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FIRST-PERSON: Random election thoughts

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–Now that the 2010 midterm election is in the rearview mirror, pundits and politicians are seeking to interpret what the results mean. Personal philosophies and political affiliations tend to skew most, if not all, of their perspectives.

Some insist that voters rejected the president’s agenda while others contend that the White House simply did not adequately communicate with the electorate. So which is it? Are they wrong? Could they both be right?

I do not profess to be smart enough to be able to answer these questions. However, I do have a few random observations on the election I offer as food for thought.

“Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody,” said Franklin Pierce Adams. The American journalist’s rather cynical observation seems to aptly describe the recent election.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen wrote an opinion piece that appeared in The Wall Street Journal the day before the election. In it, he predicted a resounding Republican victory. However, he cautioned the victors not to misunderstand the outcome.

“In this environment, it would be wise for all Republicans to remember that their team didn’t win, the other team lost,” Rasmussen wrote. “… [V]oters will remain ready to vote against the party in power unless they are given a reason not to do so.”

Rasmussen continued, “[V]oters don’t want to be governed from the left, the right or even the center. They want someone in Washington who understands that the American people want to govern themselves.”

I think Rasmussen hit the election nail squarely on the head. Perhaps, like never before in my lifetime, Americans are starting to realize that Thomas Paine was right when he said, “The government is best which governs least.”

I believe that the U.S. government has become bloated beyond what most can comprehend. Both political parties bear responsibility for the bureaucratic behemoth the federal government has become.

When two industries exist solely to respond to the Internal Revenue Service — one to make sure you comply with tax laws and another to protect you when you run afoul of them — something is desperately wrong.

The size of our gargantuan government cannot be reduced overnight. However, it is time that the electorate begins to demand that our elected officials chart a course towards fiscal responsibility and limited federal government.

One result of the midterm election is that a lot of fresh faces are headed to Washington D.C. in January. I hope they will see themselves as citizen-statesmen and not politicians. “A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation,” said preacher and author James Freeman Clarke.

“Oh beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years,” is how the fourth verse of “America the Beautiful” begins. We desperately need the men and women that have been newly elected to have the patriot-vision described by Katherine Lee Bates, the author of that grand anthem.

Partisan politics, short-sighted and self-serving policies have gotten our nation in a fiscal mess. Our elected officials must change the way they operate. “Insanity,” said Albert Einstein, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

This midterm election was particularly nasty — though, truthfully, every election has its share of ugliness. If the tone of our elections does not change, many qualified people are simply going to opt out of public service.

The Washington Times reported that candidates are now hiring private investigators to not only dig up dirt on opponents, but they are also using investigators to see if there is anything from their past that could be used against them.

There should be a statute of limitations on what can be dredged up from a candidate’s past. Who among us does not have behavior from our younger days that we regret? There are no perfect candidates.

What a candidate chooses to attack in an opponent reveals much about his or her character. If all a candidate can do is sling mud, he or she does not deserve my consideration.

What should matter more than past mistakes — some that even occurred decades ago, is a person’s pattern of behavior. What a person is doing consistently now, and in more recent history, reveals true character.

One thing this mid-term election reinforced is that the United States is anything but united. The political spin being put on the outcome only confirms the division that is present. Our divided reality should be a cause for alarm for citizens and elected officials alike.

“Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand,” declared Jesus in Matthew 12:25. History proves this statement to be more than an observation; it is an unyielding truth — and no amount of political spin can alter it.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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  • Kelly Boggs