Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Demands of Independence

The platforms of political parties in the United States focus heavily on trust and reliance in the American people. American resilience and intelligence pervade speeches given by candidates both left and right, from national to state and local representatives. Yet, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words and they are telling two very different stories. The public is fed opinion, sound bites, and party propaganda instead of factual information on which well founded policy can be developed. We are left to trust the respective parties to endorse sound policy without any information on which to evaluate it. With the devolution from partisan politics to independent candidates, we have the opportunity to correct this glaring shortcoming. However, the shift from the sweeping generalizations found in parties to a concentration on each issue individually is demanding on voters.

It requires a willingness to be educated about the issues. It is unfortunate that we expect fellow citizens to be disinterested and uninformed about policies and movements that affect all of us as residents of the United States. Apathy pervades and misinformation in advertising and in the media is effective. Why do we face such a poor state of affairs? We assume, and incorrectly so, that every Democratic representative holds the same political values as the most well known Democrat (President Obama at this time). The same holds true for the Republican representatives (led by Mitt Romney). We falsely conclude that every Republican or every Democrat demographic holds the same ideals and represents the same types of people. Let me give an example.

I live in a very conservative part of a very conservative state. Yet in every voting session we approve increased spending on education by a landslide; in every congressional session our representatives vote against it. They are so afraid of the backlash from their own party for crossing the aisle that they misrepresent their constituency. It is preposterous to the party leaders that an individual could cross party lines and still be representing the views of his or her voters. Criticism for faithlessness and insincerity inevitably follow. This is absurd and yet it represents the dilemma faced by the majority of congressmen and women.

To dispel these generalizations we must vote outside the parties. This is not to say that we need to shed our current representatives in Congress for independent candidates. Instead, we need our representatives to shed their parties in order to free themselves from the bonds of alliance. We need our voices in Washington to be free to speak our concerns and vote as we demand. The job of a congressman should be one of the easiest in our country: gauge the values and wishes of your constituents and vote in accordance. The complication of faithlessness in Washington could be completely corrected with the introduction of Independents to the House and Senate. Faithless voting will be rewarded with a single term and a cold shoulder on the way out the door.

Part of being educated as a voter is asking questions of your representative. We can't just accept advertisements and talking points as affirmation that our beliefs are being upheld. It is important to directly approach candidates in a public manner and ask "How will you vote on this issue?" "What is your reasoning?" "How will that help us?" Part of the responsibility of a representative is that their votes are truly representative of their constituents. That means that even if the issue is one upon which most citizens are uninformed, confused, or indifferent, they still need to vote for what is best for his/her people and have thought out reasons thereof.

"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."
-John Adams, 1789

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