"The information of the people at large can alone make them the safe as they are the sole depositary of our political and religious freedom." --Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1810.
As a student of early American political party history, I am always fascinated by the fact that there was a greater focus on what the politicians of the day were saying and doing. Newspapers were admittedly partisan, favoring one candidate over the other. This meant the editors actually admitted their bias. Reading some of the older newspapers on subscription archive sites, you could almost see the articles as being nineteenth century versions of today's blogs. And, like blogs, you do have to fact older newspapers against other types of sources if doing any kind of historical research.
People kept up with what their elected leaders were doing via the newspapers during this time. Near the end of the nineteenth century, general interest in politics was reduced as things like sports became a bigger concern (distraction?) for the public.
As less attention was paid to the politicians, government continued to expand. More and more distractions seemed to be available for the general public between sports, radio, television, video games, etc. Even some aspects of the Internet can be distracting. I'm not advocating eliminating any distraction as we need leisure activities; I just think everyone needs to take some time to pay attention to what our politicians are doing.
In 2009, the modern tea parties burst onto the scene. Disgusted with the endless stream of bailouts, new debt, ever-expanding government, etc., meetings were held, ideas were discussed, protests were staged, and these events spread across the country. The Founding Fathers and the Constitution were brought out of obscurity. While most people knew the name George Washington, they began to learn or be reminded about others such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, to name a few. The movement spread throughout the country.
We have a Congress that has rammed through some of the most horrific legislation in history, from TARP to the so-called "stimulus" to ObamaCare to the second "stimulus." Each of us should be paying attention to what our elected reprsentatives are doing, and blogging about it, writing about it, etc. whether it's good or bad. We need to stay informed and we need to help keep others informed. Decades of being "asleep at the wheel" have brought us to this mess.
We have an election that is just over two months away and in many cases, an opportunity to vote out those who rubber stamped ObamaCare. Obviously, we have to ensure that those who we vote in are not going to be as bad as their predecessors. We also have to be ready to keep tabs on any new representative and equally hold their feet to the fire.
Some on the left claim that in criticizing elected representatives who happen to be Democrats and who voted for such atrocious legislation as the "stimulus" and ObamaCare, the tea party is just a "shill for Republicans." Does this mean that in order to show deference to people who stand for ideas tea party members generally do not support, the tea party should absolutely avoid supporting any Republican candidates or criticizing Democrats? Is that not just ceding control to the other side because we are concerned about how they perceive us?
Is it "politicking" if a member of the tea party movement points out profound problems with a current incumbent who happens to be a Democrat? If one is a member of the tea party movement, do they not have the right to speak out on what an incumbent in their own district is doing or not doing? If the incumbent refuses to have well publicized general town hall meetings to explain the legislation he/she supported and/or explain his/her votes, is it inappropriate for tea party members to criticize this behavior? Should constituents of a legislator not be able to express disapproval if such legislator fails to demonstrate an interest in accountability? Some on the left seem to say so.
But it's not just the left. Some elements of the tea party movement itself would prefer to continue to discuss ideas as if there is no election coming just around the corner. I'm not sure if it's fear of disapproval from the left or simply disgust with politics. Everyone knows that the system is corrupt. No candidate is perfect and rarely have I ever come across a candidate that I agree with 100% of the time. Sometimes, there are profound differences that cannot be overcome, even if the incumbent is actually so much worse. I may find myself in the same position in certain situations. In those cases, I deeply respect those who could not support a challenger. Yet I would hope they might heavily criticize the incumbent if they disagree with him/her and the incumbent is worse on important issues.
What people also need to remember is that if they are not satisfied with the current candidates, they need to find someone better the next time. Or, they should consider running themselves. It's late in 2010, but there is plenty of time now to learn what is needed for the upcoming 2012 election. People should get their ducks in a row now and study what the eventual winner of the 2010 election does in order to mount a successful challenge.
Unfortunately, there is great power in incumbency. Is the answer to keep our heads in the sand, not hold the politicians' feet to the fire who are in office now, and just allow them to win again? Do we want them emerge stronger for 2012, having survived the first federal election where the tea party movement was involved? Do we bow to the left? Or is the answer to work to get other candidates in office and hold their feet to the fire too? Should they not work out, we can have primaries for them and vote them out of office in 2012 (for US House or state House/Assembly members at least).
There is always time to discuss ideas. But we get the government we deserve. Do we continue to discuss ideas as an election heats up and then just complain about the government again for another two years?