COMMENTARY: Our first president knew the party system held many dangers; not the least is the intentional lying and cheating to enhance one party over others in elections and during the time of governing. We have a government with its party interests instead of the interests of the country as a whole.
To me it seems America has dissolved over the years into tribes. There are four tribes I see: Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Disinterested Americans. In every question of what our country should do next are the overarching needs of the tribes, such that America is held hostage by the tribe in power.
Washington realized that the pull of the party system would cause otherwise good people to lie, cheat and act to bolster their party. He opposed the very notion of the party system. While he was President Washington, everyone was quiet — and then the party system started full force after he left office.
Currently two tribes run our government. We are in an election year and I hear citizens wonder why the conventions of the tribes do not allow transparency or fairness. Indeed, they are a tribe, and to them this is the life and death of the tribe.
When elected, those tribe members are then part of the government and swear to act honestly. But as we can see their behavior is to push their tribe regardless of the damage it does to our country. Sadly, we have put the two tribes, Republicans and Democrats, in charge of our government. There are a few Independents but not enough to change the outcomes.
I had to be a member of one of the two tribes if I wanted a voice in who was going to represent that tribe in the general election. Over the last couple decades, I have been a member of three tribes: Independents, Democrats and now Republicans.
Each tribe is a private entity, though the practitioners when running for office do have to conform with some general rules. Their fiduciary relationship is generally their own tribe. Therefore, they generally band together while in office to represent their tribe and defeat the efforts of the other major tribe.
Citizens are fed up with their self-serving behavior, but the system currently assures that only Republicans or Democrats will win the presidency. The rules assuring this outcome were agreed upon years ago in a bipartisan effort by Republicans and Democrats.
We also have sham local governments that proclaim they are nonpartisan but, by the way they run and govern, it is obvious they are still tribe members who follow their tribes. Even more disturbing is that the media is supposed to not be a member of either tribe but it is obvious members of the media often are pushing one tribe over the other.
You can tell by their coverage of some candidates where no mention is made of legitimate issues and on other candidates they happily spread the dirt spoken by a partisan that so-and-so candidate is a liar, cheat and a puppy dog hater.
So what are we to do? Truthfully, we are needing patriots to take over the tribes at the local levels and not participate in tribal unity. They will be met with a vigorous defense of the same old model when they try to make changes. So it will hinge on enough patriots in the two major tribes deciding to clean up their tribes.
Will it work? It is the only thing that will work. One thing more: Journalism schools must be set back to where they were when I graduated in 1972. At that time, we looked down on both Republicans and Democrats and didn’t root for either.
Most importantly, money and privilege must be taken out of elected service. No more going to Congress in a station wagon and flying home years later in their own jet. One step at a time. Giving up the tribe mentality will be a good start.
Michael Swickard is a former radio talk show host and has been a columnist for 30 years in a number of New Mexico newspapers. Swickard’s new novel, Hideaway Hills, is now available at Amazon.com.