Monday, March 29, 2010

Political Discourse by Bumper Sticker

I've got a bumper sticker on my car. It says, "If you don't like Democrats or Republicans, you might be a Libertarian." I hope these sentiments make people chuckle, but I also hope they will make them pause and think. A lot of folks are very disillusioned with both parties these days. They have the attitude, "A pox on both your houses."

But that's the whole point of my bumper sticker. Did you know that there are more than two political parties in Delaware? It's not just a choice between chocolate and vanilla. Delaware has an Independent Party. We have a Constitution Party. We have a Libertarian Party. And the list goes on. These parties are made up of concerned, thoughtful, politically aware citizens who examined the platforms and the actions of the so-called "major" parties and found them wanting. If you are reading this article, I will go out on a limb here and assume that you too are a concerned, thoughtful, and politically aware citizen. Like many, you may have chosen a party when you were young and gradually evolved a political philosophy of your own as you matured. This often leads to an epiphany later in life and a change of party. Do you think now might be the time for such a self-examination? I encourage you to click the links to the websites of the political parties listed above and explore their ideas. If you like what you see there, you won't be alone. Fully 25% of the registered voters in Kent County are listed on the voters' rolls as "Other".

Of course, small parties face a few obstacles to success; some structural and some are in terms of perception. The major parties don't really want the competition, and the playing field is tilted against the smaller upstarts. Delaware enacted legislation this year, HB 245, which doubles the number of registered voters a party must have to get their candidates' names on the ballot. The Constitution Party, among others, has been shut out of the electoral process as a result. Doesn't sound like America, does it?  It might be appropriate to remember the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller.  He was speaking of the rise to power of the National Socialists in 1930s Germany.  He said:

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.


and by that time no one was left to speak up."

But most obstacles faced by the smaller parties are problems of perception. "I agree with your ideas, but you can't win." Or, "I don't want to waste my vote." These are not frivolous arguments. The simple, unadorned answer is that it will often be an uphill battle, but if the cause is just, the impossible can be achieved. David slew Goliath. And don't forget the examples of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. Underdogs sometimes prove to be bulldogs. In the words of Gandhi:

First they ignore you.

Then they laugh at you.

Then they fight you.

Then you win.

How will you ever get the kind of government you believe in, if you keep voting for people who won’t support your values? Sometimes you have to stand up for your principles. Whenever I have a hard time doing this, I find it helps to remember that I have children who will be living in this country after I’m gone. If your government and those who govern you are not up to the task, it's your responsibility to fix it. Sometimes that means taking a more difficult or unconventional path. Remember, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

I've got another bumper sticker on my car. It reads, "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty."

Jess McVay
Will's Dad

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