The great irony of our political system continues…
America was a nation forged of will, a nation that could not have been established at any time in history before – or after – the late 1700s.
Inherent to our political culture is a schism as alive today as it was at the Annapolis Convention (remember the convention before the convention in Philadelphia?) It took another year for enough delegates to agree that the Articles of Confederation was an unworkable document.
Americans through arms replaced a monarchy with a democratic republic. This seems self-evidently rational today, but we forget what this meant in context: we quite literally assumed the power and wisdom of God. For at the time, it must be understood that monarchs ruled through a widespread belief in "Divine Sovereignty."
Though the Parliament had constrained the powers of the monarch in Great Britain in theory (we all know the story of the Magna Carta in 1215), the reality was that monarchs could – and did – pretty much whatever suited them, whenever they chose to do so.
The fact is that in 1776 the men that we now accept as the “Founding Fathers” were a splendid mix of Deists, Christians, Agnostics, and Atheists. Almost 2/3 of colonists did not share their view: split between support for the crown and disinterest in taking a side.
That said, the Revolutionary War transformed from a statement for marginally increased local autonomy into a full-scale assault upon the structures and systems of Western Civilization.
When “We the People” established our government – “of the people, by the people, for the people…” (as Lincoln later declared) we made an affirmative, declarative statement to history.
The United States of America is the progeny of the Enlightenment. It was born into a world where the Jeremiad, Manifest Destiny, and nationalism were forged together through contest and strife with an evolving, humanist consensus on the realm of demonstrable evidence and reasoned solutions.
Our political system reflects the value we place in education, reason, and wisdom. It said to the world that no longer would self-aware people accept the rule of God on Earth through divinely selected monarchs; it said that people – all people (at least over time) are inherently capable of learning what needs to be learned in order to establish and sustain a constantly improving society.
Each and every election we put this experiment to the test: citizenship is most solemn secular duty of our lives. As inheritors of this fundamental shift in human development, we are responsible for making sense of our circumstances – for making decisions for the present and future.
Right now we have two major parties – two competing “factions” that compete for power and prowess. In our system of government we elevate the clash of ideologies so that we can discern truth from the discord.
One party leads with its heart and does so unapologetically. Republicans believe. Through that belief they view data, evidence, and information accordingly. This is how – and why – Bush (the son) was able to effectively navigate the obstacles to irrational tax policies, perpetual war, and obvious fiscal reforms.
The other party leads with its head and does so with a fundamental distrust of believing anything that cannot be proven through the scientific method. Democrats know. Through knowing, they believe. This is why Obama has such a hard time understanding how to communicate with both members and leaders of the opposition party.
This clash between our heads and hearts is not new: it is the mortar in the foundation of our country. From time to time, we follow our hearts into a world that does not – cannot – fully understand us. Most nations could not, would not invade another country in order to “save it.”
And yet, this is what we have done throughout our history with the best of intentions, and a unique record of improving the lives of those we touch.
Most nations view our political climate as bizarre: these people are unable to accept the shared mistrust of both factions in a bundling of “too much power” within a small group. In America we established a “Congress” not a “Progress” for a reason: centralization of power leads to constrained, not expanded freedoms.
Americans seek order in government, but we recognize the difference between good order, and too much order. The seduction of a charismatic tyrant can be warm as people are liberated of the heavy weight of responsibilities to their community and country, but it is all fleeting.
What we have in the balance this election – at the national, state, and community levels, is our legacy and shared philosophy; the parties and people are merely this generation’s manifestation of an embedded gyroscope.
Will we recognize the challenges of our circumstances and choose reason over passion? Will we accept the timing of coming to terms with our fiscal, international, and political problems, or will we believe that nationalism (by another name) is sufficient enough for the next four years?
Will we accept the temporary pain required of a course correction, or will we avert our eyes and believe that something, somewhere will transform our circumstances and provide us with opportunities that are presently unknowable?
In the end, the last debate provided the opposition party with a small bump in enthusiasm and vigor. Romney will likely not sustain the moderate campaign invented during his appearance because this iteration of his party is not invested in moderation of any kind, at any time.
But the lack of clarity in the knowledge of what comes next so palpable within that debate, may well have cost Obama a functional US Senate, likely at least ten seats in the US House.
Here in Eden, our national reach is relatively limited. However, our ability to determine the course for our state and communities has never been more assured.
This November we will elect our statewide elections officer, our labor commissioner, and seventy-five of our ninety legislators. We will elect county officers, municipal officers, and determine ballot measures with significant impact upon all of our lives – inside and outside the “Metro-area.”
Put aside your frustrations with the climate and tone of a campaign season that is precisely what we deserve. Take stock of the present and ponder the future. Evaluate what your head and heart agree upon and make a stand.
Act as if your choices this November will determine the course of history.