This article is spurred on by reading a number of authors on the concept of a 'rightroots' to be an equivalent of the Leftist version of the same. Articles of interest are by Patrick Ruffini and Rick Moran. I will not take the 'remaking' or 'rebuilding' concept: what has been in the past represented the Nation as it was then, and cannot be 'rebuilt'. I will take my own tack on this which means that this is not an examination of POLITICS but of CULTURE that creates politics. It is that difference that must be faced from here on out as the technology, culture and ability to understand how they play out will help to determine what the best response is to the changes that face us.
One of the prime factors in the changing face of politics is the high level of connectedness the modern media offers. And yet there are prime patterns that can be seen in how individuals cluster to certain basic types of outlook based on their personality, culture, and ideology. As this is, by and large, not a dichotomous domain, that is not having 'one side or the other' but one of main types with overlapping between them, it is necessary to examine those types and posit what they mean in modern political thought. I go over the three basic types of associational views in this post: The more things change, the more things become The Village. And as that is a twist-title, using a term that appears to have one meaning while, in fact, saying something else,I will outline the three main types of interactivity seen on the Internet. Do note these are not the be-all, end-all of descriptions, but a 'rough and ready' set of guidelines to identify individual interactions when taken in larger clusters.
First is Marshal MacLuhan's 'global village'. This is the Leftist consideration as Sen. Hillary Clinton used in her less than famous book about things taking a village. What MacLuhan was getting at, however, is the tribal type of association at small scale interaction finding a lowest common denominator of agreeable concepts within a given, large group. The worry is that in becoming a 'global village', humanity would revert back to more primitive forms of interaction and ideas, and actually lose some higher orders of reasoning as societal associations in modern interactive media come to the forefront. On the Internet this is reflected by such things as MySpace, Friendster, hi5, and any other 'social portal' that shifts humanity's interactions to a small set of rationales for interacting. Early Christianity survived the collapse of the Roman Empire through just such a societal sub-grouping, so that as larger society collapsed this sub-group that had a different organizational outlook and ethos was able to maintain continuity and slowly replace the older Imperial society. The overall thrust is that this will see the return of things like 'clans' and small scale common agreement communities that are not geographically co-located. Thus Sen. Clinton invokes the African village as a touchstone, but then changes how to do it to the next major form of network.
Second is Patrick McGoohan's 'The Village'. This place was demonstrated in the visual media of television and placed at the time of its filming in the 1960's, but evoked a different form of individual interaction moderated and, indeed, controlled by an outlook that placed the needs of any individual below the needs of society, security and social welfare. To accomplish this an authoritarian control structure is used. While old fashioned villages were made up of multiple clans and kinsmen, plus other assorted groups with filial connection networks, the first of the villages that gained outside administration by the first Empires experienced a shift away from local societal support to a support based on outside ideals that were impressed upon the population. This form of control system became the basis for States and Nations, and is a centralizing force in human relationships. Only at the outside, ruling levels, do such things as associational networks supply any input into ideology, and those limited views are then impressed upon a broader society. When Sen. Clinton calls for everyone to just take care of everyone else and call the State organs if something is going wrong, that is NOT an African village but a top-down control structure requiring a high degree of personal espionage to support it. And that espionage is *willing* as the rewards for showing social wrong are high, the risks to mis-reporting minimal... unless you are the one being mis-reported, then your life is made a living hell. McGoohan's view of how a relatively high tech society would do this was pretty plain: espionage (across the full spectrum of life, from mere mechanical espionage to willing spies), 'nice' enforcement of the laws (where things are done to you 'for your own good') and a depersonalization of individuals within society (everyone is known by their number, all numbers are equal, but some numbers are more equal than others). It must be noted that 'control' need not be a directly stated or performed concept, as it can become an agreed-upon, unstated ethos that everyone abides by and then individuals root out others who do not conform to this. On the Internet this can be seen at such sites as dKos, DU, DD and a number of other sites that place conformance of ideology above personal liberty and freedom. John Fonte describes this as Transnational Progressivism, examines how it is at odds with Liberal Democracy, and, that like Socialism before it, there is a Transnational Right that forms up another 'wing' of Transnationalism. These concepts of ruling are ones that see group affiliation and placement of individuals at birth as primary and, indeed, the only necessary determinants on what one is allowed to do in society. These are inherently anti-liberal forms of thought that depend on such things as racial and ethnic identity as prime movers for governing and that rights are apportioned out by an Elite class that oversees who is superior to others and determines the various pecking orders within society.
