The Change that can Change Politics as Usual

I don’t know if it has always been a theme in U.S. political campaigns, but over the last 30 years or so, “change” has been a major theme and promise in presidential campaigns.   This year both the Republican and Decomocratic presidential nominees are running on the theme of change

It is somewhat amazing that for all those who went into office promising change, how much things have remained the same.  Take for example a line from GOP Presidential Candidate John McCain’s acceptance speech:

“Let me just offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first-country-second crowd: Change is coming.”

I think his message is a welcomed one, but I would also point out that every election the candidates are always promising to bring change to Washington.  Some things never change.  Candidates promising change is one of them, and so is the fact that apparently Washington is pretty resistant to change.  Despite all of those senators, congressman and presidents elected on the promise of bringing change to Washington, the next election will simply bring out more candidate promising to change Washington. 

Maybe the reality of the swing voters, the independents and the undecideds is that they don’t switch back and forth between the Democratic and Republican candidates because they change their hearts to favor the Democratic or Republican ideologies,  perhaps they simply get tired of the “in power” party’s inability to solve American problems or to accomplish anything.  We move from one form of gridilock to the other.  What changes is which political party is in power and is able to blame the other party for the lack of solutions.   This never changes.

Party faithful think their party’s ideology can solve the nation’s problems and they are uncompromising in pushing their own agenda.  What this looks like is either the two parties pulling on an issue in opposite directions, or the two parties pushing against each other with equal force.  Neither scenario is likely to bring change.

The middle group of Americans – the undecideds, the independents, the swing voters – want change, solution, accomplishments and do not care much about which ideology can push its agenda through.   Generally this middle group doesn’t vote based on ideology but when the in power party doesn’t deliver on its promises to bring change and solutions to Washington, they simply look to the other party in the hope that they will be able to bring about the desired change.

Many voters in this middle group are skeptical if not out right cynical of the party rhetoric and promises, as they know the party’s really will say whatever they think will get their candidates elected.

You can watch a clip of Comedy Central’s Daily Show as a perfect example of why people become cynical of what politicians and campaigns say:

This clip is looking at a few Republican comments on the election, but it reveals the hypocrisy involved in campaigns.  Hypocrisy, being two faced, speaking with a forked tongue, are equally the practices of both major political parties.   And it is certainly why I recommend to people to turn their radios and TVs to a different station or completely off every time a political ad comes on.   These ads are all designed to manipulate and confuse you, not to inform you.  I still recommend that if you want to know something about the candidates check out the Saddleback Civil Forum of Rick Warren.  Or if you can’t live without your television, watch only the candidate’s speeches, but never the commentary on them.  Campaigns are run by people whose job it is not only to spin the news, but to make your heads spin too.  Too often they try to manipulate your fears. 

We know changing Washington is difficult, but maybe we can change the campaigns by not paying any attention to their advertisements and spin.  The campaigns spend tens of millions of dollars on media advertising because they know it works.  You however can see through their campaigns and manipulations if you want to keep your head on straight.  When I was a teen, I worked as a ground’s keeper.  One of the senior citizens who worked on a property next door to where I was employed, was a good Republican.  But during election campaigns, he always told me he put his TV on his front lawn because the ads were great for fertilizing the lawn.  The election cynic knows manure spreaders aren’t limited to farms – most Americans have them in their homes.

Despite my cynicism about campaigns, I strongly encourage people to vote and to be an informed voter.  Know what you believe and value for your country and yourself, and know what you hope and dream for the world.   And then with that clear vision, cut through the dense smoke and dark haze of the campaign battle, and go to the polls and vote.

Conventional Wisdom

I was asked if I was going to blog about the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.   I can only say that I write about the things which make me think, but conventions and campaigns do not seemed designed to make me think, rather they try to control my thinking and to hijack my emotions.   I also admit that I will watch virtually none of it on television, not because I am avoiding the Conventions, but because I never watch much television.  The conventions are staged performances – true theater – definitely geared to excite the Party believers.

As I have confessed before, I am a bit of cynic when it comes to politicians, so I don’t give them very much of my attention.  I wish for statesmen more than politicians.  I think President Bush’s speech after the 9/11 attacks was that of a statesmen and I think a high point of his presidency, but then there have been an awful lot of dismally disappointing days for his administration, which in my estimation got lost in ideological politics.  I do share NEWSWEEK’s Fareed Zararia’s sense that this year things have improved in the administration’s policy making.    

As I see things as a Christian and a pastor, these presidential campaigns really become very stressful to many people – way too negatively stressful.   As the campaign wears on so also wears out the faith and hope of the people.   Some of this is due to the heavy negative campaign ads which take their toll on the souls of all.   I resent those ads totally.   My solution:  all Christians should turn their commercial TV and radio stations off during the last month of the campaign.   And I think that America would do well to adopt what I understand France does – all campaign advertising is forbidden in the week before the election.  Campaign advertizing does nothing to uplift anyone, rather it is a heavy burden on the soul of individuals and the nation itself.   And those ads shed no light but create a lot of heat.

Why anyone listens to the negative campaign ads is beyond me.  They are soul deadening.  Their goal is to stimulate your worst passions – your fears, anger, paranoia, prejudices,  hatred, and disgust to manipulate you into voting against the other candidate.  Unfortunately, the campaign machines know that negative ads work – people are willing to let themselves be manipulated and emotionally hijacked, and they are willing to let their reason flee as their passions rise.

Better then listening to all the campaign ads – as the election nears, come to church more frequently and pray for our country and our country’s leaders and for the armed forces and for peace for the world.   That would at least do some good for all of us.   Fretting over the election will not contribute anything to your life or to the life of the world.   Take time for silence in your life as the campaign heats up.    You do not need any advertisement or talk show host to tell you what to think about any candidate.     Turn your radios and TVs off, and read the Scriptures, or listen to music that uplifts or calms the soul.    Don’t let the negative campaign ads fill your heart and mind with gloom and doom and fear.  Seek peace. 

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”   (Philippians 4:7-9)

I think if you have prayed well during the weeks before the election, your vote will come from a thankful heart, rather than from the heavy hellish darkness created by campaign ads.   And I think if anything Americans should be the most thankful people on earth, not those feeling most oppressed.     If you really can’t stay away from the politics, I would say instead of watching any TV ads whatsoever, go back and watch the Saddleback Civil Forum with Rick Warren as the host.  There you will get a much more calm view of the candidates and you can hear them speak for themselves rather than listening to the negative ads telling you what the other candidate is really saying.    Campaign ads and political pundits create a hurricane that spawns tornadoes.  There are far better ways to learn what both candidates offer America.   Anytime a campaign ad come on, turn it off and sing, “God bless America.”  That will do more for you and our nation than the billions spent on negative campaign ads.