An article was posted this week that highlights a lot of what I've been thinking lately listening to local NH political scenes.
The article found HERE, discusses the worst of American politics and sadly we here in NH on a state level aren't that much better.
Yesterday, a person asked me what I thought of "Stephen Colbert's sister's" chances of winning "that congressional seat she is running for." I responded that they were decent because her likely opponent (former Gov. Mark Sanford had yet to win his runoff) has a lot of baggage. I paused, then asked why this person cared. "Because I like Stephen Colbert and dislike people that cheat on their wives."
Fair enough, I suppose. But as I reflected on the comment, it dawned on me that despite the fact that following politics is literally my job, I knew nothing — and I mean nothing — about Stephen Colbert's sister other than that she is Stephen Colbert's sister and the Democratic nominee in the race to represent South Carolina's 1st Congressional District in the House.
In NH I've spoken with too many people who aren't far from what this author is speaking about. They know a politician's name and possibly someone more well known that politician is somehow connected with and they know there is a D or an R next to their name. Beyond that they don't know a single thing about where they stand on issues.
We have people falling into a few different groupings.
1) There are those who cannot see past the party. If you have a D or R next to your name they'll support you over the other party or oppose you over the other party without knowing anything about you or your views. Its one thing to side with a party more often then the other, after all we don't all think alike and I have yet to meet the thinking person who honestly agrees with one party 100%of the time.
A state rep I know had this happen to him. He's a new state rep and a very personable person so while in the state house he was talking to a few others he happened to know who happened to be from the other party. Two senior state reps from his town pulled him aside and informed him he shouldn't be seen speaking with the "enemy".
I'm sorry but if that's the way you view politics then you aren't worthy to be in office. Look at Reagan, he was one of the greatest presidents of our lifetimes, if not the greatest in our lifetimes. He stood strong for what he believed in and strongly defended Republican ideas but he meet one on one with Democrats and tried working with them. He even gave into things they wanted in return for getting what he wanted. It's called compromise. You cannot expect the other side to give up everything and you having to give up nothing in return. Reality doesn't work that way.
2) The negative attackers are the next group. These are people who know their own views would never stand up on their own so all they can do is attack those opposing them, usually on a personal level. The article above sites a perfect example how that race has highlighted a man who "cheats on his wife" but that doesn't say anything about either person's politics.
Infidelity is the attack I find most interesting because both sides use it against the other side but choose to ignore holding their own to the same standards. In South Carolina, how many of the people siding with Colbert's sister because the other "cheats on his wife" were supporters of Bill Clinton? And how many people who see no problem with Sanford, did have a problem with Clinton?
People are not perfect. If you dig deep enough I doubt there is a family in America that doesn't have some level of personal problems that could be used to attack a member running for office. Personal problems do not equate to how a person will do in a public office and should not be a disqualification, but if you do choose to use it as a disqualifier then be honest with yourself and hold all political parties to the same standards.
For the record, I have never had a problem with Clinton's affairs. I did however have a problem with the fact he was having Monica do her thing while on the phone with heads of state discussing national security matters.
3) Uninformed voters. These are the enablers who feed the politicians and these are people politicians rely on to retain power. I've meet people over the years who have supported one candidate over another because they found them attractive, because they have a (fill in the ethnicity) sounding name, because they've heard their name before, or as in the case above they are connected in some way to someone else that the voter likes.
For all you know, you could be voting for someone who's views are polar opposite to your own.
These are also the people who usually start listening to sound bytes a week before any election and in most cases only listen to the sound bytes of the side they are already leaning toward without hearing the counter arguments.
So how do we change this?
I'm unable to find the link but I was watching an interesting video of a former Democrat Comedian turned Republican who was able to sum it up nicely.
As you look at history, people were always driven to be better. If you weren't getting better, you'd die. Cavemen unable to catch food would starve and die. Early settlers unable to build decent shelters would freeze and die. Early man who didn't understand proper sanitation would get sick and die.
Eventually as history changed, it became safer. Man didn't need to figure out how to gather food to survive. You could get a house without ever having to learn how to drive a nail or know anything about basic construction. Science has found cures for many illnesses that would kill thousands in earlier times.
As people became safer in their everyday lives, government had more time. The leaders no longer had to work to organize hunts for food or build sanitation to assure people would have clean water and ways to get human waste out of the towns. Leaders had to find new ways to justify their existence. At first they helped people who struggled but eventually we grew to where even those at the bottom live comfortably in America. People have food, homes and medical treatment and they don't even have to find any way to pay for any of these.
There's no longer a driving force to be better or die. When it came time to pick a political view, you had the view that would keep you alive and drive you to being better or you'd have the view that wouldn't and you die.
Once you eliminate "the better", there is no longer anything wrong with the other viewpoint. There's no consequence for being wrong.
Even now with government spending there's no consequence. Government debt continues to pile but to what extent? We just keep upping the limit. Honestly what is different in your personal life today vs when the national debt was half what it is now, or when it was a quarter of what it is today? When politicians push programs claiming they wont impact the debt but instead we see trillions in new debt, no one dies... no one suffers... no one feels anything different in their personal lives.
When a government program creates new problems, the problems today aren't like they were a couple generations ago. People don't die in the streets because there are government safety needs that give you food, housing and everything you need. There is no real consequence.
Under Obama we have more people on food stamps then ever before in history but because they eat well and really aren't suffering the way early Americans who couldn't find food would have so the drive to be better isn't the same.
The political view to punish those who do better (higher taxes) and reward those who fail is no longer the view that leads people to death so there is no longer a right and wrong.
That's not to say we should let people die in the streets but we need to get back to seeing that being better and striving to be better isn't a bad thing, it's the right thing.
If anyone if familiar with the comedian who I'm summarizing here, please post his name or a link to the video.