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Thoughts on Political Change

I said earlier in the day that if people really want to change the government, they can do it.  But it’s funny how dealing with an infestation of slimy politicians is a lot like dealing with lice.  We noticed the lice infestation in 1994, got some Kewll out, and applied it liberally.  For sure, we got rid of a lot of lice, but we forgot to rinse and repeat.  We need to get voters angry enough that they’ll not only throw the bastards out, but keep throwing them out until things change.  It takes multiple treatments to get rid of lice, and probably the same for politicians.

People know things need to change.  Polls show that Americans are very deeply displeased with their government, and for good reason.  Obama comes in and says that he’s the change we need.  Polls show people are skeptical of that.  Not skeptical enough for my comfort, but he’s not blowing away McCain.  At the root of the problem, is a population that’s largely disengaged itself from politics, and doesn’t really understand the source of their displeasure — they just know that things now pretty much suck. That should be rich soil in which to plant some seeds from the tree of liberty, but so far, it hasn’t been working.  The media is to blame for a lot of that, but based on my experience with the libertarian movement and in the gun movement, a lot of that blame lies with us.

Libertarians, particularly, are often more concerned about weeding out heretics than they are about building a movement.  It was a long and painful journey to arrive at that conclusion, but eventually I had to admit that Libertarians were spending too much time and energy arguing about what it means to be one, rather than trying to alter the political landscape to bring it closer to their terms.

It’s probably in our nature, because we are independent minded folks, to abhor collective action, but collective action is required in order to affect lasting political change.  You have to get out there and advocate for your point of view with people who might only vaguely agree with you.  You have to select a course of action that gets you closer to your goal, and build allies to get you there.  You may not like all of your fellow travelers.  Let me offer an example of it in the gun rights movement.

In my position against my Congressman, I’m pressing the fact that the bill he signed on to, HR1022, would essentially ban semi-automatic shotguns.  I focus on that because a lot of people own semi-automatic shotguns.  In fact, a lot of those people who own semi-automatic shotguns, wouldn’t care much for my AR-15, and might not think too poorly of a politician who advocated banning it.  But I focus the message on the shotgunners, because my only concern is that gun owners go into the voting booth and say “I’m not voting for Patrick Murphy, because he wants to ban my shotgun.”  The AR-15 guy will understand a Congressman coming after semi-auto shotguns will ban his AR-15 in a heartbeat.  If I can help defeat Murphy, and replace him with a real friend of gun owners, I don’t really care whether half the guys that helped me do it think the same way Jim Zumbo does.  In fact, it might just make that shotgunner think “Well, if they are going to label my shotgun an ‘assault weapon’ where’s it going to stop.”  Jim Zumbo was eventually persuaded too.

In affecting political change, I think it helps to have a big picture in mind, but you must choose your battles wisely.  No two battles will present you with the same set of allies.  That’s why I’m an advocate for not shutting people out of the movement for being insufficiently pure.  When it comes to grounding the movement, philosophy is very important, and we need philosophers.  But winning in politics requires making friends, so we also need to do that too.

9 Responses to “Thoughts on Political Change”

  1. ATL says:

    The best thing for our Republic would be for us to have term limits. This in and of itself is not the answer, but it would be a great start in purging out dead weight from Congress. The best example of this I think was when Tim Johnson (D-SD) fell into a coma. There was no way on earth he should have remained as a Senator while being in a coma, but the balance of power in the Senate was too precarious for Democrats to let him be replaced.

    How can a Senator function as a representative of the people while in coma? It was absurd! He should have been replaced when it was known he would not be able to return to his position. I think there is something seriously wrong when our government furthers the interests of political parties over its citizens.

    I sympathize with Libertarians, but I find their puritanical habit of snidely looking down on those who don’t fall in line as off-putting. Politics is an art and it is done by using compromise to get what you want. Libertarians I think miss that and much of the time find themselves getting nothing what they want. This just shows that living in a land of make-believe is not confined to liberals.

  2. Sebastian says:

    I used to agree with term limits. I might still. But what do term limits accomplish? If you can get a pro-liberty guy in there, do I really want term limits to boot him out and have to roll the dice again? I think there’s something to be said for politician needing to be changed like diapers, and much for the same reason, and perhaps that’s reason enough to support term limitations. But I do have to wonder whether it seems like it would solve more problems than it actually will. If I noticed that a lot of challengers had fresh ideas, and seemed like stand up guys, who would do a good job of representing us, I might be for term limits. But most of the times when a challenger loses, it has a lot more to do with the challenger than the incumbent.

