Posted in The Inter-Rationale
There’s a wonderful spiritual statement about how we focus our attentions: "what you resist, persists." A corollary to this, and the basis of many self-help and other improvement programs, expresses the obverse: since everything material began as a thought, what you focus on now, with all your heart and mind, becomes your future reality.
I believe this principle also applies to political action, and helps explain the basic muddle in which many voters find themselves going into yet another Presidential election involving far less than perfect candidates: very few people are looking forward to November as a time to affirm their beliefs and values. For a large percentage of would-be voters, there is (once again?) only a choice between what they see as a "barely acceptable" candidate and an inherently "evil" one. (Note: I acknowledge that this condition is not universal, and there are some who truly believe in their Republican or Democrat standard-bearer; this essay is addressed to those for whom that allegiance is not so fervent.)
For some voters, the thought of a second term for incumbent President Barack Hussein Obama (they often insist on including that full name, for various reasons) is as horrific as witnessing the end of humanity from Armageddon, and some even compare the two eventualities as such. These people are convinced that another Obama term means further globalization of empire, more restrictions on personal liberties, perhaps even the end of the American republic as we know it. They will therefore reluctantly slog to the polls on November 5th to cast their ballots for Mitt Romney—despite their concerns about his repeated gaffes, inappropriate remarks and foot-in-mouth declarations, all of which might indicate his unsuitability for the job.
The supreme irony is, there are almost as many folks who will vote for the incumbent Democrat, Obama, while facing this same level of reluctance. They have seen how the President’s actual policies have fallen well short of his campaign promises in many ways, especially in the realms of foreign policy, civil liberties and adherence to the Constitutional limits of his office, as dictated by the separation of powers inherent in that document. (Some are also concerned about continued interventions overseas, whether via direct troop invasions or through more subtle measures, such as drone-bombings.)
However, they are also terrified of a Romney victory, which they see as heralding a social-conservative wave of anti-liberty measures: the outlawing of gay marriage; an end to abortion (and maybe contraception?) rights; and further expansions of oppression in general, both domestic and overseas. As a result, these sad-faced people will also trudge to the ballot-box on November 5th (perhaps holding their noses?), to cast votes intended to keep Barack Obama on the throne, at least for another four years.
If reality holds, however, the result of either of these "lesser evil" candidates being elected will be roughly the same: larger government, more interventions abroad, higher spending on behalf of the corporate sector, and more stringent restrictions on American liberty—both at home and abroad. Neither man has shown much indication of real "change" in these directions, as the campaign has mostly been fought over peripheral issues like birth certificates and tax returns, instead of real fiscal policy reform and an end to starting wars and expanding colonial empires.
A common complaint over the last several elections points at the real paucity of high-quality candidates for higher office, from President to the levels of Congress, and often even farther down the scale. I would submit that at least a part of the problem stems from focusing on what people don’t want, and the effort to avoid that, rather than seeing possibilities of something truly desired and valued, and striving to achieve it. In the same way that it works in spiritual practice, "what you resist, persists" seems to be the rule here as well. (Another maxim might be the definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.")
Instead of seeking out a different route, and embracing what really is the dream, too many voters are allowing fear of a perceived worse condition occurring to herd them into supporting a "less bad" option, and mediocrity (rather than excellence) has become the result. (Some critics of the present system even refer to the Democrats and Republicans as two "wings" of a single duopoly cartel, which they label as "the War Party.")
Oddly enough, though, there are actually three other candidates who will be on a significant number of ballots, have party designations of their own, and might be worthy of your vote in November, instead of the two front-runners. Two of them, however, although they do represent different perspectives, would both advocate using government force to effect their specific agendas. As James Peron noted in a recent Huffington Post article, "If you really want a government big enough to control the economy, but doesn't bust clinics that sell pot to cancer patients, then vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party." He also mentions the other candidate, Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode, who might appeal to those who’d uphold most of the Constitution, but (again in Peron’s words) "honestly prefer to live in a theocratic state." In both cases, there are still as many drawbacks for many voters on either side of the so-called "political spectrum."
