Those among us who have children learn(ed) that the best way to end a temper tantrum was to divert attention away from the item/issue that was the source of the emotional tirade. It's a clever trick and it works. As we grow older we are given fewer choices, such as pick this or that. It limits the options and makes selection somewhat easier while leaving the impression we had a choice.
Those not wishing to play this game just sit out. This does not prevent them from having a beef with the game or its players. I'd argue they give up their right to have much of a say because we’re all either part of the problem or part of the solution. Such is true for politics.
In Rhode Island, as well as all across the nation, we are usually given a choice of Democratic blue or GOP red. These are not sports teams. This is not a sporting event. The biggest responsibility these two parties have is to determine how our tax dollars are collected and allocated. The social component of their positions ranges across party spectrums with conservatives to be found in the Democratic Party and liberals found among Republicans - they're emotional diversions.
Those elected who appear to be most beholden to the public are often labeled as moderates; however, as the pendulum swings from right to left and holds for any length of time - "center" becomes unclear. Many would argue this is not your parents' party any longer. How true when Democrats become hawks beholden to big corporate interests or Republicans spend our taxes and borrow money from our kids faster than they can collect it.
This brings me to several closing points.
(1) If you're relying on polls, television ads or pundits in the paper instead of taking 15 - 30 minutes to choose who is going to spend your tax dollars, then it's not an informed decision. Until just last week, many polls showed Sheldon Whitehouse ahead. However, in the past three days the Mason Dixon and McClatchy polls now show Chafee with a narrow lead. A person's history is likely the best indicator of their character and, like most job interviews, campaigns put their best foot forward. "I don't have the time to research the candidates. . ." Your daily life and thousands of your tax dollars are impacted by this choice. Find the time or you may fire a quality incumbent whose job it is to work within the gray area of politics.
(2) The Democratic Party was in control of the House for 42 years (1952-1994) under both Republican and Democratic presidents. While much was achieved there was also much left undone because some of those elected ranged from superb to less than mediocre. When we elect mediocre because we recognize a name and know little about their voting and legislative history, we are to blame, not the politician whose sole purpose is to get (re)elected. If our interests were legitimately coming first - we would already have open government, affordable health care, high quality education and economic security for our seniors. Then again we enabled both parties and they gutted our social security trust fund and permitted under-funded pensions.
(3) Wealthy and big corporate interests have learned this game well. They now win whether a Republican or Democrat is elected, because they help set the big ticket agenda, which is how tax dollars are collected and allocated. Reread the first two sentences. It's no surprise that the economic interests of those in their teens and twenties and the poor are overshadowed by our seniors, more affluent and business interests. They vote or influence the vote. Lofty ideals like quality education, diplomacy, universal healthcare and good paying jobs are elusive until we legitimately hold our elected officials accountable. Better still, we could level the playing field with campaign finance reform, so the middle class, small business owners and veterans are fairly represented. In the meantime, incumbents and those seeking their seats will say and do what they can to be elected regardless of party affiliation. This is why little is said about why we went into Iraq and why we're staying in the Middle East. Tens of billions of our tax dollars are being diverted from things that matter more here at home.
It's time for a progressive agenda with independent minded candidates to be considered within this framework. Until there's a better system out there, choose the candidate who you trust over the bluster and be prepared to hold them accountable or expect more of the same two or twenty years from now. Problem is, the costs of ignorance and indifference are eroding the very thing we hold dear - a quality of life for our families and neighbors.