Jennifer Lynch -- Government Crisis: We did it to ourselves

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By Jennifer Lynch

John Adams once said, “In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good.”

I tripped across this quote the other day and it gave me pause. I have always viewed our elected politicians as mere representatives of the larger population. Campaigns and elections are built on the concept of selecting a person to go to Washington to represent and reflect the views of the larger community.

As citizens, we have visions of our representatives sitting in on the Hill saying, “The people don’t agree and since my votes represents them, I vote nay.” Of course, that isn’t how it really works, and this is why the general population is angry.

In politics, there is maneuvering and deal making, party lines, political favors and promises. There is no representation of the people, except in rhetoric and sound bites.

Somewhere between John Adams and John Boehner, our political system has moved from the responsibility to govern to the responsibility to maintain power. This isn't the fault of those elected, but the fault of those who elected them.

Our forefathers laid down specific guidelines that we have ignored. They asked us to select the good and wise, not the greedy and petulant. This is where we, as Americans, have failed ourselves. We have become careless citizens, ignorant and lazy, dismissive of our power and responsibility to vote for those most qualified to lead us.

We vote because we like someone’s smile. We vote because they look like us, talk like us, are of similar intelligence, and check the same party box. We vote based on promises that are appealing to us as individuals and forego the needs of the country as a whole. We vote because we don’t like the last guy or because our lives don’t feel better since we last voted. We vote for the person with the better sound bites. We forget that we aren’t voting for student body president, but for elected representatives that govern our entire country.

The competence of our leaders is a direct reflection of the care we take in selecting them. As citizens, we have the responsibility to select our leaders with care; we should be choosing educated, thoughtful, wise, and careful men and women to lead and govern. We don’t need leaders who think like us; we need leaders who think better than us.

During this debt crisis, the concern isn’t that there won't be a decision. A decision will be made. The concern is that it won’t be the best decision because as Americans, we have not chosen our best, most wise men. We have chosen rookies, mavericks, outliers, and fringe characters who are nothing more than sound bites.

We proudly chose officials that know less about world history, geography, and government than us. We chose officials because we liked that they had no experience with the task at hand.

American voters have behaved like children, choosing the most popular kids who foolishly promised recess every day. It’s the Lord of the Flies in government right now and it’s our fault as voters. We didn’t vote for the grown-ups who could responsibly manage complex economic and political issues, we voted for the cool kids.

May this debt crisis be a wake-up call for all Americans to be more thoughtful and informed voters. We can no longer make decisions based on party lines, personal convictions, charisma, or flashy campaign ads. We have a responsibility to use our vote wisely.

We need a collection of men and women who are much smarter than us. We need leaders who can come together and make decisions that are about governing, not about politics. We need a collection of men and women dedicated to the preservation of the country and not the preservation of power. We need a collection of the most wise and good.

We can save our popularity votes for American Idol.

Jennifer Lynch is a school psychologist living in Catonsville. This is her first opinion piece for Center Maryland.
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