I was discussing politics with a friend of mine, and he wondered aloud if Barack Obama was going to be a one-term president. Clearly, President Obama wants to be a two-term president, and his policies have been those of a man on a re-electable mission. His musing got me thinking about something: What if elected officials behaved as if there was no “next election.”
Harry Truman operated in that way during the 1940s and -50s. He didn’t want to be vice-president, let alone president of the United States. His wife, Bess, was especially displeased about this particular turn of events, which is why she lived in Missouri during most of his presidency. He ran for re-election primarily because he didn’t want to be perceived as having ascended to the presidency by accident. He wanted to know that he had the support of the American people. As we know from the iconic photo, it was a close race, but in the final analysis, Truman won. Truman, though, behaved as though his one term was all there was. He spoke plainly, made unpopular decisions among the politicos surrounding him, and insisted on being taken seriously as president for the time he was to be in office.
Since then, we have seen some presidents more interested in re-election than in active, conscientious service as president. The few in history that have not done so are a rare breed, most identifiably in recent memory, Jimmy Carter. His election was a surprise to everyone, probably including himself, and he operated as one who recognized the transience of his office. Rightly or wrongly, President Carter, made decisions irrespective of the upcoming elections. Of course, the consequences of these choices resulted in his loss to Ronald Reagan in his re-election bid in 1980.
What would that look like today? Perhaps AmericansElect has the right idea. Selecting a candidate who already has the views of the American people in place, rather than a candidate trying to convince the public that his or her views are also the views of the masses; rhetoric supplanted by tangible evidence. AmericansElect opens the door to all public figures who have demonstrated their views by acting on them in a public forum, whether in politics or business. The candidate who most closely reflects the priorities and beliefs of those who join AmericansElect will receive the nod, whether they have been in the race or not. It will be nomination by invitation, an organically nominative event.
This process is a fascinating social experiment the likes of which we have not seen since the inception of our country. I am anxious to see who is nominated by this process. There is no guarantee that even if the individual selected is elected, he will receive support from AmericansElect in the following election since AmericansElect is not a party, so he or she will quite possibly be serving with the one-term mentality. Will we have another Truman or Carter, or will we see the individual become sucked into the morass of political wrangling and strategizing that so often encumbers our elected officials?
The nomination of someone, as yet unknown, by AmericansElect will establish the first public, non-partisan mandate of a candidate in this part of the election process. I look forward to seeing what that means in the election of 2012.
This may surprise my readers who know that I lean toward the political left in my social and economic belief system, but the popularity of Representative Michelle Bachmann, and others of her ilk, is not her fault. She is not responsible for the voice she has gained on the national stage. The responsibility rests in our hands.
As Americans, we choose to whom we listen. We have selective hearing when it comes to national candidates. We buy newspapers that have her name on them. We listen to the news when commentators discuss her politics. We click on the links to her interviews. We are wholly in the driver’s seat of giving Bachmann a sounding board on the national stage.
If we are unhappy that this candidate has free rein to blather on that evolution and global warming are in dispute, or that she would rather not discuss the ability to cure gay folks of their disorder of homosexuality after she wrote about it in her book, then we must stop paying attention. If the only people who listen are the relatively tiny number of Tea Party supporters, she will never win an election; but listen we continue to do.
I happen to believe in evolution and that it was the process through which God created the world. I am aware that scientists have been wrong in the past and that they speak the most accurate truth they have available to them today. I believe that there are differences in cultures and that all cultures are equal and valid. I also believe that polarity does not make either side wholly correct or wrong. I believe that knowledge and wisdom will direct us toward a middle path.
When Ross Perot ran as an Independent for President of the United States in 1992 and 1996, he was considered by many to be too “out there” for the mass consciousness; however, he did garner 29% of the vote. He had radical, but workable ideas for the economy and understood the machinations of government. In contrast, Bachmann, and all the Bachmann-lights that have appeared on our political landscape are contenders for our highest office in a major party. These individuals have a similar level of scientific understanding as the members of the Flat Earth Society, yet they continue to flourish. How is this even possible?
