In less than a week, we’ll observe another Labor Day. When I was a kid, this was the date when political campaigns began.
Now, of course, the campaigns never end. The Supreme Court has removed virtually all meaningful limits on campaign contributions, allowing those who would make government their servant – as opposed to ours – to spend their unlimited wealth to create a perpetual-motion political machine.
And there’s no escape. The only possible way to avoid politics-without-end is to read no news, watch no TV, listen to no radio, stay off the internet, have someone pre-sort your mail and refuse to answer either the telephone or your front door.
That, or pack up and move to some cabin in the deep woods, or on a high mountain, taking enough food and supplies that you don’t have to come down to the general store to restock.
Personally, I’ve always been pretty much a political junkie, but even I have my limits. This fall, I’ll probably use my television only to play something from Netflix on my DVD player. Political flyers will go directly from mailbox to recycling bin. Political calls will get a quick hang-up.
And I’m thinking of stocking up early on Halloween candy so I can give a piece to anyone who knocks on my door – before I send them packing.
What really bothers me about this election – and every election for the past three decades or so – is that we have only two options. Especially when the two options, our nation’s two major parties, are so utterly worthless.
I doubt my regular readers will be surprised that I regard the Republican Party with a loathing I otherwise reserve for those six-legged critters who run from the light. And this, mind you, from one who – 35 years ago – was active in Republican politics.
But there was a time when the Republican Party was run by thoughtful, intelligent – even brilliant – people who were deeply concerned with America’s future.
I believe a good many grassroots Republicans still fit that description. And I have no doubt that the average Republican voter is still a concerned patriot. The problem is that, in Republican politics, it has become increasingly difficult to express any opinion other than one which appeals to the militantly ignorant, bigoted, and superstitious.
Virtually every day, we read some new bone-headed statement by a high-ranking, elected Republican official. And these aren’t just gaffes – those slips of the tongue which Vice-President Joe Biden has turned into an art form. These are assertions of fact which stray so far from reality that you’d think they came from one of those “boner” lists schoolteachers like to pass around.
Somewhere, there’s been a vast falling-off in the mental life of the Republican Party. Between the awesome intellectual revival which revived conservatism in the Goldwater and Reagan years – and Congressman Akins’ assertion that the body of a woman who was “legitimately” raped could simply refuse to become pregnant – it has become almost impossible for a Republican seeking office to talk sensibly about facts or ideas which the most ignorant and vehement members of his party choose to reject.
Now, given the fact that one party has wandered off into Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, you’d think the other party would easily roll up huge majorities and aggressively enacts its policies, assuring its predominance for decades to come.
Only a monumentally timid and incompetent collection of losers, one might think, could throw away such an opportunity.
Ladies and gentlemen: The Democratic Party.
Of course, the Democrats have their challenges. For one thing, Democrats have none of what the Republicans have in abundance – an ideology. Since its birth in Andrew Jackson’s day, the Democratic Party has largely been a collection of interest groups – largely demographic in composition – rather than a movement.
Democrats believe in winning elections the way “educators” believe in public schools. They don’t have a plan or a vision, but they’re damned if they’re going to let that bother them.
Another weakness of Democrats is that they absolutely love nominating rookies for high office. JFK in 1960. Jimmy Carter in 1976. Bill Clinton in 1992. And, of course, Barack Obama four years ago.
Now, to be sure, an intelligent rookie is probably better than someone absolutely disconnected from reality. A rookie can learn, and – if he’s elected to a second term – he might actually get something done.
But that’s no excuse for continuing to ask the country to provide rookie Presidents with “on-the-job training” at the public expense.
We Americans are all about to suffer through ten weeks of campaigning that will likely be more vicious, more incessant and more expensive than anything any of us has ever experienced before.
But the fundamental issue in American politics will probably never be discussed:
Are the Republicans and Democrats the best America can come up with?