The third form is not a central structure based concept, but one that arose in the wake of other, previous, central control concepts wiping out a good part of Europe by enforcing religious and cultural divisions as guided by an Elite ruling class and not taking local control domains into consideration. What would come out of that is the recognition that liberty and rights are NOT attached to race, religion or ethnic background but held by individuals. That is old-fashioned Liberalism that depends on human liberty and the rights of individuals to guide society with minimal oversight by government. This encompasses many previous ideas of States and Nations, thus utilizing Westphalian concepts of religious tolerance to allow individuals their own space and cognizance to worship as they please. That would be broadened from the original three religious orders (Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism) and be incorporated into a larger conceptual space of what individuals were to do as part of society and what society could and could not do to the individual based on those areas of belief. Older forms of this also arrived by Nations that had a high degree of village structure with local democratic means and those forms of local democracy carried up to the highest levels of rulership so, as one Scandinavian monarch has said 'The King is not above the Law'. Fused together this concept of Common Law and Religious Tolerance would spawn Individualism supported by Liberty: liberalism. Modern day 'liberals' have moved to the McGoohan form thought and drifted away from the purity of Rights of Man as an Individual conceptions of it. Under Individualism a good culture arises out of good activities of individuals, those are reflected in common laws that do not discriminate in purely personal venues, but apply Just means to punish individuals for acts that wantonly kill members of society, that go outside common practices of accountability and turn criminal, and that corrode and debase the common agreement to live together in 'more perfect Unity' while abiding that culture cannot and should not be pressed down from government but built up by individuals. In the Internet this is the form of free-floating self-identification with small clusters around similar themes like FreeRepublic (although it also has tended towards authoritarian venues, but still tries to adhere to the established ethos), and other things such as 'list links', 'web rings' and blogging communities.
As noted none of these areas are purely mutually exclusive due to the way the Internet is set up as a flat point to point protocol structure. That flat structure allows these larger systems to be built on it, but does not mandate any actual form of any structure, save that it adhere to the common means of intercommunication by TCP/IP. If society depends upon the environment, then the flat structure IS the environment for enabling these social group types to exist in the form they are in.
There are defects to these basic outlooks: MacLuhan did not foresee the 'democratizing' of the microchip and the ability to make video yet another way of common communication amongst individuals, McGoohan did not posit an environment that was uncontrolled although that it would become controlled by the ruling status group, and Liberalism did not encompass that the extreme expression of it in France would lead to overall social decay and disorder when all ruling forms of government were discredited and thus garner a huge civil death toll as the rule of the mob was put in place, not democratic means.
Politically these are interacting realms, although the ability of modern Leftists to garner a galvanizing force via social association sites has not gone over well: there is no uprising in MySpace, say, to make it a new haven of Leftist attitudes, nor is there a mass movement in Friendster to start eliminating those that have political views that do not accord to some elitist view of the world. That is not for lack of trying, but it is for lack of understanding that the older, elitist view of society that is being espoused has a non-identicality with what individuals see in their daily lives. What can flourish in the hot house cultures of academia, MSM and 'activist' groups does NOT well fit the overall condition of society nor the world. If anything the people in such social spaces organize into self-identified groups that cross all previous lines of geography, society and culture. Enforced 'openness' and 'anti-discrimination' turns into closed cliques that are highly discriminatory, and no one can force you to join one. By setting up a standard that makes no sense for individuals to flock to it, the people who do come to those things are ones already aligned to them: there is no great message to hand out and gain further adherents. MacLuhan trumps McGoohan via the use of individual liberty and freedom to associate by and large. Even worse is that if a ruling ethos does come to take over such a site, then its members just may flock *elsewhere* and form a *new* social based organizing structure that is immune to how the first one is taken over by a common agreement system amongst all users. That is part of why we have so many different social group portals and sites: folks get fed up with the administrative rules of one and move to another, and the gaming community is more than willing to do that with its extended clan system so that members can retain their clan status even when moving from one site to another.
