RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., March 3, 2014 – Our political system is dysfunctional if not completely broken. It has become so corrosive that many citizens have abandoned any hope of changing it for the better. Others are inclined to commit their blind allegiance to a particular Party; convinced that it occupies the moral and intellectual high ground while the other Party is comprised of only slightly-evolved Neanderthals. To paraphrase Eldridge Cleaver: Neither behavior represents part of the solution, but rather, both are part of the problem.
It is particularly important that we begin to address the issue today. 2014 is a mid-term election year. If we don’t begin to pay attention now, 2016 will be upon us before we know it, and the stakes will be even higher then.
Luckily, the solution is completely within our control. However, we must first understand what has created this political disease before we reveal how to cure it.
SYMPTOM #1: The 2014 campaign season will be launched with primary elections that the public will largely ignore.
Many citizens have been conditioned to believe that primary elections aren’t “real” elections and that they only need to vote in general elections. Now, think about the consequences of that belief.
If it describes you, you will have essentially entrusted your vote to those who are more zealous about politics. Then, realize that “more zealous” often translates into “more extreme.”
While the words “more extreme” may somewhat reflect the concerns you have about our current political environment, they are music to the ears of the Parties. If the Parties are only required to pander to their “more extreme” elements, it will actually be easier for them to position arguments, enflame emotions, and attract money and votes for their candidates during the primaries.
Keep in mind: The result of a primary directly limits the choices you have in the general election. You may be upset with the direction our Country is heading, but the Parties will only offer candidates who will perpetuate the status quo.
Have you ever heard the phrase “garbage in; garbage out”? That’s exactly why primaries are important.
If you only have the opportunity to choose between “the lesser of two evils,” you are really being presented with a Hobson’s choice from a Party perspective. If you lean Left, you have to vote for the Democrat in the general election because the Republican simply must be worse. Conversely, if you’re a Conservative, you have to vote for the Republican because the Democrat cannot possibly represent a better alternative. After all, that’s what the Parties have conditioned you to believe.
Notice there was no mention of an independent or Third Party candidate who might actually represent the best interests of the People rather than a Party. That’s because those types of candidates rarely make it through a primary. If those who call themselves “Independents” ever chose to “get off the sidelines” and cast their votes en masse in the primaries, we might begin to see the makings of a political revolution; one in which you would have a true choice between candidates in the general election rather than the controlled choice you have now.
SYMPTOM #2: The mid-term general election will be treated by many as only slightly more important than its primaries.
The revered television series All In The Family hammered home the message in a classic episode on October 30, 1971, when Archie Bunker said, “I save my vote for the biggies” (meaning he only voted in Presidential elections). Later, he found himself unable to vote because his registration had lapsed.
Given the embarrassingly low percentage of Americans who traditionally exercise their right to vote during mid-term cycles, both Parties must be replete with their own versions of Archie Bunker.
This particular symptom parallels the problem described with respect to primaries only with a greater impact. It means tens of millions of Americans are forsaking one of the most critical rights we possess: the right to freely participate in the final choice of political representation; a right that billions of other people around the world would do anything to possess.
Apparently, the conservative and progressive Archie Bunkers among us do not find mid-terms to be worth their time, or they have been led to believe that it is okay to assign their responsibility to the “majority.”
It is possible they missed the part of the Declaration of Independence that comes immediately after the listing of some of our unalienable rights; the one that states, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Given the decline of our education system, perhaps the dual concept that addresses the purpose of our Government and the source from which it derives its power is too difficult to grasp. Maybe the first three words of the Constitution can provide a degree of clarification.
That document begins with the words “We the People” … not “We the Democrats” or “We the Republicans.” The Constitution is about us, and it focuses and limits the authority of the Government to serve us. It is not about maintaining and expanding its own power or the power of the Parties.
When you don’t vote, you virtually assure that the Parties will remain in power … and nothing will change.
SYMPTOM #3: “If you don’t vote for a Party candidate, you’ll be wasting your vote.”
How many times have you heard someone say, “If you don’t vote for a Party candidate, you’ll be wasting your vote”? Worse yet: How many times have you told someone that?
The more you’ve heard it (or said it), the more embedded it becomes as a belief. It’s called behavioral conditioning: Introducing a thought and reinforcing it until it becomes a belief that can alter your behavior.
The Parties have become masters at exploiting negative emotions like “fear.” They position the opposing candidate as nearly satanic. Then, they suggest that he or she must be stopped. Next, they try to dissuade you from to considering any alternative other than theirs because “you’ll be wasting your vote” … and you comply.
If it sounds sinister in a political sense, that’s because it is.
The two major Parties have worked diligently to create a political duopoly that inures to their benefit rather than to the benefit of the People. They have constructed an impressive array of hurdles to preclude competition.
The first is applied at the State and local levels. It deals with erecting barriers to ballot access that are significantly higher for independent and Third Party candidates than they are for Party candidates.
If that hurdle is cleared, the Parties throw money at the problem. They control a major portion of traditional media through ad buys and access, which is designed to suppress the visibility of any alternative candidate.
If such a candidate continues to gain traction, the Parties have to rely on their ace in the hole: The behavioral condition they’ve developed over decades that suggests that an independent or Third Party candidate “can’t win” and that you would be “wasting your vote” if you were to cast it for such a candidate.
Please note that there is no logic behind that assertion. If such a candidate got the majority of the votes, he or she most certainly would win. The statement is simply reiterated to shape your beliefs …and it is your beliefs that drive your behavior.
So, here is the question you should be asking yourself.
Which is the greater waste: To vote your conscience for the candidate whom you believe will do the best job for the People … or to effectively surrender your vote to a Party that has trained you to believe you have no other choice?
Think about that.
We are not compelled to favor sound bites over solutions or promises over performance. We are not required to elect those who comply with the will of their Party as opposed to those who would exercise independent judgment. We’ve just been conditioned to behave that way.
However, the fault does not reside with the Parties. It resides with us.
We have allowed them to convince us that, in the Land of Liberty, we don’t have the right to exercise free will. We have allowed them to instill the belief that we must choose between “the lesser of two evils.”
In reality, there are only three things that are required to “cure the disease.”
First: Each of us needs to commit to exercise our right to vote rather than delegating that responsibility to others.
Second: Each of us needs to recognize that our right to vote carries with it a civic responsibility: The responsibility to become informed.
Third: We need to find the courage to cast such an informed vote.
2014 is another election year. Please make a commitment to vote. Then, honor your responsibility to become informed. Finally, when you enter the voting booth on November 4th, demonstrate the courage to vote for the candidates whom you believe represent the best interests of the People … rather than just the best interests of a Party.
If we all followed these three simple steps, we might be pleasantly surprised on November 5th and once again begin to see real political progress in our great Nation. The choice is yours. Don’t waste it.
T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.
This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, A Civil Assessment, in the Communities Digital News (CDN).