Election season and ISIS: The two contexts of ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’

RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., September 8, 2014 – In recent months, the Islamic State went from “a JV team,” according to President Obama, to “a threat to the civilized world… beyond anything that we’ve seen … (and) as sophisticated and well-funded as any group,” according to Secretary of Defense Hagel. The President has since revised his position to reflect a need to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. Had the President reflected upon the political environment in which he participates, perhaps he would have come to that conclusion earlier. After all, it’s an election season; a time when the Parties traditionally attempt to “degrade and ultimately destroy” each other.

Brace yourselves; we are in the final two months of a mid-term election. This is a period of no-holds-barred politics featuring massive ad campaigns, a suspension of ethical behavior, and a surge of “boots on the ground” to get uninformed citizens to cast an emotional vote.

The Democrats will trot out the words racist, sexist, and homophobe to try to damage the reputations of their Republican counterparts sufficiently to defeat them. Conversely, in an ironic twist of fate, Republicans will try to tie their Democratic challengers to President Obama, whose approval ratings are plunging faster than property values in northern Iraq.

The Parties will not hesitate to misrepresent the truth to “degrade and ultimately defeat” their nemeses or to fund-raise among their most ardent, low-information supporters. Name-calling, innuendo, and fearmongering will be the “name of the game” until November 4th. If they get caught, they can always “walk back” their comments and pretend they cannot be held responsible for what they have said.

The candidates will also flood us with campaign promises they have no intention of honoring. After all, they know we won’t hold them accountable… because we never do.

In 2012, we returned over 90 percent of our incumbents to office despite their dismal approval ratings. That is why we have so many elected officials who pontificate change but seem incapable of achieving it after serving multiple terms in office.

Behavior doesn’t seem to enter into the equation either. For example: When Senator Robert Byrd passed away in office after serving 51 consecutive years, former President Clinton dismissed Byrd’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan in a eulogy by saying, “I’ll tell you what it means. He was a country boy from the hills and hollers of West Virginia, (and) he was trying to get elected.” Okay then… now we understand the Senator’s membership in the KKK and his vehement opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It was just politics.

To tip the scales further, the Parties have taken it upon themselves to draw Congressional Districts in a manner that makes little sense other than to ensure their incumbents get re-elected. Until we begin to vote for the best candidates rather than defaulting to whoever represents the Party with which we most closely identify our political leanings, we will have no one to blame but ourselves for the debacle our Government has become.

We live in an interesting time when form often triumphs over substance; when name recognition and public persona seem to have become more important in the selection of our leaders than their character or solutions. We have allowed our major Parties to foster a divide in this country and to profit from it. Yet, we appear to be continually surprised at how ineffective and inefficient our resultant Government is.

It is time to wake up.

Too often, we have allowed followers to be hailed as leaders. Individuals who might find themselves hard-pressed to qualify for management positions in the private sector are cast as being the best our country has to offer for higher office.

Actually, “cast” is a good word because so many of our elected officials merely play a role that is written for them by their Party.

Think about it.

Because we have allowed the cost of running for office to become prohibitively high, we tend to attract followers rather than leaders; individuals with such a deep, narcissistic need to “win” that they are willing to surrender their right to exercise independent judgment in exchange for the massive sum of money that’s required to successfully compete in the political auctions that have replaced our elections.

In return for the millions (to billions) of dollars it now takes to be the “high bidder,” they must bow to their Party.

An image consultant grooms them, styles their hair, and tells them what to wear. That is why we see so many of them during election years wearing jeans and an open-collar shirt to show that “they’re in touch with the common man”… and of course, their sleeves are inevitably rolled up in the tired metaphor that suggests “they’re ready to get to work.”

Meanwhile, the Party’s marketing gurus are waging their own “War on Dignity” as they convince naïve people that it’s an honor to stand behind a politician as he or she reads a speech and serve as little more than human wallpaper. The truth is that the bobblehead brigade is selected on the basis of its composite mix of age, sex, race, heritage, and any other characteristic that can be visually exploited to add credibility to the speech.

There was a time when credibility was established by the stature of the office and the “content” of the speech… but no more. Now, it must be manufactured by a marketing gimmick.

Also, behind the scenes, pollsters are scurrying about trying to determine what we “want” to hear rather than what we “need” to hear. The data is parsed by a group of political consultants who separate the favorable information from the unfavorable and pretend the latter never existed. Next, they share what’s left with a team of professional writers.

Then, the writers craft the message that the actors… sorry, I meant “political leaders”… read from a TelePrompTer. If they do a good job reading the text, they’re somehow deemed to be great orators and worthy of leading us forward.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we have little insight into our candidates’ breadth and depth of knowledge. We only know the words the writers chose to reflect the points the strategists favored from the data that was harvested from the polls that were taken. We really don’t even know what our candidates would have worn had someone not dressed them.

So, the next time you hear a politician speak and find yourself feeling frustrated… at least now you know why.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way.  If you’re willing to become more informed and cast an intelligent vote on November 4th as opposed to a political one, you can begin to do something about it. As a picture published by ProLiberty.org suggests, there are three types of voters: Leftwing, Rightwing, and Knowing. Which one are you?


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).