We, the people of the United States, have been effectively excluded from participating in the politics of our nation. The serious chaos and dysfunction in the current politics of the Republic of the United States of America are the direct result of our absence. The only solution to reforming the devastating political dysfunction of our country is to bring the people back into the game. If the people of the United States fail to begin to participate fully and thereby have more influence in the politics of our nation, the originating ideals and principles, which are the foundation of all potentials to keep this nation great, are in danger of being lost forever.
You have heard of fake news. This essay is about the vital national importance of recognizing and confronting fake politics. We are drowning in a sea of fake political talk that very effectively keeps the people from engaging in real political dialogue. The fakeness of the political talk that dominates the national political discourse has nothing to do with falsehoods presented as facts. This is not about lie vs. truth. It is about recognizing the omnipresence of the pseudo-political framing of public discourse that eagerly passes off non-political talk as a political discussion. Fake politics doges the responsibility to embrace thoughtful, productive, and in-depth discussions on political issues by substituting off topic non-political talk that effectively replaces any useful focus on the topic of politics.
Almost all of our public political discourse has been packaged for consumption by the people in pseudo-political frameworks. Fake political talk in the mainstream media has replaced a genuine focus on real political issues so effectively that millions of U.S. voters, who consume and repeat this kind of pseudo-political talk, never get around to actually discussing real politics. The failure of U.S. citizens to regularly engage in real political dialogues that are focused on actual political issues has effectively excluded us from having any real influence on how the government operates.
Defining the Nature of Political Dialogue
The heart and soul of politics consists of human dialogue. Discussions that are focused on the issues of governance and the actions that flow out of such discussions define the existence of politics. In order to participate in politics at all, especially if one is not directly serving in some capacity, a citizen must be ready to discuss the subject matter of politics. Productive discussions and reasoning about the issues of governance are the most important political activities for all citizens. They are necessary aspects of work for people who spend their careers in politics. Productive discussions and the exercise of reason on the issues are fundamentally necessary activities for voters in order to take the first step in making their vote count. That first step, which is to make sure we are informed and reasonably thoughtful about the issues of the governance of the nation, is the primary foundation for securing the stability and well being of our democratic republic. The prerequisite for discussing politics is to focus on the issues of governance in a manner that allows us to exercise our own reasoning on political issues. In the absence of a productive focus on the structure of the issues of governance, political conversation does not exist. In the absence of the exercise of reason in the context of focusing on political issues, real political conversations are impossible. In the absence of the exercise of reasoning, all we are left with is blind babbling and wishful thinking.
Most citizens, who consume and incorporate the pseudo-political frameworks of discussion they observe in public discourse, become effectively relegated to the status of passive observers who at best do little more than blindly repeat what we have been told. We allow ourselves to repeat pseudo-political talk in the absence of our own reasoning because we do not recognize what is fundamentally necessary to engage one another in a genuine political discussion. The shallow pseudo-political style of talk that has been sold to us over the years as being the one and only mode of political discourse has effectively replaced any understanding of what a productive focus on politics is all about. For those who have consumed this pseudo-political framing of all political issues, real political discussions have become impossible. When the people find that real political discussions have become impossible, then real political power is also impossible.
To illustrate the nature of the pseudo-political framing of all issues mentioned above, imagine that you ran across a group of people who claimed they were having a discussion about the art of carpentry. How would you know if they were really having a discussion about carpentry? The answer to this question is that the only way to discuss carpentry is to focus on the subject matter of the art of carpentry, which is about making things out of wood. If you are not discussing making things out of wood, you are not having a discussion about carpentry. It is that simple. Now imagine that instead of having a detailed discussion about fashioning things out of wood, you witnessed this group talking with one another in ways that managed only to attack one another personally by engaging in name calling, asserting stereotypes against individuals and their group affiliations, making accusations about various perceived lapses of human integrity, and all of this ad hominem and often personal conflict was being conducted merely in the context of occasionally mentioning various aspects of working with wood. Instead of the detailed exchanges of different ideas on the art of fashioning things out of wood that are needed to actually have a productive conversation about carpentry, you noticed that they merely exhausted themselves in a personal pissing contest.
