“The spirit of 1776 is not dead. The body of the American people is substantially republican. But the virtuous feelings have been played on by some fact with more fiction; they have been the dupes of artful maneuvers, and made for a moment to be willing instruments in forging chains for themselves. But time and truth have dissipated the delusion and opened their eyes.”
(Thomas Jefferson, 1799)
“The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”
(Thomas Jefferson, 1774)
“If once [the people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I,…Congress and assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves.”
(Thomas Jefferson, 1787)
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
(Thomas Jefferson, 1816)
How often, over the last decades, has a person been elected to public office through promising one set of ideas, but once in office governed by another, often completely different set? In my lifetime, I’ve observed this to be the case far more often than not.
Most, I believe, do enter their campaign with real well-meaning, real-held beliefs, a good moral compass. However, all too often through the campaign, or shortly after being elected and taking office, things change. Influences of donors (essentially buying the candidate), political party leadership (support given in return for following the party-line on issues), the bias of the press (rarely ever neutral in coverage), smut throwers (digging up past history and twisting or outright lying about the candidate), the establishment (bureaucratic nature being to grow itself and grab more power and self-secure its influential position) – soon overwhelm all but the strongest of moral compass-driven persons.
Another grouping is of those typical politicians, those who “go-with-the-flow,” who will position themselves according to the latest pole information, who say whatever the electorate want to hear. These have no real internal moral compass, no real set of values except to themselves (“If it feels good, do it!”), and are extremely dangerous for that very reason.
Then there are the group of charismatics. These tend to win support because of being “sexy,” (tall, good looking, well dressed and manicured, powerful-voiced, good hair, young, energetic, or some other pleasing traits which make others want to follow their lead), or they may promote ideas popular with the masses (casting blame, speaking divisive messages against a basically innocent group – remember Hitler and the Jews).
There are also the party persons (those who have always been in a particular political party, “my daddy was of this party, his daddy before him, his before that,” etc. The party is always right and the opponent is always wrong, “The opposing party is evil, I’ll never vote for anyone of the other party!”
And of course, there are those who are just plain evil (yes, evil is real and constantly present in our world, continually working to destroy that which is of good).
So, how does one discover which candidates and office-holders are “keepers?” Ask them, then listen and watch. Let them tell you their worth. They will.
Over the last few months, I’ve had occasion to speak with many current candidates and office holders. I’ve heard many others speak on talk-radio and various TV programming. I’ve questioned, listened to their answers, and watched their actions. I’ve sought out the opinions of others, seeking what they may know about the candidate. I’ve done internet research. Through this, I’ve learned a lot. You can, too!
For instance, a few months ago, I had opportunity to ask a direct face-to-face question of a candidate for U.S. Congress. Having visited Washington, D.C. a couple of years ago, I observed and came away with the confirmation that it is a different world inside the D.C. Beltway, than what is life outside in the rest of the country where we real people live. Inside the Beltway is a political party-driven bureaucratic and legalistic nightmarish quagmire nearly in total disconnect with the rest of the country. This establishment soon begins work to corrupt all who enter there. So, my question to this candidate was how he would keep his apparent high level of proper moral beliefs and ideals once he took office and became a target of D.C.’s corrupting influences, how he planned to resist the Beltway crowd’s pressures? He never really gave a direct answer – he spoke long, he stammered in surprise, he answered a question other than the one I had asked of him, but I believe the question I asked caught him totally off guard. Hopefully, since then, maybe my question has led him to think and prepare for himself ways in which he will be able to remain true to his beliefs and ideals.
More recently, I was asked by a different party’s candidate to vote for him to occupy a local government office. OK, that’s fair and proper, but not knowing him, I was morally-bound to question him to discover who he was, what he believed, how he planned to make decisions in his governance.
My questioning led to the discovery that he was of an apparently successful small-business background. I learned that he correctly believed that one party’s monopoly on local political offices is not always a good thing. So far, so good However, when I asked how he planned to help small businesses, especially in reference to the immense amount of government regulations and the hurtful taxation system, how he would work to lessen government’s constitutionally-questionable interference in business’s growth and in its creating profit and jobs, he said that he felt that this regulation and taxation was necessary and that only the Federal government could do this, not the local or state levels which he would be a part of if elected…Hhhhuuuummm!…OK…So what about his beliefs on the U.S. Constitution? (During the 1970s, I was employed by the Ohio State Parks and was to sell boating and fishing licenses, requiring that I become a notary public. Part of my becoming such was that I take an oath of office, part of which stated that I would uphold the Constitution. I believe that this is a requirement also for the position he is seeking.) Here, our conversation went something like this (with him getting more upset with the direction of the conversation): He responded, what about the Constitution? …About how you will follow it if you are elected…What specific part?…How about the Original Intent of the Founders?… That was two hundred years ago, today is different… (Somehow we got onto the Second Amendment)…He proposed, “The Constitution doesn’t say anything about ammunition, now does it?”…Are you saying that the Founders intended the people to be able to carry around a rifle, but not to have any ammunition with which to use it? It seems to me that guns and ammunition are one and the same thing, one is useless without the other….At that point he indicated that our conversation was over, and he indicated that I should leave his presence as my welcome was ended. He further suggested that I should go down the street and talk to the other party, or better yet, the Tea Party, as I was inclined more towards their way of thinking than to that of his political party, or of his own.
Thus, one finds out about many of the true beliefs of a particular candidate and about how he will likely attempt to govern. Remember, ask, then listen and watch.
Randy Conover is a retired educator. He lives in Clermont County.