Update: Local paper ran this (edited badly) as a guest column.
Americans are in the same situation as the Hong Kong protesters, they just don’t realize it (or don’t care).
Protesters are up in arms right now in Hong Kong because they are not allowed to nominate their own candidates for the upcoming elections. Their complaint is that, while they do get to vote, a picked group of a thousand-odd committeemen will give them a limited field to choose from. The assumption is, since this committee is appointed by the Communist Party leaders in Beijing, that they will only nominate those who follow the party line. So, no matter who voters vote for, they’re voting for the party.
The protesters are not demanding that the Party can’t take part in elections. They’re not even banning any of the Party’s picked few from the election. They’re simply asking to be able to run their own candidates as well. The Party’s picked few many prevail. The protesters admit that. The issue here is choice.
What most Americans don’t realize, is that we’re in the same situation that Hong Kong voters are in. Our Party leaders just do a better job of hiding it. “Can’t be!” you cry. “We’re a democracy!” We’re a representative democracy, I correct, and it makes quite a difference. Also, we’ve allowed our government to be controlled by two parties, in direct objection to George Washington’s warning, giving up even more of our power to choose.
These two parties further the problem by relying on big-money donors to fund their overwhelming ad campaigns. Even further restricting our power to choose and giving the power over to an even smaller group. There was an attempt to thwart this trend by developing political action committees (PACs), or groups of people pooling their resources to influence voting, but these were soon taken over by big money rendering them just another tool to stifle choice.
In Hong Kong, the party tells you who you are allowed to choose between.
In the US, large donors select a direction they want the government to travel in. Usually one benefitting them and leading to even more money (=power) for themselves. They then donate to either the Republicans or Democrats, depending on which one will be more likely to support that direction and bring that result to pass. Those parties then select the candidate they think is best suited to win the election (not the one best suited to doing a good job) and channel that big money donation into advertising to support them. That candidate then dances at the end of the strings tied to him by the campaign dollars he selected, always fearing that veering off that course will cause the flood to dry up before his/her next re-election campaign is over.
The other side is doing the exact same thing. Their candidate is dancing a different tune for the same reasons. And any “third-party” candidates are deluged with advertising labeling them as scary weirdos who are completely unelectable, beholden to crazy ideas that will plunge the country into a dark age, and probably hate babies too.
Notice that at no point in this process does what YOU want ever come into play. You are led to believe you are holding the reins and making a choice by electing one candidate over another, but its all smoke and mirrors. When your field of choice is between two carefully vetted and controlled money puppets, your illusion of control is one you have to actively buy into to maintain. And you keep doing it.
So, what’s the point of this diatribe? Turn your back on the party system. Vote for people, not parties. Ideas, not “morals”. Integrity, not money. It’s a simple idea. Not an easy one, but a simple one.
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.” — George Washington, September 19, 1796