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04 Jul

              Is anyone else concerned with what is going on in American politics right now? 

              I must admit I am. 

              Once upon a time, we had a two party system and a three chambered government to ensure that there were checks and balances and that all people’s views were represented equally.  We were seen as a beacon of democracy.  Sad news, folks.  That was then, this is now, and the now is our democracy is less like a beacon and more like a circus.

              This isn’t intended to be anti-Republican or pro-Democrat, or vice versa.  In my opinion, they both suck, and over recent history they have alternated with regards to who sucked more.  But I have to say right now that in my opinion, the Republicans suck more, and I have been a Republican most of my life.

              I’m not going to try to convince you one way or the other; I will ask that your read my thoughts with an open mind and make your own conclusions.

              Donald Trump was at least partially responsible for the actions of January 6 (and if you don’t know what happened, not sure where you have been).  His constant insistence that the election was rigged and stolen (with no credible evidence ever presented) was an infection that festered and boiled over on that day, with a last second push from his speech hours before.  Following that event, there was a concerted effort by a lot of people to hold Trump accountable, and also a concerted effort by Republicans not to, supposedly “in the interest of moving on.”  He was impeached, and acquitted, but anyone who followed that travesty knows that he wasn’t acquitted because of evidence, but because of politics. 

              And it got worse.

              The Republican party, not necessarily on a national level, but at several state levels, continued to perpetrate the lie about the election, censored party members who spoke truth and did not kneel to King Trump, and pushed legislation to restrict voter rights.

              Yes, restrict voter rights.  In the “land of the free.”

              If you lose an election, there are several courses of action a group might consider.  The most obvious appears to be to ask the questions, “Why did we lose?” and “What can we do better next time to EARN more votes?”  The Republicans appeared to answer the first question with, “We lost because the election was stolen because a lot of people who shouldn’t have voted were able to vote…and they voted for the other guy.”  The second question, “What can we do better to EARN more votes?” was largely ignored.

              There are anecdotes to support the “big lie” of the stolen election; some stories, perhaps a myth or fable thrown in.  What is not in evidence is, well, actual evidence.  Over sixty different courts, some presided over by judges the king himself appointed, found nothing worth acting upon.  Some even dismissed “with prejudice” which is legal-speak for, “you are a *&^%$ idiot for bringing this to my court.”  However, showing the determination of a mob storming the Capitol, the GOP pressed on and began writing legislation to restrict voter access in the interest of “preserving the integrity of our election process,” which they fail to mention worked pretty much the way it was supposed to because the candidate that got more votes won.

              We absolutely do need election reform (perhaps beginning with screening those running for election, but that’s a story for another day).  No election where 150 million plus votes were cast is going to be without issue, and there are some irregularities that should be addressed to improve the process.  However, much of the legislation proposed seemed targeted at areas or social-economic groups that vote largely Democrat.  In other words, the Republicans actions appear to be attempting to limit the amount of Democrats that can vote in the next election, tipping the scales unfairly in the Republican’s favor.

              I am all for confirming voter ID, and even signature verification as long as it doesn’t slow down the process too much.  But reducing number of drop boxes?  Reducing those eligible to vote by mail?  Shouldn’t we work to bring the vote to MORE people, if we are who we say we are?             

So, bad on Republicans for attacking an election process that worked.

              Moving on to another ring in the circus, let’s talk about gun control for a second.  Here is the link to a Gallup poll that was done recently:

              It is interesting to note that almost 60% of Americans polled want tighter gun laws; not surprising considering recently there has been a mass shooting just about every other day in this country.  However, Congress can’t seem to take any meaningful action on the topic.  If Congress’s job is to represent the people, how can a majority of the people want some action and not get it?

              It’s that dirty word “politics,” again. 

              Our bi-chambered Congress is set up so that the House of Representatives’ power and composition is based on the population of the states, but in the Senate power is constant in that every state is equally represented by two Senators.  A great attempt at checks and balances, in theory.  However, let’s dig a little deeper.  With the Senate split 50/50, it is technically controlled by the Democrats because of the VP tie-breaker, but it’s pretty darn close.  Fifty senators each to be sure, but in reality the 50 Republican Senators represent 40 million LESS people than the 50 Democratic Senators.   So if the population of the US is about 330 million, then 205 million are represented by 50 Democratic Senators and one VP, and 125 million are represented by 50 Republican Senators.  So if most of the 205 million want something, their Senators should be able to get it passed, right?  Wrong, apparently.

              Because of unique Senate rules set up when one party or another had an overwhelming majority, it requires less votes to BLOCK something than it does to PASS something, at least in some instances.  So at times the “no” vote of those representing the 125 million is enough to block what most of the represented 205 million want.  This sort of situation was SUPPOSED to result in forced cooperation, and it would, if both sides were focused on doing the right thing (according to the majority) instead of just throwing tantrums and pointing fingers.

