The conventions of the two major political parties occur every four years. The script rarely changes.
Each party attempts to present itself and its candidates in the best possible light. No amount of pageantry or boasting is spared. The spectacles require that memory and truth be checked at the door. There is no room for values which might place constraints on gaining office.
Political sycophants whoop it up for their candidates and excoriate their opponents. Then, the convention ends and participants go home exhausted, often hung-over, with tales of meeting people they consider important. There is a sickness about this which is generally reflected in the attendees and the candidates.
Political madness roars in advance of a major election. For political junkies, it is the best of times. (Isn’t it interesting how easily the term “junkie,” a term usually applied to behavior associated with wasting one’s life, is so easily used with “political?”) The conventions provide a stage for candidates and supporters to showcase themselves to the country and world. Renewed hope and expectations dominate the true believers.
A Different View of Elections
Political atheists, and I must confess to being one, consider these spectacles a form of madness. As rituals, they compete with witchcraft and astrology. Illusions, hopes and stupidity run rampant. I stay interested in politics purely for defensive reasons which were expressed well by Ayn Rand:
I am interested in politics so that one day I will not have to be interested in politics.
Political theists delight in political conventions. Conventions validate their beliefs. Both sides come away with stronger faith in their side and greater understanding of why their opponents are wrong and likely evil. In the latter respect, both sides are likely correct.
Each side believes its convention succeeded while the other one failed. Theirs was uplifting while the opponent’s was filled with lies and outrageous promises. The beauty of being a political theist is that you always get a high this time of year regardless of which party you believe in. You are convinced your side succeeded and the other failed and life, liberty and justice will be returned to the world.
Political atheists never feel this way. They believe both sides lied, made promises that cannot possibly be met and pandered shamelessly for votes. They never feel good this time of year unless it is in the manner expressed by H. L. Mencken:
A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.
I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing.
Mencken was an original, an American curmudgeon and political atheist. His enjoyment of the process did not blind him to reality:
The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.
Charley Brown Conventions
Conventions exude hope and promise. The electorate believes that this time will be different, that their vote will matter and that promises will be kept. Voters are as easily conned as the hapless Charlie Brown, who also believes that this time Lucy will not remove the football. (Video of Charlie and Lucy) Whether intended or not, Charles Schultz left us with a wonderful political metaphor.
How so many can be taken in by the Ponzi scheme that we call politics is hard to imagine. Senior citizens have experienced many elections, yet continue to vote with the belief that this time will be different. Rarely are promises kept. Rarely have even the lowest of expectations been met. Yet the aged continue to try and kick the football, just as Charlie Brown. They have the most empirical data on voting, yet continue to vote in large numbers.
Politics as Sport
Political outcomes are bigger than sports outcomes, yet it is difficult to differentiate between how people choose sports teams and political teams. Sports choices are often made based on the team rooted for by parents or friends. There is little logic, study or understanding behind this choice other than those close to me chose this way. Political teams are mostly chosen in the same fashion. Few people are capable of translating political principles into societal outcomes. Like Coke or Pepsi loyalists, they are adamant in their preferences, but cannot rationally defend them.
If politics were a sport, it would not be very satisfying. The Republicans and Democrats always meet in the Super Bowl because there are only two teams. If there were more teams vying for the championship, it is hard to imagine either of the current political parties making the playoffs no less the Super Bowl.
Now consider the players! How could anyone identify and idolize the Rogue’s Gallery of political figures?What about how the game is played? Whatever rules there are are changed at will and referees are hardly objective.
How can anyone believe that their lives will be improved by the outcome of this game we call politics? Haven’t we all seen this movie before and been disappointed? Isn’t this just the equivalent of “Groundhog Day?” Both parties have footballs and both parties have Lucy holding these.
The Deterioration of Political Philosophy
None of these comments should be interpreted as implying there is no difference between political parties or particular candidates. Obviously there are. They are just not as big as they should be.
To understand how far this country has deteriorated in terms of politics, one need only go back fifty years. The Democrats of today would consider Jack Kennedy an extremist. On the other hand, the Republicans of that time would consider today’s Republicans much more liberal than the Democrats of their time. The word “socialism” would likely be used to describe today’s Republican parrty. One wonders what either party from fifty years ago would think of today’s Democrat party.
