‘People Get The Government They Deserve’

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by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

‘The tyranny of a prince is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.’  Montesquieu - 1748

We hear there is a renewed interest in getting invovled in politics in America. We hope so. A healthy democracy demands an engaged citizenry.

Our democracy isn’t very healthy these days as vitriolic partisanship prevents those we elect from reaching consensus on legislation critical to our health, safety, economy, environment, national defense, immigration policy and judicial system.

How have we reached such a dysfunctional state in American politics? The vast majority of citizens don’t need to look very far to find the reason – it is just a mirror away.

We are lucky to get 10 percent of eligible voters showing up at precinct caucuses and voting in primary elections. That leaves a very small number of people to select the candidates who will be on the ballot. It leaves that same group of people to develop the political platforms that will set the goals and priorities of political parties at the local, state and federal levels.

Those who show up at the caucuses and primaries often represent the most conservative or liberal factions of their parties. They are the activists, protesters and agitators. They are engaged in politics not just at election time, but also throughout the year. They can be passionate and uncompromising. It should be no surprise that candidates who want to get their party’s nod to be on the ballot will cater to this group’s needs and wants.

Candidates know that to get re-elected to office, they must first pass the loyalty test to their base constituencies. If they haven’t been sufficiently true on their votes in support of the base’s legislative agenda, they could face opposition from within their own party.

This process leaves the voices of moderate Americans on the sidelines because they don’t show up to take control of the nominating process for candidates or to set the party’s platform during caucuses and at the party county, district and state conventions that follow.

Your chance to change that destructive cycle is coming up in a few weeks when Minnesota’s caucuses take place Feb. 6. Both the Republican and Democratic parties will be conducting caucuses in Benson that evening.

Even at this early stage in the process, with the election not until Nov. 6, your input counts. Straw polls will be conducted at the caucuses to gauge the support behind candidates running for governor. Those who have a strong showing in the caucuses will continue their candidacies in the months that follow. Those who do poorly will likely drop out sooner rather than later.

At the precinct caucuses, delegates are elected who will represent their county. It is at this first level in the process that you set the stage for perhaps becoming a delegate to a legislative district convention, a congressional district convention, and your party’s state convention.

At a caucus, a person will also be asked to get involved with the party’s activities such as developing contact lists, setting up meetings, and campaigning for candidates.

Anyone who will be 18 years old by Nov. 6 can participate in a caucus.

If you want to become even more involved in politics and decision-making, you can run for public office. We will be electing two county commissioners, school board members, a state representative, a sheriff, a county attorney, a county treasurer, a U.S. House member, two U.S. senators, a state auditor, treasurer and attorney general, and judges. The filing deadline to run for the Minnesota House and all other public offices is June 5.

“That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part,” our third President Thomas Jefferson wrote. You can’t be a part by being a spectator or just sitting around complaining about politicians. Being a part of government means getting involved. It means attending caucuses, serving in public office or working to get those whose ideas you support elected. It means paying attention, reading the news and keeping up on issues that our leaders at the local, state and federal levels are debating.

Being accurately informed these days isn’t easy. The internet is laced with false and atrociously misleading information. A few of our television news programs are blatantly partisan. Fox News is a mouthpiece for the right wing of the Republican Party. MSNBC has earned a reputation for supporting liberal politics. If you want the best reporting on issues, read newspapers and watch public television’s The News Hour.

Despite President Trump trying to undermine American democracy by destroying the credibility of newspapers, they are by far the most accurate and diligent in reporting news we need to be informed citizens.

“In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve,” French diplomat and historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote. He was a student of America’s young democracy and traveled the country in the 1830s to learn how and if it could work. Based on the current state of our politics in United States it appears citizens are failing at their end of the bargain.

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