The Totalitarian response to this use of personal liberty to create culture is to attempt a take-over of government which would have the means of communication under its purview. Every Totalitarian State does this, as it ensures that only the 'approved' messages get out: USSR, People's Republic of China, North Korea, Cuba, Libya, Syria, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These are all Nations that are trying hard, past and present, to filter what people in their societies see, what they hear and, ultimately, what they think. The USSR and its immediate satellite States collapsed due to the inherent stagnation and inefficiencies that go with this credo of rulership, China has tried 'liberalizing' while still maintaining an iron fist and has found that even such areas as talking about sexual activity soon starts to be used to hit the ruling elite structure. Even worse for the Totalitarian outlook is that the ubiquity of computing and flat communication infrastructure becomes nearly impossible to prevent communications from going through obstacles. Like the Great Wall, the Great Firewall of China has areas it can't cover, pre-existing tunnels under it and is incapable of controlling the vast array of cheap, modern communications devices that allow for the fast promulgation of information across disparate networks of computers, cell phones, pagers, PDAs, personal music devices, and so on. Still, if the ruling elite had control of the majority of comms worldwide, a general stifling of thought could take place, and utilizing 'softer' forms of social recrimination like 'Politically Correct' speech codes is a start in getting individuals used to elite mandates on what is and is not acceptable in the realm of speech and thought according to that elite group.
That leaves us with the modern political Right that still looks to the ideals of Individualism and the Rights of Man as an Individual, able to practice liberty with freedom and create a better society in doing so. Normally this has been called 'Conservatism' but now finds disparate groups that no longer fit under the 20th century 'Conservative' and 'Liberal' dichotomy coexisting in the same thought space: traditional Conservatives supporting that limited government leads to the greatest liberty to create one's own way in life and contribute to society, and the Jacksonian concept that society is a necessary part of culture but that society cannot and should not seek the means of government to dictate social form to the people. One of the great lessons of Christianity that is not a biblical teaching, is that its community based view held that individual self-restraint was important in life, even as the pagan societies collapsed into debauchery. In an era when so many want to hand excessive amounts of freedom to government to dictate social forms to society, it is those who want as little government as possible and massive self-restraint of those running for office that now form a coherent voting concern on the Right. That is no longer the old 'Conservative' venue of Religious, Fiscal and Security: it is one of Society that is supported by individuals holding Government down to the few things it *must* do to protect our society and make sure it does them *well* and doesn't try to do one thing more than those few things.
When we hear the bemoaning that there is no Conservative echo chamber like dKos, DU or DD, most Conservatives smile and say: 'Damned right, we don't need no stinking misguided group-think to tell ME what to do'. That really does hurt some of the old Conservative Coalition - those who see interpersonal relationships as one between themselves and their Creator and the separate social contract as two separate areas cannot come to common agreement under the old Conservative banner. The older banner of individualism and personal liberty puts forward that if you are so worried about the sanctity of marriage, then demonstrate that by leading a good and upstanding married life and being a scion of your community by doing so.
So what can be done to counter the tribalist and totalitarian trends of these societies, often while addressing their concerns but demonstrating that liberty and freedom are answers, not solutions, to the ills of mankind?