Nobody would mistake this as a real discussion about carpentry. It is obviously not enough to merely mention an aspect of the topic of carpentry and then have the whole conversation instantly dissolve into a personally divisive ad hominem focus. If the people in that group kept irrationally insisting that their ad hominem focus on one another was indeed a discussion about carpentry, then we would be witnessing the packaging of the topic of carpentry into a pseudo-carpentry framework in which off topic talk was taking the place of the real subject matter.
This pattern applies to all topics in a way that is uncontroversial. Everyone recognizes that if you want to have a discussion about a topic, you actually have to discuss the topic. This is also true of the topic of politics. When we must gain knowledge in order to take action then any ad hominem focus is a distraction from the purpose at hand. We cannot completely replace detailed conversations involving our critical thinking on core policy positions pertaining to the governance of the nation with a non-political ad hominem focus on individuals and groups without having to admit that we have simply given up on discussing politics. It is by giving up on discussing politics that most of the people of the United States have given up their own political power to influence how the country is governed. By casually accepting and repeating the pseudo-political framing of all political issues, we the people have become politically inert and powerless.
It is simple; if we are not discussing the governance of the nation then we are not discussing politics. During the whole of the 2016 presidential election, the entire nation spent more time talking about Donald Trump's physical characteristics from head to toe than was spent on detailed policy discussions relevant to governing the nation. Almost all the criticism of Hillary Clinton was about the topic of her personal corruption. None of the talk about Clinton offered to the U.S. public through mainstream media involved detailed critical assessments of her policy positions. The fact is that Hillary herself never offered, nor was held accountable to offer, detailed descriptions of her policy positions and their implementations. The entire 2016 presidential election offered no detailed public discussion on the issues. This presidential election was all about deciding who was too naughty to be president. Of course, various issues of governance were briefly mentioned in the context of the national focus on non-political things such as Trump's body and Hillary's human character. Over simplified policy position slogans about governance topics were stated, but detailed discussions and analyses of the core issues of governance were completely missing from the public's participation in the election as mediated through the mainstream media. I wish this was an exaggeration.
It is stunning to actually take a moment and think about what useless and irrelevant talk passes for political discourse in the United States. The continuous ad hominem focus and the persistent framing of all topics in terms of partisan divisions shifts the public's focus from a proper political goal of engaging in the examination of ideas on governing the nation. Productive political dialogue is replaced with a non-political ad hominem focus on the partisan conflicts between Republicans and Democrats, left and right, conservative and liberal, religious and secular, which dilligently avoids any detailed conversation about real political issues. This type of pseudo-political talk makes up almost 100% of our public political talk and is nothing more than fake politics. The single greatest lie dominating U.S. politics is that we should discuss all of our political issues in terms of partisan divisions. The truth is that none of our current ad hominem focus on people and groups in the context of partisan conflict constitutes a real political conversation that is properly focused on the governance of the nation. The only time a politician demonstrates a focus on political issues is while they are giving forth a simplistic talking point. After announcing their political slogans, they use any distraction to avoid getting into details of what it means to implement their policy ideas. The distracting framing of all issues in terms of partisan conflict does not serve the common good of the people to the extent that it keeps us from maintaining a detailed focus on the issues of governance. The pseudo-political framing of all issues of governance destroys the ability of the people to have a say in how the United States is governed. Through giving up on the exercise of reason in conversations focused on the governance of the nation, we the people have traded real politics for an episode of a soap opera.
The terrible result of our failure to stay focused on political topics in the national discourse is the removal of most U.S. citizens from participating in genuine political discussions, which severely damages the value of their vote. When a citizen votes, if they have remain uniformed and have failed to exercise their own reasoning on real political issues, their vote is meaningless. The citizens of the United States need to regularly have their voting practice informed by rational discussions of relevant issues in the governance of the nation. We need to stay focused on the free exchange of ideas and information about actual issues without polemic discord. This can never be done by participating in ad hominem, partisan bickering. The lack of rational political conversation, which remains focused on actual political issues, leaves us vulnerable to shallow and politically irrelevant manipulations.
