Lies, Compromise, and Reptiles
The hills are filled with the stench of elections. Voter drives, primaries, and political smears -- oh, how they tease my nostrils like a pan of warm sticky buns! Months of black eyes and hurt feelings will culminate in the next installment of our sacred electoral process. To the winners, there's a mandate for action -- to the losers, a call for compromise. Even the man who's traded a pack of smokes for a trip to the polls knows this is a high-stakes game. That man has spoken. Elections have consequences.
The United States doesn't enjoy true universal suffrage. The growth of government has spawned demands for unfettered voting rights, ensuring every faction a share of the federal largesse. Our shortsighted engorgement has consequences for those without representation. Future generations, with no current access to the ballot box, are saddled with debt obligations from today's excessive spending.
Access to this wealth and influence becomes a necessity for competing corporations and advocacy groups. Attempts at campaign finance reform like the McCain-Feingold Act have produced new regulatory exploits and restrictions on freedom of speech, but have done nothing to address the underlying problem.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the total cost of the 2008 federal elections was $5,285,680,883. That's an obscene figure, and it exposes a great threat to our republic. Our nation has consolidated most of the revenue and power in Washington, creating a high-stakes protection racket. Many large donors contribute equal funds to competing candidates in order to hedge their bets and avoid regulatory punishment. Those with access are able to use political allies to eliminate marginal competitors through legislation or deny newcomers market entry.
Even the average citizen takes notice. In The Law, Frederic Bastiat explains, "Thus, since everyone uses the law for his own profit, we also would like to use the law for our own profit." Individuals aren't going to sit idly by while others partake in the spoils of government. As the public trough fills higher, new feeders emerge, while the feds seek to expand their share. We yield rights and responsibilities and pledge unwavering loyalty to politicians in the hopes that one day our party may decide who gets the slop and how much. Confident in the righteousness of our leaders, we're poised to squeal and squabble with political enemies until the end of the republic.
At "great" moments in our history, we've been able to abandon partisanship for progress. The scene always plays out in a similar manner. In the distance, a white horse carries a valiant herald through a cloud of dust. This time he cries, "It's corporate money! It's special interest! It's every politician but me! We must have reform!" Each time our elder statesmen tell us that serious and responsible individuals should reach across the vast gulf of our differences for the good of the nation.
McCain-Feingold was touted as a victory of bipartisan compromise in Washington, but was little more than a regulatory mirage. It targeted only some types of spending and advocacy, violated the First Amendment, and to what end? We have the usual window dressing of "safety and security," more misdirection, more regulation, and no substantive gains in freedom. Thirty-eight-thousand-dollar-per-plate fundraisers? Still got 'em. Large donations and unreliable disclosure through bundling? Still got 'em.
In his 2010 State of the Union address, the president was critical of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC. "I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities." The last time I checked, candidates from both major parties gladly accepted donations from "America's most powerful interests," and seem to have no compunctions about continuing the practice. The problem isn't the donors, and it isn't even the politicians who grant access to the wealthy elite. It is the federal government trust, and its ladies in waiting across the spectrum of industry, which is choking the life out of our electoral process.
Amidst the budget debate in April, Nancy Pelosi moaned that "elections shouldn't matter as much as they do," and she's absolutely right -- for reasons we should oppose. She envisions a world in which elections produce interchangeable parts that don't interrupt the ambitions of power in Washington. We shouldn't wish for a future where political parties only bicker about the methods for achieving statism. Later generations will endure the aftermath of leaders who cast aside principle in order to "get things done."
How can there be compromise in a struggle between small government and big government, between freedom and servitude? If a portion of freedom is to be surrendered for compromise, then a handful of compromise sees freedom's complete destruction. In this reality turned inside-out, principle is damned as obstruction and expanding government is sage and responsible.
Bastiat examines the role of the state and the effect on voting rights:
If law were restricted to protecting all persons, all liberties, and all properties; if law were nothing more than the organized combination of the individual's right to self defense; if law were the obstacle, the check, the punisher of all oppression and plunder -- is it likely that we citizens would then argue much on the extent of the franchise?
Our national government should limit its role to protecting liberties, rather than promoting agendas. In a federal world with less at stake, who donates, who serves, and even who votes becomes of less importance. We need local rule, with residents focused more on local spending, community issues, and less on Washington masters.
There is nothing wrong with our country's people. Our political system is not broken, nor did brinksmanship lead us here. The size and scope of our government is a contagion that infects and paralyzes the citizens of our nation. The electoral process is one of many casualties, but will be sickened, not saved, through legislative compromise.
Now is the time to stand on principle, to turn a deaf ear to insults and ridicule. To vanguard individual rights means we must dismantle the federal cash consolidation. Change will occur without wide support of the mainstream media, who are enchanted by the celebrity and pageantry on Capitol Hill. We can't sit on the sidelines, swilling beers, cheering for our party, and expect the Washington culture to cannibalize itself through regulation. It is asking the alligators and crocodiles to drain the swamp.