Unification News for April 2004
Election Year Quartet
March 26, 2004
It’s an election year. The 2004 primary elections are over, and all eyes are turning toward November. This is the fourth article in this series, and it’s in print a couple of months sooner this time, because the primaries and major decisions have already wrapped up.
As I write this, the only remaining drama concerns the Vice Presidential selections. This time or next, America could see women on both major tickets. In any case, the Democrat and Republican national conventions have become nothing more than big pep rallies.
Legal disclaimer: this is a religious publication, so we do not support any specific legislation, candidate, or party. Heck, I wouldn’t dream of it.
These days, most election campaigns are run by wealthy professional consultants. Some of them are very successful, even traveling to foreign countries to work their media magic. Others can border on the bizarre.
Here in California, often the candidate (or cause) that shovels the most money loses the worst. A long string of eccentric millionaires has livened things up.
Tens of millions of dollars are pouring into campaign and ‘interest group’ advertisements, most of which follow set patterns. Many do not mention the candidate’s Party affiliation, or whether they’re the incumbent.
For the very first time, the Internet is providing full, up-to-the-minute verification of each major candidate’s stated claims. It’s amazing the whoppers they’ll try to unload. See the nonpartisan sites, www.vote-smart.org, www.spinsanity.org, and www.factcheck.org. From now on, all those slick spinmeitsers won’t be able to fool YOU.
Book readers can learn much from Brad Meltzer’s novel The Zero Game. Mr. Meltzer has spoken to my writer’s group. He’s a great guy and an amazing researcher. He provides a civics lesson the US Congress would rather you didn’t have! (His novel The First Counsel, with its intimate look at a troubled First Family, may also resonate with Unificationists.)
Astute observers believe this election is crucial to the fate of the United States. They thought several Supreme Court seats were at stake in 2000, but it’s more likely this time around. Also, the war on terrorism is far from over. Concerning such issues, the political parties offer radically different ideologies and positions.
Some pundits claim that Washington is hopeless; controlled by "insiders" who not-so-secretly pull everyone’s strings. If they haven’t given up on politics entirely, they tell us "we need a third party." However, for everyone to find a third party that suited their individual views, there would have to be thousands of them!
Protest candidates such as Minnesota’s Gov. Jesse Ventura shocked the establishment by winning. All is not lost, but Ventura soon retired from office. Also, California’s new Gov. Schwarzenegger has quickly become an insider, himself . . .
Recent elections have featured low turnouts, with some primaries drawing around ten percent. This is commonly called a bad thing, but ignorant voters may be worse than nothing.
Politicians are expert demagogues. That is, they try to appeal more to your emotions than to your mind. In almost every case, the slickest candidate, with the best hair, wins. In an age of television, Abraham Lincoln would never have been elected.
Things are going fairly well in this country, so most people see no need to vote. It takes real, widespread trouble to energize the masses, and even 9-11 seems to be fading as a priority, if not in people’s memories.
When a politician promises you wonderful things, he (or she) is hoping to buy your vote. When they shake your hand, visualize their other hand reaching into your wallet. Remember, they can never give you anything -- they have to take your money first. Worse, they’ll waste half (maybe even three quarters) of it on sweetheart deals and bureaucratic bungling.
Of course, they tell you they’re spending somebody else’s money, taxed from "the rich," or "big corporations." Or that they’ve "brought in Federal dollars" from some distant but unnamed locale. Politicians assume you’re too ignorant to figure out their game.
Have we gotten our money’s worth? In the past fifty years government ventured into solving social problems, and spent more almost ten trillion dollars. Enough to buy up our nation’s troubled areas lock, stock, and barrel -- and still give every poor person a huge check. Obviously this avalanche of tax money hasn’t accomplished much.
Where is this vast scheme headed? The growth of America’s Federal budget has outpaced its population by more than 100-fold, and under the current administration it’s shot up yet again. You’ve heard outrageous examples of waste, and seen how entitlements can rarely be cut, or even slowed in growth. Even so, many politicians have the gall to say we haven’t spent enough.
The handouts can’t increase forever. Over 160 years ago, Frederic Bastiat got it right in his treatise The Law. He wrote, "But the [government] is not a breast that fills itself with milk. Nor are the lacteal veins of the [government] supplied with milk from a source outside of society."
It’s now common to hear ‘bankruptcy dates’ announced for Medicare, Social Security, and other programs. The government is speeding toward a cliff, and elected politicians lack the guts to even let up on the gas pedal.
At election time candidates will roar, "It’s time to get tough on (fill in the blank)!" It’s usually empty rhetoric. Commentators like Sean Hannity are putting their actual records on public view.
Such plain recitations of fact are often dismissed as a "hateful attack." One is reminded of the old schoolyard taunt "it takes one to know one," and of the psychological term ‘projection.’
Remember, other than collecting your taxes and traffic tickets, government has a hard time doing anything right. If a candidate promises he’s going to fix things, ask for clear details.
Check out the issues, and run the numbers. You don’t need a college degree for this. How much are we taxed? Where is it spent? Who’ll make the rules? Is the problem really going away?
Don’t you dare rely on the nightly TV news for information. They are selective, biased, and dumbed down -- and it’s only getting worse. The mainstream media remains utterly silent on many vital stories.
What’s the alternative?
Magazines carry a huge variety of news and opinion. Mother Jones has populist/leftist views, and excellent investigative reporting. For example, they talk about huge chemical companies suing little family dairies, for merely telling customers that their milk doesn’t contain said company’s artificial hormones. Also, about the Labor Dept. assisting corporations in eliminating worker’s overtime pay. Plus, the new Prescription Drug bill locking in high prices, by forbidding agency bids, and individuals from buying in Canada.
Opposite this, The Weekly Standard magazine offers conservative news, and some truly insightful essays.
On the air, Free Speech Radio features a progressive (extreme leftist?) viewpoint. Rush Limbaugh offers humorous, conservative views. (Or insensitive, extremist ones?) Informative talk stations such as KSFO can be heard over the Internet. (At, www.KSFO.com) WorldNetDaily and other news sources flourish online.
If you’re as busy as I am, you can go pester some policy wonk friends. Pick a variety of people. You may be surprised at how well-informed most folks are, and how well they can back up their viewpoints.
I want to know each candidate’s record, philosophy, and position on the issues. I would hope to understand their personal character. When I lived in Idaho, I actually met some of the bigwigs. Here in California I’ve met dedicated activists of many stripes.
Rev. Moon says that God has blessed America with its prominence and prosperity because we believed in Him. Also because she sacrificed herself, her blood and treasure, for the freedom of many nations. Long ago, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that America thrives because its people are good. What a far cry from the popular, selfish political platforms of today.
Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." We should be thankful for what we have, even if we do keep messing it up. It’s been said that we get the leadership we deserve. I think there’s plenty of room for improvement, don’t you? For now, I say: get informed, and get involved. See you down at the polling booth.
by Paul Carlson
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