The people (who voted…more on that later) have spoken. The midterm elections of 2010 are mercifully past resulting in a new Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a smaller majority for the Democrats in the Senate. Now, to those of you that know me, the fact that I lean leftward in my politics is not a new revelation. However, many of you don’t know that the direction of my current political leanings is pretty much polar opposite of my youthful right wing past. I’m not writing about that change today. But that is the context that I bring to this discussion.
I didn’t watch the returns last night. Instead, I continued my trek through Season 1 of 30 Rock via Netflix. I awoke this morning, dropped today’s edition of the New York Times onto my Kindle, and read the story I expected to read at the top of A1. I was not really troubled at all about the results of yesterday’s elections. “They are what they are” as they say. A friend of mine (a fellow liberal) posted that “sanity lasted for about 3 days” on his Facebook status…an obvious nod to Stewart/Cobert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear held on the national mall this past Saturday. I don’t believe he was referring to the election results. I think he was referring to the rhetoric coming from the collective windbags we either elected or kicked out of office and/or the pundits of the TV news channels pretentiously “explaining” the results to all us littles. His next sentence pretty much sums up the soil from which my cynicism flourishes: “I am not expecting much cooperation in the next two years with continued fighting resulting in an extended weak economy and the poor continued to being trampled.” I really don’t know what actual work will be accomplished by this congress. But I’m hoping my friend is not prophetic and my cynicism is dashed.
However, the trend is not hopeful. Sanity is probably still an idealistic dream. I’m pretty sure what we’ll see over the next two years is a change in roles…the Dems wearing the hats the GOP have worn for the past several years…that of a ball and chain around the process. God forbid the other party actually getting credit for accomplishing something. It is a testament to the sad state of our two reigning political parties. Democrats and Republicans actually share a common objective: gain control for the party. The thought of working together to accomplish something bigger than any one political party could ever do on its own is written off as simply naive.
Which brings me to the question of “mandate” ( |ˈmanˌdāt| — the authority to carry out a policy or course of action, regarded as given by the electorate to a candidate or party that is victorious in an election). The victor always loves to claim the authority of “mandate”. But if we are not careful, the perceived will of the majority often overlooks the needs of those who have no real access to the power structures of our government. The “mandate” of most or our recent elections was determined by a mere 41% turnout of the voting eligible population(VEP). Divide that total into whatever percentage voted for Republican or Democrat for your “mandate”. That leaves 59% of people in our country who failed to vote (in my state of Tennessee, 65% of the VEP failed to vote. Check out this very informative website if you’re interested in that type of data.)
I’ll not pass a blanket judgement on that 59% for that lapse…their reasons are their own (be it apathy, not registered, disenfranchised, etc.). But I would like to say that it is my hope that the mandate of the month might be informed by the idea that our nation is not merely a democracy of majority rule but one where it is safe to be in the minority (People much wiser than I have said that somewhere before but I can’t find the exact quote…please add it to the comments if you can attribute it to someone). All of us are Americans. Liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, rich, poor…all of us. Is it too much to ask that we all work together to solve the problems facing our nation? I’ll leave you with a little Bill Moyers. (and for those who would like to claim the title “Christian Nation” for these United States of America…please meditate on this passage of scripture).
Although our interests as citizens vary, each one is an artery to the heart that pumps life through the body politic, and each is important to the health of democracy.
BILL MOYERS, The Nation, Jan. 22, 2007