"It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong."
– Thomas Sowell
Why do we keep electing the same people to the same office year after year, putting them in charge of our lives, despite having the absolute proof that they have not, are not, and will not work in our best interests? The debt ceiling Kabuki Theater is yet another in a long line of what we have seen before – just a few months ago – in our so-called "government of, by, and for the people."
We, the electorate, are just stuck on stupid. We have elected what has literally become an aristocracy to rule over us. They play games with our lives by trying to trump one another with their pompous speeches and protestations. All the while they are becoming millionaires and, to add insult to injury, they are not subject to the rules they make to govern us. As the opening quote suggests, they pay no price and feel no pain from their ridiculous wrangling, debating, and decision-making.
They stroll out every now and then to give us their "insights" on what is going on in the "hallowed" halls of Congress, but then return to do nothing for us. For them, however, they continue to draw their pay checks, play golf, laugh and joke, and live off the public coffers by working for a government many of them say is the problem. What does that scenario say about those of us in the proletariat class?
Thomas Jefferson said, "When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."
So what do we have, folks? Fear or tyranny? I know one thing we do have is anger. In some cases we have hopelessness, despair, and desperation as well. People are out of work, children are out of food, and families are out of time, while the men and women on Capitol Hill make decisions affecting our lives but exempting themselves and their children from the consequences of those decisions. Have we come to the point where the inmates are running the asylum? Many U.S. citizens are in fear for their very survival now, and our Washington elites are conducting political business as usual, which means merely moving from one crisis to the next and asking us to vote for them the next time around. Why should we?
The shenanigans we see on a national level also take place locally. The "Bi-Polar Electorate" continues to put people in office who have demonstrated incompetence, a lack of business acumen, and a total disregard for the people who elected them. They only come around when they want our votes, and many of them have absolutely nothing of substance to show for their previous stint of ruler-ship over us. Yet, we will allow ourselves to be swooned and swayed to vote for them again, for the simplest of reasons, knowing they have failed us in the past.
In Cincinnati, voters passed a law that now allows council members to reign for four years instead of two years. That means voters will have to suffer twice as long under the ineptness, the self-interest and pompous attitudes of individual politicians, and the myriad of financial crises that now plague the city. That is, unless the voters elect folks who are not only concerned but competent, and candidates who have demonstrated their professional abilities and willingness to tackle and solve tough issues.
The ridiculousness of political engagement must stop, especially among Black people. We must be informed to the degree that no one can simply hand us a flyer with a list of candidates for whom we should blindly vote. We suffer the most from political incompetence and disregard, yet we are so loyal to those who do us wrong; we keep coming back to them the way an abused spouse keeps returning for more abuse. We keep electing folks who make empty promises and lay out nebulous solutions that, in the end, never benefit us. We keep listening to and believing political hacks that are only in the game for their own self-enrichment, as they lead us to the cliff and then step aside to allow us to plummet to the rocks below.
The Black electorate needs the most from politicians but obtains the least; our families are at the highest risk from do-nothing politicians; and we are the ones most affected by cuts, layoffs, pension fund reductions, and all the other negative aspects of political control. Don't you want local and national politicians who are competent, solution-oriented, and have the "audacity" to buck the status quo to get things done?
Ultimately, despite politics as usual, our caveat is clear: We must "seek for ourselves," as Richard Allen told Black folks back in the 1700s. As someone said, "A government big enough to give you everything you need is a government big enough to take everything you have."
Wake up! Vote intelligently.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation's most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.