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American Revolution alive and well at the ballot box

by Alan Markow, published

Every political season there are calls to “take back our country” … or our city … or our state.  It’s the standard cry of the opposition.  The Democrats were all about “taking back our government” in 2008, and Republicans are all about it in 2010. 

But around the edges of our political process are activists – some connected to the Tea Party movement – hinting that their call to arms is really a call to arm yourself and take back the country through violent means if necessary.  Unfortunately, some politicians support this excess, whether by specific statements, or by the failure to counter calls to violence by their supporters. 

What the tiny, violence-prone segment of the population seems to miss is the fact that we already have the right to take back our government – every two years at a minimum.   It’s called Democracy.  It may not be perfect, but it has served us quite well for nearly 250 years. 

Nevertheless, some fringe elements look back on our revolutionary history and believe that refreshing it requires another shock of violence.  Perhaps they misunderstand the circumstances of the American Revolution.  We were under the control of a ruthless monarchy.  We did not have the right to manage our own destiny.  We did not have the right to true representation.  There was much to complain about, and little that could be done to correct the situation. 

Today, our right to control the political process with our votes is virtually unquestionale, and the outcome of our voting proves the point.  We lurch right, then we lurch left, and we usually end up in the middle.  Extremists rarely win, and only extremists would execute the nefarious plots imagined by certain conspiracy theorists. 

The important question is, what change would occur with a violent overthrow of the world’s most successful democracy?  The answer can only be that things would get worse, because they can’t get much better. 

That’s not to say that our democratic process is flawless.  First, too few people participate.  California statistics indicate that between 40 and 60 percent of eligible voters actually cast ballots (depending on the significance of the election).  That means up to 2/3 of us cede control of the state to others by simply not exercising our right to vote.  Statistics are similar when viewed on a national level. 

And the news gets worse if you’re young, because voting by older Americans is significantly higher than voting by young people.  So young people cede control of the country to seniors.  There’s not much to complain about if you don’t vote.    

A growing number of Americans feel their choices are too limited by a two party system, arguing that Independents, Libertarians, Greens, and other third parties cannot get a fair hearing at the ballot box or in the media. 

Other people feel that the current political class has created a dangerous series of rules and regulations that stifle their freedom. 

But these problems are best solved through our flawed, but relatively transparent political process. 

To believe that only violence can wrest our nation from the forces of evil, one has to believe in a vast conspiracy that has managed to get by or co-opt all of the news sources.  That seems unlikely in the freest country on earth where print, broadcasting and web cover news 24/7. 

The point is, if people really want to take back control of the government, they’re free to do so – by voting.

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