Perspectives: Midterm elections, the conversation we should be having

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OPINION — As midterm elections approach, the fervor to get out the vote is steadily building.

It’s enough to make a person sentimental for the days when dismal warnings about “the most important election of our lifetime” were saved for general election years. This trend also raises an important question about the efficacy of voting, when it’s not being done by informed voters.

Can legions of riled-up citizens turning out to vote really make a difference for the better if a majority of those voters are acting on their feelings and opinions?

Put slightly differently, will you be voting in support of something or merely doing your part to obtain or maintain political power over others? How we answer this question determines whether we are part of the solution or part of the problem.

University of Baltimore professor emeritus Barry Brownstein, in a recent essay, recalled James Madison’s warning against the dangers of how emotion-driven factions pit us against one another.

Brownstein describes:

Factions are aroused by a “common impulse of passion,” and inevitably, without strict limits on the powers of government, the actions of factions threaten the rights of others. In short, strong opinions may get out the vote, but that does not guarantee good government or the preservation of liberty.

Given that most Americans are largely unaware of how government at all levels now regularly exceeds its proper limits, voting isn’t likely to produce anything but more of what we’ve been getting. The inability of most voters to enunciate even their most basic inviolable rights or the proper role and the place of government in a free society only further complicates our situation.

It’s not a matter of partisan considerations; Republicans and Democrats alike are far more wedded to power than to principle at this point. Economist Robert Higgs sums up what the abandonment of first principles has done to our systems of governance:

Neither Republicans nor Democrats give a damn about liberty. The two parties are fighting over control of the loot, which each seeks to pour down its favorite rat holes, and the power to bully the people it hates. Fostering a free society isn’t even in the picture.

This is why those who are being driven to the voting booth primarily by partisan considerations won’t shift our course in the slightest. They don’t yet understand what’s at stake.

Becoming informed is only the first step to solving the problem before us.

Dr. Richard M. Ebeling from the Future of Freedom Foundation does a magnificent job of explaining exactly where government is operating outside its moral limits and identifies the necessary principles that would correct this. His essay “Out-of-Control Government: How, Why, and What to Do” should be required reading for anyone who values being an informed voter.

Ebeling deftly outlines the effects of increasing government taxing and spending, how special interests, politicians and bureaucrats all contribute to growth in government. He also describes how bureaucrats have strong incentive to never get the job done and how they concentrate benefits while diffusing burdens.

After clearly identifying the effects of how government escaping its proper limits have affected us, Ebeling spells out the philosophical, ethical and political-economic premises and first principles at stake. This isn’t just theoretical Utopian thinking about personal freedoms.

The course of human events has already been undeniably changed for the better by embracing the right ideas. The remaining blessings of liberty that we still enjoy are the direct result of this.

If we’re serious about living in a free, ethical and prosperous society, this is the conversation we should be having. Partisan lip service alone isn’t going to cut it. We have to have authentic depth and breadth in our understanding of these principles.

As Ebeling explains:

It is not that advocacy of liberty should become a prejudice — that is, a preconceived idea not based on reasoned reflection or learned experience. A mere faith in freedom without a well-grounded set of reasons for advocating it will not sustain a free society in the long run.

To people whose hearts are set on either gaining or maintaining power over others, principles are only useful insofar as they advance one’s personal agenda. This is particularly true when we’re more occupied with appearing to stand against what we call “evil” rather than striving to be a truly good person.

Politics only amplifies this tendency.

When each side consciously portrays the other side as the embodiment of evil, it’s easy to persuade people to lend their support to candidates and policies that actively destroy our society.

We should remember Solzhenitsyn’s warning that the line between good and evil doesn’t run between political parties or even nations; it runs directly through each human heart.

In this context, who or what we are voting for is of less importance than what’s going on in our own hearts.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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23 Comments

  • iceplant October 22, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    “When each side consciously portrays the other side as the embodiment of evil, it’s easy to persuade people to lend their support to candidates and policies that actively destroy our society.”

    Which perfectly explains why we have Mango Mussolini currently occupying the white house. A man who is, without a doubt, ACTIVELY destroying what was once a great nation. We are now a laughing stock around the world and things will never be the same after this. We’ll be lucky if we make it through this so-called “president” with any semblance of an America we thought we had. Hope y’all have your big-boy pants on.

