Famed 20th-century dystopian novelist George Orwell said that political language is designed to make lies sound truthful; to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.
Since ancient times, aspiring officeholders have had to learn the art of selling the not-quite-entirely-honest, while condemning competitors for doing the same thing. Political adeptness is marked, at least in part, by the ability to shade the truth with a color you can market.
The history of political discourse in this country is no different.
(AP Photo/The Muskegon Chronicle, Tommy Martino)
Even the relatively few presidential administrations that have come and gone in my lifetime have been defined by their less-than-truthful assertions. From Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman;" to George W. Bush's illusory "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq; to Barack Obama's "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" the list goes on.
But through the years, one lie has steadily risen above the rest, buoyed by laziness and riding the updraft of disilusionment.
This lie has held voter turnout under 60 percent for the last 40 years, and is pretty much the reason you have to fight tooth and nail to get your family to go vote.
Unlike most political whoppers, this one starts, not at the top of the nation's political structure, but at the very bottom.
It takes many forms depending on which unsuspecting activist it might happen to be aimed at, but it usually sounds like this:
"The system is rigged."
"They're all rotten."
"There's no point to getting involved in politics, there's nothing we can do."
"It's all controlled from within."
Now sometimes, if talking to the more conspiracy-minded, there are other words interspersed in the conversation - terms like CFR, globalists, and occasionally, Illuminati.
But for the most part, this lie has been seeded and propogated by normal, everyday, beer-drinking, American Idol-watching people - folks who would rather watch football than a presidential debate, and who don't need a campaign to jump-start their social life.
Most of these folks have quietly borne the burden of government corruption and waste for years, and have calculated that trying to change the way things are just isn't worth the effort. Besides, as the Obama presidency has proved to us all, change isn't always for the better.
But, as Pericles reminded his fellows long ago, just because you take no interest in politics, doesn't mean that politics will not take an interest in you.
Since the American founding, our government was meant to translate the truth of that maxim into action, with the promise of representation intended to form a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Of course George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison could not have envisioned corporate donors or the media oligarchy we have today, but that doesn't mean they failed to account for human nature. The safeguards they put in place are still there today, and make it possible for average Americans to have a voice in their government.
Aside from the fairly recent history of elections decided on the razor's edge, the 2016 presidential cycle should provide plenty of encouragement for those seeking proof that our election system isn't quite as scripted as many assume.
With a month still to go before the Iowa Caucuses, this cycle has already derailed the mainstream media and embarrassed the Republican establishment.
Consider the things we've seen so far.
Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson and Washington-despised rogue Sen. Ted Cruz have hijacked the media narrative and upended the establishment's most careful calculations.
Meanwhile, the presumed juggernaut that was Jeb Bush has become the political equivalent of a bird attacking its reflection in a window - each time he picks himself up and tries again, it just ends with another disappointing thud, followed by another slide down the polls.
We've seen alternative news sources challenge the dynastic dominance of the major networks.
We've seen an upstart Democratic challenger threaten the long-awaited coronation of Hillary Clinton - without soliciting a dollar of PAC money.
We've seen moderate Republican candidates slip and fall repeatedly, as conservatives finally get to enjoy watching the fratricide occur between establishment candidates rather than their own.
If there was ever a cycle to drop the cynicism and get behind someone you believe in, it's this one. The rules are being rewritten before our eyes.
Unfortunately, discouragement isn't the only enemy against whom we must fight. Some folks refuse to get involved because they have tried before and lost, but others have never tried at all - preferring to stand on the sidelines and call the game, waiting to be proved right when everything falls apart.
This is the worst kind of cynicism, and is quickly resulting in a self-fulfilling prophesy in which millions of Americans really aren't represented by their government, simply because they don't show up to be counted.
Lastly, there are folks who want to make a difference but don't know where to start.
That was me just a few years ago.
I was convinced that you had to be somebody special to have a voice, that one must have money or connections or a law degree to be able to move an electoral needle.
I was wrong.
All it took for me to start making a difference was a passion for liberty and a bit of volunteerism. I studied the candidates, I found someone I could get behind, and then I called the campaign office, talked to someone I didn't know, and then sacrificed time, effort, and money to help bring others with me.
In short, I learned how to be a grassroots activist.
This election offers us all a new beginning, and an opportunity to change much more than our exercise and spending habits. It is an opportunity to recapture the hope that has abandoned so many Americans, and the right to be represented in the way the Founders intended.
Lies can only be countered with truth, and the counter to this lie cannot be told, it must be lived.
Stop believing the lie that you can't make a difference. You can, and you must.
The ability of future generations to make a difference depends on us making one now.
Or, as Dr. Seuss put it, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not."
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