Topical Tuesday: A Word on Government

Once upon a time, when I was working diligently on a blog that nobody read, I had the notion to start a semi-regular feature called Topical Tuesday.  In these posts, which may now be found buried deep, deep in the archives, I would talk about whatever happened to be in the news–politics, sports, you  name it.  I did it to encourage discussion about the topics I was writing about and, failing in that, to have something other than writing to talk about on my blog.

Now, with a new venue for my often-skewed opinions, I think I’ll give it another go, beginning with the big topic tonight–Election 2010.

It has been often said (who said it varies widely according to which source you’re using–thanks for nothing, Google) that the people get the government they deserve.  As it happens, I believe this.  And today is a perfect example.

We are a fickle lot, we Americans.  No matter what we have, we want something else.  To some degree, that’s what keeps our economy afloat.  We live outside our means, we spend money we haven’t made, driving ourselves into horrific debt.  We scheme, we gamble, we mortgage the present in the hope that the future deals out a little bit of luck in our direction.  We thrive on our own ambitions, attempting to overcome whatever obstacles we face by any means necessary, even if it comes at the expense of those we care for.  We react violently to any who threaten our safety, we believe ourselves superior to those who do not believe the same things we believe, and we patronize those who have less than us.  We cry out for justice, as long as it’s the justice that works most in our favor.

And yet, when our government does these things, reflecting the actions, if not the lofty ideals, of the very masses that put them in power, we get our panties in a wad about it.

We have seen the enemy, and they are us.

Now, as far as political leanings go, I don’t.  I’m about as moderate a person as you’ll ever find.  I won’t tick off an item-by-item list of my views on the political topics of the day (at least not today), but I do understand the issues of the day and have my own opinions on them.  I listen to left and right equally, without considering my views of higher value than theirs.  I am a negotiator, a peace-maker, and I want nothing more than for Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell to share a long tongue kiss on the Capitol steps.

That said, it saddens me that so many people do their civic duty and go to the polls without having a clue of what the people they’re voting for are all about.  Too many people choose who will run our government not based on a track record of success, a viable plan for the future, or a fundamental decency that seems to be so often lacking in our legislative bodies, but according to the (D) or (R) that appears beside their names.  I’ve asked self-proclaimed Democrats and Republicans alike what their parties stood for and, in most cases, they can’t give me a good answer, assuming they can give an answer at all.  More than a few even spout out ideaology supported by the opposite party.  It’s sad and disheartening.  These are the things that make other countries point their fingers at us and laugh.

There’s no easy solution for this problem.  In this Age of Information, an eligible voter can find out anything from Rand Paul’s underwear preference to the start time for Christine O’Donnell’s next coven meeting, but so few take advantage of the resources out there to really educate themselves on what they are voting for and against.

“So, Smiley,” I hear you say, “Quit bitching and tell me how you’d fix it.”

What I propose is simple–a two-part process to be conducted at the voting booth.  First, the prospective voter takes a short quiz, ten questions or so, on the major issues of the election.  Multiple-choice, true/false, makes no difference to me.  Allowing people to vote with no knowledge of what they are doing is like allowing people to drive a car without passing a driving test.  Anyone who passes the quiz with say an 80% or higher will be allowed to vote as usual.  Anyone who does not pass the quiz must complete a follow-up assessment of their core values and political philosophy and the computers will automatically select the candidates that fit their attitudes.

This system has several benefits.  First, it will reward people who actively engage in educating themselves by allowing them to vote willingly and how they choose.  Second, it will keep the uninformed from being stupid just because they like the letter in front of the candidate’s name.  Also, it will more accurately reflect the values of the people by extracting a representative vote based on those values rather than the popularity contest it has become.

Finally, I think Facebook should handle all elections.  If someone can design a quiz to tell me which 14th century Italian tapestry I’m most like, doing something like this should be a breeze.

Again, we have elected the government we deserve.  This is not all bad, nor is it all good.  It is a reflection of who we are.  We call out for substance, but reward major points for style.  We call out for controlled spending while we ring up another flat-screen on our credit cards.  We call out for integrity when we find our role models, our heroes, and our cherished celebrities with none.  We call out for change and then complain about the loss of traditional values.

So, on this grand election night, meet the new America, folks, same as the old America.

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About Lee Smiley

I write things. Maybe you'll read them.
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