    Also, I have a real hard time seeing eye to eye with people who embrace someone that willingly ignores facts, lies to the people continually, has the morals of a filthy Manhattan pimp, treats women like utter trash, has the manners of an ill-tempered child, speaks like a mentally-challenged oaf, alienates our most important allies, practices open xenophobia, fearmongers, wants to pollute the environment, wants to start building another nuclear arsenal, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum. And people wonder why both sides can’t get along. HA! When there are people willing to vote for crap like that, you better expect people on the other side to be angry. Real angry. There is no middle ground here. NONE.

    America elected a man that makes Forrest Gump look like Albert freakin’ Einstein.
    “Stupid is as stupid does.” 😛

    • Happy Commenter October 22, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      Hahahahahaha! Take a chill pill plant! Your’e gonna blow a blood vessel!

    • Pa Triot October 23, 2018 at 7:12 am

      You start out with the right quote…….then dive into name calling, partisan politics and cliches; a part of the problem rather than the solution. Both parties have taken America down the wrong road and put us in the situation that exists today. Our elected officials are so immersed in securing their next term and pleasing special interests that they could care less about the money they mismanage – or the Constitution they ignore. Their actions, along with social media, hearings and demonstrations appear to be nothing more than a version of the Jerry Springer show. “We the People” means nothing to these folks…….unless there’s something in it for them. What troubles me the most is I believe we’ve allowed our government to become too big and too powerful. Add big servings of our political ignorance and partisan alignment…….a fix may have become impossible.

    • homer498 October 25, 2018 at 10:26 am

      Hey, Forrest was a self made man (Bubba-Gump Shrimp) and he served honorably in Vietnam. I don’t want to hear anymore slanderous comparisons to Pumpkinhead. Forrest wasn’t given millions by Daddy to make something of himself. He didn’t even have a Daddy, his Mother raised him alone. Forrest didn’t have “heel spurs” both his legs were crippled from birth by the Polio virus; doctors never thought he would walk without leg braces & crutches. And when the shooting started; Forrest actually did run back into the firing to save the wounded numerous times, and he didn’t ask for any recognition for what he had done! Gump embodied what it means to be “The quiet professional” and did what it took to “Leave No Man Behind.” Lt. Dan would have bled out in the bush waiting for Pumpkinhead to save him: Primarily because “Pumpkinhead” is a coward who lets others do the fighting & dying for him and his Son’s & Daughters. Maybe “Baron” will serve once Pumpkinhead starts a war of distraction with North Korea, China, Iran, California, Venezuela. How many of the “Pumpkinhead Gang” will show up the way Forrest Gump did?

  • Not_So_Much October 22, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    I feel sorry for you iceplant and hope you have a full recovery. Thanks for the article Bryan.

  • Kilroywashere October 22, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    Obsessive compulsive Trump manic depression. Prop 2. gets approved you definitely should be qualified to receive medical bud to relieve your pain and suffering.

  • Tim October 22, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    Right on Brian, keep it up. Those that decide with their emotions never get it right. Emotions aren’t principals or values.

  • commonsense October 22, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    It seems that the Democrats are running on higher taxes, open borders, protecting criminals, anti business , no voter ID, and late term (almost born) abortion’s. Protest, obstruction and violence seem to be their method. Accepting the results of elections is hard for them.

    How will this resound with civilized voters?

    • AnnieMated October 23, 2018 at 10:16 am

      “It seems that the Democrats are running on higher taxes, open borders, protecting criminals, anti business , no voter ID, and late term (almost born) abortion’s. Protest, obstruction and violence seem to be their method”

      You clearly have no concept of the difference between fact and fiction. By the way “common sense” is two words.

  • Happy Commenter October 22, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    That blue wave is turning out to be a just a leaking Gatorade bottle.

    • No Filter October 23, 2018 at 10:41 am

      Funny how you assume the blue wave is not happening. We don’t vote until the 6th, so no one knows the results. Even Fox news predicts the house will change hands, which will likely mean impeachment, especially if Mueller has evidence against Trump. I don’t like Nancy Pelosi, but I will enjoy all the meat head conservatives crying because she will become Speaker of the House. Blue wave or not Trump is out of time with his stacked deck in the government. Enjoy November 6th John!

