Vote out the bums. Vote in new bums. Rinse and repeat.

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

With each election, we see “We the people” in action. Once again we’ll be able to say “the people have spoken” and American voters will do what we do best; we will change our minds.

We may not know what we want politically – but we know what we don’t want. At least until the next distraction.

Politicians build their careers on our short memories and the ever-shifting news cycle. But unlike the slash and burn mentality of cable news and talk radio, grown-up citizenship – and responsible voting - demands a context – knowledge of history, political process and procedure – and human nature. But that takes work and concentration.

We have become accustomed to simple and immediate solutions to complex and lingering problems. We are dazzled by shimmering slogans and scary stories about “those” people who might take our jobs or our guns or our country.

In our fear, “We the people” have become “We the frightened toddlers.” The “land of the free and the home of the brave” has become the “land of the unfree and afraid of everything.”

Our solid middle-class economy took decades to dismantle – and we rage against anyone who can’t fix it in a few months.

Voters across America are angry. But are we angry for the right reasons? Or at the right people?

“How much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.”   ― Henry David Thoreau

We are seeing something we have seen many times before; the political independents against the Party faithful. In other words we are seeing the volatile “undecideds” and “uncommitteds” tilting the balance between the established political parties.

This is yet another showdown between arbitrary and fleeting fickleness and the retreating  paralysis of inertia and cynicism.

When those with no political allegiance or historical roots decide the outcome of our elections, we have a problem. Change for the sake of change is a fool’s philosophy, but change with a purpose or vision is real work – and takes time; decades if not generations.

It is a truism of history that extremists take on the attributes of their enemies.

In their fervor for change, ability, aptitude or even competence are of minimal value. When ideology sweeps away competence and integrity, chaos is inevitable.

When we as voters prefer political paralysis and hysteria over political stability, we are expressing a loss of faith in our system.

“Party over country” should never be a topic of conversation – yet I hear it almost daily.

Our country – even the name of our country THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – should remind us that we are all in this together. “Liberty and justice for all” should inspire – not threaten us.

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When we as voters prefer political paralysis and hysteria over political stability, we are expressing a loss of faith in our system.

Intelligent and informed voting is the working definition of a citizen. We get informed by steeping ourselves in our history, our personal and collective identities and a strong sense of where we, as a people, have been, where we are now and where we are going – in short, who we are and who we are becoming.

The political parties may not have changed, but the political landscape has.

Abraham Lincoln urged us to listen to our “better angels.” In fact he closed his First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1861) with these words….

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Without historical perspective we forget who we are, and fall victim to hysterical paranoia that sweeps us from one extreme to the other.

And like children, we are swept away by slick slogans and soothing bed-time stories of a mythical past – or future.

One national political analyst opined that our presidential elections are almost never about a particular candidate, party or even political philosophy. Every national election, he said, was the choice between hope or fear.

Hope, at its best, invigorates and inspires us to participate, get informed and make our voices heard. Fear,  at its worst, paralyzes and leads to isolation, if not bigotry and rage.

Hope is an appeal to our “better angels” while fear is an abdication, and for Americans at least, an outright denial of what has made us the land of opportunity and refuge for generations – and virtually all of our ancestors.