In 1971, I was having a conversation with a friend. We were both VISTA Volunteers in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. We were taking about his opposition to the Vietnam War. John said that our leaders should be put in jail for their policies. I asked him on what basis. His answer was striking, “Because they’re wrong.”
I didn’t find his suggestion a radical concept so much as a recipe for disaster. Growing up, one of the most important civic values we learned was that America is nation of rules and laws. If a rule applied to one, it had to apply to all. If rules became tools for power, then what made America different and better would be lost.
Over the years, I’ve seen John’s position grow from individual views to a new standard of governance. Put simply, if you’ve got the power, use it to keep it.
We all know that both parties use the power of their state majorities to create Congressional districts that maximize safe seats and the largest number of seats for their party. The process is open and claims no logic other than the maintenance of power. The result has been Members of Congress who are beholden to a single ideology, rather than a mix of ideas. Taking this approach to its logical outcome, compromise becomes unlikely, if not impossible. Victory is no longer agreement and progress, it is the destruction of the other party.
Forget the names. They’re irrelevant. It is the process that defines us.
Candidate A defeats the incumbent, Candidate B, in a close race for North Carolina governor. Candidate B is from the party that holds control of the administrative branch of their state’s government. While the power of the governor to appoint administrative staff and committee members was expanded by his party’s legislative majorities when he came into office, they are now systematically being reduced now that Candidate A from the other party is preparing to take office.
To do this is to further pervert our politics.
To do this is to trash our political system.
To do this is to put another nail in the coffin of American greatness.