Many of the political ads and much of the political talk in the social media during the 2016 election cycle were not substantive arguments. They were simplistic, politically irrelevant memes and meme like communications that did not focus on issues and had no substantive content at all. Cartoonish memes, appeals to irrational fears, and zero reference to substantive details of governance issues were the typical style of persuasion in many social media political ads and much of our social media interaction. That some U.S. citizens could be influenced by such shallow, cartoonish, fear focused pseudo-political talk is a symptom of our habits of not exercising reason in the context of real political discussions. Even if a meme or meme like communication has accurate information, it is important to remember that a meme by definition is not a conversation. The fact that such heavy reliance on memes played any role in the 2016 election is a sign that the habit of relying on useful political discourse as a norm of participating in the politics of the nation had already collapsed (if it was ever fully established as a norm). If all citizens made a habit of embracing our responsibility to have real political discussions about issues that were thoughtful, detailed, and fully productive, we could not be influenced by anything less. The fake news and manipulative ads were not the problem in 2016; they were symptoms of the problem. The problem is that a significant percentage of the people of the United States have long been persuaded to give up on focusing on real political dialogue. We have become complacent and content with the sideshow of melodramatic, ad hominem, fear based talk, which is nothing more than unproductive pseudo-political partisan bickering that scrupulously avoids any in-depth and critically thoughtful conversation about the issues pertaining to governing the nation. We have been persuaded give up our own responsible participation in politics, which is attained through our own reasoning in real political conversations, and replace responsible participation with our passive consumption and non-reasoning regurgitation of pseudo-political partisan distractions.
The Result of Allowing Fake Politics
Congress and the media are happy to floridly demonstrate their refusal to stick to the topic of politics in view of the whole public. The propagation of pseudo-political, ad hominem partisan talk against individuals and groups abounds in their public discussions. This sideshow of endless distraction helps to keep the people's focus far away from the detailed critical analyses of policies that are absolutely necessary in a healthy democratic republic. When the people are absent from participating in genuine political dialogue, this leaves the whole of political affairs in the hands of very few participants. It is important to remember that the U.S. Congress and state political bodies do actually discuss real politics behind closed doors with the invited few. Detailed political policy discussions, to which the public is not invited, are alive and well outside of the view of the public. The quality of the politician's political discussions with private donors and wealthy special interests is vastly superior to the blathering ad hominem non-sense that is offered to the public to the extent that it contains a much more detailed focus on policies. However, most of this talk is merely partisan pandering for money and power. For the partisan politician, the talk behind closed doors is mostly devoid of any intention to serve to the nation. Party first and country last is the creed of the partisan political operator. Most importantly the political discussions that are actually focused on real issues in secret behind closed doors exclude the public. Hannah Arendt once wrote that political questions are too important to be left in the hands of politicians. The damaging and potentially nation killing impact of the absence of the American public from real political discussions illustrates the truth of her statement.
The Nature of the Most needed
Political Reform in the United States
When I hear conversations on the topic of political reform, it is always focused on politicians and other structures of government. The truth is that the most desperately needed political reform must take place with the people. We the people have abandoned our role in the governance of the nation by allowing partisan bickering and the simplistic bigotries between Republicans and Democrats, the left and the right, conservatives and liberals, religious and secular to distract us from focusing on thoughtful, real political dialogue about the governance of our nation. We fail to hold politicians accountable to focus faithfully on real political discussions because we fail to hold ourselves accountable. All the divisive talk about Republicans and Democrats, left and right, conservative and liberal, religious and secular, are non-political distractions that feed bigotry, a failure to exercise reason, our lust for melodramatic entertainment, and ill will among fellow citizens. Divisive partisan talk that focuses on such categories never belongs in useful political discussions. All politics that focuses exclusively on the divisive categories mentioned above can be seen as fake politics to the extent that such a focus merely functions to distract the people from giving their attention, their conversation, and their thinking to the full details of actual issues pertinent to governing the nation.
What the people hold themselves accountable to do, they can hold the politicians accountable to do. So, conceptually speaking, it is very simple. We the people need to completely stop using an ad hominem focus to talk about Republicans and Democrats, left and right, conservative and liberal, religious and secular, and any other group labels that happen to be the fashion of the day. We the people need to start focusing directly and persistently on the issues themselves. All of the ideas about what to do in the governance of the nation can be discussed. It does not matter if the idea under consideration came from the so called left or right, from Republicans or Democrats, or from your crazy uncle. As long as the structure of the idea is directly discussed in a free exchange that allows for the critical examination of the idea in the absence of partisan and other personal conflict, the quality of our political conversations will be greatly improved.
