Politics as Usual
Already, the Fall election season has started in Clallam County. Signs have appeared on strategically located lots, and the candidates are starting to do the pro-forma and obligatory speaking engagements. Everything is set to repeat the processes that have resulted in the problems we find ourselves in today.
Politics as usual.
At the various business and civic groups around Port Angeles, the candidates will “debate” issues. But not really. Real debates, where the participants staked out a specific position, and then took turns pointing out the flaws and problems with the other’s points of view, are rarely seen in the political circuits anymore. No candidate wants to say anything controversial, for fear of losing a vote.
The candidates will drone on about how THEY are the “agents of change”, how THEY have the secret to solving the unemployment problems, and how much “integrity” and “honesty” each possesses. Very little new will be said. It is almost as if one could put on a video of a campaign forum, and just watch the same thing, anywhere.
Politics as usual.
And, with each election cycle come the mailers. In today’s world, emails are sent out and Facebook pages “shared”, promoting one candidate or another. But first, the appeal for money. If you’re registered with a political party, you are subjected to a barrage of colorful brochures that ask for donations. The messaging usually involves scare tactics, which, of course, the party and its’ candidates will stop or solve, if you will send them money.
The two dominant political parties have huge organizations with huge budgets. In 2012, for just the Presidential election, the two parties each raised and spent close to $1 Billion! The last Washington Governor’s race cost more than $46 million. Most of the money is spent on media for advertising. Think of all the various races each election cycle. From School Boards, Fire Districts, City Council, State Representatives, and up. Ad time on TV and radio. Ad space in magazines and newspapers. Print shops making those colorful brochures, lawn signs and billboards. The media companies love election time! It’s big business!
Politics, as usual.
But, it doesn’t stop there, of course. No one really thinks these candidates and politicians come up with those great sounding speeches, slogans and policies themselves. Another big industry involved in our political system is “public relations”. Spin Doctors. Ad men. Media specialists. Policy placement professionals. Speech writers. Research consultants. Image consultants. Lawyers. Private detectives. The list is long.
These days, candidates often have specialists who do extensive research on the voters to determine what their “hot button” issues are. What topics to speak about and which to avoid. What clothes their clients should wear, hairstyles and even what hand motions they should use, to be the most appealing to voters. They hold extensive practice sessions to rehearse phrases and body language, video tape the sessions, and then review them to refine their smiles and other gestures.
Yes, most of us have become dissatisfied with the “machine” politics has become. The big money machine of State, Federal and National politics is certainly different than the campaigns held in Port Angeles. But the disgust, dissatisfaction, distrust and frustration created by big money machine politics spills over into the small towns. Like the bigger races, even in small towns, it is mostly about getting elected.
Politics, as usual.
We DO have a choice. The “machine” exists because enough of us play along. Or don’t play at all. Not participating in the electoral process only ensures the whole mess just keeps rolling along. Cynically, there are some who actively work to drive voters away, knowing they can split the remaining votes, and win the office. Do we stay silent, turn our backs on the system, and just hope it goes away? That it will change for the better, just because we want it to?
It isn’t enough to sit passively in a candidates’ forum, and to let them waste our time with rehearsed “talking points”. It isn’t enough to let them evade answering questions with non-committal responses. We can’t assume that whatever the candidate is telling us is actually true.
We have to accept the responsibility of being part of a neighborhood. Of being part of a town. Of being part of a community. Just as we keep our yards clean, or grass mowed and house in reasonable repair, to “be a good neighbor”. Just as we would call the ambulance for an injured kid in the street, or the fire department if our neighbors’ house were on fire, or the police if we saw burglars prowling the neighborhood.
Similarly, we can’t just sit back, and allow our neighborhoods to be destroyed by elected representatives too lazy, or too corrupt to do the jobs they themselves sought. These are OUR neighborhoods, homes for OUR families, and their futures.
Again, the phrase “We have the community we create, and the government we allow.” No one else can take our place in our community. No one else can cast our vote.
Next time: “The Cult of the Individual”.