Third Party & Independents Archives

Common Goals, Common Ground, and the 2004 Elections

Last weekend I was stuck in New York City trying to get home to Florida while the entire northeast was struggling under the first heavy snow storm of the year. It was a frustrating, exhilarating, and beautiful experience all rolled up into one. I couldn’t believe how fantastic New York looked covered in snow and I was equally amazed at how this pretty, white, fluffy, and freezing cold stuff could grind the machinery of mankind to a halt.

Through it all I had the pleasure of experiencing the people of New York who were friendly, funny, and supportive as we all tried to navigate our way through this wintry mess. I stood in a taxi line at La Guardia, outside in 25 degree weather, with the wind blowing and the snow falling, for over two and a half hours waiting for cabs that never seemed to arrive. I was sharing this experience with Americans from all walks of life and we laughed, joked, and generally made the best of an ugly situation. It renewed my faith in people and reminded me just how much we all have in common.

I pondered this experience as I sat (finally!) in a warm cab on my way out of the airport and to a hotel for the night. I thought about the homeless people in the city who didn’t need to wait for a cab because they had no home or hotel room to curl up in to escape the cold. I thought about how we as Americans have such common goals when it comes to our dreams for this country. Whether you label yourself as a liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, independent, or like many Americans, refuse to label yourself, we all want to live in a country where people don’t have to worry about staying warm on a cold New York night.

We want a country where everyone has access to decent health care, has the opportunity to get a decent job, and can build a comfortable life for themselves and their children. We want a country where justice and the rule of law prevails, human rights are a given, and the weak are not victimized by the strong. We want all this in a clean environment where it is safe to breathe the air, drink the water, and our natural heritage is protected as a treasured public resource. These are things that I believe most Americans want for our country and for the rest of the world.

Though our goals may often be the same we do differ in the way that we believe those goals should be achieved. This is where the differences between conservative and liberal thought come into play. A more liberal view has government programs playing a significant role in achieving these goals and the conservative view calls for smaller government with a free and thriving economy producing the same results. I am sure that this is a bit of an over simplification but it serves to make the point. As Americans we really want the same things and we debate about the best way of getting the job done. It’s called democracy and it is a beautiful thing to behold.

What we need to guard against as we head into the 2004 election season is that our differences concerning method will be exploited and bastardized to look like a difference in goals. We will be told that the “other” side does not have the best interests of the United States at heart. We will see adds branding various candidates as traitors and supporters of terrorism. I would expect that pictures of Osama and Saddam will grace many campaign posters along with a picture of a candidate to be vilified.

Politicians running for office will tell us that they are the ones to bring America together but what they don’t want us to realize is that we Americans are already together. It is their campaigns that are designed to drive us apart and urge us to regard anyone with differing view points as the enemy. The politicians will tell us about their efforts to get the vote out but in reality many of them don’t want a lot of people to show up at the polls. The thought of every eligible voter in America actually showing up to vote sends shivers down the spines of the major parties.

So how should we handle ourselves in this upcoming election year? Well for starters please plan to go vote. Educate yourself on the candidates and the issues. Don’t be swayed by negativism and if you are affiliated with one of the major political parties have the courage to cross party lines when your candidate isn’t cutting it. Voters in this country are led to believe that no matter how bad their candidate might be, supporting them is better then voting for the other side. It’s called exploiting the fear factor and modern political campaigns are masters at it.

I believe that the 2004 campaigns will prove to be the most expensive and dirtiest campaigns we have ever seen. As I brace for it I take solace in the goodness of the American people, a goodness that I was reminded of in a freezing taxi line in New York. We do have common goals and those goals give us common ground and continuing hope for the greatest democracy the world has ever seen.

Posted by William Flynn at December 8, 2003 9:44 PM