by Paul Hamlin
For the naïve and uninitiated, the campaign trail is full of heartache and pain. The apathy, the dismay and the contempt that the voter has about the election process and all people who dare run a campaign is astounding, and not necessarily misplaced.
When I struck out to run for the US House of Representatives the intent was noble, and I can only assure people that it did not come from a desire to have power. I am a firm believer that the people who represent us in Washington are or should be servants to those that elect them. While this is not the current standard in Washington today, I ran with the idea that we could return to those expectations.
Moreover, I did not run with the intent of getting rich, I saw the salary for the US House as a living wage, nothing more…I didn’t want a book deal or a lobbyist job. However, today in our society, one of the quickest ways to get rich is to become a US Representative or a Senator. If you look at assets of your senator today versus a year before they were elected, you will be astonished.
I saw the task of being elected as a quest. A hope for something better and brighter. In some cases, a return to something better, but in many cases a forging of something new.
I didn’t want to become beholden to a political entity or party, I wanted no relationships with lobbyists, special interest groups, or PACs… I just wanted to tell people my ideas and let them choose. I wanted my opponents to understand that it was time for something new and refreshing in politics, and at a minimum, respect that.
What I saw among the people was hatred. Many so apathetic that they had walked away from the process all together. Too many times I heard the words, “my vote doesn’t matter anyway.” People expressing their contempt for the system, not as it is supposed to be, rather what it has become. We assume too many times that we know what elections are about, but in truth we do not….
ELECTIONS ARE NOT ABOUT SOLUTIONS
Elections are not about the national debt, immigration reform, abortion, or the Supreme Court. Elections are not about choosing between candidates with opposing viewpoints, as in truth neither intend to do anything. The majority of our Congress people do not care to fix issues, and if push comes to shove would rather perpetuate the fracturing of the nation over major issues of the day.
There is no intent to solve major issues, the professional political class merely present their glib and incomplete ideas in the form of bullet points as an effort to tell the constituency that they really care. But in truth they publish the same bullet points election after election, with no solution…no movement toward a solution.
They publish bullet points on major issues to draw lines in the sand. They challenge voters to say, “you’re either with us or you’re one of them”. They encourage hatred for the other side and intolerance toward compromise…because compromise does not procure campaign donations.
Donations are the lifeblood of the system…not for the current election, but for the life of the power-hungry candidates.
The size of your “war chest” is the new measuring contest.
The ability to raise contributions is more important than your ability to actually win elections. If you can do both, you are a golden child in the political parties.
Your ideas, your ability to convey ideas, your willingness to find solutions is not important…the size of your election campaign bank account is important.
A candidate is not raising money for this campaign, they are raising money for the next campaign.
The ideas you express are simplistic, play on the base emotions of an electorate that has already lost decency. You focus on the extremes, and you use the us versus them mentality to sure up your hold on the middle. Worst of all? It leaves all of us wondering, “what does my candidate really believe.” We elect people and we have no clue what they really believe or how they want to govern.
The plurality of Americans identify as independents, but still vote along party lines…because the parties know we don’t want to be seen as a sympathizer. They play on us; they know they have a monopoly.
In some cases, the political parties work hand in hand. They offer up deals to one another to ensure that some seats stay democratic and offer to run weak or no candidates in republican strongholds and both parties play the game. In many cases they gerrymander together, treating districts like baseball cards, all in an effort to protect the two-party system.
Watch the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox play baseball…theirs is the most celebrated rivalry in baseball. They build it up as near hatred, they want to destroy each other. Watching the game, you realize that while they are opponents and they want to win, there is no hatred. They build the fans into the frenzy to sell tickets.
The Yankees and the Red Sox athletes, despite the theatrics and the drama, work together to protect the game of baseball. Their actual core affiliation is with Major League Baseball and the front office that signs their paychecks.
There, you have the Democrats and the Republicans. No one is innocent, no one is better than the other. They are both complicit. They tell us what we should believe, they tell us how we should vote, they play games with us…and they do not care. Some have described the Republicans and the Democrats as two families of a national, political crime syndicate – the electoral equivalents of the Gambinos and the Columbos, if you will.
The best thing for both parties is a scandal or political turmoil (even if they are on the negative side). The political bases dig in, they give more money to protect “their people” and the parties take advantage of the situation. They send our sensationalized fund-raising emails to alarm us and scare us into thinking that the end of the world is near. It isn’t. They just want your money, as usual.
The funny, or not so funny part, is that we fall for it. We dump billions, if not trillions, of dollars into this system every election cycle. We ensure with every donation to one of the major parties that nothing gets solved, that we continue with the harmful rhetoric, the hyperbole and the fear mongering.
As an independent candidate, you aren’t just trying to overcome the other candidate, you have to overcome the entire system that is rigged to make sure you fail.
Republicans hate you, Democrats hate you…and they both want you to fail, because you bring the tools to light their houses on fire and burn the rat’s nests out. So, you are unwelcome…not invited to debates, not invited to community functions…they pull their strings and ensure that ballot access is extremely difficult, or extremely convoluted. They influence election boards to set up the ballots to benefit them, or they will run “ghost” candidates to fill the ballot to confuse the voter.
How does an independent candidate win? They don’t win in the traditional sense, not yet. They only win when they propagate ideas, when they start to engage the voters who thought no one cared, when they present solutions, when they refuse to be a part of the indecency…and one voter at a time starts a revolution against party politics.
When we open our eyes and see the corruption, when we look beyond the slogans, the fancy ads, the fake policies, when we look and can see the actual value of our system and that we can no longer vote for those that have broken it and want to keep it broken. Each vote that an independent wins represents a changing America, it represents 1776 at the ballot box.
Independent candidates come with a wide variety of stances on issues…and we can and should choose leaders based on their positions to some extent…but first we need a return to decency, so first with every candidate find out if they want to solve the problems or if they want to be a part of the problem. When you dig a little, you can find the answer…. That is how we all win.
It is up to us to redefine “winning” or “success”, it may not (and will not be) winning an election for several years. It could simply be spreading the idea that there are sane voices, there are those that seek solutions, those that will not sell their souls, and will not settle for the “better of two evils”.
Success comes in the form of every single vote, every single chance to express the need for change, every time the independent candidate upsets the apple cart. Time for a shake up, and it should be a call for independents.