Since I am married, I now live in two families; my liberal family that thinks I’m too damn conservative, and my conservative in-laws who think I am too damn liberal. As someone who has studied politics extensively over the past 15 years and turned that study into a career of teaching about the government, I can say with confidence that neither family is correct about me. What is extremely difficult to rationalize, however, is the fact that both families don’t realize that while they self-identify with a side and support the party associated with their choice, they are all more moderate than they think. What is even more frustrating, though, is the fact that not only do both of our major political parties realize this about us as an electorate, they thrive on it. They play up our fear of the opposite side and divide us into voting blocs that they can manipulate more easily. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how politicians act in public, and how they act when no one is watching.
Take Cory Booker, for example. In the public eye, he valiantly stands up for the common man on socially progressive issues. But when you take a look at how he votes on fiscal issues, he more often backs the corporate choice (which more often than not is more damaging to the common man that he supports most of the time). In order to provide a distraction, some might say he is more “libertarian” on economic issues, but using a label to avoid scrutiny is a coward’s way out. The fact is, most of our politicians are indebted to the people who bankroll their campaigns, and they will screw the common citizen over for whoever gives them the biggest check to help them stay in office. Cory Booker is a progressive who owes the people who have paid for him to be in office, and since there is a limit to the amount that individuals can contribute, the people who put him in office are the wealthy individuals who funneled him funds through a political action committee. But I am picking on Mr. Booker because he has at least had the courage to put himself out into the national spotlight when it comes to social issues that his financial backers don’t care as much about. Because he is in the spotlight, he is an easy target. Look at the voting record of any federal politician and compare it to their spoken rhetoric, and you will see that what they say and what they ultimately do only add up if they keep their mouth shut. In other words, anyone who trusts their elected representative to support them had better be a fan of whichever wealthy people fund that politician, because that is who they are really voting for – and business thrives on customer loyalty. Just take a look at how people who go against their party are treated, like Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska.
When Betsy DeVos, whose only qualification regarding the position she was nominated for was having a lot of money to funnel through a PAC to the “self-funding” presidential candidate (he wasn’t really self-funding, but instead using campaign finance law to his benefit to launder government oversight from campaign contributions), was up for the position of Secretary of Education, Senator Murkowski voted against her appointment and Mike Pence broke the resulting tie. Instead of being treated as she deserved, which would be to celebrate the fact that she actually votes in the interest of her constituents when it comes to legislative choices, she was treated like a traitor by republicans who wanted her to simply toe the party line. The fact is, the educational reform that Mrs. DeVos advocates would be terrible for schools in Alaska. What good is “school choice” when the nearest alternative school is at least forty minutes away (keep in mind the rhetoric only mentions enrollment, not transportation). And as for extending federal funds to charter and private schools; one only needs to look at the increasing cost of college tuition with the knowledge that even though the government is paying more and more into the higher education system every year, only the sizes of the enrollment and administration have seen any kind of statistically significant growth. In other words, more students and more deans, but pretty much the same amount of people teaching the students and working under the deans.
In the same example, Senator Tim Kaine becomes a counter example to Senator Murkowski. While they were on the same side – both voted against Mrs. DeVos’s nomination – if Senator Kaine were really voting in the best interest of his constituents then he would have supported Mrs. DeVos. As mentioned before, the school choice model doesn’t work in places where population density is low. However, Tim Kaine’s constituents are most densely populated in the northern Virginia region; an area where population density is so high that people who live there would love to drive in what most other areas consider “rush hour” (there is a huge difference between driving a little under the speed limit and taking an hour to drive somewhere knowing it would take a half hour if you were riding a bike). As a result, there are a plethora of schools at every level that a parent could choose to send their child to, if that was a legal option in the NoVA area. If parents could choose to send their children to better schools that were close by, it would benefit a larger portion of the student population than the portion who benefit most from the current district model, as the schools would be required to compete for student enrollment and would seek innovative ways to provide high quality instruction. Therefore, when Senator Kaine valiantly toed the party line against Mrs. DeVos he was actually voting against the best interest of those who voted for him to be their Senator. Unlike Senator Murkowski, he was celebrated for doing so.
