As I write this piece the National Election is before us. No matter what the results are, I think that all of us will agree that this was the most bitter, contentious election in our memories, and not just at the National level. One really doesn't have to wonder why the people of our Nation have so little faith in their elected leaders when everyone is calling everyone else liars, cheats, and so on. Something needs to change and change soon.
Secular Franciscans stand in the perfect place to begin this change. They are called by their motto to move from Gospel to Life and Life to Gospel. For that matter, all people of Good Will really apply this ethic to their practice of a good life. No matter how much all of those politicians claimed their Christian faith, the way they acted is not the Gospel that we know and love. I seriously doubt that this approach confirms to the purer form of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and so on. Peace, charity, concern for the less fortunate, faithful citizens, and so on. These are the values that all People of Good Will profess. We need to get these values back into our political life so that we really have someone to choose for instead of vote against!
What can we do? We must become involved in our community’s political life. We must insist on positive campaigns. We must insist on collaboration between existing elected officials to resolve the pressing issues of our time rather that spouting a rigid view about whatever issue is being considered.
We must let our candidates and elected officials understand that negativity and opponent bashing will no longer be accepted. We must insist on folks bringing us positive choices to select from rather than who is the most "evil". We must insist upon honesty in all campaigns including who the donors are for whatever political message is broadcast. How can we properly evaluate a message if we don't know who is sponsoring it? Partial truths and partial quotes, all out of context, must no longer have a place in our public discourse.
We need to strongly let our civic leaders, legislators, and Congress folks know that we have had enough of all of the bickering, posturing, and innuendo. Give us positive choices; choices that actually reflect what they want to do for us and how they plan to accomplish those goals. We need to insist that our media quit the sound bites and provide us with valuable information for making our choices, not slanted stories that promote their owner's views.
In all, peace, collaboration, respect, civility, justice, and intelligent debate is what we seek in our political and community life. Those who wish to provide something else need to understand that they will no longer receive any support.
I could even suggest that we look at eliminating the political party system, especially in state politics as a start. We can still have primaries. Folks have to get nomination petitions anyway. So, they just do that and then have a run-off primary and select the top three. Then, the General Election can select from those three. Naturally, the campaigns would follow the principles outlined above. Campaign donations should only come from the constituencies within the state and be fully open and visible - no secrecy. No outside influence or donations. Oh, and by the way, companies are institutions not people, so their executives can openly and visibly make contributions, but not the institution. We can solve our own problems without "Friends of the North Pole" or "Taxpayers Anonymous" sticking their noses in. (Those are made-up groups.)
The whole campaign could begin in June 1 with the primaries in August and the election beginning October 1 ending on the second Tuesday on November using mail in ballots, walk-in voting and voting on Election Day. Absolutely NO campaigning or election activities before June 1 of the year of election. Oh, and just for kicks and saving a couple of coins, let's do all elections, school, county, city, municipal, and state at the same time.
How would this work in the legislature you may ask? Well, the elected representatives would collaborate and devise real solutions the the problems of the state without being hampered by some preconceived notion or adherence to a party line, just like most city council do now in my state. The elected officials could actually represent the people who voted for them instead. Did I mention term limits?
I think that this could be adapted to the National elections as well. Yup, you bet that the powers in the existing parties at all levels would scream and holler about all sorts of things. Well, their system isn't working, so we really need to try something else. I think that these ideas would create a more representative government in the first place.
We probably have way too many people in every state to do a town meeting an vote on everything. Our founders recognized that reality when they created our form of government. I don't recall the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence saying anything about political parties. So, why not try an apolitical system. Why do we have to have a party that tells people how to vote? I'm no political scientist but that may actually be part of what is wrong with our system.
Also, make recall easier. Create an easy system where people in the state can petition for a bill (note that I said "people in the state."). Maybe all of these ideas will actually create an interest in our system of government and folks, realizing that their ideas are actually worth something, will participate once again. I've already said it, " It isn't working now, so why not try something more representative."
We People of Good Will are the seed, the light on the table, the leaven, and the salt. As we lead in this way, others will realize that there is another way to conduct our public affairs and join our efforts to create a more civil and just society.