I usually wake up once during the night to use the bathroom. Lately, because of of the incessant discomfort of from some herniated discs and the absence of my fiancé, I have been sleeping on the couch with five dogs competing for the limited prime real estate that provides them access to me. Each has its way of getting it, but one, Athena, tends to just lie in wait. Once I wake up to use the bathroom, she hops down to join me because she has figured out I am not likely to fall back to sleep. This allows her to be picked up by me where she can then lie in my lap while I get on my computer and start my day.
As difficult as it can be to keep up with five little dogs (don’t tell anyone where I live because the city only allows three per household), they bring a lot of joy. Each brings with them their own unique personality and set of needs, some with medical issues, some with personality issues, and maybe one with both. But what they also bring is the kind of unconditional love we tend to lack in our lives as we continue to live in a world filled with a greater sense of instability, anger, and competition.
In one of my more recent moments of solitude, I was thinking about whether or not I regretted not voting for Hillary Clinton. While I also chose not to vote for Trump, and while his seemingly inability to lead this nation in any kind of coherent direction has caused a tremendous amount of stress to people, I do not regret my decision.
First, I live in California so I had the luxury of not having to worry about who I voted for because Hillary had the state locked up as soon as she declared her candidacy. But then I asked myself if I would have voted for her if we selected our president based entirely on the popular vote and again, my answer was the same.
I know plenty of people who blindly vote along party lines. They are proud to boast being a Democrat or Republican. I know a few who take that loyalty farther and work on the local level in any capacity they can to get their candidates elected. There are a couple of people I know who have actually run for and held elected office. While I admire their dedication to their political party, I am still not sure what it is that drives someone to be so devoted to either of our two major parties. I liken the devotion to being as devoted to a particular church.
Maybe I have commitment issues since I have never been one to devote myself to a singular group. I have always been one to question. I cannot stand the canned replies that are provided with such regularity to legitimate questions they become accepted as actual answers by the masses. Many time I have written about the hypocrisy behind the platforms these groups claim to stand for. From where I sit, there is no political party that is pro life because both are quick to disregard, put down, and yes, attack others who believe differently.
What really concerns me most about our two major political parties is the one cause they agree on that goes without being covered by our media: their alliance to there never being more than two legitimate political parties offered up to the American voter. This idea we are sold that we live in a democracy is a complete joke and the fact so many Americans believe we do is a sign of just how lacking we are in understanding what is entailed in a democracy.
Perhaps this is not you and you are one of those who claim to know this is the case, but just throw up your hands and say, “But there is nothing we can do about it.” You are also the same people who tend to help blindly re elect more than 90 percent of the officials in elected office. If you have not figured out you can at least vote for the challenger when you hold our elected leaders in such contempt, then perhaps we do not even need to have elections any more.
We also complain about the amount of money involved in electing people and yet we have not taken to the streets demanding this be changed. We have so much technology in the palm of our hands that we no longer need the long drawn out process designed to bilk people of their money or provide our major media outlets with an excuse to muddle our brains with the comments, sound bites, and behaviors of our candidates.
We can set aside a day for a national election to decide who our next president is, but neither party can do the same to hold a national primary. Why is this? It has nothing to do with tradition. It is not because candidates get off on flying back and forth across the nation to attend one county fair after another drumming up votes. It’s all a giant game designed to think we have numerous choices when in fact, we don’t.
There are more choices of peanut butter in my local grocery store than people to elect president every four years. We have created a society that has made it infinitely easier to become morbidly obese than it has to offer us choices as to who leads this country. There is no Green Party of any real consequence in this country. Nor is there a real Labor Party. While it may be fashionable to call oneself a Libertarian, again, there is no significant Libertarian Party.
Whenever a third party lacks the ability to draw the miniscule numbers needed to land in our national debates, we are often told it is simply because they lack voter support. The truth is, they lack the investment needed to become nationalized like the GOP or DNC have and as soon as they show any signs of life, their issues are eaten up by one of our major parties just to keep them from gaining a foothold in our society.
This has resulted in the seismic rifts that exist within both major parties. They are no longer able to keep their own members happy without there being a revolt from within the party.
The GOP has seen the rise of the Tea Party, a movement that ultimately resulted in Trump being the GOP candidate, while the DNC had its hands full of Bernie Sanders and his far left revolt which helped cause Hillary’s eventual downfall.
We do not mind the fact we can go to a hardware store and find an endless amount of nuts and bolts in a variety of categories to select from for a DIY project, but we insist on keeping all the nuts and bolts we call politicians in two parties. Outsiders like Trump, Sanders, and Gary Johnson are quickly labeled as uninformed, dangerous, and out of touch with the mainstream. People named McCain, Paul, and Warren, who seem to be part of the political inside, become labeled as mavericks and as they rise within their party’s ranks, become hard to pigeon hole and sold to the voter like another flavor of ice cream.
For the most part, maybe with the exception of Trump, these outsiders and mavericks should be given a greater voice because they offer us a different perspective from their party’s old ways. Rather than being silenced, pushed aside, or described as dangerous for the country’s future, they need other avenues that will not just provide them with a better shot at offering us real change in the future, but to simply offer us with real options than what is being sold as democracy.
At its best, our most recent election was not another example of democracy in action nearly as much as it was a distraction from our normally predictable lives. While I do not expect my generation to make much of an impact on changing what I see as a system gone off the rails, I hold hope in the generations behind me to out smart the party elite with their ability to upend their money driven, power hungry ways with their superior knowledge of how technology can be used to upend the old and broken system we have created.
Until that day arrives, I suppose I will gain some level of inner peace from the joy I get knowing five dogs don’t give a crap about my political opinions. All they want is what we all really need: the peace of mind knowing we are in good hands and provided for. When this happens, we give back freely to those who do so much for us rather than fight the system that is in place because we have grown tired of being ignored for far too long.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.