Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Politics -- What should we do with it?

It's a political season.  Last night there was another debate -- number 18 with a myriad more to come.  I don't watch them, the analysis is often more interesting and revealing.  What is most interesting to read are the fact checkers.  The misstatements are fast and furious.  Are they intentional?  Possibly.  Are the result of ignorance of the facts?  Possibly.

Tonight the President will give his State of the Union Address.  Will it have a political tone to it?  Of course, it's an election year and this is one of the few moments that he has to present his side of things.  

Will everyone lay down their arms and welcome one another in a new bi-partisan fervor that will put the country first?  Hardly.  The right will find things they hate, even if the President re-gifts to them one of their own positions.  Will the left find things to hate?  Of course -- it would be nothing new.

Is governing getting more difficult?  Indeed!

We live in an age of instant communication and analysis.  Opinions sprout long before the facts get analyzed.  Rumors spread and take on a life of their own.  As wonderful as social media is, it has its limitations and drawbacks.

Politics is seen as dirty business, which is unfortunate.  Politics is the way in which a democratic society functions.  It involves organization and sharing of ideas.  But, the system isn't working.  In fact, some reforms have made things worse.  I'll give you an example:  Earmarks.

People hate earmarks, but earmarks help the system work.   Now that we've essentially eliminated them, there are no incentives to get anything done.  All we can do is stonewall and filibuster.  There is little leverage in the system, and thus the system is grinding to a halt.  I have no way of exchanging my support for your venture, because you have nothing to give me in exchange.  I need a bridge, you need money for a new school in the inner-city.  How do we make this work?

Term limits is another reform gone bad.  Because term limits breed inexperience into the system, someone picks up the slack of experience -- lobbyists.  You see, by the time a person has gained enough experience to understand the way the system works, they're term-limited out.  But, they have learned enough to be dangerous outside the system.  Corporations and other entities wanting to influence the system know where to go to influence legislation -- former legislators needing a job.

 Politics isn't a necessary evil, it is the foundation of a free society.  

So, I want to leave this discussion -- or open it up -- with these words on what democracy needs, as posited by Parker Palmer:

Democracy needs and, at its best, breeds people who have minds of their own.  Individual entrepreneurship and personal creativity have given rise to advances in everything from business to technology to the arts.  Independent thinking can also help get the ship of state back on course when ideological conformism leads us astray.  And yet anyone who does not understand that the self is interdependent with others does not understand what it takes to be entrepreneurial, creative, and political, let alone what it means to be human.     [Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, p. 66].  
Think on these things during this political season!

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