One of the great tragedies of the 2008 presidential election is that so many people believe they are voting for the lesser of evils. I think even hardcore leftists will admit quite a lot of misgiving and embarrassment that their candidate is a freshman ideologue whose strengths seem to be limited to giving good speeches and having media charisma.
Underlying this tragedy is an even greater misfortune, one that has haunted American politics for so long that people now believe that this state of affairs is how it has always been. The reason we face electing the lesser of evils in 2008 is that none of us participated in the process that led to the current candidates occupying the positions they do.
I challenge you to find a single person who supported McCain or Obama for president before they declared themselves candidates for president. If you ask a hundred people, you might find one, two if you are really lucky. I bet if you asked someone in the beginning of 2007 (that the campaign started so early is another travesty) if he supported Obama for president, he would probably ask “Who?”
What this phenomenon illustrates is that practically none of us is involved in the election process prior to the primaries. By the time the primaries occur, we already know the top two or three candidates. By the time the general election occurs, we are left with the choice of people who very likely represent very little of what we actually stand for as individuals.
Of course, it is very difficult given the sheer number of voters in the United States to select candidates that can represent broad swaths of people, but that task is not impossible. What makes the task still possible is the potential for involvement by everyday people like you and me. If we decide to make our voices heard and our opinions known, then it is possible for us to change the way the elections occur, regardless of what the party bosses and their big money donors want.
The way we make this change happen is by participating in the entire political process. It used to mean something for someone to call himself a Republican or a Democrat. Once upon a time, people did not affiliate themselves with parties unless they participated in what those parties did. Participation made the difference then, and it is lack of participation that makes the difference now.
I understand that many, many people do not want to become Republicans or Democrats, and that dissent speaks to the heart of the problem. We do not have to be Republicans or Democrats. We can start new, independent political parties. If we are not so bold, we can start voters’ leagues and political action groups.
Whatever we do, we must realize that the race for the 2012 election starts on November 5, 2008 (assuming we have a president-elect on the 4th). If we wait until the 2012 primaries, we will likely have two candidates a lot like the ones we have now, or ones even worse.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a nation governed of, by, and for us. Republican democracy cannot work when the people do not participate. If we do not participate, we end up electing career bureaucrats or autocratic socialists for president instead of citizens who represent us and our will for our country. The fact that this will occur in 2008 is a great tragedy for our country and our future.
While that tragedy will occur, we can also reverse it, but we can only reverse it if enough of us care to do something about it. We need to start thinking about what we are going to do now if we are going to have a chance in 2012.