Former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning wrote an interesting editorial on the patch website for South Whitehall.
He postulates that it is time for “nerds” to participate in politics with real solutions instead of “cool kids”. During my several decades as a party activist, I must admit that it was disconcerting to hear the same old tired mantras from so-called political ‘experts’ and handlers.
--“We need an attractive candidate.”
--“We need candidates who can raise money.”
--“We just need to point out that the other side is dangerous or incompetent.”
--“We need to win elections, and then we can deal with issues and policies.”
--“We can’t deal with any issues now. This is an important election year.”
(Of course, every year is an important election year whether they are local or state/national elections.)
For decades, policy positions were glossed over with meaningless slogans and rarely, if ever, were detailed solutions offered.
However, since the limited government movement explosion which started in 2009, with many trailblazers since 2005, the Overton Window might be shifting. The “old politics” might be dying and a “new politics” appears to be forming. But actually, the “new politics” is the type of politics espoused by our Founding Fathers.
"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.” - Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781
"[I]t is the reason alone, of the public, that ought to control and regulate the government.” - James Madison, Federalist No. 49, February 5, 1788
"In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened." - George Washington
And from a member of British Parliament:
"It is not in Parliament alone that the remedy for Parliamentary disorders can be competed; hardly indeed can it begin there…the people ought to be excited to a more strict and detailed attention to the conduct of their representatives.” - Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Present Disconstents, 1770
LfL constantly emphasizes that elections will not be the answer to our many problems. As our Founders discussed, an informed and engaged electorate would be essential to preserve this republic, or the “Great Experiment” in self-government as they called the formation of the United States of America. Elected officials are rarely leaders, they are followers. Therefore, We the People must lead. The first step appears to be a growing realization that elected officials, of both political parties, have created the massive problems we face as a nation. As a result of this realization the public demands more accountability and also demands substantive policies, not a sports team mentality of cheers and boos.
Commissioner Browning acknowledges that candidates and elected officials seem to be shifting towards a more substantive politics instead of the meaningless glitz of political campaigns and rallies. As he writes:
This provides for an epic battle between the "cool kids" with teleprompters and the "nerds" with calculators over the best way to address two problems facing the nation; improving the economy and taming the federal budget. Now is the time for an adult conversation on the choices voters will have to make on the future direction of our country.”
This is encouraging. People must have fact based, detailed solutions to decide who should govern. The days of endless and empty rhetoric must stop. The days of merely blaming the other side must stop. We do need a new generation of “nerd” politicians who offer detailed proposals to solve problems. Self defined political “experts” in Lehigh County, who advise many Lehigh Valley politicians, have laughed at such opinions. They would literally state that people “don’t care about numbers” or that people “would not understand” such proposals. What a sadly dim view of fellow citizens.
Meanwhile under President Obama, Washington continues to spend a trillion dollars a year more than it takes in and has done so every year since he was sworn in.
The bottom line is that every dollar spent by the federal government is a dollar diverted from productive use by the private sector. Looking at it another way, the dollars kept in the private sector go to build companies like Apple while those taken by Washington go to fund companies like Solyndra and other ventures best described as crony capitalism.
We are borrowing over a trillion dollars a year from the private sector, diverting that money to unproductive activities and then we are left wondering why the economy is not growing. With annual deficits of a trillion dollars for as far as the eye can see and a total national debt larger than our economy, it is time for a realistic plan to that comes to grips with the fact that no government (local, state or federal) can continue to spend more than it takes in.”
The last line is a fundamental acknowledgment of reality. It does not take a “nerd” to understand the principle that no entity, including government, can continue to spend more than it takes in. All that is required is basic common sense. Yet, both political parties continue to
Congressman Ryan has developed just such a plan to cut spending and balance the budget. There is no doubt his plan will be the subject of much criticism and distortion by Democrats. One criticism we are already hearing is that the Romney/Ryan team and Republicans want to end Social Security and Medicare. The Democrats who make that statement would have you believe that a few loons who talk about ending all entitlements that are not contained "in the Constitution" are somehow representative of the Republican Party. Nothing could be further from the truth.
