Less than a year in, Americans have already lost faith in President Obama. Most had previously lost faith in congressional Democrats, and before that, congressional Republicans. In each case, the only reasonable question is: What took voters so long to face facts?
The lagtime, here, appears to depend (at minimum) on the time required to betray a pledge. That is, from the moment that candidate Obama first promised televised deliberations for the creation of a new nationalized health care system to the untelevised congressional deliberations of same. The point of putting it on C-Span was, of course, to prevent precisely the dirty backroom deals that have now insolently been stuffed into the legislation.
As president, Barack Obama cant be bothered to keep his word — even by meekly suggesting to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid that they allow the American people a peephole into Washingtons backroom sausage factory.
Its funny. Or Speaker Pelosi thinks so. She laughed mockingly this week, when asked about Obamas health care transparency pledge.
The naked truth of modern politics is that our elections are meaningless affairs in which two blow-dried phonies with the same agenda lie to us shamelessly . . . when not charging each other with greater degrees of hypocrisy, deception, and kleptomania.
If voters inevitably play the sucker, its no laughing matter. This truth has consequences: We cannot trust our new president or our new Congress. We could not trust our old ones. Indeed, the bankruptcy of both major parties is no secret. Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele recently called many of his own partys leadership, especially in Congress, part of the problem, not the solution.
A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that the much-maligned Tea Party movement is much more popular than either Republicans or Democrats. While there is some GOP influence in the Tea Party movement, and its clearly more conservative than liberal, there is a very strong non-partisan (or transpartisan) impulse in the movement.
An independent, citizen-led political movement is precisely the antidote for the professional partisan politics that is killing our golden goose. But it is critical the movement not become yet another political party.
After Perots massive 19 percent vote for president in 1992 as an independent, the United We Stand America organization (and the broader, fiscally responsible reform-minded movement surrounding it) played a very consequential role in overthrowing the 40-year domination of Congress by Democrats.
Of course, Republicans wasted little time in becoming as arrogant, ignorant, wasteful and crooked as Democrats had been. Not coincidentally, by 1996 United We Stand America became the Reform Party and its impact marginalized.
A new party stands little chance of overcoming all the legal hurdles the Rs and Ds have enacted, from campaign finance laws to ballot access barriers to arbitrary and capricious actions by the Federal Election Commission, which with an equal number of Republican and Democrat appointees is designed to protect the major parties from the rules they write, while harassing any outside competition.
What to do?
Join the Tea Party. Keep it independent. Look for ways to work with people across the political spectrum, as long as they believe in government of the people as opposed to government by lesser-evil politicians.
Im not suggesting anyone compromise on principle, but rather that we not ignore the many issues where we can make common cause with those who might disagree on other matters. We have to stop being divided and conquered by the two-sided, one-result partisan noise.
As Theresa Amato, campaign manager for Ralph Nader in 2000 and 2004 and author of Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny, said recently, You cant make political change unless youre willing to venture out of your own cul-de-sac.
The thing most needful is providing voters real choices for representatives. Spanking the incumbent Democrats in 2010? Fun. Necessary. Richly deserved. But, alone, such reprisal will invariably accrue to the benefit of equally arrogant incumbent Republicans.
So, how to know whether a candidate can be taken seriously? The candidate must be in favor of more limits on politicians and on political power while favoring fewer limits on citizen participation in government.
Take three issues, to begin with:
1. Initiative and referendum. Government of, by and for the people cannot exist if politicians monopolize all political processes and, thereby, block reform. If a candidate doesnt think you are worthy of voting on issues, then that candidate is not worthy of your vote.
2. Term Limits. Nothing separates politicians from the American people like the issue of term limits. If we want to end the damage that career politicians are doing to our Republic, we need term limits. We also desperately need the open seat elections created by term limits — elections where new blood and new ideas stand a better chance.
3. Transparency. To make good decisions, citizens must have an honest and open accounting from their government. No reasonable person — right, left or anywhere in-between — disagrees. Nevertheless, politicians continue to stonewall, keeping public information from the public.
Other critical issues — like health care, global warming, corporate bailouts, property rights — remain important, and require much attention. But most important of all is that we establish a system in which citizens can get back in the game of self-government.
Our rulers cannot be trusted to act alone on our behalf.