First and foremost the two party structure has demonstrated that it is ill suited to represent diverse peoples. The attempts to explain why parties that can 'co-opt' plans are necessary to prevent fragmentation of politics has been put forward as a 'good thing'. A 'solid party line' to keep 'the other party in check' posits that these two parties are mutually exclusive, and yet we have seen that they trend towards commonality due to the fact that those elected forevermore by being Incumbents see much more affinity for EACH OTHER than they do with the general populace. This is not a new problem, but the best summation was done from the Anti-Federalist view (and that is a poor proposition for the types of criticisms of the Constitution as not all were 'anti-federalist' in nature) by Brutus in Brutus No. 4 on 29 NOV 1787:
In order for the people safely to repose themselves on their rulers, they should not only be of their own choice. But it is requisite they should be acquainted with their abilities to manage the public concerns with wisdom. They should be satisfied that those who represent them are men of integrity, who will pursue the good of the community with fidelity; and will not be turned aside from their duty by private interest, or corrupted by undue influence; and that they will have such a zeal for the good of those whom they represent, as to excite them to be diligent in their service; but it is impossible the people of the United States should have sufficient knowledge of their representatives, when the numbers are so few, to acquire any rational satisfaction on either of these points. The people of this state will have very little acquaintance with those who may be chosen to represent them; a great part of them will, probably, not know the characters of their own members, much less that of a majority of those who will compose the foederal assembly; they will consist of men, whose names they have never heard, and whose talents and regard for the public good, they are total strangers to; and they will have no persons so immediately of their choice so near them, of their neighbours and of their own rank in life, that they can feel themselves secure in trusting their interests in their hands. The representatives of the people cannot, as they now do, after they have passed laws, mix with the people, and explain to them the motives which induced the adoption of any measure, point out its utility, and remove objections or silence unreasonable clamours against it. — The number will be so small that but a very few of the most sensible and respectable yeomanry of the country can ever have any knowledge of them: being so far removed from the people, their station will be elevated and important, and they will be considered as ambitious and designing. They will not be viewed by the people as part of themselves, but as a body distinct from them, and having separate interests to pursue; the consequence will be, that a perpetual jealousy will exist in the minds of the people against them; their conduct will be narrowly watched; their measures scrutinized; and their laws opposed, evaded, or reluctantly obeyed. This is natural, and exactly corresponds with the conduct of individuals towards those in whose hands they intrust important concerns. If the person confided in, be a neighbour with whom his employer is intimately acquainted, whose talents, he knows, are sufficient to manage the business with which he is charged, his honesty and fidelity unsuspected, and his friendship and zeal for the service of this principal unquestionable, he will commit his affairs into his hands with unreserved confidence, and feel himself secure; all the transactions of the agent will meet with the most favorable construction, and the measures he takes will give satisfaction. But, if the person employed be a stranger, whom he has never seen, and whose character for ability or fidelity he cannot fully learn — If he is constrained to choose him, because it was not in his power to procure one more agreeable to his wishes, he will trust him with caution, and be suspicious of all his conduct.
This is not a criticism of 'politics' but a recognition of culture that drives politics. We no longer have any knowledge on a personal basis of our Representatives, and they are distant from We the People. This has been CAUSED by two parties that have REMOVED the ability of new and minority parties from THREATENING THEM.
That is an act of AUTHORITARIANISM.
The two parties are top-down structures that have permanent 'organs' in them that become the spots where ideology is vested in the hands of very few people. Isn't THAT an asinine thing to do in a representative democracy? Who ELECTED THEM? Did their party members take a VOTE on them? Or have these individuals been selected by a less than diverse group of individuals who have been installed via other means (representative or not)? If it is secondary selection, then where is the representative democracy in that? Is there an ability to vote these people out if you don't like them?
Going on that theme for just a bit more: if you DO have elections for local party offices, do more than half the registered party members actually VOTE for these people? Not half the votes, but half the actual people... who shows up to vote or if it is by mail, how many return ballots? This is vital because if a party office or branch that is local cannot get 50% interest in what it is doing, then just what the hell good is it? And if you point to 'national politics', perhaps a page from Tip O'Neill can be understood about 'all politics being local'? If you can't get local input and people just call themselves by your party as a general affiliation, then that tells me a whole lot more about the 'party' than anything it stands for: people generally don't BELIEVE IN IT enough to TAKE PART in it.
This gets to be a larger consideration based on the sheer number of people who just no longer vote. This is a HUGE problem for a representative democracy as the result of going under 50% turnout is a majority of a plurality or this thing known as a MINORITY. That is what representative democracy is supposed to AVOID.
From this first area there are some things that need to be examined.