The most powerful political reform in the United States would be for all of the citizens in the U.S. to completely stop talking about Republicans and Democrats, left and right, conservative and liberal. Partisan divisions only serve to rob the people of their political power. The people take power by always focusing directly on the structure of issues in thoughtful conversations that emphasize a useful and free exchange of ideas. The GOP and the DNC are irrelevant to the national political focus, which should be set by the people through the exercise of our own reasoning. Politicians are our representatives not our leaders. It is time to put them in their place.
Once the people have developed the habit of holding themselves accountable to focusing productively on the issues, it will be easy to force the politicians to follow them. However, as long as the people remain complacent and content to drown in pseudo-political partisan distractions, the average politician will be happy to exclude the people from politics. Conceptually this is simple, even uncontroversial. We will obviously do better if we improve the focus of our conversations on political issues. But moving from concept to practice is the challenge.
How We The People Can Assert Real Political Power
There is a Native American proverb (Hopi) that says, "Whoever tells the stories rules the world". Controlling the narratives that dominate public discourse is the single most powerful manipulation in modern U.S. politics. If you control what the people focus on with their attention and their talk, you control the scope and depth of their thinking. The freefall of modern political discourse into pseudo-political partisan bickering has completely dominated the political narratives for years in the United States. The focus and framing of this pseudo-political bickering are always the divisions that have been mentioned above. The result of this focus is to reliably distract people from discussing important political issues in a thoughtfully productive manner. If we the people embrace our right and responsibility to do our own political thinking then we are likely to come up with our own ideas about what should be a priority in government. Once the people develop the habit of exercising our own independent reasoning in real political dialogue about actual issues of governance, we the people will become the leading force in politics. It is impossible to influence thinking citizens with cheap memes, fake news, and melodramatic sideshow distractions if we have embraced the habit of participating in thoughtful political discussions that are focused on real issues.
Real political discussions identify issues of governance that need to be addressed, identify what kind of knowledge is required to address the issues, and look to implement actions that said knowledge dictates will move us forward to a better future. Productive political discussion considers a wide range of different ideas in a thoughtful manner without personally divisive polemics. Genuine political discussions that are focused on actual issues of governance never create an ad hominem focus on human genitals, race, religious affiliation, party affiliation, or other pseudo-political references. What happens today in public political talk is the opposite of genuine political discourse. It is difficult for people to discuss politics with one another, especially if they have different ideas, without it degenerating into a partisan free-for-all over the conflict between the Republicans and Democrats, left and right, conservative and liberal, religious and secular. This is tragic because the most valuable political conversations are always between people who think differently. Talking with someone who thinks just like you is not a real political conversation; it is merely an echo of your own mind. Talking to yourself too much is the highway to crazytown. It is when we discuss the issues of the nation in a productive and thoughtful manner with someone who thinks differently that politics gets real. It is in the embrace of real politics that we the people gain power.
The state of the quality of political discourse in the U.S. is a hideously useless mess. Now is the time for us to stop our talk about the Republican and Democratic parties from hogging the stage of our political involvements. Such partisan talk is unworthy of our attention. Our partisan bickering is merely a distraction that keeps us from asserting our own political power through engaging one another in genuinely productive discussions about the actual issues related to governing the nation. Divisive partisan politics is a distraction that is deployed to keep the people from asserting their own political influence. If you can keep the people bickering against one another in a politically irrelevant manner, you can steal the country without the people being sufficiently aware to do anything about it. Currently most citizens in the U.S., who talk politics, give the majority of their attention to the false divides that go by the labels of Republican-Democrat, left-right, conservative-liberal, religious-secular. The good news is that all of the issues of governance that citizens need to disscuss in their political conversations can be fully discussed in the complete absence of these pseudo-political categories.
If the people of the Republic of the United States simply refuse to talk about politics as it has been framed for us by the media and the dominant political parties, we will take real political power by taking control of the political narratives that dominate the attention of the public. We can decide for ourselves what the narratives will be. We do not need the permission or approval of the political parties or the media to decide what issues to explore in depth. We are able to develop our own take on the issues as we see fit. We do not need the political parties to tell us what the priorities of government should be. We can decide the priorities for ourselves if we learn to engage in focused political discussions that require the exercise of our own reasoning. We can still discuss ideas that the various parties and groups have brought up as being worthy of implementation in the governance of the nation.
