Viewpoint

Three tips on how to navigate this political season

From Mark Erwin, a Charlotte businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros:

The political season is upon us again with a vengeance. Nowadays it seems to always be that time. So much money – so little time.

If you think our politicians just can’t agree on anything, you would be wrong. They seem to agree to these basic principles: First, they all love the power, prestige and money associated with being a member of Congress. Generally they all seem to want to stay in office as long as possible. They know a divided Congress based on factions produces more contributions than one where the members simply do the business of the people without undue rancor.

Here is my advice for surviving the avalanche of misinformation, misdirection and all around mischief that’s headed our way. First, do not pay any credence to any advertising on television, radio or in print. You can be certain that facts are generally taken out of context to support predetermined positions. None is unbiased and is therefore no more or less than propaganda.

To paraphrase American writer H. L. Mencken, “Under (our system of) democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.” The opposing party then blames the downfall of the free world on the other party.

Next, listen to the advice of our founding president, George Washington. In his day parties were called factions and he fought long and hard to try to prevent his beloved nation from becoming a victim to their evil influences. In his farewell address he wrote the following about political parties, “They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party.” President Washington went on to say, “The alternate domination of one faction (party) over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge is a frightful despotism”

This issue must have been important to him as he devoted more than 10 percent of his text to this subject alone. Our two dominant political parties have become the force he so strongly warned us against. The annual reading of Washington’s farewell address in both houses of Congress was a longstanding tradition until 1984, when the House of Representatives abandoned the practice.

No political party can be all right or all wrong. Today, the fastest growing political affiliation is unaffiliated. So, if you are a member of either major political party, get out – now. Be mindful about your support and your vote. Only support candidates when you feel certain you know their character either directly or through others you trust.

Our nation is counting on you. When our electorate becomes mindful of their duty we will realize the future George Washington envisioned.

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