I recently changed my voter registration because I wish to actively work for any candidate and on any issue I choose to support. I decided to leave the Democratic Party for very nearly the same reason I, two years ago, left the Republican Party.
I became convinced that the central committees here in Wallowa County, like their state and national parties, were much less interested in meeting voters where they are and working from there to win elections than they are in avoiding citizens while trying to indoctrinate them through advertising and manipulative "politics by other means."
I became convinced that the Wallowa County Democratic Party Central Committee, like its local Republican party counterpart, remains aloof from, and indifferent to, citizenship. Local Democratic Party leaders complacently enjoy the current national party "rise", apparently counting on winning in 2008 by default. Wallowa County Republican Party leaders continue following, silently and obediently, behind national and state party leadership that brings us debacles like Measure 37 and the Iraq War. No thoughtful citizen can respect such parties, except as political dangers.
The Democratic Party seems to count upon winning the next presidency year, as the Republic Party appears to count on retaining Ben Boswell's seat on the county commission. Bipartisan politics has degenerated to such a counterproductive state, that it promises only political dissolution. Examples appear everywhere we care to look.
National "debates" and votes on the Iraq War, the six-year-old incoherent and unfocused so-called "war on terrorism" (who has ever waged a successful military assault on an abstraction?), the Oregon legislature's continuing gross failure, through Republican and Democratic Party "leadership" to deal respectably with land use issues, the Wallowa Lake Dam issue ... how many examples do we need to show us this bipartisan failure?
Political leadership includes telling citizens when they are wrong, explaining the wrong, and taking the heat when the explanation fails. That heat tempers leadership. It weeds out incompetence. Our dominant parties are so comfortable with crowd behavior that their leaders rely upon increasingly deceptive advertising and manipulation of crowd behavior. They show no interest in attempting to elevate the quality of our political discussions. We are, in their eyes, no longer citizens; we are only subjects to be corralled into this or that "position" according to how we respond to deceptive manipulation - from "swift-boating" to whisper campaigns to phony image-projecting like candidate Dukakis, in 1988, pretending to drive a tank and President Bush, in 2003, pretending to fly and land an airplane onto the USS Lincoln under the misleading banner of "Mission Accomplished".
The cynicism-creation is rapidly dissolving what remains of our national political coherence. No amount of easy flag-waving and "support our troops" campaign successes can repair such damages. Such efforts are misleading at best, self-deceptive at worst.
It is up to individual citizens to make time to listen to neighbors. We must work patiently and diligently to create a respectable political climate in our own neighborhoods. This means attempting to achieve an admirable discussion of how to responsibly manage the use and abuse of our national forest roads. It means finding opportunities to blunt whisper campaigns that have, since Karl Rove introduced that electoral cancer, undercut all public and private discussions of candidates and issues. It means forcing officeholders to be responsible while they are in office and not letting them get away with simply following the crowd as has our current popularly elected and repeatedly re-elected congressman since taking office.
Citizenship means openly questioning why our "news" organs repeatedly heap praise on political "leaders" like the La Grande paper's editorial staff has done with our congressman, without uttering a challenging word on his long-standing dogmatic refusal to obey his constitutional duty to substantially discuss the Iraq War.
Citizenship begins and ends in leadership. We see so little citizenship emerging from our current crop of "leaders", that we must look elsewhere to find it.
Neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party shows serious interest in helping us do this.
Refusing to show our children an example of how to publicly deliberate through such critical political questions, we have no grounds to suppose the next generation will somehow magically acquire that capacity. We can see such failures in many issues. Wallowa County's current political impasse on the Wallowa Lake Dam died when one commissioner repeatedly insisted the issue was a private matter, another traveled at public expense to Washington, D. C., to lobby for public funding to address that "private" matter, and the third remained silent as a stone. Meanwhile, the dam deteriorates while the geological fault beneath that dam grows.
Where's the leadership? Where's the citizenship? Will we create it from the bottom up, or forget that it is a human possibility?