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Justin Darr
Oct. 9, 2005

Have you ever had the chance to sit backstage at a magic show? Let me tell you the subtle slight of hands and distractions that create the illusions of a professional magician are designed to be seen from the front. When you actually see what the magician is doing from another angle, the tricks seldom work. However, as many professional magicians will tell you, despite the desire of every audience member to “know how the trick is done,” most allow themselves to be readily deceived because they want to enjoy the show.

Imagine for a moment that the goal of a performer was not to entertain you, but rob you. How long do you think you would sit by and allow the deception to go on before you took action to stop it? Well, it might take you longer than you realize because our elected leaders from both parties have been doing this very thing for years. Unlike a professional magician, our elected magicians are not trying to entertain us, but deceive us into endlessly funding their reelection campaigns.

Like most Americans, I have an innate distrust of politicians. While most of them are nice people and honestly want to accomplish good things, the money and power associated with American politics soon consumes even the most virtuous until all they are really concerned about is retaining their office.

For many politicians, the desire to see their party control a particular chamber of Congress has more to do with who gets the corner offices and most convenient reserved parking spaces than any rhetoric about values or the direction of the country. This is nothing new. Mark Twain wrote over 100 years ago that America had “the best government money could buy,” and you might think little has changed since.

However, something fundamental has changed. Looking out at the American political landscape of the last 25 years shows three broad trends. The first is increasing levels of hostile partisanship, which has led to the dramatic polarization of the electorate. The second is the astronomical increase in the cost of political campaigning that has been fed by an equally astronomical increase in the amount of money donated to politicians by both individuals and businesses. And third, a general decrease in the effectiveness of government, where no matter which party controls the White House or the Congress, the results are often the same; nothing changes.

After 8 years of Democrats controlling the White House, followed with 5 by the Republicans, why are we still debating the same issues from 1982? Both parties have had ample time to alter the course of our country, and neither have done it.

It is time Americans take a “walk behind the stage” and see just what our elected leaders are actually doing when they claim to be representing us.

Let us take a look at the “Plame Game” and Tom DeLay grand jury investigations. Both of these issues can be summarized into one sentence: Party A surreptitiously attacks Party B over something that both sides agree was not an actual crime, while Party B surreptitiously counter attacks Party A as unethical for doing something Party B would happily do to Party A under differing circumstances. Mix and match the party names, it really does not matter. Nor does it matter what the results of the investigations will be, because they have already served their purpose.

The political bases of both sides are now mobilized. Blogs and internet chat rooms are ablaze at a level usually unseen outside of a Presidential election when the most pressing issue in the upcoming 2005 race is who is going to be elected dog catcher. But the money is flowing. Mobilized bases do more than just argue on the Internet, they donate, and more importantly, inspire others to donate cash to the party that supports their particular cause.

Just like master magicians, our elected leaders use these crises over nothing as a distraction so they can do whatever they want and avoid the scrutiny of the voters. How can Conservatives attack Bush for passing over dozens of eminent legal scholars to name a personal friend to sit on the Supreme Court when if the Democrats controlled Congress they would make the average tax rate 85%, outlaw porch lights because they distract migrating birds, and force school children to pledge allegiance to a photo of Karl Marx? How can Liberals blame Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and Ted Kennedy for radicalizing the Democratic Party to such an extent that nobody outside of New England and San Francisco will ever vote for them again when if Republicans stay in power they would cancel Medicaid in order to fund a tax cut on yacht club memberships, legalize slavery, and require school children to participate in full immersion baptisms in order to get lunch in the cafeteria?

The issues in the 2006 and 2008 elections will be the same as they have been for the last 20 years: Abortion, health care, military spending, Social Security, and education. Liberals and Conservatives will dutifully support their causes, argue their points, and donate their money to political parties who only care about these issues until the election cycle is over and their incumbency is secured. Pretty nice scam. Wake up America. We are being played for fools.

© Justin Darr

Justin Darr is a freelance writer living in the Philadelphia area with his wife and twin children. He can be read widely on the Internet and in publications across North America and in Europe.

Justin Darr is a staff writer for The New Media Alliance, and proud member of the MoveOff Network.

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