Don't Fall for Simple Slogans

"Throw the bums out" may sound good, but it's not an effective strategy to fix what's wrong with politics.

At the Tea Party in Bel Air, MD, there was only one "infiltrator": a man who tried to shout over the speakers, "Let the people speak!" After about twenty minutes of his shouting, a couple of peace officers had a short talk with him, and he then stood quietly until the open mic session, at which time he did speak. This man was not one of the worrisome liberal infiltrators who had been threatening to crash the party; none of those showed up. He was shouting what everyone there already knew: The Tea Party was the chance for the people to speak. Unfortunately, as is far too common amongst Tea Party attendees, his speech could be summed with four simple words: "Vote for no one!" or perhaps, "Throw the bums out!"

There was a time in this country when 80-percent voter turnout was commonplace, and political activity was viewed as one's civic duty. Now, to get just a 50-percent turnout is almost a miracle (or fraud). Political activity is rare, often reactionary, and viewed as dirty. These Tea Party attendees have told us exactly why: Government has failed the public trust, and it has not seemed to matter which political party is in power. Reckless and unnecessary spending is only the tip of the iceberg. The anger is rightfully and justly directed at government, for government's multiple annoying intrusions into our daily lives.

The EPA has graciously decided that it will allow you to work on your own home if it might contain lead, but if you want to drain that mosquito-breeding depression by the creek in your backyard, then you still need to file a plan and get permission first. Everyone who has built or modified a house in the last thirty years has had to run the rat maze of permits and restrictions. Prior to that time, this was something encountered only in the large cities. A farmer would have laughed in the face of the bureaucrat who told him to get a permit to replace his water heater. The EPA has its important tasks -- but graciously allowing people to work on their own homes should never have been one of them.

Government has failed the public trust, but "Throw the bums out!" and "Vote for no one!" are the pinnacles of political stupidity. So is voting based on political party, as George Washington warned against. The proper action, as the Tea Party attendees seem to have discovered, is to become politically involved. Seek knowledge -- do not wait for it to be delivered unto your video box. Engage your neighbors. Politely express your objections to and demand justifications for the adverse policies of your elected officials. If the officials abuse the public trust and fail to provide justification for, or even tell boldfaced lies about, their policies, then contribute to and elect someone who will uphold your trust.

Politics is clean, pure, and our civic duty. It is the candidates for office and the officeholders who might be dirty, and those are the ones who need to go. In the ideal election, the parties will first work to select the individual from amongst their own candidates who will be most likely and capable of fulfilling the duties of the office and holding the public trust. It is then the responsibility of the parties to present, and everyone to choose between, those final candidates based on the same criteria, regardless of party. For a "perfect" candidate to ever be presented is rare, and sometimes the final choice might be difficult, but these are no reasons to vote for no one.

Unfortunately, we rarely see one of these ideal elections. Many people vote based on party and would choose Satan over Jesus based on whether there is an "R" or "D" beside the name. When one candidate points out legitimate flaws in the other, we mistake it for mud-slinging and punish the better of the two. The electorate has replaced the assessment of a candidate's willingness to uphold the public trust with the assessment of how well a candidate's proposals align with our own wants and desires. We substitute a candidate's personality with the things he or she promises to give us. We focus on one or two issues instead of the big picture. Outside of fulfilling his one big promise, what an elected official is left to do will depend entirely on his personality, view of the office, and willingness to abide by the responsibilities of that office.

Before throwing a bum out, you should make certain he or she really is a bum and the replacement is not Satan. Do not vote for no one because Jesus is not on the ballot, as one of the choices might just be Satan. The lesser of two evils is always the better of two goods...not that Satan could be good.
"Throw the bums out" may sound good, but it's not an effective strategy to fix what's wrong with politics.

At the Tea Party in Bel Air, MD, there was only one "infiltrator": a man who tried to shout over the speakers, "Let the people speak!" After about twenty minutes of his shouting, a couple of peace officers had a short talk with him, and he then stood quietly until the open mic session, at which time he did speak. This man was not one of the worrisome liberal infiltrators who had been threatening to crash the party; none of those showed up. He was shouting what everyone there already knew: The Tea Party was the chance for the people to speak. Unfortunately, as is far too common amongst Tea Party attendees, his speech could be summed with four simple words: "Vote for no one!" or perhaps, "Throw the bums out!"

There was a time in this country when 80-percent voter turnout was commonplace, and political activity was viewed as one's civic duty. Now, to get just a 50-percent turnout is almost a miracle (or fraud). Political activity is rare, often reactionary, and viewed as dirty. These Tea Party attendees have told us exactly why: Government has failed the public trust, and it has not seemed to matter which political party is in power. Reckless and unnecessary spending is only the tip of the iceberg. The anger is rightfully and justly directed at government, for government's multiple annoying intrusions into our daily lives.

The EPA has graciously decided that it will allow you to work on your own home if it might contain lead, but if you want to drain that mosquito-breeding depression by the creek in your backyard, then you still need to file a plan and get permission first. Everyone who has built or modified a house in the last thirty years has had to run the rat maze of permits and restrictions. Prior to that time, this was something encountered only in the large cities. A farmer would have laughed in the face of the bureaucrat who told him to get a permit to replace his water heater. The EPA has its important tasks -- but graciously allowing people to work on their own homes should never have been one of them.

Government has failed the public trust, but "Throw the bums out!" and "Vote for no one!" are the pinnacles of political stupidity. So is voting based on political party, as George Washington warned against. The proper action, as the Tea Party attendees seem to have discovered, is to become politically involved. Seek knowledge -- do not wait for it to be delivered unto your video box. Engage your neighbors. Politely express your objections to and demand justifications for the adverse policies of your elected officials. If the officials abuse the public trust and fail to provide justification for, or even tell boldfaced lies about, their policies, then contribute to and elect someone who will uphold your trust.

Politics is clean, pure, and our civic duty. It is the candidates for office and the officeholders who might be dirty, and those are the ones who need to go. In the ideal election, the parties will first work to select the individual from amongst their own candidates who will be most likely and capable of fulfilling the duties of the office and holding the public trust. It is then the responsibility of the parties to present, and everyone to choose between, those final candidates based on the same criteria, regardless of party. For a "perfect" candidate to ever be presented is rare, and sometimes the final choice might be difficult, but these are no reasons to vote for no one.

Unfortunately, we rarely see one of these ideal elections. Many people vote based on party and would choose Satan over Jesus based on whether there is an "R" or "D" beside the name. When one candidate points out legitimate flaws in the other, we mistake it for mud-slinging and punish the better of the two. The electorate has replaced the assessment of a candidate's willingness to uphold the public trust with the assessment of how well a candidate's proposals align with our own wants and desires. We substitute a candidate's personality with the things he or she promises to give us. We focus on one or two issues instead of the big picture. Outside of fulfilling his one big promise, what an elected official is left to do will depend entirely on his personality, view of the office, and willingness to abide by the responsibilities of that office.

Before throwing a bum out, you should make certain he or she really is a bum and the replacement is not Satan. Do not vote for no one because Jesus is not on the ballot, as one of the choices might just be Satan. The lesser of two evils is always the better of two goods...not that Satan could be good.

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