But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me. 

– Vizzini

The day is upon us.

Super Tuesday: the day on which we all get to decide whether it’s more important to win, or whether–perhaps–there is more to our voting choices than that.

At the end of the day, this election isn’t about ideology, it isn’t about conservative versus liberal. This one’s about basic human decency, about respect for one another and our political process. This one says something, profound and revelatory, about us as a nation and a people.

I’m not endorsing one party over another here. There are Republican candidates who have a lot to offer (well, candidate, anyway: Kasich–although I’ll take Rubio in a pinch). There are Democratic candidates who also promise at least some level of progress, and who have talked, not about the “evil Other,” but about the good we can do together as citizens of the United States.

And then there is the One.

The guy whose whole platform is built on putting down pretty much everyone, who has all but endorsed whatever form of torture serves him most conveniently, who has refused to distance himself from the KKK (with which historically inconspicuous organization he claims to be unfamiliar), and who has bullied his way through a series of debates without ever actually talking about anything, really, at all.

The guy whose plan is having one.

I’ve heard of several conservatives who, given a Trump nomination, are planning to abstain. Fine. But you could vote now, instead; vote, thoughtfully, for a more thoughtful option. Which is pretty much ANYBODY ELSE.

To my fellow Democrats, same goes for you: winning isn’t everything. In fact, in some cases, it isn’t anything. “Electability” is for the cynical and cowardly. Our problem, politically speaking, is that we’re not willing to swing for the fences. Everything is “strategery”: how do we get our guy (or gal) in, and then, how do we keep them there?

And we wonder why nothing ever changes.

We have one candidate who has told us what could be accomplished if we try, and we have another who has told us, consistently, that so little can be done that trying is a waste of time. Yoda is great, but I don’t really want him in the White House. Progressivism (real progressivism) is all about the “try.” Anything else is stagnation. And we’re all too familiar with that.

Let’s be clear: Hillary tells us that the root of “progressive” is “progress.” Fair enough. The root of “socialism” is “social.” And that has nothing to do with the Soviet Union, or Karl Marx, or bread lines and sovkhozy.

It’s not about the state at all, really. It’s about how we look at each other, about who our neighbors are, about what kind of neighbors we intend to be. The true socialist society is a reflection of its people. That the USSR got it backwards doesn’t mean it can never work. It just means that it hasn’t worked yet.

So, stop fearing the labels and catchphrases, and listen to what Bernie has to say about the things that are holding us back as a nation. Which is ourselves.

Every generation needs a “moonshot.” But that means embracing the big ideas, remembering that the moon is out there in the first place, waiting to be shot at.

So, two suggestions:

Democrats, let’s vote for the candidate who’s willing to shoot for the moon.

And Republicans…

For the love of Pete, don’t vote for the guy who might accidentally blow it up.


Sit Down and Be Counted

Anyone with eyes, ears, or any combination of the above is probably aware of the debt ceiling talks the failure of which will supposedly bring our great nation to its knees, yank open the door of the American outhouse and reveal us in all of our unmentionable glory. Third world, here we come!!

Granted, I’m no economist, but I have watched enough weather reports and lived through enough duct tape and plastic wrap terrorism scares to entertain a certain amount of doubt as to the truly catastrophic nature of these proceedings. I am, after all, from Missouri, and I demand my grain of salt! In short, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Still, while it’s not the possibility of Armageddon that worries me, I must admit that I AM worried. And increasingly irritated. You see, I made the mistake of paying attention to my elected representatives (not necessarily elected by me, but elected nevertheless–oaths of office and all that jazz). I made the further mistake of expecting them to act elected. In other words, to go expeditiously about the business of running the country, in my stead. Instead, everybody stares fixedly into 2012 (or whichever election cycle comes next) and ignores the very present business of watching out for those who put them where they are. Those, I might add, whose “hard-earned taxes,” which many of our politicians have literally sworn to protect, ensure they receive a paycheck every so often.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not one who insists that representatives must be passive conduits of their constituencies’ will. Frankly, I vote because by so doing I create a job the main concern of which should be the development of expertise. The persons we elect are given the responsibility of spending their days gathering information we cannot take the time to gather. Their life’s work (for as long as they’re in office) should be dedicated to ensuring that the American people are free to live their lives. Big, giant, HUGE responsibility on their shoulders. (And don’t tell me this is cruel and unusual expectation–they asked for it, when they ran.)

