What is our role as citizens, as political actors NOT directly involved in the nuts-and-bolts of modern campaigns? Should we become enthralled with the “inside baseball” of politics? If we do, are we empowering ourselves as citizens, or removing the last hope we have of enacting political change?
Being called a purist in the current political climate is only the latest in a long line of slurs directed at people who demand that politics be more than a series of quid-pro-quo transactions. Is it “purist” to demand that we actually have a politics that seeks to include ALL of our fellow citizens? If we can’t demand that the people we elect live up to the highest callings in the documents we claim to treasure, then why do we pretend to treasure them at all? Why the Hallmark charades?
It is our job as citizens to demand more. Without those demands, the system breaks down. If we buy into the cold explanations of compromise before the electoral battle is even joined then we’ve surrendered before we’ve even begun. We’ve failed. All of those people who marched, who cried out in despair, who walked down the street with signs demanding the vote, who built underground railroads and muckraked and struck and were struck down by government troops and corporate thugs will have done those things for nothing. We have been given this gift by those who fought, and sometimes died, for change, and we will have squandered it. When they fought, they were fighting FOR something that the current society feared, hated or despised.
Yet it isn’t just the past we will have failed. What about the generations to come? Will we, with all of our wealth, with all of the tools to learn and to communicate that we have now, will we be the ones that break the chain of voices that cry for change? Will we betray what FDR tried to build by succumbing to our fear of the right wing? Undone by fear? What does that make us?
Perhaps we are that decadent. Perhaps the race has been run, it’s time for the scramble to survive, each for themselves as it all crumbles. We find ourselves socially in a place much like those years leading into the Civil War, and once again the force pulling us apart is a kind of feudalism. Should we just fold to the Confederates of our day, let them destroy what others tried so hard to preserve?
These aren’t the kinds of questions we’re supposed to ask in this cynical time. We supposed to calculate and compromise, anything else is naive and purist. Well, I believe that change comes with some kind of ideal in mind. Some pure goal is necessary for there to be reform. There is no hope for change without it.
Anybody with a sense of history knows that the purists of times past are looked back on as foremothers and forefathers of the future we live in.