A lot of my friends get all bent out of shape when it comes time to elect the President. They act as though it were a matter of life or death to make sure that the next President is the one they happen to be supporting. And, of course, they are correct. The President will have to make many life or death decisions. Still, I can’t seem to get all worked up about who gets elected. In part that’s because I’m a Libertarian. Being a Libertarian means that regardless of who designs the ballots in Florida, or whether we have gone from punch card to electronic voting, my candidate is not going to win. Ever.
In many ways that’s a relief. I have made peace with the notion that I will never be on the winning side of a Presidential election, and so I experience neither joys nor sorrows come election night. More typically I just get a few chuckles. For the vast majority of voting Americans, however, elections do not seem to bring any peace. Politicians have been studying how to get elected so long that it would seem that they have discovered that the voters seldom if ever hold them accountable to the political promises they made when they were last running for election. And so politics operates like a strange kind of job where you have to continually reapply for the same job you already hold, but no one actually pays much attention to what you say during the interview; if you just promise to be a star performer you’ll keep getting the job because no one really seems to care whether you ever even show up once you have actually gotten the job.
I am reminded of the old Peanuts gag where Lucy holds the ball out for Charlie and pulls it away when he goes to kick it. Lucy has done this to Charlie countless times, but still somehow manages to convince Charlie that this time she really means it. But she always pulls the ball away and then ridicules Charlie with “You Blockhead.”
That’s how I see the US political system. Every two to six years, the major political parties hold out footballs for the American people to try to kick. The American public has been here before. It knows that every time it goes to kick the ball and elect someone, that the person they elect will unfailingly pull the ball away and not live up to the promises made. I think it’d be a refreshing change if political victory speeches were reduced to the victorious candidate coming before the public and saying, “You Blockhead.”
That’s what makes this current crisis so interesting. There is actually a very short span of time between the actions taken now and the next election, which puts politicians in the very unusual situation of having their recent performance considered by people going to the polls. And this is perhaps why the House Republicans recently took the very unusual action of defying their Republican President’s wishes and voting down his bill. Republicans have traditionally kept a very disciplined core of elected officials. You never see a high profile Republican going to speak at the Democratic National Convention, for instance. And, yet, they may as well have as they gave not only George Bush but John McCain his walking papers and voted down the bill they both vocally supported. Even weirder, Bill O’Reilly recently attacked right-wing “Kool-Aid drinking idiots” in calling for this bailout and attempting to blame Clinton when, according to O’Reilly, it was clearly “Bush’s fault.”
Sacre Bleu! What in the world has gotten into them? Are these the same people who reauthorized the Patriot Act to keep us all safe from terrorism? Or told us how necessary it was that the President conduct illegal wire-tapping surveillance? I mean how is it possible that the Republicans gave Bush Carte Blanche to carry out whatever policies he asks for but suddenly shoot him down on a bailout of Wall Street?
If I didn’t know better, I’d say they suddenly “found religion” and started comparing their actions against the rhetoric. Suddenly the free market, an intangible entity that doesn’t vote and no one really seems to want anyway went from stale talking point to more important than party loyalty. How on Earth did that happen?Well, I hope the Republicans stop messing with my head, because I’m not used to them actually honoring their free market rhetoric. When there is an unflinching faith in the power of people to decide value in the marketplace, can you then long ignore that the marketplace can’t really function well without an honest money such as gold to go along with it? Am I to hear House Republicans tomorrow call for the abolishment of the Federal Reserve? If they keep it up I’d have to start actually questioning whether I should become a Republican myself!
But then, lest I forget, this is simply politics right before an election. I suspect the Republicans’ sudden “come to Jesus” moment may have more to do with the November elections than with a sudden discovered passion for free market forces. Time will tell, I suppose, but I’m not one to say that that many leopards can change their spots that darn quickly. Still, it was good while it lasted.