Do you believe political ads? Do you? Then, you might think our congressmen are driven by a malevolent desire to deny life-saving body armor to our sons and daughters fighting in Iraq.
Look, I'm certainly no fan of our current crop of career congressmen, but even I cannot fathom such an accusation being true.
And it's not true. But it is on TV. Television ads hurl the charge against Republican Senators George Allen of Virginia and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. (Have no fear, partisans — there are plenty of lies being flung at Democrats, too.)
It's no surprise that today's campaigns, and the ads that go with them, are overwhelmingly negative. After all, the main reason to vote Republican is for fear of the Democrats. And vice versa. And we get it. We fear.
Indeed, public esteem is so low for the reigning parties that, yes, perhaps it really is necessary for politicians to portray their opponents as in the hip pocket of special interests, as haters of animals, children and the elderly, and as close personal friends of Osama Bin Laden.
For career politicians, distortion works better than truth.
That's why something a friend said about candidates for political office has always stuck with me. He suggests that their positions on issues are immaterial. Simply not to be trusted at face value. Yes, voters care about issues. But politicians don't. To them, issues are simply vote-scamming devices.
My friend insists that folks look to a candidate's philosophy. Issues are always changing — conveniently, for our slippery solons. Yet, one's philosophy of government suggests how an individual will react to changing times and conditions.
Unfortunately, most candidates don't have a philosophy of government. Oops. Unless a willingness to do anything (by hook or by crook) to get elected amounts to a philosophy.
So, we hear lots of promises — candidates claiming they can do everything from finding a cure for cancer to somehow sneaking body armor past all the other congressmen supposedly hell-bent on keeping our troops in as much peril as possible. Let's call this the Wizard of Oz philosophy. Its adherents want to be behind the curtain at the capitol pulling levers, spending tax dollars and assuring us that "the great and powerful" Pol has spoken. (They're all bad wizards, but many are bad men, too.)
What we don't hear enough about in political campaigns is freedom. Good, old-fashioned individual freedom. That was the original philosophy. The one that provided the golden eggs.
In this election, if you want to vote for freedom — for serious reform of our out-of-control government — you have to look to ballot measures. Voter initiatives are our best lever to check the excesses of big government. In fact, citizens can even use the initiative to re-establish some level of accountability and citizen control.
This November, voters in a number of states do have something positive to vote for on their ballot.
In seven states — Arizona, California, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, and Washington — voters can enact protections against the rampant abuse of eminent domain to steal homes, businesses and churches for the benefit of politicians and developers. Measures in Arizona, California, Idaho and Washington also provide private property protections against regulatory abuses.
Opponents of these measures include politicians, the regulatory bureaucracy and wealthy special interests benefiting from the current permitted abuse of property owners. They are pouring in money to defeat these measures, using their usual twist-and-distort communications strategy.
This week it came to light that Coeur d'Alene, Idaho City Attorney Mike Gridley has been telling reporters that Idaho's Proposition 2 (This House is MY HOME) would somehow invalidate laws regulating sexual predators. This is not true in even a twisted science-fictional universe, much less ours, and the attorney should either know it or not be an attorney. Local citizens have called for his resignation saying his dishonesty was "disgusting and represented the lowest form of politics."
In Oregon, citizens have placed state legislative term limits back on the ballot as Measure 45. Similar limits were passed in 1992, but the Oregon Supreme Court struck down those limits, in a breathtakingly arbitrary judgment, several years ago. In Colorado, voters will get to vote on Amendment 40, a plan to term-limit state appellate and supreme court justices.
Colorado voters will also get a chance to strengthen and expand their right to check government with the Petition Rights Amendment. Supporters of Amendment 38 are being badly outspent by big business and big government interests . . . but at least voters will decide.
In Maine, Nebraska, and Oregon, voters will determine the fate of state spending limits. In each state, government spending growth would be capped at inflation plus population growth and only voters, not politicians, could decide to break the cap. State government would be required to put surplus money away in good economic times to cushion against future revenue dips, and/or to refund money to taxpayers.
The politicians, public employee unions and an alphabet soup of government-funded lobbies opposing these measures have made outrageous charges. According to them, any limit to the growth of government whatsoever amounts to a drastic cut that will destroy all life forms on the planet.
Mary Adams, the plain-talking grandmother leading the charge for Maine's Taxpayers Bill of Rights, calls the measure's opponents "absolutely unscrupulous." She jokes that, "The enemies will tell you your teeth are going to rot and your hair is going to fall out if it passes."
Adams has horses on her farm and carries a bridle around the state with her. She explains that she loves her horses and she loves her government, but that both need the bridle so that they can be kept under control.
"This isn't about anything other than whether the power will rest with the taxpayer or with the people in Augusta who tax at will," says Adams.
Now that's something worth going to the polls for!
But you might want to put on your body armor.