1) Political Parties - Believe it or not, political parties are NOT supposed to be a great fundraising machine. They have become that due to the escalation of prices and concentration of power to two parties - the market is CLOSED and, therefore, the price of the market goes UP for politics. If there were more people running for office from the local level on up, the cost per individual would go DOWN as the money gets more widely distributed over multiple individuals and parties. Parties were meant to represent a common set of values and ideologies amongst its members and not be something that would gain lots of money because of that. As you remove the number of parties, the amount of money per party goes up and the participation falls at the party can no longer represent a coherent set of ideologies. The answer to problems in representative democracy is: more representative democracy up and down the entire scale of politics.
2) Local Membership - If you can't get half of those registered in a district to vote for party offices, then just how can it be said that those elected from that district represent the will of the majority of members in that district? That is a lie. Saying that only those 'interested' vote is an excuse for poor performance and lack of credible party ideology and people who support them. How do you know this? Lack of members voting. Beats me what would happen if a party decided that it was actually going to act like one in which representative democracy were an important concept to keeping the party running. The two current parties would probably lose a large number of districts if they did so, with some districts losing both. Believe it or not, that is not a *bad thing* as it then identifies where the party can, should and MUST work on outreach and understanding the diversity of its membership. The US has a diverse culture and needing to find a cultural basis for political thought means that any party undertaking such must at least be able to explain what culture it is representing and then see what other nearby cultures are willing to have this explained to them. Perhaps to even gain some acceptance and build a better cross-cultural understanding that works on common concepts and projects.
3) Party Leaders - Elected via representative democratic means or not? If no, then why not? If yes, what happens if less than half the membership actually turns out to elect them? Might I suggest slashing the roles of those who didn't bother to vote, and turning them into 'Independents'? That would get you a core set of interested people who are willing to participate, who are willing to think about the issues and who have a common value of representative democracy as one of their cultural beliefs. And perhaps, just perhaps, this should not be run by politicians who have a vested interest and concern with their political brethren... if 'experience' is such a good thing, just why is it turning people off so much these days? This is a symptom of a decaying political culture in which those elected, by the act of getting elected, think they know what is best for everyone else. What that does is begin to marginalize other ideas that may not lead to electability,but are representative in the wider culture. Do you want to turn people OFF via how you run your party and how you address your members? That is what is happening now, and it isn't working out so well.
4) Stating your culture and the politics that derives from it - Guess what? Spouting Socrates in a political vacuum is an act of elitism. Explaining Socratic dialogue as a methodology and working with others is addressing them as individuals and not playing an elitist trump card. So many say they adore President Lincoln, so few look at what he did and the ideas that he enacted, not in his writings but in the simple laws and rules that passed under his pen. The Emancipation Proclamation is wonderful! So why has no one bothered to study the Field Manual 100 that the US Armed Forces had given to them under Lincoln's signature? Is how he thought war should be fought by a civilized people unimportant? Can you actually say you KNOW what the ideals and laws of war were at the time of the Civil War? No? Why not? President Lincoln was a civilized man and ensured the US adhered to civilized values in the realm of warfare, so why NOT look at those as JUST as important as the Emancipation Proclamation? You can and will learn how terrorism was described in his era and called something else and what the rules were for dealing with it by the Armed Forces. But that is actually taking a look at what he signed into LAW and NOT cherry picking things you do like or things that are easy to understand but seeing the complexity of the civilization as HE SAW IT and AFFIRMED IT. If you like what he did with slavery, then you might just respect what he did about terrorism when practiced in the battlefield. Either way it will cause you to re-evaluate the man, the Nation and our people, and come to a deeper understanding of why good culture makes good laws.
One point, four conclusions. Nasty, huh?
