With the disquieting wisdom of a Zen master, the French composer Claude Debussy wrote, "Music is the silence between the notes," which pretty much turns our understanding of it on its ear.
To apply that high-minded aesthetic to the low-life of American politics: Policy-making, the stuff that really affects your life, is what happens between elections — in the winks and nods of back-room dealing. And yet, tragically, most people are distracted by the noise of political campaigns, feel they've done their civic duty if they watch a debate and drag themselves to the polls, then go about their personal business — oblivious of the fact that, during (what they think is) downtime, when "the people" aren't looking, politicians and lobbyists are conspiring where they don't have to face the music of voters. Our republic is what happens between the votes.
Especially these days, no one can afford the luxury of taking a rest. We have to remain active, engaged in the political process, and fiercely partisan — or the liberal agenda will be buried under a renewed avalanche of billionaires' money. Don't think for a minute that they'll give up trying to corporatize the country. We live in a 24-7 news and views cycle. We need 24-7 citizens to consolidate liberal gains — and then some.
In my last column, I proposed a number of initiatives voters could support to fix our broken political system, starting with active participation on Twitter. Consider this Part 2 of "How to Fix Our Broken System: Facing the Music," a set of warnings and resources to make sure no one takes anyone or anything for granted — especially after the headiness of President Obama's decisive win, Congressional Democratic gains, and successful efforts to legalize marijuana and same-sex marriage. Following the Guide won't cost you any money.
You don't need to go anywhere. You can do as much or as little as you want on your own time, but I hope at least something. All you need is the willingness to keep an open mind — and exploit the "silence" you once took for granted between elections.
Warning 1: Listen for any moderation in the tone and intensity of the chorus of haters that typically get media attention. Any rest they might be taking is a sure sign they're really up to no good. If you've already heard that some people are signing secession petitions, you probably have said to yourself, "There go the crazies again." But they are dead serious: In their minds, this is no longer their country. In a classic case of seeing the glass as either half-full or half-empty, Obama supporters trumpet his three percent popular vote win as a landslide, while his opponents minimize it as a squeaker. For some people, the election of our first black president was bad enough; his re-election has sent them over the top.
Warning 2: Face the fact that "the leopard doesn't change its spots." Especially in the next few months, don't believe even the most moderate and (now) conciliatory tea party/GOP members of Congress who profess a willingness "to reach across the aisle," a phrase I detest. As soon as they avoid going over "the fiscal cliff," another made-for-pundits mantra, they will revert to vigorously anti-Obama type. House members are already plotting to destroy Obamacare by starving it of funds, and the tea party/GOP is already looking ahead to the 2014 mid-term elections.
Resources: Distrust and verify. We have access to more truth than any generation in history--and it destroyed the bald-faced lies of Mitt Romney's campaign. Check out everything that candidates and elected officials allege. Before you repeat anything, consult one or more informational and fact-checking sites:
Yes! You can fix our political system and your success will be music to our ears. And who knows, someday soon, when you're listening to Debussy, you may observe that his silences are so masterful, he could have been a consummate politician.
Contact Stephen L. Goldstein on Twitter at @drslgoldstein or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.