When I was running for the 8th Congressional district in 2006, individuals were surprised that someone who looked like me was running in Northeast Wisconsin. I heard comments like, “Oh, you’re conservative leaning and you’re a woman? We’ve never seen that combination before.” I was taken aback by that because I had not understood that there were any barriers to gender or ethnicity or religion in this country.
After the race in 2006 I decided it was time to take a look at the political system itself and see what I could do to transform it back to where it was intended – and that is to be a representative democracy of the people. I decided to write What Sex is a Republican? – Stories From the Front Line in Politics (And How You Can Change the Way Things Are).
Certainly, in my political party, the Republican party, there is a belief in limited government, the Constitution and the civil liberties that Abraham Lincoln was a leader for, as well as sound money policy and free market competition. Obviously in 2006 and 2008 the people believed that the GOP had shifted away from its roots and it needed to go back to its foundations.
The title could just have easily been, What Sex is a Democrat? The case I make in the book is that we have two political silos that have been acting dysfunctionally and shouting at one another, rather than listening to the people they’re supposed to be representing and finding the solutions.
I think in 2006 the voters of Northeast Wisconsin had a rude awakening that the primary elections weren’t necessarily owned by the people. Some people would call it election engineering by the party elites.
The majority of individuals today don’t identify with either political party – I’ve seen that 18 percent of the public identifies with Republicans and 27 percent identify with Democrats and everybody else is identifying as independent. And perhaps that’s a healthy position to be in.
What is broken in the political system today can be summed up in one word: Greed. Greed on the part of both political party elites, who want to stay in power at all costs, greed on the part of the regulators in Washington that believed that they didn’t need to oversee the banking institutions, greed on the part of the housing industry with the hyperinflation of home valuations that’s now leaving individuals with mortgages that are more expensive than their homes are worth.
We have a clash between the free market system and the ideological system which believes that we need programs to help people in crisis. Somewhere in between is the truth.
In the book I talk about political theater. It’s about the glitz and the sound bites and hiring the best spinmeisters we can possibly hire and advertisers where you have entire ranks of communications lieutenants that are out there either on the blogs or orchestrated feeders in the form of tea parties, town halls or other groups. If we want to be savvy consumers of our government and politics, we need to understand that there is political theater out there. It’s going to be up to all of us to discern what the difference is.
In terms of the health care debate, we have two completely different views of how to resolve the crisis. But, if that debate and those ideas are not allowed to be heard and they’re overwhelmed by the political theater from both sides of the aisle that don’t really care about the solutions because they’re too focused on generating campaign dollars, then the American people will continue to lose in every debate, not only health care, but manufacturing, jobs and everything else.
This issue illustrates how important it is to fix our political system, to make sure we elect integrity candidates in office. We need people who have a core set of values that they draw from, not be so vulnerable to manipulation.