Second is putting the representation back into representative democracy. People hate change. Yet we are a growing nation both in population and economy, and one of the most powerful because we have a system that gives such great leeway to the common man to flex his or her liberty using freedoms to empower them to do good for themselves, their families and their society. Yet, we are stuck with a Congress sized in 1911. Federal Farmer No.3 of 10 OCT 1787 puts the idea like this:
Should the general government think it politic, as some administrations (if not all) probably will, to look for a support in a system of influence, the government will take every occasion to multiply laws, and officers to execute them, considering these as so many necessary props for its own support. Should this system of policy be adopted, taxes more productive than the impost duties will, probably, be wanted to support the government, and to discharge foreign demands, without leaving any thing for the domestic creditors. The internal sources of taxation then must be called into operation, and internal tax laws and federal assessors and collectors spread over this immense country. All these circumstances considered, is it wise, prudent, or safe, to vest the powers of laying and collecting internal taxes in the general government, while imperfectly organized and inadequate; and to trust to amending it hereafter, and making it adequate to this purpose? It is not only unsafe but absurd to lodge power in a government before it is fitted to receive it? It is confessed that this power and representation ought to go together. Why give the power first? Why give the power to the few, who, when possessed of it, may have address enough to prevent the increase of representation? Why not keep the power, and, when necessary, amend the constitution, and add to its other parts this power, and a proper increase of representation at the same time? Then men who may want the power will be under strong inducements to let in the people, by their representatives, into the government, to hold their due proportion of this power. If a proper representation be impracticable, then we shall see this power resting in the states, where it at present ought to be, and not inconsiderately given up.
Yes, Congress could change its representational proportion in the House via law, no need to go back to the people and ask for this via an amendment. If you actually do believe in representative democracy, then the proportion ought to be such so that you actually have some slim chance of knowing your Representative. At the current 1:500,000 that is an impossibility, unless you are one of the select few. As I point out in the article above, if you take all the staff House members are allowed and add it to the House members you wind up with a number almost *exactly* equal to the maximum number of representatives allowed via proportion in the Constitution. The question is always raised: how could that ever be organized? Isn't it too unwieldy?
Answer? How the hell do you organize all those Congresscritters and their staff as it IS?
If you can do THAT then you damned well have a good handle on organizing a House that size. Would it be difficult? Yes. Impossible? Ever seen the size of some of the companies on this planet operating on a global basis with a distributed workforce? If you have then you have your answer that it will be far, far, far less difficult standing up something under the size of, say, Boeing spread across a handful of time zones. Hell, there are some software projects that have gone into this territory, so the idea that a Congress this size given modern telecom and automated systems *can't* be run is idiotic. It might take a few sessions to transition to it, yes, but at the end of that time you then have a flexible enough system to handle the workload *and* create transparency for ALL public bills. Each and every single bill and amendment would be electronic, searchable and public, with only the 'Black Budget' kept on a secure set of systems.
What would a large 'Maximum House' do?
1) The addition of such a large number of individuals would cut the per person cost of running for office, by at least one full order of magnitude (ie. it would be 10% of the current cost per seat per person) and possibly more as each person would be doing 1:30,000.
2) This gets direct citizen input in a way that the current system does not. Actual citizens who want to spend two years in office actually *could* achieve that. Any way to increase actual citizen participation in the governing process *helps* representative democracy and does not *hurt* it.
3) Pork - 'Many eyes find bad code'. A paraphrasing of the open source software movement, but can you imagine trying to get thousands of other members to agree to *your* pet project? All it takes is five or six to 'blow the whistle' and you are toast as you are now answerable NOT to 500,000 people who only vaguely associate with a party, but with 30,000 who are your NEIGHBORS. Your chances of actually packing pork in for your friends? Effectively zero.
4) Governmental oversight. You now have enough Congress critters to cover every agency, every directorate of every agency and possibly every department of every agency. That is *oversight* were department heads need to explain their jobs to members of Congress... and then those Congresscritters get to decide just what the necessary functions of those agencies *are*. You want to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in government? Get a weekly or monthly visit from your Congressman for a few days as he or she tries to figure out if you are spending the people's money well. My guess is that enough Congresscritters will raise enough stink that a lot of government will get a chop.
5) The tax code. Take the tax code. Divide the pages by 10,000. Hand out those pages to members of Congress to redline. Collect all redlines on a common document. See what is left. If you want an understandable tax code, it will have to be something that *can* be read easily by a rather large group of people that better represent the cross-section of the American population. You can probably do this three times in a month then see the entire set of collective redlines and any two out of three then wipes that part of the code. Many eyes will make clean code.
