It seems somewhat pointless to highlight, yet again, specific political maladies let alone all such ills affecting our society. They are manifold. But the system which engenders them is designed to protect itself in spite of great disillusionment of those the system is supposed to benefit, and in spite of a systemic mode of self-correction—the vote. What of public opinion demonstrating this public disillusionment? Gallup points out that public support for government has “climbed back up to 20%” this month. “Meaningless; a chasing after the wind.”
What does the average man gain of his political labor at which he toils under the sun for the dream of justice and fair representation of self-governance?
Generations come and generations go but the dream remains forever. The wind blows to the (conservative) south and turns to the (liberal) north, round and round it goes, ever returning to its course. The dream is forever caught in its vortex. Political progress is a delicate illusion.
We vote for the dream; it seems within our grasp, promised with each election; anticipation then disappointment; promised but never delivered. Over and over at successive elections we experience—without challenge—the same result. There is nothing new under the sun.
The dream becomes wearisome, more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing the possibility, nor the ear its full of hearing of the benefit.
What has been dreamed will be again, what has disappointed will disappoint again. Elections produce nothing new under the sun; no real political progress, just hope, followed by disappointment.
Is there anything political of which one can say, “Look! This is something new.” No, it was here already, long ago, it was here before our time. There is no remembrance of men’s dreams of old, and even the dreams of those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.
Wisdom, toil, advancement are meaningless. The dream remains elusive, simply an aspiration.
The conclusion of the matter: Power alone is what succeeds. There has been, is and will continue to be an ideological political will to power, for the sake of power; it results in a status quo that keeps the dream alive, but only as a dream. A carrot forever just before the horse. That is the power of power.
Democratic wisdom without power is meaningless.
Political toil without power is meaningless.
An electorate without power, chasing after the wind. Meaningless.
So, why make the effort?
Thomas Richard Harry
Addendum to an Open Letter to the American Public at Large
No (sigh), the above pessimistic conclusion won’t do. It simply won’t do.
Why make the effort? Admittedly, it can be tiring; it can be frustrating when those who expose system conflict and the pursuit of self-interest within the system hear little beyond, “Well, that’s politics, isn’t it?” It may be politics, but the public’s tepid condemnation and seeming lack of effort to overcome it is akin to a cow standing on its own tail and bawling because it hurts, but is too brutish to lift its foot to remedy a self-inflicted but correctable situation. Come on, people!
It’s the defeatist’s way out. It’s bowing to a plutocratic will to power. It’s what those manipulating the system both want and expect of us, the American Public at large. They count on it, and of late, have been pretty successful in using “out” system for primarily “their” benefit.
This is not a conspiracy theory, although admittedly it amounts to a (largely within the letter of law) minority manipulation of our democratic political system. But keep in mind that it’s those in power (the status quo) that makes the laws, including those that favor power, and it’s not limited to either one of the two major political parties. Nor is this matter of the power of power a question of good vs. evil, or right vs. wrong. It’s a question of balance of interests within society, and the consequences of yielding, or catering to, factional self-interests.
It’s one thing to try and balance power with power, and this is what our constitutional founders attempted. Some believe it works, some have grave doubts and some see failure in its application. But this applies primarily to the workings of government. It does not seem to apply to controlling the self-interests of those who would manipulate government primarily for their own purposes. We might refer to this as the influence of privileged (power) groups behind the curtain of public government (where power to counter power fails in its application).
Lincoln’s famous view of government being of, by and for the people is a powerful expression of the intent of our representative democracy. Was it ever the case? Possibly, but it assumed the power of the individual, notably via the ballot box, to be enough, collectively, to realize this ideal. Today this is simply not the case. Individuality before government and effectiveness at the ballot box has all but disappeared. Today, and for some time now, it is collectives, groups represented by, or representing those with similar self-interests that government primarily hears from, listens to and governs for. Why? Because they have power, both persuasive and at times punitive over those they approach in their own interest. The common interest takes second fiddle, which seems somewhat backwards, governmentally speaking. Power is what counts in the hallways of the Capital.
The form this power most usually assumes is money, or the things money can buy. That’s hardly a secret. Money means power. The more money, the greater the power, all other things being equal. The cost to run for office for most today is prohibitive to say the least. Who doubts money, directly or indirectly, buys (or at least influences) votes, both within and without government proper? It may decide just who appears on the ballot, in effect dictating the choices available to the individual voter. Power has even accomplished having money legally equated with political free speech thus, the more money you have to spend, the more political free speech you are entitled to, literally. How does the average American compete with that? He/she can’t, and today doesn’t.
Money in politics is the primary source of power. As I have written separately, if any real progress is to be made in countering the political influence of plutocracy (power), money and its use in politics must be subdued. It can be (I have also written about how). But if this is not (1) understood and (2) accomplished by action of the public at large, then the dream of broad social and economic justice and fair representation in self-governance will remain just a dream and debilitating inequality seems our destiny, to the detriment of most. The overall welfare of the general public—and there is no lobby called the general public—needs to be considered parallel to and equally with the self-interest of the plutocracy. It’s a matter of Balance which today is out of whack. Efforts to correct this imbalance, no matter how well intentioned, will be meaningless if the power of money is not reduced significantly. It will be simply meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
But how can this largest but unorganized faction, without plutocracy’s resources, ever hope to accomplish this? Yes, it will take money. But I said money was the primary source of power, not the only source.
Leadership and organization, where lacking, can promote direction and purpose. It can unite and give cohesion to purpose. It is thus also a source of power. Martin Luther King Jr. had a realist’s sense of power when he led the civil rights movement using a strategy of nonviolent demonstrations and boycotts. “Lamentably,” he wrote in his famous “letter from a Birmingham Jail” in 1963,”it is a historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.” We all know the eventual outcome of his civil rights movement: improved social and economic justice and fairer representation in self-governance for a significant minority of the American Public at large.
Of late we are represented by governments formed of highly (highly) antithetical ideological political parties. Currently our government of the moment has a pitiful 20% approval rating by the polled general public (and this number represents an improvement from the recent past). The approval rating for our ideologically driven congress is even lower, 9% in November polling—the lowest in Gallup’s 39 year history of asking the question. Does this reflect government of, by and for all of the people? Questionably.
The clear evidence of our dissatisfaction with not only the results of government, but with the options we are given to select government is readily apparent in how we opt to vote. Either we don’t vote, or today, most of us register as political Independents or, “unaffiliated” thus expressing our dissatisfaction with the ideological representatives we are handed at the polls. We are liberals and conservatives, no doubt, but we are not Democrats or Republicans. Practically, under our electoral system, most have no option. For the majority it’s an either/or situation; a least-worst option. Take it or leave it. Unfortunately, too many seem to be leaving it given their absence at voting times.
Today Independents—a plurality of voters nationwide—have no real power, only short term contingent electoral influence, so in spite of our disaffection (and numbers) we cannot make a political difference. But with leadership and organization, we could become empowered. That’s power to confront power. That could make a hell of a difference. It could introduce political change, significant change, thereby, possibly, realizing the dream.
That’s why we should “make the effort;” why we should find it unacceptable to simply throw up our hands and say, “Well, that’s politics, isn’t it?” Today, maybe it is, but for tomorrow, it doesn’t have to be, unless, of course, you believe we are under the constraints of predestination. I don’t.
We need a change.
Thomas Richard Harry