The politics of rejection

Published 2:20 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2010

One of the hardest things about writing weekly columns is that sometimes tomorrow’s story is yesterday’s news.

I am writing on Monday evening contemplating tomorrow’s election. When this column comes out on Wednesday and Thursday, the results will be known to all that are interested.

As a former politician and a lifelong political junkie, there still isn’t much I can write about other than this year’s important election. Everyone has heard predictions over the past few days.

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By the time you read this you will know if those predictions were true or not, so I’ll refrain from putting my two cents in the pot. Instead, I’ll just give my thoughts about the election just hours before the balloting will begin.

Business caused me to be on the road today, and I purposely listened to the radio the entire trip. Tonight I watched television to see the latest advertisements geared toward turning out the party faithful.

I walked into the house to see the light on the voice mail indicating that I had some messages. For the second day in a row the number “7” was blinking showing how many messages had been left. On both days, they were all robo calls telling me how to vote.

The common thing between radio, television, telephones and even newspapers today was that it was all negative. My mailbox has had mailers each day for the past couple of weeks telling me why I should not vote for candidate “x”.

I understand the reality of negative campaigning. It dominates the airwaves because it works. We can complain and condemn negative advertising all we want, but research is clear that voters respond to this type of campaigning, even as they condemn it.

This year is particularly interesting in that voters aren’t looking for a vision or platform that is positive about the future. Rather, the population is looking to blame someone for their own plight. As usual, nothing is more powerful in an election than the economic well-being of the people. Truer words were never spoken than those of the Clinton campaign when they said, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

Poll after poll indicates that people aren’t voting Republican so much as they are voting against the incumbent Democrats. The Tea Party enthusiasm has certainly helped the Republican candidates even as it has put some of its more moderate members at risk.

People are fed up without knowing exactly where they want to go. They want honest representation. They want less taxes, but without cutting all the services.

People want an answer to health care reform, but they fear they can’t afford the proposed solutions. People want fewer taxes even as our exploding deficits demand more revenue.

Almost five people are applying for every available job. Chances are that you know someone that is out of work without reasonable prospects for the future.

In the uncertainty of the issues of the day, voters move to the right or left, leaving the middle exposed. We will surely wind up with fewer moderates in Congress and in the state legislatures. Compromise seems less likely in the next two years than in the past two years.

I left politics largely because I came to believe there was no place for a statesman searching for solutions or compromise. In the 10 years since I came home there is little that has happened to change my mind. Partisanship has reached a fever pitch and personal destruction of an opponent to achieve political power has become acceptable. This year’s election might even indicate that the destruction has become the norm.

I used to say to those that I represented that government could not solve our problems. If the problems of Southwest Georgia were going to be solved, then it was up to us, the people, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

In many ways, I think this is what the people are saying in this election. Trillions of dollars of new debt without meaningful solutions is moving backwards. We are in our longest war without an honorable end in sight. People don’t trust the health care solution or the people who put it in place. Government cannot solve our problems. It is up to us to improve our own plight.

The Wall Street Journal on their opinion page said today that just over half the people consider the Democratic Party the party of big government. Almost as many people consider the Republican Party to represent big business. Where is the party for the people of America? Who represents you and me?

I will have voted Tuesday like millions of other Americans around the country. Like most, I expect I will be voting to reject more than I will be voting to support. There will be no true mandate from the people other than we want to take our government back.

Hopefully those elected, even if by the politics of rejection, will understand that the American people are demanding to govern themselves. We want honest dialogue and truthful debate. We don’t want to be taken for granted, and we want those we elect to hear our voice.

Regardless of the overall changes that result from Tuesday’s election, no one really wins. This is not a country of parties. It is a country of the people and those elected who fail to recognize this are destined to face the same rejection again in 2012.