A third candidate for President in 2012 might represent the best of both worlds. This contender (already on the ballot in 48 states plus the District of Columbia, having been blocked by Republicans and minutia in both Michigan and Oklahoma) is all of the following: pro-civil liberties (including support of both gay marriage and abortion rights); pro-peace, and against foreign intervention (seeking to end, not phase out current wars, and not start more new ones); and strongly in favor of adherence to the Constitutional restraints on the Executive Branch. He’s also already presented his own plan to balance the budget, and eliminate the national debt—not in 2050, but in 2013!
That candidate is former New Mexico Governor and current Libertarian Party Presidential nominee Gary Johnson. His two terms as a state governor (in traditionally blue-state Democrat territory) included over 750 vetoes of potential spending legislation, of which only two were then overturned by the Democrat-dominated legislature; this was more vetoes than all the other 49 state governors issued, combined.
In all but a few of these cases, the legislature had overwhelmingly passed the bills, so that upholding those vetoes required Johnson to lobby them not to overturn him. According to his later statements, in most instances all he had to do was get them to read what they had attempted to pass into law.
While Johnson was in office, more jobs were created by the private sector than in any other state at the time. He also delivered a large surplus at the end of his two terms, offsetting the sizable deficit he had inherited upon assuming the duties. He launched is campaign for President in early 2011, seeking the Republican nomination; however, he soon found that his almost Goldwater-like positions were way outside the GOP’s current comfort zone. Realizing his true calling, he joined the Libertarian Party in the fall, and then went on to win the nomination at their May convention in Las Vegas.
Now that his campaign has moved to the national level, Johnson advocates marijuana legalization, as well as "hands-off" policies on a variety of other civil liberties issues. He promotes fiscal restraint at home: a balanced budget in the first term, making major cuts across the board in the size and cost of government. He is a non-interventionist abroad, advocating immediate, not phased, withdrawal from Afghanistan and other fronts, along with an immediate 43 percent cut in "defense" spending.
Johnson also wants to reform the tax system, by first ending the income tax (abolishing the IRS) and then replacing it with a use-tax (on purchases instead of production), while at the same time removing current taxes on manufacturing, distribution and other phases of production, thereby reducing the retail cost of pretty much everything we buy. These are all bold moves, but they represent positions that voters from one or the other of the major-party contingents could seemingly get behind. Meanwhile, none of them should strike the terror that either of the figureheads (Dem or GOP) does, to one or the other of the opposing sides.
Why hasn’t this caught on with the general population? The biggest reason given is the perception that, since Johnson “cannot win” the election, a vote for him is somehow being "wasted," and only choosing that "lesser evil" will positively affect the outcome. (That argument could be dispelled with some practical data—the nature of the Electoral College; the locked-in outcomes in over 40 "red" or "blue" states; the slim chance that even in those "swing states" your vote might determine the result -- but that’s really another essay in itself.) Once again, however, that "fear of the Other" being elected (or reseated) is squashing any rational consideration of a positive step toward restoring liberty and sanity to the process of governance.
Given all this, why, even in the face of these facts, will the vast majority of those who do vote merely make that choice many of us see as "Tweedledum or Tweedledee"? Let’s go back to that spiritual principle again: as long as elections are about opposing who or what you don’t want, you’ll continue to get choices representing varying degrees of what you don’t want ("what you resist, etc."). If you step outside that box, and affirm something else, you might even begin to see some changes happening. If enough people stand up and say NO (or, as some would put it, HELL NO!) to what is being presented as the only option, affirming what they actually believe in, that shift might occur with far less pain than it otherwise would.
It might not be a rapid process. (Then again, it might; once the shift shows up in a measurable segment of the populace, “critical mass” might be the next nearby milestone.) Even if it’s not, it could represent a turning of the page, from corporate and monied-interest control of the game, to something like what the Founding Fathers had in mind, over 230 years ago. Whatever the case, something must be done differently, if we would ever find our way out of this hole.