      • Kilroywashere October 23, 2018 at 1:27 pm

        Oh ye prophet non filter, dont celebrate too early, the fat lady hasn’t sung her tune. And if the band you’re in starts playing a different tune, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon. Black and blue, who knows which is witch and who is who. Those Brooklyn dems can maybe have another ritual for the midterms.

      • Happy Commenter October 23, 2018 at 2:32 pm

        That blue wave is turning out to be a just a leaking Gatorade bottle.That’s the truth..hahahahaha! The dramacrats are not a political party, they are a support group for people mental health problems..

      • Happy Commenter October 23, 2018 at 9:46 pm

        You watch way too much fake news. It’s affected your critical thinking. Don’t have a stroke man!

      • Happy Commenter October 23, 2018 at 11:26 pm

        This is for you, Oh ye prophet non filter. http://www.shadolsonshow.com/2018/10/23/blue-puddle-obamas-nevada-crowd-dwarfed-by-massive-houston-trump-rally/ Facts for ya!

  • commonsense October 23, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    Animated, which part do you dispute? Do you read reliable news sources because every one of these points is true. Blind obedience is the greatest threat to liberty.

    • AnnieMated October 23, 2018 at 10:32 pm

      “Do you read reliable news sources”? Maybe. You tell me which news sources you consider reliable and I’ll tell you if watch or read them. I’ve never blindly obeyed anyone. I’m not really inclined to tell you at this point which news sources I frequent so let me share my personal views
      You said Democrats are for:
      Open Borders
      I’m not. I think current immigration laws should be enforced and anyone not here legally should be removed.
      Protecting Criminals
      Wrong again. Criminals are people who hurt others for selfish reasons. Why would I want to protect them?
      Anti-business
      Is it “Anti-business” to think that employers should pay their employees a decent wage?
      No-voter ID
      I think Voter IDs are essential.
      late term(almost born abortions
      The late Jennifer Worth says it best; “In 1967 the Abortion Act was passed, and abortion was no longer illegal. When I was a gynaecology ward sister at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital in London, I was sometimes asked whether or not I approved of it. My reply was that I did not regard it as a moral issue, but as a medical issue. A minority of women will always want an abortion. Therefore, it must be done properly.”
      I don’t want you to take that out of context so here’s the full editorial.

  • commonsense October 23, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    AnnieMated isn’t a word but I will talk issues.

    • AnnieMated October 23, 2018 at 10:40 pm

      For that matter, neither is “commonsense”.

    • Happy Commenter October 23, 2018 at 10:52 pm

      Unfortunately the sheep are blind to reality. We will have to deal with the crying for at least 6 more years. It will be glorious!

  • homer498 October 24, 2018 at 11:35 am

    What we should all be worried about the most is the Democrats taking up the histrionic’s and constant lying behavior of our drama queen president; cause this crap goes both ways. How long do you think it will be before the Democrats find Trumps equal, who start’s showing up on tv saying “Everyone is saying Trump is owned by the KGB, and the “First Lady” is a deep cover KGB operative who “Runs” POTUS for Putin.” “They” say they have the proof.” What then? I’ll tell you what then. We will be living in a country of political “I know you are, but what am I’s.” Remember how that game always ended? “We’ll be fighting in the street’s, with our children at our feet … and the morals that we worshiped will be gone! You know the rest of the song.

    • Happy Commenter October 24, 2018 at 1:18 pm

      Keep that up and your head will explode…

  • commonsense October 24, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    Annie, you sound like a Republican and very sensible. Why do you identify as Democrat?
    Many Democrat leaders are opposed to voter ID, immigration laws and the recent tax cuts. Nancy Pelosi for example. Did you know that many blue states don’t have voter ID? The entire California delegation supports sanctuary for illegal aliens which includes criminals. Late term abortion was a centerpiece of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

    Reuters is about the only national news service I follow. I never watch network or cable news which I consider proprietary. I don’t trust The NY Times or the Washington Post. I follow a spectrum of views on Twitter since news comes unfiltered with no profit motive and I can respond directly and challenge the veracity and source. Not liking Trump is not a reason to support Democrats whose views oppose mine at many levels.

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