of the polarity of the latest polls. One thing I fear in having multible parties is someone representing the majority that only got 30% of the vote. How good that fly when 70% would be against the winner? This then may conflict with what the founding fathers put forth in restricting big government because a bigger government would be what was needed to reign in the power, which is what no one really wants. Even leftists, like the one I pointed out in the Bush Diaries blog, in our country do not want a bigger government when it comes to losing freedoms. I am a conservative somewhat constitutionlist and I get so freaked out by the opinions of the left but if I vote to stay the course and my leaders stay the course of supporting our constitution then I need not worry.... right?

My Blog:

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Kerry R. Fox said...

"I am a conservative somewhat constitutionlist and I get so freaked out by the opinions of the left but if I vote to stay the course and my leaders stay the course of supporting our constitution then I need not worry.... right?"

If that's what they were doing. But, it's not.

One item the Bush people are pushing (buried inside another initiative) will require every child in the country to submit to a "psychological exam" by local officials. Parents will have no say in the matter and can be penalized for non-compliance. The implications are ominous.

I dare say that something of this magnitude is not in any way "Constitutional." This is but one example of a government out of control.

If the course stays as it is and you aren't concerned about a government that has more and more control over increasing aspects of your life... no need to worry. For that matter, you don't even need to be "somewhat Constitutionalist" as that document will not matter to your "leaders."

As for a "plurality-elected" government, as you describe about what you fear... this is exactly what the Founding Fathers wanted, so as to keep any segment of the population from gaining control over the others. The plan was submitted in the context that any party in power would be responsible for safeguarding the Constitution. But, as we've learned over the years these principles are not in the best interests of some.

Thomas Jefferson had his concerns about unchecked government growth and the dangers it presented...

"At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account."

Thomas Jefferson, letter to Monsieur A. Coray, Oct 31, 1823

What we have now is much much less than what the Founding Fathers intended. A "democracy" works toward keeping people pacified and aloof, while the government is increasingly more brazen.

At 11:20 AM, Blogger SheaNC said...

Just out of curiosity, though: if not democracy, then what? People in general don't seem responsible enough for anarchy.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Ken Grandlund said...

A very thoughtful post. I agree with many of your basic thoughts regarding the corruption of the political process and the deceitfulness of the major political parties. I have written some similar essays that might interest you at
Hope you get a chance to stop by.


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