You Get the Government You Deserve

Every election is the most important election ever. It’s not. But it is the most important election in our near future, which makes it pretty important!

That said, it’s very easy to get caught up in the hype – or lockstep in our tribes – as we approach the ballot booth.

Instead of looking at the candidates through some sort of tribal perspective, try to take a step back and think about who best reflects your values. Which could very well be tribal, but at least you thought about it.

For your consideration, here are the things that I think about every election.

Power and Corruption

Government is a very easy concept to understand once you strip it down to its basics: It is the notion where someone among us is placed in a leadership role and is provided resources, from us, for our collective use. The government doesn’t earn anything. Every dollar it has to use is provided from us.

We are blessed, for now, that we actually get to choose the leadership and that it is not imposed on us by force (of course, once it is chosen, we do have to follow it by force, so it’s best to choose it wisely).

So what are the candidate’s proclivities? Are they genuine people looking to do the public good or do they tend to tilt toward using the instruments of government power to support their agenda?

That’s not always easy to answer. However, at least in the case of this election cycle, we do have some examples.

The last time Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was Speaker of the House, she led the charge for the approval of a massive government spending project. Now that the bill has been passed and is being implemented, we are still trying to figure out what was in it. This begs the question: which candidates running for House of Representative would give Nancy Pelosi that type of power again? Which candidates who are running for the US Senate believe that passing massive government bills giving the government ever more power is the best approach for the government?

More locally, the city of Virginia Beach was called out recently by Gov. Ralph Northam.

“We need to get rid of the cronyism in Virginia Beach,” he said at a recent fundraiser.

His perception comes from his relationship with NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, who claims Virginia Beach discriminates in how it awards development projects.

If you think Smith and the governor have a point, then you would want to choose candidates who have publicly committed themselves to further government transparency in the bid awards process.

You, Me and Them Have One Job

Fundamentally, the only reason any of us need a government is to keep us safe. That, however, is “Pandora’s Box,” “a genie in a bottle,” or the “whole can of worms.” Pick your metaphor.

Safe is such a subjective term. And it has many different elements.

– Who or what are we trying to keep safe? Ourselves? The unborn? Investments? Beaches?

– Who or what are we trying to stay safe from? A great nation-state? Industrial negligence? Gangs? Neighbors?

– Where are we trying to stay safe? Our planet? Nation? Roadways? Personal space? In a hospital?

– When are we looking to stay safe? In perpetuity? Today? Five years from now?

This answer will be different for each of us because we all have fundamentally different concerns. One person’s overwhelming concern for the safety of an endangered species will compete with another’s chosen livelihood to sell an in-demand product, such as natural gas or affordable housing. One person’s concern for extremely limited government and to be “left alone” will compete with another’s concern for our national security and a demand for a robust military presence.

The question for each of us is which candidates take this seriously. Are they duly considering the incredible complexities and nuances that come with each decision or are they closed-minded, intransigent, and unrepresentative of the community interest?

They have one job: to represent. And voters have one job: to consider who that thoughtful person is before they cast their ballot – and to be thoughtful about it themselves.

Government is our responsibility. The more we abdicate it because of laziness, being misled, or absence of thought, the less likely it is that we will have a government that truly represents or has our best interests in mind. My hope, every election, is for each individual to take their right to vote seriously – and do all in their power to make good decisions.

Nov. 6 might not be the most important election ever – but it is the one that matters today. Make it count.

This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News