Election Year Fatigue

With three weeks to go until the presidential election, many of our fellow citizens are developing cases of fatigue from the seeming relentless amount of political news reporting on television, broken up by Super PAC ads, and the bombardment of all social media platforms. The constant jockeying for votes has pushed some Americans, especially those in battleground states, into apathy. Whether it’s claiming that both parties are ‘different animals with the same shit’ or simply writing off both candidates based on their fundraising balance sheets concluding that they are paid for by the same ‘rich banks and big businesses’, you’ve undoubtedly seen some of your friends wave a white flag on behalf of their vote. The length of this political season has indeed made some Americans ‘tired of politics’.

I too have felt fatigue with the sheer volume of misinformation being spread through the media and the constant misdirection of the American people. I recognize this as misinformation and  misdirection because of the context I’ve revealed. Without the foundational understanding of law and political philosophy, I can imagine frustration sets in  quite rapidly with the semantics of both Democrats and Republicans. To develop this context, each citizen must make an investment of his or her patience, time, and focus. Some may claim that they have no patience for such an activity, nor the interest to maintain focus, and certainly not the time. To that objection I sternly question is this too great of a cost to bear to continue to live in a free society? Would you prefer that your decisions are made for you? Is the sense of responsibility and accountability to your fellow citizens too immense for you to accept? If yes, then you my friend have some maturing to do and some forgiveness to ask for from our commendable founding fathers. If no, then the real work can begin and you can stop feeling sorry for yourself for being ‘tired of politics’.

In the 18th century, one of the most remarkable cultural movements swept Europe and spilled over into the newly formed American colonies. ‘The Enlightenment’ also known as the ‘Age of Reason’ is an era of history you’ve likely touched on during school but haven’t heard of since. It was during this era that America’s Founders would find their inspiration for the formation of a country based on the respect for individuals and observance of their natural rights. At the country’s birth, two dominant political ideologies existed; Federalism and Anti-Federalism. The fundamental differences between these parties was the role of the federal government. Both parties were very connected to the value of the individual and the observance of their natural rights because of the first-hand experience with the tyranny of the King and also the relief brought upon by The Enlightenment.

Fast-forward to today where several generations have passed since the founding, thus disconnecting us from the principles of The Enlightenment. Today Democrats and Republicans bicker over tax cuts and entitlements, but what founding principles have these parties come to represent? It is through the refinement of our political context that we are able to discern the true nature of the dispute. How can one become attuned once again to our founding principles? Through the investment of time, one can develop a political context by reading the same political philosophy books that our Founders have; the works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith, and Frederic Bastiat to name a few. It is from these brilliant men that our Founders drew their wisdom. The Constitution is emboldened with the ideas of these political philosophers. Some of their works are quite lengthy and are difficult to read, while some are succinct and clear.

A great first read I would recommend is The Law by Frederic Bastiat. Numbering a mere seventy pages or the time investment of about ninety minutes. Bastiat explains the intent and extent to which the government has authority. Through the subjects of taxation and private property, Bastiat draws a clear picture of the role and limitations of government.  Your local library is full of books by these great authors as well as likely their entire works are available online at Amazon. It is your responsibility as a citizen to be informed and vote accordingly. It is the founding principles of this country that has propelled us to a world superpower and the envy of other nations. If one is not in touch with our founding principles, they are easily redefined.

The cerebral achievements of The Enlightenment are at risk as the line between the Federal government and the individual is blurred. The respect for individual rights is tarnished as the government steps in to mandate our healthcare decisions (Affordable Care Act), the diets of America’s school children (Michelle Obama’s new lunch guidelines), and the thousands of other regulations drafted by this administration. This trampling of individual rights is something the Founder’s would be revolted by. Those who are in touch with the principles of the Founder’s are equally disgusted. Without this bedrock upon which to lay the current political battles, frustration and apathy sets in. By reclaiming our founding principles and developing a political context, we become our own ‘fact-checkers’ who can determine what is truth and what is malicious misinformation.

In a little more than three months our forty-fifth president will be sworn into office, or so we hope, and the saliency of election year politics will subside. The political ads will be removed from television and the discussion of politics will largely return to the radio waves. Our hardnosed friends who have been virtually campaigning for their favored presidential candidates will quiet down and either embrace victory or accept defeat. What happens to your political views? Are the stowed away in the attic only to be retrieved three and a half years later? Or do you stay vigilant refining your political prism and helping others uncover theirs? This is the cost of living in a free society and is your responsibility to fellow and future citizens to be informed.

-Dean Jones