              And that’s the problem.  In my opinion, both parties have lost sight of doing the right thing for the country.  They say they do, and at times they (both sides) even DO do the right thing, but at this point it seems almost by accident.  Our once grand democracy had deteriorated into a struggle for power where the focus is not on the constituents or the country, or even working together, but the power.  At all costs.  ALL costs, including credibility, integrity, morality, and unfortunately possibly national standing.

              How did we get here?

              Lots of people will say lots of things.  Here’s my thought, and it comes down to two issues; education and addiction to power.

              Education first.  We as a country don’t know how to think. 

              Don’t agree with me?  Ask the average adult in this country for a fact, and they will look it up on their smartphone and they will probably get it right.  Ask them what they think about it, and they will stutter and often finish with “I don’t know.”  Technology has given them the what at their fingertips, but education has failed to teach them how to use it to form an opinion of their own.  We lack critical thinking skills in this country.

As a result, the people in general have all the information, the facts, but rely on “trusted sources” to tell them what to do with that information, and they lack the tools to recognize when those sources lead them astray. 

CNN and Fox News are two of those trusted sources.  In my opinion, Fox News should be changed to Fox News Entertainment, in the same way that the World Wrestling Federation was forced to change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment because it was entertainment loosely based on something real.  It’s the same with Fox, only this time the “something real” is the news, and it is getting tossed around the ring to tell a particular story.

              And CNN isn’t always right either.  No one source is; the thinking person watches both and draws their own conclusion.  In this country, there are too many people who take one side or the other as gospel because someone told them to, and that is why we are failing.  Too many people vote the way they are told to vote because they don’t have the educational tools or civic conscious to come to their own conclusion.  I spend hours with my cadets every election year showing them both sides of the ticket, regardless of my personal feelings, to get them to decide what THEY want to vote for.   It’s grueling and difficult, but it is SO worth it.

              Bottom line, without critical thinking skills, too many are led one way or the other by those with an agenda.

              The second thing that has gotten us into this mess is addiction to power.  Once upon a time, a member of the House of Representatives was a common person who came to DC to do their job for two years and then went back to their lives having performed service to something greater than themselves. No lifelong pension, no life long super duper medical care.  They lived under the same laws that the rest of the people did; the laws they voted on.  But somewhere along the way, people in office realized that they liked being in office, and behind the thin veil of “serving the country” or “serving the great citizens of <pick a state>,” they decided on their new career.  When that happened, the foundation of our democracy started to crack, and we have sort of painted ourselves into a corner, because the ones who hold the power would have to vote by majority to give up the power for any meaningful change to happen.  You can imagine how many times in history that has occurred.

              So what do we do about it?

I wish I had some grandiose solutions.  I don’t.  I do have some ideas that MAY help us get back to greatness.  I say “may” because I am far from all-knowing.

First would be term limits for political offices, with a modest pension after, and no special health care.  Terms would be by office, meaning you could serve the maximum terms in the House of Representatives, and then run for Senate and be able to do up to the term limit there, too.

Second would be a third political party, made up solely of those who have served others in some way.  Military, civil servants, teachers, doctors, those who have volunteered for the Peace Corps or other service organizations, or anyone with a significant history of volunteer work could qualify. In other words, a party of people who have all demonstrated that they know what it is like to serve something larger than themselves.

              It’s only fair that I tell you what I am doing currently that at least makes me feel like I am helping.  We teach two big lessons to our cadets:

  1. Do your own homework.  Learn the issues, research them, and come to your own conclusions.  We show them where to find the information.  Non-biased, both-sides-of-the-story information about political issues, social issues, etc.  We DARE them to think about it, and we do lessons on HOW to critically think, so that they are better able to process information and draw their own conclusions.  I have actually said this to my class:  “I don’t care if you vote for guns for all and education for none, as long as you did your homework and that’s what you think is right for your country.”
  2. Recognize you are part of something more important than you.  I was taught to “belong and believe in something greater than yourself.”  Too much of society has gotten away from service to others.  It’s all about “me.”  What am I entitled to?  What will the government give me?  What are my rights?  All good questions, in balance.  But let’s check some facts.  Charitable donations are down, percentage-wise and absolute dollar wise.  Church attendance is declining.  More and more the rights of individuals seems to trump the greater good (see so many “I don’t need to wear a mask” debacles, despite the science).

It isn’t much, but teaching these two things helps me look at myself in the mirror.

So what can the average person do?

  1. Do your homework and know WHY you are going to vote for the person you are going to vote for.  Know FACTS, not soundbites.
  2. Hold your legislative representatives accountable.  If they aren’t voting for what’s in the best interest of your district or state, vote for someone else.  (By the way, how is NOT voting for better gun laws in anyone’s best interest?)
  3. Don’t buy into the hype.  See #1 above…
  4. TALK with each other.  Just because someone has a different opinion doesn’t mean that either of you are wrong.  Civil discourse is a good thing, and we need to take more part in it.

If anyone has any other ideas, let me know.  And let your lawmakers know, too.

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