The purpose of a democratic government is to make the lives of its citizens better. Other forms of government may have other priorities, but the federal/state system created by our Founding Fathers was to create "a more perfect union," where people could enjoy the rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
As we enter the home stretch of the 2014 off-year election, we have to ask ourselves, have our elected leaders made our lives better since the last election two years ago?
That's the time frame and standard we believe is appropriate to consider in this year's election.
And to be honest, at both the state and federal level, we don't think they have. Six years after the economic meltdown (for which nobody went to jail), the economy is stalled. Job growth is tepid and wages are, in most parts of the country and certainly in Idaho, poor for the average person lucky enough to have a 40-hour/week job.
Congress certainly hasn't appeared to hear the average citizen (although mega-buck donors are heard loud and clear). It's still deadlocked on most issues. It's delayed any tough decisions its members might catch flak over until after the elections. And for a town like Mountain Home, with a huge part of its economy dependent on federal wages, the looming Sword of Damocles that is sequestration does nothing but leave us with an uncertain future. That makes local investment problematical. Unless Congress does something about it, that's going to kick back in with a vengeance within 18 months and will be an even greater disaster than the last time. In terms of national defense alone, our Air Force will be reduced to flying kites and the Army marching with wooden guns.
Meanwhile, despite all the promises and press releases telling us how much money they're saving, unless you're really rich none of us have seen our taxes go down.
The approval rating for Congress is in single digits, yet, more than 90 percent will be re-elected, largely because the parties wound up gerrymandering districts so most of Congress is "safe" and assured of re-election. Wonder why they don't listen to you? Because they don't have to!
We let them get away with that and now we've created the national equivalent of a political aristocracy. Long live the little kings. As has been true throughout history, the peasants, of course, will be glad to pay their taxes for the right to be oppressed and cheer to aristocrats as they pass by.
We make no bones about it, unless you're a rich WASP, the odds are heavily in favor of the fact you are not as well off as you used to be, and from warrantless searches to surveillance of every electronic communication you send to harassment or worse for political opposition and a serious regression of the rights of anyone who isn't white (to the point where once again the lives and liberties of some citizens are again at risk from the very people charged with protecting them simply because they aren't white), this country has significantly more problems now than it had a generation ago.
By and large, you can blame the politicians for that -- the very guys this country is going to largely re-elect in six weeks. To use Pogo's old phrase, as voters, "we have met the enemy, and he is us."
At the state level, it's even worse. Here in Idaho simply having an R behind your name is enough to win in November. It apparently makes very little difference what the person on the "R" ticket actually thinks or how they actually vote. And the opposition is a joke.
Our two representatives for Elmore County to the Idaho Legislature are both being challenged this fall. Quick. Name the people running against them. Remember, the election is less than six weeks away.
Those candidates and the parties they represent (or independent if they couldn't get on a party ballot), have done such a wonderful job getting their names and positions before the public most of you don't even know who they are. So, the "R" candidates will get re-elected, even if most people also don't have a clue where any of the candidates stand, what positions they believe in, what issues they support and how they've voted. That information has been published, broadcast and is available on the internet, but it's been rare for a voter to care enough to pay attention. (Quick, which local state legislative candidate wants the federal agency that insures your bank accounts to go away and thinks state workers should be paid in silver coin or bullion? He thinks those views represent you).
Why? We don't think it's because it's too much work, but rather because for most voters it seems to useless -- wasted energy, since their votes don't seem to make any difference.
When you go into the voting booth you're supposed to vote for people who will make your lives better. But few people believe that will actually happen.
Still, it's up to us to try. And if we can't do it now, make a promise to pay close attention over the next two years, and maybe, just maybe, we can actually elect people then who will honestly try to make our lives better.
-- Kelly Everittt