History is filled with tales of "newcomers" running for political office or candidates who "don't have a chance" and are written off by the press. Yet sometimes such candidates spark a fire among the electorate and actually get the attention of the press. Some persevere against the odds, shock the established political world and actually win. Time will tell if Herman Cain becomes the next political newcomer to be elected and I, for one, am thankful he's in the presidential race.
Herman Cain's lack of political experience makes him willing to propose bold ideas, to try new solutions to the challenges that face our nation. There's a sense among the people disconnected from the system (myself included) that our political leaders aren't listening, or can't feel our pain. Cain clearly isn't part of the "establishment" or the permanent political class because he has proposed a tax reform that would simplify our tax code, ending deductions and closing loopholes. Details aside, he is willing to think big, to challenge the status quo.
As government added layers of spending to our budgets and countless deductions to our tax code it strengthened the establishment and biased itself further against common sense or meaningful reform, thereby distancing itself from the people it is meant to represent. That's because each deduction has its own constituency and is in fact a special interest. Basically that means that each has reams of lawyers, lobbyists, consultants and bureaucrats working diligently in Washington to preserve its special status. I take advantage of personal deductions on my taxes but would readily trade them in for a flatter, more fair system which would save me on my overall taxes and certainly on my accounting bill. It just makes good sense. Cain's mere willingness to propose something simple and sensible is his appeal. If Herman Cain continues to rise in the polls we will soon be barraged with ads from all the different special interests represented by those deductions discouraging us from voting for Cain because of all the goodies we would lose.
Never mind that a more basic and fair tax code with lower taxes overall would stimulate job growth in our country, those in the political establishment see such a bold proposal as a possible threat to their own jobs. Now other candidates have been inspired to propose real tax reforms and soon we will witness good old-fashioned politics of fear. Groups will lobby to preserve specific deductions, other candidates will fight testily and the more generic political groups will work to preserve their power or influence, making it difficult to discern who is slinging which arrow and why.
And let's not forget the press. Over-focused as they are on the small, the controversial and the sensational. they will generally focus on the arrows being thrown at candidates and their proposals instead of challenging others to propose new solutions. If the press would spend more time honestly airing thoughtful proposals that are put forth instead of highlighting the best debate quips, we might have a truly interesting race with serious choices. Sadly, the press gives air to the attacks, thus spurring more attacks.
I know this story well. A "fresh face" appears on the political scene and puts forth new proposals that challenge the status quo and then is attacked viciously on his proposals and then his character. Many of these challengers don't make it, and some shouldn't. Others win and fight to improve things in our nation only to be worn down over time, to tire of fighting the system, becoming more cautious, political and hollow. Thus the system creates empty suits, adept at giving sound-bites to the press and talking points to voters and raising money to be reelected. Understandably, few modern day politicians put forth big ideas or proposals to truly shrink or reform our government, preferring instead to obfuscate or to punt to committees. Thank you, Herman Cain, for running and for inspiring better dialogue.
We've had enough empty rhetoric and false hope and need honest political discourse. In making decisions this election cycle ask what a candidate is for. Pay attention to the negative ads but pay closer attention to the groups behind the ads and remember they might be fighting to maintain the status quo. Small steps and small ideas won't bring about real change in this nation. If a candidate isn't willing to think big in a campaign and to really engage in discussion of what ails us how can we ever find real solutions? Big business and big government are the status quo and they are sure to have their lobbyists, lawyers and representatives hard at work behind the scenes this election season. If we, the disconnected and common taxpayers, want to be heard, it is we who need to pay close attention, ask probing questions and then make our voices heard on election day.