The morning after the day of an election can either lead to much celebratory moods, or to the rending of garments followed by the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Or, in some cases, it leads to an frustrated apathy towards the entire system, believing that regardless of the win, nothing truly changed. Voting is a privilege and a civic duty so long as the vote is truly free and contributes to the political process; I leave it up to others to debate whether or not modern voting in America actually matters considering the massive quantities of corporate money flooding into the elections.
Aside from celebration, mourning, or apathy, there are a few lessons that we ought to learn from the midterm of 2014, something that no one is really covering.
- Voters don’t support Republicans – yes, Republicans won in a landslide, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they accept the Republican ideals, especially of the far right. The election was more about the frustration towards an ineffective Congress and an ineffective government. Were it the American people crying out to end “Obamacare” then the Republicans could have had this landslide back in 2012, yet they didn’t. For the past 20 years, Congress has fluctuated back and forth between Republican and Democrats, showing that the populace doesn’t necessarily agree with either side, but merely that they can only tolerate one side for so long before having to take a break. It shows voter frustration with the political process and the [lack of] progress of Congress. The midterm had far more to do with people tired of suffering in an economy that isn’t progressing; yes, the GDP is higher as is the stock market, and we’ve added jobs (though the quality of jobs is never addressed), but wages have remained stagnate and low while cost of living has increased. People are frustrated and changing parties doesn’t reflect a change in values or ideology, but a growing frustration that neither party is willing to admit exists. By ignoring it, voters become more and more angry, which at some point will reach a boiling point.
- Nothing actually changed – for all the supposed differences between Republicans and Democrats, nothing really changed. We still have a President who can veto bills, we have a Congress that is still pro-intervention in anything and everything overseas, we still have a pro-corporate/big business Congress, and we still have a Congress that will vote to cut taxes. Everyone forgets that Obama inherited a majority in the House and Senate in 2008 and subsequently did very little with it. Why? Because there aren’t a ton of differences between Democrats and Republicans; while differences exist, it’s like pointing to the differences between Baptists and Presbyterians, not Baptists and Atheists; it’s still one party cut from the same clothe.
- Our problems are cultural, not political – while these problems manifest themselves within political debates, they aren’t political to begin with. Until we address our cultural problems, it doesn’t matter who has the majority or what happens the midterm election, we’re voting in an ineffective congress. As a culture, or many cultures contradictory and competing cultures within one nation, we’re failing to understand each other and allow for disagreement. We want to enforce our point of view on everyone, to make them legally culpable to live the way we desire. And it doesn’t matter if we’re on the left or the right, we see our cause as just and believe no one ought to have a right to be wrong. Likewise, we have one culture that sees the plight of the poor and thinks it’s fixed through better government assistance (though such a thing doesn’t hurt, it’s ultimately ineffective if wages don’t increase) while another culture thinks the poor are poor by choice. They think private charity – something which simply isn’t big enough – ought to be used, but then they in turn rebuke the poor for being poor, calling them lazy and leeches. We have white people who don’t believe they’re privileged and we have black people who think if you’re white you’re automatically racist, by fact of being white (which is, ironically, racist). Culturally we’ve moved away from the progress made by the Civil Rights movement and instead moved towards self-imposed segregation. We’re not longer a people who value education, but rather value results; we want the test scores up, never stopping to question if pushing for increased test scores is actually our problem. And in the end, education isn’t truly valued as we come down on teachers and not the system.
- Our problems are even bigger than cultural, they’re spiritual – as a people, we don’t value the family. We still allow and promote abortion under the guise of “reproductive rights,” as though anyone has the right to terminate a human life. Yet, we also tell the poor to get two jobs, for both mom and dad to work and to work as much as possible, never thinking that such an economic system destroys the family. The left destroys the family through abortion and lax views of sexuality. But the right destroys the family through its economic policies requiring more work for less money, low-quality healthcare for pregnant women (which causes us to have a higher infant mortality rate than most other nations), and doing all we can to punish women for getting pregnant, leading many to see abortion as their only option. We’ve lost all sight of the sanctity of human life on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Both champion the individual above the ethical obligation to his neighbor. Both promote individualism, a heresy that places the individual above his community; for the left, this takes place in their social policies, and for the right it takes place in their view of why the rich ought to pay more. The left has abandoned God, only to bring him up when convenient. Yet, their version of Jesus is not too different from them, not indicating that they’ve conformed to Christ, but rather they’ve created a Christ who is conformed to them. On the right, however, the idea of America has supplanted God to the point they are one in the same. In the middle of it all, the idea of a God independent of nations, politics, or us is abandoned instead for a God crafted in the image of a Democrat or Republican. Spiritually, as a people, we’ve lost our way.
- We’ve lost our view of the common good – the midterm has shown one hard fact about us as a nation, and that’s that we’ve lost a view of the common good. The left has collapsed to the earth, pouring dust over their heads while crying out about how the end is near. The right is celebrating and gloating in their victory. Republicans are saying, “Finally, our views can reign supreme,” never thinking that perhaps their views aren’t absolute. Perhaps their views do not encompass what is best for everyone involved, but just for some. The same stands true of the left, having passed many laws that protect one class, but not all classes and even harming some classes. We no longer care for what is good for us all, merely what is good for me and my political party.
The midterm of 2014 won’t really change anything, but it does show something; our nation is dying. No one knows how long she has, but it should be clear to even the casual observer that she is mortally sick, that hospice should be put on notice, and that her end is sooner rather than later. To those who think that we’re immune to such a collapse or destruction, I merely ask you to look at history and observe that no great empire is immune to collapse or destruction. All Republics who move toward empire, who become as divided as we currently are, ultimately collapse. With our divides and ineffective political machine, choked by unqualified politicians and money from oligarchs, the United States is crumbling and dying, but not quite yet dead.
If we wish to revive our nation, if we wish to fix our broken political machine, then we must first become a better people. Our culture must change before our political system changes. Our recovery must occur from the inside, it must happen within homes, communities, cities, and states. As a people we must become better, we must become virtuous, otherwise we’ll continue to elect ineffective politicians after ineffective politicians. We must never forget that we are the solution to the problems in Congress, for the problems in Congress reflect one ultimately problem; us.