In order to express a capability to do this it is necessary for us to develop the habit of discussing the structure of those political issues without any recourse to using the dividing labels, the partisan bickering, and ad hominem simplistic stereotypes as an excuse to avoid real political discussion. We can discuss all the relevant political issues without ever mentioning the Republicans or Democrats, the left or the right, conservatives or liberals. By allowing ourselves to be consumed in partisan divisions, we lose our capability to lead the way in the politics of the nation. We can change. Politicians represent us. They are not our leaders. Their job is to carry out work related to serving the priorities we have established through our participation in the politics of the nation. It is our job to inform them of those priorities. We will never be able to do our job is we allow the pseudo-political partisan bickering to consume all of our political talk. The people learning to replace pseudo-politics with real political dialoque is a first step to teaching the politicians their place in government.
A Political Dialogue Checklist:
How to reject fake politics and
begin to express your own political power:
1. STOP talking about Republicans and Democrats or any other political party. We do not need to frame political issues in relation to parties unless the topic directly deals with how politicians function when they do their jobs. (such as discussions about procedures in congress sessions) That means almost all political issues do not require any reference to political parties in order to be fully discussed. Remember, we can discuss any ideas brought up by a Republican or Democrat, but only discuss the structure of the idea. Work to decide if an idea has merit by reasoning about the structure of the issue without referencing the divisive pseudo-political partisan categories.
2. STOP framing political issues in terms of left and right, conservative and liberal, or religious and secular. This kind of framing, which is a favorite habit of the parties and the media, only serves to hook us into pseudo-political partisan bickering, stereotyping bigotry, and ill will among fellow citizens. Such framing regularly stops us from thoughtfully discussing issues and starts us bickering like partisan hacks. Always discuss ideas directly without referencing the pseudo-political partisan frameworks of left and right, conservative and liberal, or religious and secular. Staying focused directly on the structure of the issue at hand is how the real work of politics gets done. Don't let yourself be distracted by the divisive ad hominem focus of fake politics.
3. STOP seeing anyone with a different idea as an enemy that needs to be defeated. Recognize that examining different ideas is a normal part of the process of solving problems. The demonization of differences is part of the pseudo-political partisan framing of all issues that is keeps us from participating in the real politics of the nation. Therefore, your demonization of others with different ideas is politically irrelevant and takes away your power to make a difference in the politics of the nation. The only way to assert real political power is through the development of our own ability to reason with others who think differently about the issues of the governance of the nation. Talking politics with those who think exactly like you is useless. Such talk is just an echo chamber that is incapable of getting real political work done. Only engaging those who think differently in real political dialogue expresses the capability of doing the real work of politics. Those who think differently are your best allies. This is the opposite of the fake political division of partisan enemies that dominates public talk. Helping those who think differently than you is a necessary part of solving problems. The most powerful way to disprove an idea is to first try to prove it is correct. Do not be afraid of asking questions that benefit those who think differently than you. The very idea that somehow we will fall over or the world will end if we are helpful to one another in political dialogue is a ridiculous partisan lie designed to keep you from participating in real political dialogue. It is a lie that robs you of your own political power. The examination of different ideas is necessary to solve problems and the only way for the people to embrace real political power.
4. STOP all manner of discourtesy and rudeness in political conversations. Being rude to the other person in a political conversation is a pure pseudo-political ad hominem flavored failure to engage in real political dialogue. In rudness, the other person is attacked not by argument focused on their person but by the lack of civil hospitality on the part of the rude one. The focus should always be on the reasoned examination of ideas, not on our capacity to rhetorically punch someone in the nose. Real political influence and power is richly expressed by the exercise of our capacity to reason together, especially when we think differently. Real political dialogue and real political influence and power is never achieved by allowing personal conflict that is politically irrelevant to destroy what could have been a useful political discussion.
5. START allowing time and the patience that goes with taking time to let your political conversations have their full due. Nobody is going to solve the nation's problems in a rush between commercial breaks. Do not allow yourself to feel time pressures. If you feel like you have to rush, just let the conversation time run out without bringing full closure. Time pressures make it easier to fall back into the style of partisan bickering that takes away our real political power. Most importantly take the time to listen to the other person without rushing to fill in the conversational space with your views. Learn to understand the other person and question the other person in a manner that is beneficial to the commonly held goal of understanding the issues. The quality of the process of political dialogue is more important than trying to force the dialogue to bring forth a definitive solution in a few minutes. A political dialogue must be grounded on the reasoned examination of ideas in order to get results that will positively impact the politics of the nation. This takes time.
