I heard a wonderful exchange today on the radio between Judge Andrew Napolitano (a strict constitutional Libertarian) and Democratic strategist Pat Cadell. Cadell cited a Rasmussel poll which found that 71% of people said they are angry with the federal government, and almost half said they are very angry. Yet when the same question was asked of politicians who are actually in control, only 6% of them were angry with the federal government. Apparently 71% of us see what’s going on and realize who the problem is, and the people who are the problem are completely unaware of what they are doing and how we feel about it.
Gadell made another point — I’m not sure I agree with him but I hope I do. He said that he thinks 90% of us agree on 80% of the issues. There are only 10% of us who are extreme, either left or right, and the rest of us basically think the same about most issues. It is a travesty that a nation where so many people fundamentally believe the same thing is divided so sharply along party lines. The political parties use small, divisive issues (abortion, gay marriage, illegal immigration) and buzzwords (socialism, unpatriotic, government takeover) to make it an “us vs. them” situation so they can get political contributions, further their own narrow agendas, and gain power.
Howard Dean recently said in a speech in France that the war between capitalism and socialism has already been fought and the outcome has been determined: we will have a mix of both; the only question is the extent to which we have one or the other. He elaborates on this, saying that capitalism is important because it appeals to part of human nature: the drive to be free, to be creative, and to make things. Socialism appeals to another part of human nature: to be part of a community and to support each other. (Some would argue that we don’t need the government do to that — that charities can do that — but I’ll accept his argument here.) So if we can get past this “capitalism vs. socialism” argument, get past thinking that it has to be all one or the other (when in reality it never will be), then perhaps we can start having a more logical discussion about the implications of sliding more to one side than the other.
My hope is that some day soon, we will all wake up and realize that political parties are using us to further their own ends. They have to divide us, to get us to choose a side. They want you to think that people on the other side are either a) wrong, b) stupid, or c) just plain evil. Your neighbors, your co-workers, and your friends are likely a mix of conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat. Do you think the people you love who disagree with you are mean-spirited, evil or stupid? I hope not. Don’t play their game. Sure, you have to choose one person come election time. But don’t fall prey to the “us vs. them” mindset. It will make you bitter and angry — I have found that the more I become interested in political issues, the more upset I become. That’s why I haven’t written much on this blog about politics lately. Instead, I’m trying to focus on the common bonds we all share instead.
United we stand, divided we fall. It’s unfortunate that the two major political parties can only survive by dividing us. Don’t let them.