Beware the American political industrial complex

Opinion | Can We Escape the Political-Industrial Complex? - The New York  Times

“The political industrial complex doesn’t steal elections at the polls. It undermines our democracy long before Election Day.”

After more than three decades of active involvement in government and politics I chose to end that chapter of my life in 2012 when I became the Executive Director of a non-profit.

I have worked with men and women whose opinions, ideas and beliefs were entirely the same as mine, as well as entirely different than mine.

I’ve worked against men and women whose opinions, ideas and beliefs were entirely the same as mine, as well as entirely different than mine.

At every level of government and politics – local, state and national – I have seen the best of America and I have seen the worst of it.

I’ve run or worked on my campaigns than I can remember and won some and lost some.

Winning is better than losing.

I’ve been involved with campaigns which were bitter, nasty and messy things in which the candidates figuratively slugged one another in an attempt to win and election. 

Campaigns where my candidate or cause won big.  Others where we barely won.  And too many where we didn’t even come close. 

I’ve worked on campaigns in which my candidate won by such a small margin that a potential recount seem likely. 

And, I’ve worked on campaigns where my candidate won on Election Day by the narrowest of margins only to lose in a recount by the narrowest of margins.

Still, I cannot recall, ever, in my life having lost a campaign in which I allowed it to consume my life and make me bitter, angry and disillusioned.

In defeat there can most certainly be, and there was and has been, disappointment when faced with losing a campaign in which you poured your entire self into it, the candidate, the cause and its outcome.

Yet, democracy isn’t about always getting your way.

In America’s democracy there’s a 50/50 chance that you won’t get your way.

But, there’s not likely ever a chance that you won’t ever get your way.

In 2016 I found myself faced with an impossible situation.

I could not bear the thought of casting my vote for Donald Trump for President and I simply did not feel that Hillary Clinton had convinced me she had earned my vote.

I chose not to vote for either of them instead casting my vote for another Republican who I trusted and believed in his leadership and vision.

On Election Night and early into the next morning and beyond my then 17-year-old son and I watched the returns in which much of America was finding itself completely shocked by the outcome.

Donald Trump was likely going to be elected the next President of the United States of America.

Not only would Hillary Clinton lose, but so too would my choice for President.

My son, my daughter, and many others who did not care for Trump, many in deeply anguished and bitter ways, began to ask, “What are we to do?”

Others took to the streets with signs declaring “Not my President” and roared their disapproval at the results of the election.

Many, including people I know well, refused to accept the results convinced that something nefarious had happened.

In Congress, Democrats who would control the House of Representatives, would then spend years, and millions of taxpayer dollars, attempting to prove that Trump won because the Russians made us do it.

In the end, they didn’t impeach the President because he committed treason. 

They impeached him because they could.

I had many conversations with friends who are Democrats after Trump was elected.  They were convinced that Trump would start a war.  He would do terrible things to government protections for the poor while making sure the rich got richer. 

He would, in their opinion, become a dictator, of whatever “ism” they felt he would favor, and exact a terrible toll on America.

They would not, ever, consider him their President.

I wasn’t happy that Trump won.  I wasn’t happy that Hillary Clinton hadn’t run a better campaign, or given a more compelling reason for why she should lead American instead of Donald Trump.

I didn’t believe then, nor do I believe now, that Donald Trump wasn’t the legitimately elected President of the United States of America.

I did not agree with those across the country who took to the streets to protest his election and declared he would never earn their respect much less their hope that he would be successful as President.

Their candidate lost.  My candidate lost.  The candidate of millions of other Americans had won.

In 2016 there were millions of Americans who didn’t get their way.

Over the course of the past four years my opinion of Donald Trump hasn’t changed much. 

I have, of course, supported some of the Trump agenda.

I have, as well, opposed some of the Trump agenda.

While I have never warmed to him or how he pursues that agenda I have never, once, not considered him the President of the United States of America. 

I have never said “He’s not my President.”

In 2020 America had another election. 

This election, like many others, did not formally end at the end of Election Day. 

It continued on for days until the math showed, without question, that Joe Biden had won the race for President.

In a world of opinions that are misunderstood, deliberately and otherwise, for facts, there is no set of facts that proves any other outcome of the race for President.

There is no set of facts that prove that there was a Deep State of Democrats or Republicans that conspired to foist Joe Biden on the American people instead of Donald Trump.

Opinions.  Allegations.  Accusations.  Lies. 

None of these are facts. 

None of these provide proof that the election for President was rigged or that Donald Trump was cheated out of the office that he does not own or has some entitlement to beyond that which is provided for in our Constitution.

The outcome, while clearly closer than 2016, has all the same undercurrents of 2020 with a few marked and important differences.

While millions of Americans haven’t taken to the streets to protest the outcome, millions of Americans have taken to social media to do so.

The losing candidate, Hillary Clinton, didn’t take to Twitter, Facebook or the nation’s airwaves or newspapers to declare that the election had been stolen from her and that Republicans had clearly devised a scheme to steal votes from her to give them to Trump.

She conceded.  She asked Americans to give Trump a chance.  She cleared a path forward for Donald Trump to become America’s next President and to do so in a way that underscored this nation’s peaceful transition of power from one President to the next.

The losing candidate for President in 2020, who four years earlier accepted he won the office when the national press projected him the winner, has made it clear that he will not only not accept his defeat he intends to kick down the barn of American government and democracy on the way out.

