Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Fool's Game

Every effort, every movement, every song, every dance must have a beginning. There is little in our physical world that is perpetual, as without beginning or ending. A finite world has finite stuff. So although I consider yesterday’s TEA parties to have been a colossal waste of time, the protest that was the theme has been looking for a voice for a very long time; it had to start somewhere. I have to say, however, that not many politicians took notice, and even fewer Democrats bothered to show at all. And why would they? It was the Democratic majority in the Congress that pushed through an $800 billion “stimulus” package that few bothered to read, and fewer still really understood. That “stimulus”, I think, is at the heart of the protest.

Here’s the thing, though. Politicians do not typically pay attention to protests, and Democrats have such a commanding majority in the Congress that they will spend no time worrying about a few Republicans in the streets scattered across the country. Politicians do not worry much about anything unless or until their political advisors tell them to worry, and that anxiety is directly related to chances for re-election. Put THAT in jeopardy, and notice the attention given such as in Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-AR, starting up her re-election campaign two years before Election Day. Obama and Hillary started a new trend with the last election, so I guess now we’re stuck with two-year-long, perpetual political campaigns.

It is noteworthy that Sen. Lincoln’s last go-round was against a Republican whom she outspent by millions … and she won re-election by the skin of her teeth. She spent millions; he spent a few thousand. Now she is cranking up her re-election machine even earlier to gather even more money, and there is no indication that she really understands the collective mind of the electorate she purports to represent. What she does know is that the last election was a bit too close for comfort, so she seems to believe that campaigning longer and making promises for her NEXT term (as opposed to staying on top of THIS term’s business) is all it will take to keep her job. The point? Voters got her attention four years ago, and she has not yet forgotten.

The apparent evidence in this particular case has not been lost on Sen. Lincoln, and it will likely be that she will vote these last two years of this term much more conservatively than she has voted in the previous four. She and her political advisors know well the short attention span of voters. Now that voters are sufficiently angry and she having won her last election by a very narrow margin, expect her to do a lot more schmoozing. Voters and circumstances have her undivided attention, and it is clear she is afraid.

Though I am not excited about the prospects of perpetual campaigns, I like the idea that a politician would know that he or she will need at least two years to convince me they are worth keeping and are worthy of the job. What I will certainly not like is the reality that these politicians and their advisors will spend these two years “marketing” their product. They will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to keep the job and not enough time actually doing the job. And this, dear reader, is the state of American politics. It is not about public policy or governing; it is about re-elections.

Beyond the money spent for re-elections, consider the federal budget. We’re now in the trillions … with a T! My guess is that most normal people cannot count that high, or comprehend that number. And all that money has to come from somewhere. And let’s be reasonable: you can screw around with wealthy people for only so long. Heck, even their money has limits. Then you and I, middle America, will be “asked” (though they never really seem to ask, do they?) to give it up for the good of the country. Only we will discovered that it is not the country, per se, more than it is the bloated government that is now completely out of control, and a budget that is geared toward getting one party or the other re-elected. “For the good of the country”, my eye. I’m not falling for it any longer, but I am not going to waste my time walking the streets or carrying signs. Nor should you.

I am not advocating term limits, though I would not be completely opposed. Term limits, however, will require constitutional amendments, and that takes a lot of time. Besides, there is a much easier way. Democrat or Republican, federal or state, no incumbents are re-elected. Then, and only then, will the Congress finally notice our protests. Clearly, there is no other way. We can march in the streets all we want but until these politicians feel threatened in their own job security, they will not care or respond. They don’t have to because of voter complacency. And as long as voters willingly roll over for the obligatory tummy scratch from a condescending politician, nothing will change except, perhaps, the tension on the leash.

Be very careful and aware, America. Our freedom is on the line, and we’re being played for fools.

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