When they look back on this era, what will historians write about our politics? Will we have had Michelle Bachmann as the 45th President of the United States? Will the medical research laboratories in America shut down because she wouldn’t fund research that didn’t fit through the narrow filter of extremist right wing beliefs? Will people say of us the same thing they say about the German population who followed Adolf Hitler during the 1930s and ’40s: that we just didn’t choose to see what was ahead, or were too afraid to have our voices heard?
The truth is that we are giving credence to an ignoramus who does not understand history, economics, and science. She is not an ignoramus because of her beliefs, but because she chooses not to learn what every person who inhabits the White House should know; that she represents all Americans, not just a select few. We are validating her presence on the national stage whenever we do not turn off the television when she is on. Viewership is money in the hands of the media. When the dollars disappear, so does Michelle Bachmann.
Michelle Bachmann spoke this direct quote, “I just take the Bible for what it is, I guess, and recognize I’m not a scientist, not trained to be a scientist. I’m not a deep thinker on all of this. I wish I was. I wish I was more knowledgeable, but I’m not a scientist.”
If I’ve learned nothing else in my life, I’ve learned to believe what people tell me about themselves. I don’t listen to people who admit they don’t know. I don’t trust people who tell me they have a history of being untrustworthy. I don’t spend time with people who show me they do not respect me. I turn off the television and don’t click on online links when Michelle Bachmann is the topic. It’s that simple.
So, if we find Mrs. Bachmann in the White House, who should we turn to when American’s can’t feed themselves even though they’re working, because Bachmann believes that “if we took away the minimum wage – if conceivably it was gone – we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level,” and racial inequality grows under her administration because she believes that “not all cultures are equal?” We must look in our own mirrors to find the responsible parties, as we do after every election. That is why this will be my last word on Michelle Bachmann. I choose not to give any more of my time or energy toward her presence in the political whirlpool.
If we find her in our White House, it won’t be Michelle Bachmann’s fault, it will be our own.
Since 1959, the year I was born, as Dwight D. Eisenhower was serving his second term as President of the United States, the one thing I’ve noticed in politics is that each new president promises change in one way or another. As the four to eight years of their presidencies progress, there is one thing that remains consistent: the basic parts of running the government and our desire to remain the same continues unfettered.
There are those who support the president. There are those who disagree with the president. There are those who fight to support the president’s policies and there are those who fight to end the president’s tenure before its time.
The grassroots support that elected the candidate in question usually stay fairly strong. The crazies take shots at the president, sometimes literally in the cases of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan.
As we debate health care in America, President Obama’s desire to speak before the students in the United States, as well as his speeches on foreign soil, it’s become clear that the change Mr. Obama has promised will be hard won. The sweeping adjustments to our way of life that were the dreams of which his candidacy were made, will be smaller and more middle of the road than he expected, as they always are. That’s the nature of our society.
Certainly, there have been major accomplishments achieved by each of the presidents along the way, but the dynamic shifts in our culture and process as Americans have been few and far between.
As Mr. Obama listens to the representatives of the millions of Americans within our borders, he will discover that we are not a more homogenous community, such as the one he represented in Chicago. We are poor, white people in Appalachia. We are wealthy black people in Los Angeles. We are working class Latinos in New Mexico. We are isolated Inuits in Alaska.
Each of us have a different view point and a variety of needs in our lives. Mr. McCain lost the election based more on Mr. McCain himself and his running mate, Sarah Palin, than he did from the strength of Mr. Obama’s platform.
That’s the way it usually is. We select our president based on which individual is the lesser of two evils. No one wants a politician in office; yet, they are the only ones running.
So, as we continue to await equality for the gay community, health care that serves our entire population, an end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst the many other wishes we dreamed in November 2008, let us remember that we, as an American people, have once again mandated that we remain on the same highway we’ve found ourselves for at least the last fifty years of my memory, by our fear of change and distrust of those in office.
We will allow President Obama to rise only to the level of the mediocrity of our thought and the cloudiness of our vision.