Since 1988, I’ve been eligible to participate in seven of the most important elections of our lifetime. And now, in 2016, I get to participate in another most important election of our lifetime. So that makes eight. Eight times I am going to have to make an important lifetime choice for the country. That’s what the ads are telling us. That’s what the chicken littles tell us every four years. What a bunch of drama queens.
I’ve often wondered why this is. Why are American Presidential elections talked about like this? Why are we so concerned who the president is?
The president is one person. He* has an advisory cabinet and a Senate and Congress and a Supreme Court to contend with. He has an enormous number of federal departments and levels of bureaucracy. He also has fifty governors with fifty other senates and congresses and state courts. And thousands of cities with mayors and local governments. The president is one person.
Now, it is true that the office of the presidency has nabbed numerous powers over the years. The Vietnam era brought to our attention we we’re developing an Imperial Presidency. But for all the gloom and doom I’ve heard over the other seven most important elections of our lifetime, the sky never fell, World War III never developed, mass starvation never occurred, martial law was never declared, concentration camps were never constructed and a king never arose. Alex Jones has made it his business model to warn that the Police State is just around the corner but I could pull a radio show of his from ten years ago and it was just around the corner then, too. If this is your first time concentrating on politics, I suppose it can seem like the most important election in our lifetimes. But it’s not. It never has been.
So why does the president matter so much? Maybe because he’s the figure head of all the promises of what government can do for (to) you. I’m certain it’s because government is so big and involved in every aspect of our lives that every four years we feel the need to get the right captain to steer the ship. Maybe human beings have had kings and queens so long, maybe we’re so conditioned to needing saviors that in America, that need is fulfilled by the presidency. This would make a good doctoral thesis to flesh out for sure. But for our purposes, let’s just note that the presidential election is surrounded by a cloud of unwarranted importance.
Can you name the president (or chairman) of General Motors? How about Apple? Maybe give a try with Unilever? Shell Oil? JP Morgan Chase? Monsanto? Google? Can you do it without using Google? I’m betting you can’t. Which isn’t a big deal. I don’t know the answer to any of these. And I don’t care. I don’t care because what is more important is what the organization does. As long as Shell oil does well in oil and General Motors makes quality automobiles and Unilever makes soft soaps and quality ketchup, I don’t care who’s at the helm. We judge agencies by their products and/or services. They have probably changed presidents and chairmen and other board members countless times and yet, we have no idea who’s come and gone. We only know the product. But when it comes to the President of the United States, it’s always the most important election of our lifetimes. Maybe if government could just stick to the Constitution as Shell sticks to oil and GM sticks to automobiles, it wouldn’t be so full of drama.
When it comes to General Motors or Unilever or Google, we don’t have to participate. If you don’t like their product or services, you can choose to not engage with that agency. However, in government, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like the product/service. You must participate. The presence of force is the difference. If you feel you have no choice, if your healthcare, education, employment wages, roads, water, safety, relies on someone else not of your choosing, voters turn into savior seekers.
George Washington was the first savior. And he sort of deserved it. He did save the States. And if it wasn’t for his courage and perseverance, perhaps there would be no United States. But after the war he went home. And then reluctantly came back to draft a Constitution. Then reluctantly returned, accepted the helm of first president. Then after those years of service, he did what he always wanted to. He went back home. He went back to Mount Vernon. He even opened a distillery. His letters on running Mount Vernon are longer than that of the presidency.
Consider also Thomas Jefferson, the United States’ third president. His self-designed tombstone lists three achievements. President of the United States is not one of them.
The presidency used to be seen as an office calling the person. And if that person accepted, it was begrudgingly. Now the person calls to the office, begs to be seated in that oval office. People seeking power will seek powerful positions.
So here we are approaching another most important election of our lifetime. I call bunk on that. We, in America, don’t need any saviors or kings or queens. We’re founded on the ability of each and every one of us to pursue our own happiness. Not to be running around every four years, looking to get someone into office to do it for us. If the United States government would return to the confines of the Constitution, we wouldn’t even care who the president was. If the government didn’t involve itself in so many areas of our life, the office holder wouldn’t matter.
So I’ll keep voting Libertarian and hope you choose to do so as well. Because the Libertarian Party is the only one not interested in running your life or telling other countries they’re going to have to build a wall. They’re the only party that wants to return the office of the president back to its Constitutional limits. Then we can stop being drama queens about presidential elections. And then when that happens, maybe I won’t feel the need to keep making political commentary. Maybe I’ll get around to writing the three other novels I have running around in my head.
* I say “he” from the old school of English which states that when the sex is unknown, you use “he”. I understand we’re looking at a possible first female president. But since we don’t know and this essay applies to any presidential election, I’m sticking with traditional English for ease.