July 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm
Our nation’s founders would not recognize much of today’s political landscape. They debated whether citizens should vote directly for their federal representatives, ultimately deciding that House districts, at least, should be set up and electors given the right to vote for representatives who reflect their local priorities.
Long before there were chain stores on every corner, local merchants and tradesmen had issues very different from those in other regions. Proposed federal legislation to create the cross-state Okeechobee Waterway and to benefit sugar interests, as we have learned, has had quite a different economic impact in Martin and St. Lucie counties than it has in such areas as Tampa and Belle Glade.
The founders largely discussed people — and the importance of finding a system to ensure all had representation — not necessarily political parties. Today, though, party power — largely because of their massive organizations, highly paid political mercenaries (consultants and candidates) and their ability to raise huge sums of money — threatens to trump the ability of independently minded individuals to represent their neighbors’ interests.
Locally, GOP kingmakers (not rank-and-file members) have twice in recent years anointed the next generation of congressmen. Bill Posey was the choice in the northern Treasure Coast in 2008, while onetime Plantation resident Allen West was tapped to move to the southern Treasure Coast this year, moving incumbent Tom Rooney, who lives in Tequesta, to the west with the rest of his old district.
West’s move north lured Patrick Murphy, originally slated by the Democrats to face West down south. The candidates, particularly West, are receiving massive donations from outside the Treasure Coast and Florida in what is shaping up as one of the most expensive races in the nation.
If state and local party kingmakers — of either party — want to have their versions of the old, smoke-filled Tammany Hall meetings, that’s their call, like it or not. Pick a candidate, but don’t mislead the public into thinking they’re voting in a fair contest; and don’t ask Floridians to pay for jury-rigged primaries. This year, local Republican executive committees even took the highly unusual step of endorsing a candidate, West.
Polls have shown that the vast majority of Americans do not think like the few narrow-minded extremists controlling either political party. Most party members — and independents — think for themselves; few pledge loyalty to the entire platform of any party. Regardless, the staggering sums of money spent on carefully scripted campaigns funded by special interests puts candidates who truly would represent all of us at a huge disadvantage.
Voters should not allow themselves to be controlled by party kingpins or slick messages. They should vote with their hearts and minds. Elect the best and brightest people from their districts they know will represent their interests in Washington — to accomplish great things for the region, state and nation. Demand parties stop force-feeding us big-money, special interest-backed candidates.
This editorial board believes past performance is a good barometer of future success. That loyalty to community trumps loyalty to party. That pragmatism trumps blind allegiance to any ideal. That a firm handshake with an eye-to-eye exchange displays values. That character counts.
We believe, as the founders did, that “the people,” rich and poor — not simply party power brokers, consultants, high-dollar donors or super PACs — should pick their representatives.
This nation has flourished for almost 225 years since its Constitution, changed only 27 times, was adopted. The founders got it right. The power in House seats, at least, should rest with the people.
–TCPalm editorial board