6. START believing that the truth and understanding is more important than winning. Honestly exchanging ideas in real political conversations must occur to make the people an important political influence. This is an important part of rejecting fake politics. The more we depend on lies and non-political distractions that are often disingenuously deployed as a tactic to win, the more we give up our power to benefit the politics of the nation. Lying is lazy. Using partisan divisivness as a distractive tactic to "win" is fake politics. Truth, along with an honest focus on real issues is a necessary part of the real work of politics. Serving the common good of the nation by being truthful in our political discourse is necessary to preserve the integrety of our democratic republic. The patriot is not a liar nor knowingly throws her lot in with liars. The one who loves the nation has a duty of truthfulness to the nation. The idea that the only goal of a political conversation is for one partisan side to "win" at all costs is a false and unpatriotic idea that thrives in the heart of the fake politics that is killing our country. The only real goal of political conversations is the free exchange of different ideas needed to critically examine the issues of governance in order to serve the common good. When such freedom of speech is thoughtfully and honestly exercised, everybody wins.
7. START rejecting the practice of using polls to validate an idea. 99% of the people can still be wrong. Going with the flow of the polls is a rejection of our responsibility to exercise our own reasoning on the issues. Polls are another pseudo-political style of framing issues. Only the human exercise of reason leads us to a proper vetting of ideas. The results of a poll should never influence anyone about the truth of an idea. Passively going along with what most people think is a failure to exercise your own political power to reason about the issues of the governance of the nation.
8. START treating people like they are full human beings who are more than their perspective. The rhetoric of pseudo-politics always reduces people to their speech acts when the divisive categories of Republican-Democrat, conservative-liberal, left-right, religous-secular are applied in an ad hominem fashion to the one who articulated an idea. A human being is always more than the idea they just spoke. We should never reduce the whole of a person's humanity to a speech act. This is a habit that goes along with treating people who have different ideas like enemies. Do not embrace the pseudo-political frame that you are talking to a Republican or Democrat, a conservative or liberal, the left or the right, a religious or a secular person. When in real political dialogue, we always remember that we are having an important discussion with a real human being who has honored us by discussing the well being of the nation.
When We The People Control The Political Narratives
The citizens of the United States have, for the most part, been participating in politics like passive consumers. The world view of the consumer is a dominant style of thinking in the United States. However, standing to the side and letting the "professionals" handle all the politics, control all the priorities, and decide all the political narratives is killing our country. Passively ingesting the partisan pseudo-political talk that is offered and repeating it faithfully in the absence of our own independent reasoning is the dominant habit of millions of voters. Consuming what is offered and repeating the associated narratives of the partisan pseudo-political talk that others have handed to us is how we behave like passive consumer sheep. This is not how we must behave in order to stand on our feet as thinking citizens who have real political power. Passively allowing the parties and the media to dictate to us the scope of our political focus and thinking is how we have given up control of the political narratives that dominate the focus of the nation
This essay articulated a fundamental shift in the focus of the people that will have a major impact on the politics of the nation even if it happens to a small degree. Remember, what the people hold themselves accountable to do, they can hold politicians accountable to do. By holding ourselves accountable to reject the faming of all political issues in terms of the pseudo-political partisan categories of Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, left and right, religous and secular, we can allow ourselves to remain focused on the real political issues of governance. If we hold ourselves accountable to discussing those issues in detail and regularly exchange ideas without divisive polemics, we can take control of the political narratives that dominate the nation. Instead of letting the politicians, the parties, and the media tell us what narratives we should pay attention to, which effectively controls the scope and depth of our thinking, we can make up our own minds because we have learned to have thoughtful political discussions about real issues with people, who think differently. We can have real political dialogue without the need for the fake politics of partisan divisiveness. Once we have held ourselves accountable to improve the focus of our own political discussion and thinking, we the people can tell the parties and the media what narratives should dominate the national focus on issues. The most powerful effects of restoring the exercise of reasoning in our focus on real political issues is that we learn to stop being passive followers who just repeat what we have been told. We learn to make up our own minds on issues. We learn to raise our own standard on what it means to have a political dialogue and accept nothing less from politicians. When the people embrace the practice of exercising their own reasoning and then hold politicians accountable to a higher standard of political discourse, we the people become the political leaders of the nation who have the power to make all politicians our representatives.
