Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I can't stress this enough...

If you believe that government is the problem, not just in practice but in principle, DON'T RUN FOR OFFICE!

This seems to be the driving force for too many candidates these days, at all levels. Not just that particular officials are corrupt, but that the whole system is beyond redemption. Granted, there are legit arguments to be made for both cases. We do have corrupt public leaders. Our system could stand an overhaul or three.

But why spend time and money running for office if you don't believe in the office? And why the hell would anyone vote for someone who thought so? We don't do this in any other arena. I would hope my cross-country bus driver held some regard for traffic laws. And that my riverboat pilot didn't punch a hole in his boat to defy everyone who told him that was a bad idea. I certainly would want a schoolteacher to see the school system as something worth saving. Or a judge to have faith in the legal system.

And yet, a slew of politicians currently campaign (and govern) on the notion that the best government is a weak one, and that we should do all we can to undermine it. This "government is the problem" line of thinking became especially popular with Ronald Reagan, and can be seen most acutely in today's Republican hopefuls for president.

I defy you to find one person in that crowded field who (at least publicly) concedes that government fulfills vital needs, beyond the cursory defense nod. Mitt Romney finds himself in trouble with the base because he backed a health care program that worked. Michele Bachmann courts the tea party vote, as do most of the others. Rick Perry and Sarah Palin either have pushed, or are tied to, secessionist rhetoric. All of them need to appeal to an enraged electorate that is convinced that government is essentially evil. So that they can run the government.

Either they're courting misinformed voters by catering to their ignorance, or they really believe what they're saying and intend to prove government incompetence by being incompetent themselves. It's either cynicism or nihilism, and it's hard to tell which is worse.

If these broken-system people were serious about their stance, they'd foment a revolution, like the kind that led to the creation of the United States in the first place. But something tells me that isn't about to happen. Not only because it's a different era, but because engaging in such would be a futile and dangerous exercise, one that even if successful would expose a glaring lack of alternative. Also, I suspect even the most steamed patriots would back off the idea of actually watering the bloody tree: "You know, it's bad, but I don't think it's that bad. Let's ride this thing out a bit longer before we get too rash. Not sure my Medicaid would cover it."

The truth is, we'd all be behind any true need for revolution, because things would be that bad. One party being out of power is not that clarion call. Remember, the tea party patriots of today are the same people who just a few years ago equated dissent over the war on terror with treason, and today's government advocates are the ones who couldn't be suspicious enough of it when it was in the previous president's hands. Neither is without cause, nor without the influence of the pendulum.

In any case, even a conservative voter has to think twice about what their aligned candidates are selling. Exactly whose best interest is it in to vote in leaders who don't like the government and would rather express spite than lead?

It's a testament to our deep partisan divide that Republicans have any chance at all in 2012. Even Reagan and Bush stood for something besides nothing.

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