6) Zero staff. Come on, you have a proven amount of people to handle the work load. Congressman is no longer a sinecure but a *job*: 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Making Congressman into a *job* and not a political stepping stone is one of the most beneficial things that could ever be done to it. Plus it is an all-volunteer workforce! No one forces you to be a Representative... lots of highly motivated people there.
7) Regulations. See the tax code idea? Duplicate it on the Federal Regulations. This will become tiresome to point out, but the massive amount of government intrusion now needs a massive attack to pull it apart. You can't do that with an elected elite from a two party system that has a vested interest in not 'rocking the boat'. That is what the Senate is for, though heaven help them in trying to sneak anything past a House that size.
8) Removing power from individual House member's hands and distributing it *widely* is a very, very good thing. Concentrated power is a bane of a representative democracy. Why so many *support* something that is toxic to representative democracy is beyond me.
9) There are many problems in this, of course. As the House can actually determine what the House *is*, it can make that individual rooms in Congresscritter's homes while they are in office. That might take a bit to stand up, but well worth it once done as it gets the power out of Washington, which then becomes a procedural area for House transactions. Otherwise the House will need new digs: maybe an old sporting arena or closed military base... lots of those around these days. Maybe work everything out electronically, first, and then fly in for a week of voting. The mechanical problems do not outweigh the benefits to the republic of actually having a tax code, federal regulatory code, and set of laws that is actually understandable to the majority of such a large body of people. That is what representative democracy is supposed to do: keep government understandable and out of the hands of the elite. If you believe *that* then you *must* want a larger and more representative House. Again, this is CULTURE defining POLITICS, not the other way around.
If conservative politics derives from a conservative culture, then just what is the culture that is being addressed? What does it support and does it recognize that good ideas for government need common assent for it to be enacted while disenfranchising none? There are some very strong conservative ideals that the current political atmosphere never addresses. I've hit on a couple so let me highlight them.
- Showing up for work and treating your job seriously. That does not happen in current politics at the National level. A Congress with a 3 day work week and months of vacation time point to there being little to NO work ethic in Congress. The day I hear of this added to a 'conservative agenda' is the day I just might take it seriously. Until then: no dice.
- Applying the same standard of ethics to all candidates. That means not taking bribes, not chiseling on your taxes, not giving kickbacks to your friends, not seeking special treatment from the law, not paying under the table for work, not doing an 'I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine' to explain why you can't stick with your beliefs and actually stating your beliefs that you hold dear to you that are NOT political but tell WHY you get good political guidance from them. If you sign on to such a code of ethics BEFORE you run for any damned office, and you BREAK them while in office, then you can expect a backlash from your supporters. I don't need a 'party platform' if those running for office are people I can get to know, are willing to state their beliefs and why those beliefs help them to come to good decisions. Until then: no dice.
- Morals. Here's the deal with me, I don't know about you, spout off all you like about morals. If you cover what you say under your ethics and you break THOSE then I have a problem. You wanna cheat on your wife, mistress and ex-girlfriend? Damn are you in for a world of hurt, lotsa luck on that. Drive you from office? WHY? Did you put down you consider fidelity to your wife/mistress/ex-girlfriend to be important to you as an ethical matter? It might bring up some questions of your judgment, yes, but it is your PERSONAL LIFE TO RUIN so long as you don't do it on GOVERNMENT TIME. The only office where that might matter is that of President as that is also Chief Law Enforcement Officer. Even there minor things I don't have a problem with... keep it personal, fess up and be up front about it so we can all have a fun time knowing that the President sleeps on the sofa. I didn't have problems with Clinton's acts, but his perjury I had problems with. The racy, juicy sex stuff was 'entertainment' from the Oval Office: cheap and sleazy!