Pseudo-political partisan divisions in public discourse along with the tremendously passive party loyalties that exists within much of the voting population are the cancer of politics in the United States. Most U.S. citizens, who loyally vote for their chosen party, do not do so because they have thoughtfully determined that it is the best course of action. They are loyal because they have been trained to function as passive consumers and there are very few options on the political menu that has been offered to them. This is not loyalty. This is a captive audience. When the people start discussing and thinking for themselves about politics in the absence of partisan references, we can set new standards for political discourse. When we develop the habit of exercising our own independent thinking, we can throw our blind party loyalties into the trash where they belong. Blind party loyalty, which is the dominant characteristic of the passive consumer sheep, cannot define the politics of a thinking citizen. The exercise of independent reasoning on political issues affords the people the power to reject any politician, regardless of party affiliation, who falls short of the standards of discourse that we have chosen to embrace. Imagine what it will be like when any politician, regardless of their party affiliation, will be hounded out of politics if they play cheap partisan games or fail to demonstrate a capacity to engage in thoughtful discussion about the issues in the absence of pseudo-political partisan polemics.
Changing the style of political discourse from pseudo-political partisan distractions to real political dialogue that is focused on the exercise of our own reasoning about the issues of governance is the most important political reform we can achieve. We need to switch all of our talk from focusing on a small range of pseudo-political partisan narratives selected by the few at the top and maintained by the many to a larger range of narratives that rise from the independent thinking of the people, who are focused on real political dialogue and real issues. If we can force ourselves to be disciplined in staying focused and on topic in political dialogues then we can force the politicians to do the same. However, this is a reform that the people must first apply to themselves.
What the people hold themselves accountable to do, they can hold politicians accountable to do. When we the people have developed the power to reject any party loyalties that go against the dictates of our own reasoning, we become a major political force in the nation. This is not radical. This is not new. It is common sense. Of course, we will do better to reason together on the issues than we do bickering at one another like partisan enemies. Of course, exercising reasoning on issues is superior to babbling in the complete absence of our own thoughtfulness. Of course, when the people raise their own standards they will have new power to hold politicians accountable to higher standards. Learning to engage in real political discourse offers us a new power of political independence and the ability to hold politicians accountable to higher standards.
We do not have to be partisan sheep that are herded into predictable voting performances by those who control our political narratives. We can be thinking citizens who impose our own political narratives on the politicians who serve us. When the people can no longer be trusted to remain content as passive voting sheep, the political parties will find that they can be held accountable to stop playing partisan games. We can force the politicians to stop hiding their real politics behind closed doors and get to the business of governing the nation as representatives of the people. It is their job to represent us. They are not our leaders. But this reform begins with the people. What the people hold themselves accountable to do, they can hold the politicians accountable to do. Conceptually this is easy. It takes only a grain of common sense to see the truth of our need to reject fake partisan politics and focus on productive political dialogue. However, living this truth is the real challenge and the necessary work of real politics.
If we, the people of the United States, do not turn ourselves around and get back into real politics conducted through real political dialogue, we the people can kiss our democratic republic goodbye.
Note: If you want to get a more detailed take on the "Political Dialogue Checklist" above, see our essay The Fundamentals of Education: A Socratic perspective on the cultivation of humanity - PART II: Hospitality to the Stranger in Dialogue". The link starts a few pages into the essay as the full context goes beyond direct relevance to this essay. Six of the recommendations on the checklist are discussed in terms of the anti-Socratic practices of modern public talk. The term anti-Socratic is derived from my comparison of modern political talk to the kind of discussions I found in my readings of Plato. The so-called "Teachings of the Anti-Socratic" refer to the dominant habits of public discourse in the United States.
Also, see our essay "A Socratic Perspective on the Nature of Human Evil". The section titled "A Clear and Present Danger" is directly relevant to the topic of this essay. Keep in mind that the term "evil" and "examined life" are defined in specifically qualified ways. To get the most out of this section, read the whole essay.