There’s more than one reason I hesitated before venturing toward this topic including the overwhelming amount of examples available for use; the directions it could be taken; and what will likely be its ineffectiveness to help remedy the situation.
I’m writing as generally as possible because to include specific information and examples is to drown in the constantly evolving tsunami of scandal, hyperbole and the refusal to accept any responsibility. Simply put, many in politics no longer work for what’s good for those who they are supposed to be representing.
The problem of not being able to function as a reasonable collective exists throughout the political spectrum. It’s a winner-take-all game, and the players seem to be interested only in their careers and the interests of their deep-pocketed benefactors.
On the national stage, the media has become a favorite target of some claiming negative and biased coverage. It’s supposedly the reason for the unsuccessful attempts to legislate, yet there’s little to no responsibility taken by those who are on camera or online saying the very things which are causing them their own problems.
An elected leader, no matter their office or party, can’t willfully mislead, engage in ridiculous exaggeration or openly admit to being obstructive and expect the reported story to be warmly receptive.
In the Illinois legislature, many are being paid annual salaries and stipends totaling more than $90,000 for a part-time job they haven’t been doing for two years. As Illinois steadily declines, desperate for reform in many areas, our leaders won’t even reform themselves. Along with receiving pay that’s far more than what neighboring states pay their officials, the Illinois legislature also gets health and pension benefits most of us can only fantasize about.
Stalemates at all levels of government generally revolve around animosity toward the other side of the aisle. Rather than governing as Americans, our elected representatives seem to have largely chosen to function as members of their party to the exclusion of all else.
Our leaders seem interested only in control. Appointments or votes are withheld because of upcoming elections. Legislation is stonewalled because of the party of who introduced it, regardless of its content.
Legislation is introduced despite it being harmful to the greater good because those who will benefit from it are big campaign donors. Rule changes can be introduced simply to help the party in power remain in power.
Abraham Lincoln is widely considered our greatest national leader. He did what almost no current politician would ever do — appoint opposing rivals to cabinet positions. This wisdom allowed him to make use of their strengths and presented him with the benefit of having his own ideas challenged before making decisions. Today’s political leaders don’t want to have their ideas challenged, and there seems to be little room for constructive discussion. Winning is what matters.
Of course, voters are ultimately responsible for correcting this predicament. The largest challenge with this is, unfortunately, getting them to vote. Voter turnout at its best is still pathetically low.
Another problem is single issue voting. In their neglect to become more informed and gain a more well-rounded sense of the issues, people often end up voting against many of their own best interests.
Columnist Jim Nowlan recently introduced his idea for an Illinois political action campaign called “Throw the Bums Out.” It would work toward unseating as many in Springfield as possible, regardless of political party. I hope this becomes successful, and I think many would also enjoy seeing it become a national movement.
To write about the problems of our political system and those working within it is a bottomless pit. You have to start somewhere though, and voting across the board to remove as many of our ineffective state officials as possible is a good place to begin.
However, it’s going to mean voters will actually need to go vote. They’re going to have to set aside the reality show mentality. They’re also going to need to do what many politicians seem incapable of — choosing what’s best for the state, not their party.
BCR Staff Writer Dave Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PCR Staff Writer Dave Cook can be reached at email@example.com.
Tonica News Staff Writer Dave Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.