Why? Because I don’t know diddly-squat about a whole lot of stuff. And I have my own job to do. And if the crowd tried to rule itself–if we went the route of pure democracy–we’d all be killed in the ensuing stampede. There’s a reason classical writers weren’t fans of mob rule, as they thought of it. On the other hand, it is the job of an elected official to learn, to interact with his or her constituents and colleagues with a view toward solving the problems that you, I, and Tom down the street are ill equipped to address.

This is not to say that voters should not strive for understanding, an effort rendered all the more difficult by epidemic media stratification. We can go too far in releasing the reins of power, and then we end up…well…where we are right now. A situation may arise where representatives forget they had constituencies in the first place and imagine, somehow, that the process of governing is really a shiny new chess board for them to play with. Move here, block here, and meanwhile the checkmate lands on us, we the ever-lovin’ people…

Keeping this in mind, look at Washington as it sits right now, as we barrel toward cataclysm, and tell me what you see. The really disturbing thing is that, for all the talk about impending doom, no one seems terribly alarmed. Two possibilities present themselves: 1) Nothing’s really happening, and all the talk is a cynical attempt to prey on the uninformed sitting in front of the telly, with the intent to defraud us into feeding the bit, or 2) something is terribly wrong, and everyone who’s supposed to be looking out for the nation’s welfare is too busy measuring to notice. Either way, my friends, we’re being had.

This is not a partisan complaint. Neither side of the aisle seems to care about the “maddening crowd” of which the American public is composed. They say they do, at the top of their voices. But they don’t. Or they would get over themselves, sit down, and actually talk, to us, to the president, to EACH OTHER. One side says: No new taxes…but we’ll keep wasting yours in these endless, pointless, self-aggrandizing, grandstanding walk-outs. The other side says: No entitlement cuts…but we’ll happily sit here dicking with each other until your entitlement collapses on its own. I am not about to choose sides here. I’m not supporting one side or the other–merely pointing out that, as things stand, neither side is apparently capable of supporting itself.

Nobody is doing their job. Not our politicians, and not us. So what are we going to do about it?

I’ll tell you what I plan to do. Nothing. At all. I’m sick of tea parties that, regardless of intention, only serve to recreate the problem. I’m tired of conservatives who are so afraid to move that they never get anywhere and of liberals who are so eager to advance that they frighten everyone out of following them. I’m fed up with new presidents that morph into the old and old presidents whose ghosts will not be laid, no matter how hard we try.

So, come November 2012, you’ll find me sitting on my hands with all the determination I can muster. Because it strikes me that silence alone will tell, given the circumstances. Pundits talk about record voter turnout…so let’s give ’em one. A LOW one. New people keep telling us what they’re “going to do,” and we keep listening to empty campaign promises. And again and again we stuff seats with stuffed shirts. We have to break this cycle. But we’re not going to do it by playing musical chairs. I’m beginning to think that the only way to make our voices heard at this point is not to say anything at all. Maybe these folks, who seem incapable of hearing piercing screams, will perk up the old pitchers if they’re confronted by a deafening silence.

Here’s my recommendation: DO NOT VOTE. Don’t do it. Don’t let them fool you again. Because, while the faces may change, the collective brain drain remains the same. Every. Single. Time. So, when November rolls around next year, sit it out. Remind them who’s in charge. Make them wonder what’s going on. Let’s take a page from our representatives’ play book, stop fighting each other, and start fighting them. Sit down and be counted!