Had either Bill Clinton or George Bush governed fifty years ago as they did recently, it is likely both would have been impeached and removed from office. That is how much the political philosophy driving politics has changed.
Our Founding Fathers must be rolling in their graves over what has happened to this country. The document they delivered as protection against such behavior has been abandoned in every sense.
What Is One To Do?
Political atheists generally consider themselves above elections. Most do not vote because they consider neither candidate a valid choice. Their view of politics is expressed in some of the quotes below:
Our current political system ensures not that the worst will get on top — though they often do — but that the best will never even apply. – Paul Jacob
Washington has a mysterious power to turn perfectly reasonable, wholesome, well-meaning human beings into equivocating crooked gasbags. – David Harsanyi
Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office seeking. — Rutherford B. Hayes, 1878
The personal qualities necessary for attaining office are practically the opposite of those demanded by the office itself. The trouble with the damn system is that it selects for the skills needed to get elected, and nothing else. A test that you can only pass by cheating can’t possibly select honest people. — James P. Hogan
[Political] offices are as acceptable here as elsewhere, and whenever a man casts a longing eye on them, a rottenness begins in his conduct. — Thomas Jefferson, 1799
You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest. — Ambrose Bierce
The roster of elected politicians in Washington, DC has enough characters to triple-fill the cast of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” Look at the rogue’s gallery that voters were forced to choose from in the last several presidential elections. Random selections from phone books likely would produce better political outcomes. Let’s face it normal people do not gravitate toward politics. There is something wrong with anyone who lusts for power and control over others. Most are either imbalanced or criminals.
This next election is particularly important. It will not alter the downward trajectory of the country. Mitt Romney is hardly Ronald Reagan. Nor was Ronald Reagan the Ronald Reagan that conservatives claim. For all of Reagan’s effort, he merely slowed the rate of decline. Nothing was reversed. After his departure, the decline returned to its previous rate. In the last four years the rate of decline has increased dramatically.
The reason for political atheists to consider voting is President Obama. Thomas Sowell sums up the danger of Barack Obama:
Barack Obama is one of those people who is often wrong but never in doubt. When he burst upon the national political scene as a presidential candidate in 2008, even some conservatives were impressed by his confidence.
But confident ignorance is one of the most dangerous qualities in a leader of a nation.
If he has the rhetorical skills to inspire the same confidence in himself by others, then you have the ingredients for national disaster.
Andrew Ferguson provides a similar assessment of Obama, although a more promising one of the disillusionment among his supporters (my emboldening):
… liberals have grown disenchanted with their onetime hero. But you can’t underestimate the naïveté and ignorance that inflated the bubble of the Obama Delusion—how fragile it was, how vulnerable to the first pinprick of reality. It turns out they really did expect a “transformative” presidency that would move us beyond left and right. They meant it! And in this childish belief they were encouraged by their candidate, who might have meant it too, for the same reasons. Obama’s admiration for Barack Obama, after all, was even greater than theirs, and his ignorance of the messy practical realities of self-government almost as complete.
I have little confidence in Mitt Romney. I would like to be surprised, but I expect the football to be pulled away by his version of Lucy. He appears to be a well-meaning, competent man (why is he running for office?) and that is more than I can say about Obama. Millions of people voted for Barack Obama as a better alternative to the worn-out boor John McCain. Few intended for the country to be “transformed,” at least in the manner and to the extent it has been.
No man should have the power to transform a country. No man should want that power. Barack Obama desperately wants that power as exhibited by his bypassing Congress with Executive Orders. There are likely more psychiatric defects in Barack Obama’s makeup than will ever be known. Without a meaningful Constitution, there is nothing to prevent him or a future president from abusing such power.
I, like so many other political atheists, will vote for Mitt Romney. It do not believe it is a vote I will be proud of in terms of it doing much good. I will exercise it only as an “anybody but Obama” vote.
The country will die at a slower rate under Romney, regardless of his intentions or performance. Obama, on the other hand, is committed to murdering what the country always represented.