So what is it that makes us hate the politician who actually does what’s best for their people then turn around and love the politician who give deference to the interest of the party over the interests of their constituents? At least part of the blame goes to the media. Not the “conservative media” or the “liberal media”, but the media as a whole. In fact, the labels of “conservative media” and “liberal media” help to obscure the lies of omission that both sides tell – lies of omission that further distrust and discord toward the “other side”. In more understandable terms, there are as many facts in the news presented by Fox News as there are in the news presented by MSNBC. However, in order to fill their niche in the news market they need their public to think that the information presented by the opposite side is a bunch of lies, painting anyone who listens to the other side as an idiot by implication. The fact is, it is these dichotomous sides and our blind adherence to whichever side we choose that is causing our own exploitation by those with the means to do so. Just because we have the ability to vote for who we want to lead us doesn’t mean we make the best choices – in the past twenty years our presidential voting has been less informed by who would be best for the country as a whole, and more by which extreme can paint the other as a villain more effectively. That was literally the basis of the recent presidential election, where Donald Trump did a better job of lumping Hillary Clinton in with the fiscal corruption of politicians even though when it comes to the campaign contributions he was referencing by calling her corrupt he was guilty by association as he had been one of the people handing her and other politicians a check (funneled through the appropriate political action committee). You can’t call someone corrupt for taking a bribe if you are the person bribing them.
In order to break this cycle we need to stop being sheep who joylessly follow the lesser of two evils, but I personally have doubts that this is even possible; not because the corrupt elements of the government are too strong (especially with the distracting influence of the media) but because we simply refuse to take an honest look at the faults in our own chosen sides. The democrats aren’t perfect, and neither are the republicans. Yet every time I bring up the problems of one side, the other typically jumps in without any acknowledgement of the negative actions of those they support.
Take racial issues, for example. Democrats today are typically quick to label republicans as racist for any number of reasons, yet refuse to acknowledge the fact that until the early 1960s it was the republicans who were the most racially progressive political party (Woodrow Wilson, a democrat, was a huge fan of the D.W. Griffiths film “Birth of a Nation”; which glorified the beginnings of the Ku Klux Klan). Before a president from the democratic party (LBJ) signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, people like Senator Strom Thurmond (who at one point held a record for the longest filibuster on record for speaking out against a desegregation bill, but I am not sure if his record still stands) were registered democrats. They switched sides around the time that their own political party signed the law that made it illegal for them to be 100% outwardly racist in public. Without acknowledging the mistakes of their own party, or even worse if they are ignorant of them to begin with, any self-identified democrat who has the nerve to call a republican a racist is a hypocrite. The same goes for republicans who have begun to whine for more PC language and understanding when it comes to homosexuality. If you are not going to acknowledge how terrible the Reagan presidency was for the homosexual community in general, then you have no right to turn around and vilify Muslims because of what happens to homosexuals in countries where Islam is the government sponsored religion (like Saudi Arabia).
My current favorite example of this comes from a recent monologue given by Stephen Colbert where he insulted President Trump by saying his mouth is only good for being “Vladimir Putin’s cock holster”. Conservatives have rushed to call the comment homophobic and to use the lack of a backlash from progressive liberals as proof of a fictional double standard in our broadcasting. Yet, the comment itself is not homophobic – because the joke isn’t passing judgement on the act of fellatio between two men. Instead, the joke puts President Trump in the submissive position of being the one who is performing the act and compares the position to how he is viewed with relation to his Russian counterpart. But again, in blind party loyalty those who support President Trump are trying to vilify his detractor by assuming and implying that the late night talk show host was passing judgement on gay men. By assuming he was saying that “gay is bad” and rushing to defend the leader of their chosen party, those who call the joke homophobic are immediately identifying themselves as such because in order to think the insult was about the homosexual act described and not the submissive position Mr. Trump takes in the act means that they have to assume that “gay is bad” (which also means they simply didn’t understand the joke to begin with). It was the “gay is bad” sentiment that had informed much of the conservative social policy over the past thirty to forty years, but now that there is a foothold to change the perception regarding which party will be more supportive of homosexual rights in the future many conservatives have started whining about how intolerant liberals are to gay people (which is, in effect, simply a way for those with means to try to flip an entire voting bloc, or at least a statistically significant portion of one, to the opposite side – a test of the manipulative influence of wealth by using the media and the government as tools of the wealthy and conservative).
In the end, it comes down to this; regardless of which party you choose, you are most likely being played. If you want it to stop, you need to take an open an honest look at both the politicians you think you don’t like and the ones you think you do. By the time they are running for a federal office, they have enough of a public record for you to be able to really see if you like their positions and trust them. But if you think that the real problem in this country is simply the party opposite the one you support, then you are a part of the problem.
Have a nice day.