- Accountability at work. All of us working stiffs are (or were if retired) quite good on this concept. Politicians, not so much. Being a Congresscritter is a *job* not a chance for self-fulfillment and self-enrichment. If you are a slacker, expect your constituents to figure that out very quickly. At 500,000 a handful of votes, say 10 or 12, probably isn't a deal breaker. At 30,000? Yes, then you actually do have to start thinking, especially if you have a district with a relatively stolid group of folks there. Even at a higher turnover (which allows for demographic shifts to show up very quickly in the House) that small number begins to look very important based on what the expected turnout is every 2 years. And the fewer people that turn out, the more important that small handful is, so depressing turnout works *against* slackers. Unless your district is basically a slacker district, though outside of Hollywood, I can't think of many of those. Until accountability is made a touchstone of some group trying to gain political traction, they can take a hike.
- Do you notice that I haven't said a single, solitary word on religion? I consider that to be a deeply personal thing. Religion can give a very good basis for navigating what is and is not so good for law making. It is not alone, however, as even in relatively homogeneous districts, there will be diversity of religion and religious insight. Good laws and the rationale behind them *must* go beyond the religious venue and actually explain why these things are good to the wider community and the Nation in terms that can be religious but must also include multiple religions and our common heritage in the Common Law. Here good law is derived from religion and religious culture as part of the larger culture and is a vital part of helping people to draft better laws for the Nation. If those who founded our Nation were wise enough to take a look at the laws of the Ancients who were not Christian or Jew, and derive wisdom and a benefit from society from them, then it is impossible to define that only one religion has all wisdom in it. It is because we build and refine good laws that we find ourselves assured of good use of the law. It does not matter if it comes from Moses, Christ, Suleiman, Alexander or Thorgny. And as we come from the Common Law of England and are under the Peace of Westphalia those, too, must be taken into account.
- Liberty is the ability to apply your gains in life with your freedoms to make a better life for yourself, your family and your society. Without liberty we are nothing as a Nation. Mandate that liberty can only be used in a way dictated by government, and you have purified evil, not good. We invest negative liberties in government so that we may keep watch over them, restrain them and ensure that they do not get into the wrong hands to harm us. We retain positive liberty for ourselves as we know what to do with them far better than any government ever CAN or WILL. The best we can do is find the common wisdom amongst ourselves to use the few things we give government to do so as to do them well and accountably so that they DON'T harm us. From this the idea of limited government that does few things well is derived: so that the citizenry has the greatest amount of liberty possible to do good.
The problem with the two party system is that neither party represents that basic set of conservative values in which we understand that we must have a common society and still must give the greatest leeway to our fellow man. A 'live and let live' society. It is not a 'litmus test of issues' as those are derivative of politics, not culture. If we address questions through that distorted prism OF politics and attempt to apply that TO society, then the Republic will and, indeed, must fail: government has no business dictating culture to society, only limiting the abuses of individuals. Whenever I hear about a 'new right' I tend to see folks with a grand set of check-off boxes that you *must have checked* to be a conservative. Those check off boxes are not ones that are open to the diverse culture of America but are attempts to limit that self-same culture via government.
I have a problem with that.
That is what the LEFT is doing, and I find it detestable on both 'sides'.
And neither side is willing to field some folks willing to do the basic 'show up at work and be held accountable to your job' sort of work ethic. I call those slackers. When they try to enforce their beliefs, Left or Right, on society, I call that authoritarianism.
That is Congress.
And our current political atmosphere.
I've had it with that sort of outlook.
Hell if you could just get a few folks in the House to put a rider on each and every bill that 'Congress shall sit in session for 8 hours every weekday, every working non-federal holiday, and will only get the week of the 4th of July and two weeks off for Christmas and New Years' on them, then I might even begin to take such a political movement SERIOUSLY.
Then you can start thinking about a party structure that doesn't enforce elitism, doesn't look to drive people away from public office and one that doesn't see the concentration of power as a 'good thing'. My bet is if you get the culture part right, the rest will follow pretty well. And you just might want to think about that 'party' idea and stop thinking of it being top-down. But then I've written about that before, too, along with ethics of such a thing. Because who wants to be a part of a party that tells YOU what to do, when you are well nigh set up to do that for yourself? And join with others that agree with you to work together.
A good use of liberty, that.