No sane person in the Republican Party is calling for the end of either program. Claims to the contrary and attempts at demagoguery do nothing more than delay a much needed discussion of the difficult choices we will have to make.
Congressman Ryan has presented a credible plan to solve our fiscal problems in a way that ensures that both Social Security and Medicare will survive and continue to serve those in the middle class that are counting on the programs. As Congressman Ryan has said, “If you are going to criticize then you should propose.” And the position taken by President Obama and Democrats of doing nothing and shouting down any discussion is worse than no proposal - it is an abdication of responsibility. The hard fact is that doing nothing will lead to the ultimate demise of both programs as they are fiscally unsustainable.
It has always been my belief that voters want to be treated like adults and to be told the truth, even when it is not pleasant. The issue between now and November is whether demagoguery or facts will come out on top.”
It is true that Representative Ryan has made a detailed budget proposal. However, it is debatable if the plan is adequate. Yet, he does deserve credit for making such a bold proposal. Political consultants run screaming down the corridors of power whenever any substantive, detailed proposal is made.
However, while “no sane person” calls for the elimination of Social Security and Medicare, no sane person can believe that in the future these programs will look anything like they do today. As Browning writes, they are “fiscally unsustainable” and tweaking such programs will not save them. While current and near term recipients should receive what they were promised, reality must be dealt with by younger generations. These programs must become either completely voluntary or established as welfare programs for the truly needy. The current existing entitlement model that all will benefit upon retirement will not work.
Browning is correct that demagoguery is irresponsible but we have to acknowledge that demagoguery by so-called fiscal conservatives must also be acknowledged and chastised. Merely opposing tax hikes or spending proposals is not leadership; in fact, it is a form of political cowardice. Empty rhetoric by faux conservatives must be hammered as hard as liberal demagoguery.
It is encouraging to see Browning acknowledge this shift in politics – that “nerdy” detailed solutions are necessary for our nation instead of merely winning popularity contests. This is a definite shift in the Overton Window and it can only be viewed with optimism that the public does seem to be much more informed about policy matters than they have in generations.
But Browning misses one essential point. We do not merely have to wait for “nerds” to win elections. In two school districts, a minority of “nerds” (sorry ladies! Okay, I was the only nerd involved) proposed alternate school district budgets which wiped out “necessary” tax hikes. They accomplished this goal by literally going line-by-line through detailed budgets. They did not have to wait for the next election cycle to win a majority on the board.
Other school districts played the game by the same old rules with a few fiscal conservatives opposed to a tax hike, yet, another tax hike was implemented.
But this philosophy goes even further. We the People do not need elected officials. Sure, elected officials would have to eventually vote, however, a group of citizen “nerds” can develop and propose their own solutions to present to elected officials AND the public. Remember, almost all elected officials are followers, so if reasonable proposals are made to the public, who might embrace such ideas and demand their implementation, what would politicians do? What would the next election cycle look like if they refuse to implement common sense proposals?
At many a tea party or activist group meeting, I frequently pointed out two important points in this regard:
1) “If you have common sense and can use a calculator, you are more than qualified to develop these solutions. In fact, you will probably be more qualified than most politicians!”
2) “Our greatest obstacle is that almost all elected officials are spineless. Our greatest strength is that almost all elected officials are spineless.”
Again, while we have differences with some of the premises in his article, LfL applauds Dean Browning for raising these issues. We hope he continues to espouse and expand on such views. Citizen “nerds”, those with basic common sense, do have to step forward and lead. As General DeGaulle said, “Politics is too important to be left to the politicians.” Politicians, at every level of government, have earned our disdain and distrust. We the People must step forward and propose detailed solutions because the massive problems we face are too important to be left to the politicians.
In the movie, Revenge of the Nerds, quarterback star Stan Gable was played by Ted McGinley, perhaps better known as Jefferson on the television show “Married with Children”. Stan Gable declares, “Those nerds are a threat to our way of life.” We nerds need to be a threat to the way of life of almost all politicians at all levels of government because, let’s face reality - almost all politicians have acted like irresponsible frat boys who have been spending “daddy’s money” without any consequences for far too long.
For those who remember the movie, here is a video of the music contest!