Monday, February 2, 2009
On Government and Politics
The Direction of Our Country
After a serious conversation with some friends earlier this evening about national and world events, I became even more convinced than ever about the fact that America is in clear and present danger.
Part of the reason our country in in turmoil is because of the condition of our government. But then, the government is essentially nothing more than a microcosm of society at large. Meaning-- one cannot separate a government from its people... In the United States, the government IS the people-- it is "of" the people and "by" the people. (Whether or not it is "for" the people is another question).
Government and Politics Explained
Government is essentially which particular system (controlling political theory and people) rules and exercises control over the people, territories, and structures (businesses, organizations, etc.) in its purview. Politics are the specific political theory a group has ABOUT government-- and the actions those people take to make their views and positions the law of the land or the primary controlling perspective. Different nations have different political systems and, in America, we have a democracy.
People sometimes rail on Democracy, because (in a democracy) one party rules over all others. Of course, the alternative is a Monarchy (where one FAMILY rules over all others), or a Dictatorship (where one PERSON rules over all others), or an Oligarchy (where on GROUP rules over all others, like a tiny communist party or a powerful band of government thugs)-- so, I'll stick with a Democracy, thank you very much.
But every human government is flawed, because every human is flawed. Even so, just because no human government is morally perfect does not mean that one political philosophy is not better than all others. That's why, in spite of its limitations, I prefer and believe that Democracy is the greatest political system on earth. In a pluralistic society, people are allowed the freedom to believe what they want, but government is still designed to protect the rights of the minority population and protect the general public as well. This is done by (a) ensuring that laws are morally and ethically sound, and (b) by government punishing those who break the law and by government also upholding the law.
Understanding How Democracy Works: The Representative Form of Government
In a democracy, since free voting elects representatives, by the very act of choosing elected officials, those who hold office are "representative" of the people who elected them. In other words, the people, character, decisions, and values seen in our communities' and nation's government are nothing more than a representative sample of the voting population. Think about that, if you want to see what America is made of.
So, when America votes a candidate or political party "in" or "out" of office, that represents the collective opinion of the nation's voting public (we, the people) concerning our values, ethics, opinions, perspectives, mores, and convictions about life. As such, the person who is elected assumes that, since he or she has been elected, he may freely vote or promote his views within the area of government to which he is assigned. And we live with the consequences.
Ironically, we often don't like the consequences of the decisions of elected officials who hold office. This leads me to a few observations: (1) The problem could simply be that we didn't vote in the first place and our lack of exercising the right to vote led to the lack of a voice in the selection of who would lead our government, rendering us powerless in the political process (and partially to blame through our apathy about voting in the first place), OR (2) We voted but our candidate lost-- which would reveal the need for greater involvement and effort to get the candidate of our choice elected, OR (3) We elected who we wanted-- and that person had similar values to us-- but the decisions they made (which were the same we would have made) had unexpected and unintended consequences... which may cause us to reconsider our political views and vote differently in the future.
Political Parties and What They Mean
People who vote do so according to "Party Affiliation" (Green, Independent, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc.) AND/OR according to personal values or convictions. It's funny that even "Independents" who want to be known for being "independent" are themselves even represented by a party-- the irony.
And what is a Political Party? A "party" is a body politic that represents a core constituency (a group of people) who hold similar views about a number of issues that influence politics. Each party identifies with certain views on issues-- and these party views are called "planks." Each political party (and candidate) has a number of "planks" or positions on specific issues. That said, being a member of a political party does not mean a person agrees with every major position of that party... it just means that, for the most important positions for that person, a specific party seeks to advance their perspective in society.
So, for example, a person who is a pacifist or a pro-choice or for capital punishment would typically vote with the political party that is most likely to push that agenda through the various parts of government, in order to enforce that particular value. So, contrary to popular opinion that holds that 'you can't legislate morality,' the truth is that ALL LEGISLATION is seeking to legislate morality-- that's the WHOLE POINT OF POLITICS--- to advance and codify and to enforce a certain set of values and behaviors... and to make illegal and punishable doing otherwise. Think about it!
But I regress...
The main point I am making is that America's representative government is a mirror of who and what the voting American public is. Those who don't/didn't vote voluntarily choose to have no voice about what their government does and how they will be governed--- they are at the mercy of others' whims.
People Choosing Who Govern Us Are Often Ignorant of What Government and Politics Are (**and what government is supposed to do**)
The frightening thing I realized through some close listening and thinking I've been doing lately, however, is that the direction of our nation is being dictated by people (voters) who may or may not even understand what government and politics are "about" in the first place. Especially critical regarding this situation is that I fear (as a Christian) that many Christians are ignorant of this as well. As a result, Christians may be complicit in allowing our nation to move in the wrong direction (farther from God and away from the best solutions for a better society) because of this ignorance.
One may ask, "Why is having an understanding of Government and Politics important" Well, simply because if one doesn't understand the nature of government/politics, then he will not understand what government is SUPPOSED TO "DO." And getting that wrong can cause us to (unwittingly) allow our nation and communities in exactly the WRONG direction.
So what? Well, when our nation moves in the wrong direction, it negatively affects everything that government touches, which is, well, EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. Does that make sense?
So, government is important because it has a daily impact on us in areas like: schooling, punishment, zoning laws for businesses and establishments, health and fairness regulations, taxes, government policies, entitlement programs, and the list goes on.
That's why we should understand the role of government and politics. To be ignorant or apathetic affects YOU, YOUR FAMILY, YOUR COMMUNITY, YOUR MONEY, YOUR SAFETY, YOUR SECURITY, YOUR WELL-BEING, YOUR HEALTH, AND EVERYTHING ELSE YOU CAN IMAGINE.
The Moral of the Story
I believe that America's primary problem is related to people's relationship to God, collectively. But, because America is a nation and since nations are governed by political processes and political groups, that implies that the nation COULD BE BETTER OFF if we paid more attention to the political process and put our brightest and best people in office. But the central key to this helping us get out of the situation we are in as a nation, is partially related to American's understanding what politics are, how they work, and what should govern how we vote and who we choose for elected office.
I hope to address that point in a future post-- perhaps my next one.