Of The People, By The People, For The People

Reports out of Tar Heel, North Carolina suggest that it will be a rather interesting election this fall. That’s because in the small town of 117 residents, no one has registered themselves as a candidate for the position of mayor, or any of three open commission seats. That’s right, this coming election, the city will have ballots with no names, just empty spaces for people to write them in. As shocking as this seems, the existing mayor isn’t surprised, and, to tell you the truth, neither am I.

You can write this off as a problem of small town America, but even here in Lakewood there is an ever DECREASING number of people willing to present themselves as a candidate for political office. Is anyone other than the incumbent running for mayor? With Matt Markling stepping down, is there even anyone looking to fill his seat on the school board? Ask anyone walking up your street and I doubt they can even name their own council-person, let alone anyone who might be running against them this fall.

This isn’t just a problem of voter apathy. For decades, we’ve been a fickle society when it comes to turnout in the voting booth. This is different. In my opinion, this type of problem signifies a more troublesome shift in American politics. While this country was founded on the principles of a representative republic, if you look at our system today, you’d be hard pressed to fit the current model back into its original mold.

Unfortunately, today, I believe our government more accurately fits the description of an aristocracy.  Instead of a government where all citizens hold political power, we’ve devolved into a society where the majority doesn’t feel smart enough or good enough to get involved. Instead of committing to the work necessary to keep ourselves educated in the areas where politics affect our very livelihood, we willingly hand off the job to those we think are more qualified to solve our problems.

Back in 1787, the seeds of a democratic republic were sown. And, while the constitution may have been written by society’s elites, the responsibility of making it work was clearly placed in the hands of this country’s farmers, factory workers and family men. Our forefathers intentionally built a system that was so simple it fit neatly on a couple pieces of paper. Government was intended to be only big enough to keep the union together and to keep our liberties safe. When the duties and responsibilities of our elected officials were kept to the basics, regardless of the scope of the problem, the solutions were relatively simple.

But as the years advanced, the roles and responsibilities of government expanded. The average citizen was no longer elected just to keep things running; instead political specialists stepped forward with promises that they could make things better. A country that was established on the premise of “do-it-yourself”, slowly turned into a “have it your way” mentality. And, the focus of government shifted from resolving straight-forward disputes to attacking compound societal issues.

The more complex the system became, the more we handed it over to the leadership of lawyers, executives and professors. And the system began to propagate itself. Increasingly difficult issues led to even more intricate proposals, which only led to more complicated problems, and on and on, to the point where experts today don’t even try to explain their actions, instead they just trot out their resumes in a vain attempt to placate our anxiety.

I often get disheartened when I hear people I know suggest that they don’t have the background or education to run for office. It makes me mad that there are thousands of good people in this city alone who are more than capable of being strong, moral, and effective leaders, yet subject themselves to the opinions of a contemptible aristocracy who deem them unworthy. The truth is completely the opposite; the failure is theirs, not yours.

A political class has evolved in today’s society that seeks only the power of elected position. Their focus isn’t on the nobility of service, but rather the narcissistic desire for fame and notoriety. Once in office, getting things done takes a back seat to getting re-elected. And the quickest path to job security is to create a system that only they can navigate. Would you hire a plumber if he laid so many pipes that only he could fix a leak, or an electrician whose wiring diagram left all competitors incapable of installing a ceiling fan? Would you trust a mechanic that couldn’t explain his repairs, yet insisted you pay the bill?

Most people are frustrated with the current tax system and can’t begin to comprehend volume after volume of state and federal law. But that shouldn’t dissuade them from serving as a councilman, congressman, or even a senator. It’s true; we need people educated as to the problem, but just as importantly, we need solutions that are geared toward the people. When we’ve gotten to the point where the majority can’t understand the legislation, then it’s the rules that have gotten out of hand, not the people.

It’s time to regain control of our constitutional republic. And it all starts when the common man no longer fears bringing common sense back into government.

Read More on Perspective
Volume 7, Issue 15, Posted 7:38 AM, 07.27.2011