He and those who represent him have put forward conspiracy theories, opinions, allegations, accusations and outright lies to justify why he will not accept his defeat at the polls.

They are attempting to convince Americans, including the millions of Americans who dutifully and solemnly cast their votes for Trump, that a vast left-wing conspiracy, along with those on the right who have never accepted Trump as their President, gamed the system and stole votes from him and gave them to Biden.

Their co-conspirators on social media, cable news, radio and elsewhere have picked up this mantra, expanding it to give voice to theories, musings and outright falsehoods that there is no way that Donald Trump lost the race for President.

Joe Biden, now, and upon being sworn in as President, will not be considered a legitimate candidate by millions of Americans who did not vote for him.

In the same way that Donald Trump was not considered the legitimate President by millions of Americans who did not vote for him.

Nobody stole the election from Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Nobody stole the election from Donald Trump in 2020.

We, the People, however, are increasingly finding ourselves allowing those who wish to divide us to steal democracy from us now and in the future.

It isn’t just the Russians and our foreign adversaries that have a vested interest in keeping America divided.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his farewell address to the nation, warned the American people of the undue influence of the nation’s military establishment in a newly power American Superpower forged after World War II:

“The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

Today, it is important that Americans guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the political-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.

There is a political-industrial complex in America.

It exists because both political parties have a vested interest in holding onto power in whatever way they possibly can no matter how much it costs.

The estimated total cost of campaigns for President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Congress is estimated to be $14 billion this year.

That doesn’t count the billions more spent on local and state campaigns for public office.

This doesn’t count the money that is spent throughout the year across America, at every level of life, to lobby elected officials, oppose or support local or state initiatives or to drive public opinion to support or oppose policy initiatives at the local, state and federal level.

The immense amount of money that now fuels the political-industrial complex in America is simply immeasurable but the impact on our democracy is becoming clearer and clearer every year.

We are turning on one another more and more in our public debate and democracy because we have allowed ourselves to let it happen.

In 2016 those who opposed the election of Donald Trump made the decision they would spend billions of dollars for as long as it took to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of his election as President.

Four years later those who oppose the election of Joe Biden are making the decision to do the same to him that Democrats did to Trump.

It’s not a new reality.  Republicans did it to Barack Obama.  Democrats did it to George W. Bush.

There’s no question that it has happened before and will keep happening.

The only question is when do we, the People, if ever, make it stop?

As a parent, and a former child I find myself viewing the world we find ourselves in after elections listening to adults, who were former children yet acting like current children, saying “Well they started it first.”

Yet, there’s not a parent hanging over our nation that has the voice of authority to say, “Well, then you end it.”

That responsibility rests with each of us. 

We, the People.

I don’t write this piece to take sides with Democrats that Joe Biden won.  Nor do I write it to ignore the bitterness and disappointment of my friends, and others, who are angry that Donald Trump lost.

I do write this piece because it is important to me to have my children have something when I am gone from this life that explains to them where it was their Dad stood when it came to this moment in America’s History.

The political industrial complex doesn’t steal elections at the polls.

It undermines our democracy long before Election day.

The political industrial complex deliberately divides us.

Not because they can.

But because we let them.

The political industrial complex of the left invested heavily in a divided America during the Trump Administration.

The political industrial complex of the right will do the same during the Biden Administration.

The left-wing version of the right wing in 2016 floated stories of fraud, abuse and outright cheating and refused to accept the outcome of the election for President.

The right-wing version of the left wing is simply doing the same thing in 2020.

Most dangerously for America, and our democracy, is that the losing candidate is fundamentally different than the losing candidate in 2016.

The losing candidate in 2020 isn’t content to utilize his legitimate legal right to ensure that the results of the election accurate.

He is using the immense power, prestige and platform of the Presidency to convince those who voted for him that he was cheated out of what was rightfully his and, in doing so, convince those who voted for him that their vote didn’t matter.

That it isn’t true doesn’t matter. 

What matters to him, and to those in the political industrial complex, is that enough Americans agree with him, or them, to keep us continually divided to keep them relevant and powerful.

Every American is entitled to their opinion.

None of us are entitled to our own set of facts.

The facts are there is no presented proven evidence that Donald Trump was re-elected President of the United States of America.

The facts are there is no presented proven evidence that a powerful force that caused votes to disappear, or appear, to deprive the President of a second term in the White House.

The facts are if there were facts that supported any of the opinions, allegations or accusations of the President they would exist in a court of law somewhere in America today.

That they do not simply means we are left with lies.

A tweet is not a fact. 

A social media post is not a fact. 

A statement by the President, his attorneys, a talk show host, a political activist, a neighbor, friend, co-worker or family member is not a fact.

To the vast well-meaning majority of Americans who find themselves at odds with the outcome of the election for President all of these things are merely opinions, allegations or accusations.

On their own they are a reflection of the right of every American to exercise their 1st Amendment rights.

In the hands of the political industrial complex they have become weaponized and are being used against our democracy.

In being used against our democracy they are being used against us.

The foreign threat to American democracy is real and inescapable but we know the enemy and we see it and we can defend ourselves against it and defeat it.

But when the threat to our democracy comes from within what are we to do?

Will We, the People, allow the political industrial complex to defeat American democracy?

Or will We, the People, defeat the political industrial complex to save American democracy?

It’s not my quote, but it is my question: “If not us, who” If not now, when?” 

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