Like all phenomena, politics increases in complexity the closer one examines it. Tiny details complicate a close-up picture. Back away, take a broader view, and the edges start to smooth out. The picture appears simple from a distance.
So what if we take a broad view of American politics today? What simple picture might we see? And what might it indicate about our future?
The choices Americans have for their next President include a liar, a deceiver, and a thief. Which label best describes Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sanders, and Mr. Trump? Take your pick. It really doesn’t matter because each applies to all three.
That’s the simple view from a distance today. And the future? As a famous man once remarked, though imminent, it’s obscure. I’d add: it’s also our choice, in large part.
SMOOTHING OUT THE ROUGH EDGES
How did we get to where we are today? How did we come to have three terrible, awful, repulsive options to be our next President?
The energy that moves American politics, increasingly, is widespread anger buttressed by frustration and even desperation.
Anger, frustration, and desperation are not usually conducive to calm deliberation, reflection, or cool judgment. Rather, widespread anger, frustration, and desperation time and again lead to the formation of impassioned, anxious, impatient mobs, from which tyrants, demagogues, and new religions emerge.
This includes the emergence of secular religions, such as socialism, communism, radical anti-human environmentalism, as well as the fanaticism that often fuels religions, both secular and theistic.
Anger, frustration, and desperation can be channeled toward positive outcomes, such as equal individual freedom and just laws, sure. Sometimes anger, frustration, and desperation are accompanied by statesmanship and self-governing citizens. But it’s rare. Very, very rare.
OLD TALES OF ASSES AND ELEPHANTS
So… How did modern Americans come to be so angry, frustrated, and desperate within their own political arena?
The broad, simple view is a tale of two political parties in the United States that have left many ordinary citizens feeling unrepresented, unconnected, and worse: Many Americans are tired of being accused, blamed, and shamed when they are merely working hard, trying to improve their lives, hurting no one, stealing from no one, using no one.
The broad, simple view of our two political parties goes like this:
The Democratic Party, which is the oldest, went from the party of controlling people to the party of bribing people. The bribing turns out to be not much more than disguising control with the appearance of generosity. And the generosity is offered with other people’s money, of course.
What Democrats do most of the time, however, is denounce and accuse and ridicule all who question their bribing, controlling ways. Especially Republicans. Meanwhile, those who accept Democratic bribes feel cheated: they don’t experience the satisfaction of earning what they’ve acquired. And those who don’t accept the bribes look with contempt at those who do.
The Republican Party, a generation younger than its Democratic rival, began as the party of equal natural human freedom, the party that ended legalized human slavery in the United States through unprecedented sacrifices of treasure and blood.
But it’s no longer that. In fact, many Republicans are outright scared to speak about slavery or anything even remotely connected to race for fear of being called “racist.” Instead, the Republican Party has become the party of cronyism, using government power to prop up select friends in the business world. They call it, “pro-business.”
This taints the reputation not only of dishonest crony businesses, but of ALL businesses. In modern America, it’s shameful to receive bribing handouts—because one is not earning one’s own way—yet it’s also shameful to run a business, because many equate “business” with “unfair crony subsidies”! This fuels deep frustration and mutual suspicion among business owners and non-business owners.
So Republicans don’t brag about their cronyism. They hide it. In part with platitudes about the Constitution, limited government, and the Founding Fathers. But mainly by denouncing Democrats.
OUR FUTURE: CONTROL, BRIBES, EMPTY PATRIOTISM, AND CRONYISM?
Much more could be said, of course, about the details of our two largest current political parties. Certainly the picture gets more complex if one looks closer.
That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to suggest that what we have today, from a broad point of view, is a Party of Control through Bribery, and a Party of Cronyism wrapped in Insincere Patriotism: Democrats and Republicans.
So, yeah, it’s understandable why so many Americans are angry, frustrated, desperate.
• This is at least partly why we might be witnessing the dissolution of one, and possibly both major American political parties.
• It’s why demagogues are springing up in popularity among us and dividing us simultaneously.
• It’s why Americans are desperate yet scared to trust anyone.
It’s why there’s an incredible opportunity for anyone offering anything better than control, bribes, empty rhetoric, and crony deals. It’s why there’s an opportunity for anyone offering the simple beauty of justice: all living freely under equal laws, each improving his life best he can through his own effort, with no expectations of anything one has not earned or produced.
Or we can choose to maintain the course, where the greatest virtue of each partisan side is that each is not the other—where only hatred of the other trumps embarrassment of our own.
Whatever our future might be, it’s our choice, which might be viewed as intimidating by some, an opportunity for others. It’s a fateful choice, turning an imminent and obscure future into our clear present. So let us consider the politics we consider to be ours and familiar, the politics that have been traditional and that have become routine. And let us also consider what is good. And then we shall choose, having no one to blame or credit but ourselves.