For those people who are interested in making the world better than it would otherwise have been, it is time to start thinking about the next election.
There are people out there whose primary objective over the next two years will be political manipulation to make sure that the Democrats win, or that the Republicans win, the next election. I tend to think that such partisans do more harm than good. They tend to be more interested in 'perception management' (a.k.a. lying and 'bearing false witness' as a way of manipulating the voter) and too arrogant to actually research the policies that they will defend. When they do research, it tends to be research into how a particular policy plays into their program of perception management, rather than whether a particular program will actually help people.
However, both parties are made up of a different types of people - including some who are actually concerned to make the world a better place, as opposed to making themselves a more powerful person within that place. This blog entry is directed to such people.
My advice to the Republicans is to recognize that people who believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old and that there is no such thing as evolution are not making the world a better place. People who are so caught up in fantasy and myth simply cannot be trusted to make wise decisions in the real world.
The real world is governed by the laws of physics. There is no way to violate those laws and hope to get away with it. There is no way to violate those laws, period. People who think that they can ignore the laws of physics - people who look for magical solutions to real-world problems - are going to select solutions that fail. They are going to think, for example, that it is possible to invade a country like Iraq and that a God will make sure that everything works out for the best, if only he has enough faith.
People who cannot competently link premises to conclusions are a danger to everybody when they get their hands on decision-making power.
There are rational and reasonable people in the Republican Party. There are people who do an excellent job linking premises to conclusions - particularly on economic matters.
Yet, even here, there is a danger. Among those who competently link evidence to policies on economic matters, there are others - saboteurs bought and paid for by corporate special interests - armed with bogus arguments that assert false conclusions on the basis of bogus elements. There are people trying to muddy the waters, to obscure what is known, because they profit from our ignorance and our mistakes.
They come with a huge supply of money - and political campaigns require a huge amount of money. This puts the good Republican in a bit of a dilemma - to take the money, to accept this as payment to help muddy the economic waters and obscure the truth, in order to win the elections - or to refuse the money and refuse to muddy the waters. It is entirely likely that those who agree to muddy the waters and accept the campaign contributions for doing so will become the masters of the party, unless there are people in the party willing to stand up to this abuse.
My warning against the Democrats is against throwing out the baby with the bath water. Yes, there are corporate corruptors who are muddying the economic waters to gain political advantage. However, the solution is not to abolish trade or markets. There is a lot to be angry about with special-interests buying political influence, making the rest of us worse off in the process.
However, these special interests are going to try to buy their way into the Democratic party as well. Political success requires money, and it is always worth while to ask how the more powerful and influential Democratic politicians are coming up with their money. Are they, too, muddying the waters for the sake of certain special interest groups, collecting contributions in the process?
Republicans have their anti-global-warming denialists to protect the special interest groups who have money to contribute to their campaign. Democrats have their anti-trade propagandists arguing for special protections for segments of the economy that contribute to their campaigns. The anti-trade, anti-globalization crowd are advancing a program that promotes poverty that is every bit as destructive of the livelihoods of innocent people worldwide as global warming threatens to be.
Democrats, no less than Republicans, need to ask, "Will these policies really work? Or are we just saying they will work because somebody out there with a fat wallet will give lots of money to those who say that they will work?"
The place to influence either of the two parties is in the primaries. If one truly wants to make the Republican party or the Democratic party into a better party, voting in the general election has a small fraction of the effect of participating in the primaries. This means joining the party, going to the meetings, helping them to draft their platforms (and arguing for this as good as possible), meet potential candidates, and help the other party members to determine which are the idiots and which make sense.
If you live in a one-party region - a region where one party dominates and its candidates inevitably win the general election, then I would like to suggest considering joining that party. After all, the fact of the matter is that, in such a district, you have no power to influence your candidate outside of the party selection process.
I have tried working within the political parties and I have not been able to tolerate the experience for long. Both sides have a large number of policies that I find objectionable. Worse, both parties seem to be more interested in 'winning' than in 'deserving to win'. Too much of the conversation centers around the question, "Will this policy earn us votes?" as opposed to, "Will this policy help those who deserve help, and hurt those who deserve to be harmed?"
Besides, it is independents who determine which side is going to win the election. In the last election, over 90% of registered Republicans voted Republican, and over 90% of registered Democrats voted for Democrats. Independents decide the winner.
Independents need to make sure that they are rewarding the parties that go to the effort to submit the best candidates for the job, and not reward the propagandist and mud-slinger whose primary political skill is obscuring the facts while promoting hate and unwarranted fear.
On this score, the Republicans have got a lot to work to do. Recently, they have sent us candidates that can't tell the difference between truth and fiction, sell their political power to the highest bidder in a wave of congressional corruption, get 3,000 of us killed, 20,000 wounded with more on the way in a war that we did not have to fight, waste hundreds of billions of dollars that could have truly hurt Islamic fundamentalists AND fought global warming through a program of energy independence, defend a special interest group whose policies risk the destruction of every coastal city on the planet, tax our children through debt to fatten the bank accounts of their campaign contributors, replace the constitutionally provided 'veto' with the entirely unconstitutional 'signing statement', torture, arrest people without charges and hold them without trial, spy on Americans without a warrant, and attempt to dismantle the system of checks and balances.
I’ll be working with the independent project. I wish those who are involved in the other projects the best of luck, and we’ll see what we’ve accomplished in two years.