Key words: 2010 elections, US economy, political parties, inherited conditions, effectiveness of a democracy, distribution of power, political extremism, elected officials, manipulating facts

Important Facts in the 2010 Election

Commentary                                                                                       September, 2010
Important Facts in the 2010 Elections
Dudley Weeks ©

 

As the 2010 elections draw near, I suggest there are several vital understandings and facts every American voter should consider.

1.  Realistic Expectations
No president and administration, no political party, no elected official has a magic wand capable of providing quick solutions to the array of problems facing the U.S. and the world.  Yet, many citizens seem intent on ignoring that obvious fact.  The American culture’s tendency to view life with an impatient, quick-fix mentality should not be applied to elections.  Doing so is unrealistic, puts an impossible burden on elected officials, and leads to a “kick the rascals out of office” pattern that never gives our leaders the time needed to devise and thoroughly implement policies.

2.  Inherited Conditions
 All elected officials, whether they be the president, members of Congress, State legislators, or mayors, inherit conditions created by their predecessors.  In the case of the U.S. economy, the conditions inherited by the current administration are profoundly severe and complex.  To blame any new administration, Democrat or Republican, for not “fixing” the inherited problems within less than two years is as unfair as it is grossly simplistic.

3.  Political Parties
One of the truest tests of the effectiveness of a democracy is the post-election willingness of all political parties to work together to serve The People, not just promote the dominance of their own party.  What has happened since the 2008 election comes perilously close to giving the American two-party system a failing grade.  Whenever gaining dominance for one’s own party becomes the primary goal, whenever one of the parties spends more energy trying to destroy the other party than working cooperatively for the good of The People, everybody ultimately suffers.  The parties spend enormous resources and time on defeating each other rather than on dealing with the problems that affect all Americans.   Facts are manipulated, dirty tricks abound, and securing “victory” for one’s own party becomes more important than the success of the nation.

4.  Extremism 
Since the dawn of what we like to call “civilization”, extremism has always been a major obstacle to constructive social and political progress.  The extremists in religion who, in effect, arrogantly claim they speak for God; the extremists who refuse to acknowledge the valuable contributions of social diversity; the extremists on the far Right and far Left who refuse to focus on the worthwhile policies they agree on and could implement if they worked cooperatively.......all of these extremists damage the society as a whole.

5.  The Distribution of Power 
The leaders who designed the foundations of the American political system more than 220 years ago tried to distribute power effectively among the Federal government, State governments, and the individual citizen.  The wisdom of the design is rooted in the proven fact that all of these power holders are needed, and that the overall system will become ineffective if any one element---Federal, State, or the individual---is deprived of its role and/or is perceived as an “enemy”.  The basics of the system have stood the test of time, even though specific additions and changes have been needed over the years in response to societal progress, and even though the power of nongovernmental entities such as corporations has increased significantly. 

The role and power of the Federal government in a pluralistic society such as the United States of America provides many critical functions, one of the most important being national identity, cohesion, and unity.  No other power holder can provide that function.  I suggest one of the most dangerous threats to the American system is the current attempt to treat the Federal government as “the enemy” whose power should be greatly diminished.  Taking constructive power away from the Federal government will result in that power being seized by other elements within the society.  In theory, many may argue that “the individual” should and will absorb that power.  In reality, the ones who will seize the power taken away from the Federal government are (1) corporations and financial institutions, (2) the dominant individuals who already control enormous political and economic power, and (3) individual States.  History has shown what happens.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer; divisions among the citizenry become more adversarial; and the cohesiveness and unity within the American nation is weakened.

The Federal government is not the savior, nor is it the “enemy”.   Work to improve it?  Definitely.
Demonize it and greatly diminish its power?  Utter folly, a step that will create havoc and disunity.

6.  Single Issue Voting
Choosing how to vote responsibly in a complex society is an enormous challenge.  That’s one reason many people end up taking the easy path by letting one or two issues determine their vote.  Military defense, immigration, health care, abortion, same sex unions, the catch-all issue of “the economy”, political party affiliation.....the list of choices for single-issue voters goes on and on.
My opinion is that we may not truly deserve a democracy if we treat our right to vote with such simplistic and narrow thinking. 

With the right to vote comes the responsibility to be informed on the wide range of issues affecting our society, not just fixate on one or two issues.  Every candidate is more than just his or her opinion on a particular issue.  Every political party is more than its stand on one or two issues.  And the future of our society will not be determined by just one or two issues.

I long for the day when voters say......
“I disagree with that candidate’s stand on a few of the issues I care about.   But, overall, I believe she/he, regardless of political party, can be the most effective leader and can help our diverse nation work together more cooperatively.  And I’m willing to give that candidate, when elected, enough time to implement policy.” 

Dudley Weeks, PhD

Copyright 2010: Domestic and international law prohibits the public use of this article without the written permission of the author. Any reprint must bear the author’s name and notice of legal restrictions.}