  3. Ian Argent says:

    At the salary we’re paying, I have some reservations about bringing in amateurs…

    Seriously, though, the states that have had term limits in state-level offices have had decidedly mixed results with them.

    I’d rather get behind eliminating gerrymandering etc.

  4. ATL says:

    “I used to agree with term limits. I might still. But what do term limits accomplish? If you can get a pro-liberty guy in there, do I really want term limits to boot him out and have to roll the dice again? I think there’s something to be said for politician needing to be changed like diapers, and much for the same reason, and perhaps that’s reason enough to support term limitations.”

    Yes, and that’s why I said “that in and of itself is not the answer.” I just think that the longer someone stays in D.C. the further away that person gets from the people. Tom Daschle is a great example of this. he got so entrenched in D.C. that he made his primary residence there (much to the chagrin of his South Dakota brethren). Term limits are great way of rooting out corruption, stagnancy, and the worst of all: lifetime politicians. I just think that the trade off of purging the dead weight with ordinary citizens (i.e. “amateurs”) is better than having a bunch of ingrates make legislation that is unconstitutional.

    For Ian: The way Congress has been acting lately- I would prefer a bunch of amateurs over them any day of the week.

  5. grayburst says:

    The Founding Fathers were amateur politicians. I’d rather take inexperience over hubris and corruption any day. Anyone that is a life long politician seems to just thrive for power and prestigue at the expense of the Republic. I’d rather have the part timers any day.

  6. At the salary we’re paying, I have some reservations about bringing in amateurs…

    Right there is the problem. No one should be able to make a six-figure living as a politician.

  7. Sebastian says:

    Actually, I’m not entirely convinced it would be bad if people went into politics for the money. People who would do it just for the power scare me.

  8. Ian Argent says:

    Sebastian’s got one point. Monetary corruption is one thing. Power corruption is quite another. And money is a proxy for power. Look at it this way, though – politicians routinely blow millions of dollars on a campaign every 2 years, for a job that won’t make them nearly that much over 2 years. That tells me there’s something more than the paycheck in it for them.

    As for the other – Congress’ salary acts as a cap on the salary of the rest of government. There was a period in which government salary was so low compared to private industry that the caliber of people the government could attract was mainly people who couldn’t make it in private sector.

    And we’re back to the question of power again. If you make a low salary, the benefits better make it up to you. Sure, the low chance of being fired is pretty nice (it means you can make pretty solid plans); but that leads to EVEN MORE governmental ass-covering, because one of the only ways to lose your job is to be hung out to dry – most common from a wrong decision. The other bennie? Petty power; so the jobs attract those who are into petty power…

    I sometimes wonder (idly, since it’s not going to happen for a while) what would happen if we could inject some of private industry’s creative destruction into the workings of government.

    The problem with congress is that too many people hate the REST of congress – they’re OK with their guy. That’s why the histroically low approval ratings for congress don’t mean anything. Heck, at the congressional level, I’m probably guilty of that – I would rather have Mike Ferguson than any of his opponents (though I can’t say as I am going to miss him at the end of this term). Gerrymandering increases this – since the “negative” votes for the reps still exist, they’re either diffused out or concentrated into one district.

    We have a representational republican form of governmant – so our representatives represent us. The bad with the good. Think on the alternatives… And I don’t know how much “amateur” the Founding Fathers were; certainly by the time of the Constitution they were experienced at the politics of the new nation…

    We still live in the most free nation on earth. the freedoms are receding in some places, and increasing in others. That’s true everywhere. But we’re still in the ballot box stage – lets keep it there

  9. DirtCrashr says:

    California has term limits AND gerrymandering. With a majority of districts 100% safe for Democrats to run unopposed, it’s simply a waste of money for a Republican to run against them.
    Term limits? They don’t care who runs. It’s like the Designated Hitter Rule except the Party Replacement Clones will do exactly as they are told, hit to the Left or bunt down the middle – it’s all Party driven.
    Term Limits have turned Sacramento into the Capital of Musical Chairs as the Former Atty General (Jerry Moonbat Brown) runs for Governor, the Former Lt. Gov will run for Secretary of State, and Assemblymen run for the State Senate while Senators run for their opposite’s Assembly seat. It’s not helping.
    My representatives DON’T represent me and they don’t care because they are SECURE in their District and their only allegiance is to the Party. The Democrat Central Committee runs California and they have effectively instituted a Politburo.

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