I registered to vote for the first time in 1978. I was 32 years old.
I did it because I was running for City Council in my hometown of Folly Beach and it was a requirement. I went on to serve on City Council for four years and seven years as mayor, so you could say that I went from a political disinterest to complete immersion.
Local politics can be rough and tumble, but when I look back at what we accomplished in those years, when all the “fist fights and foot races” were over, we were very effective at protecting and caring for our community.
Thirty some years later I find my attitude toward politics bordering on disinterest again and I am not alone. Only 36 percent of the eligible voters took the time to vote in the last general election. That’s pitiful, but understandable. Our federal and state political system has completely lost its most important characteristic: effectiveness.
Incumbency is so powerful in this nation that incumbents are re-elected 95 percent of the time, creating what is essentially a political class insulated from close examination. In South Carolina in the last election, incumbents ran unopposed 91 percent of the time. Money has become power in ways that has crippled our government’s ability to take the side of the general good over that of narrow special interests.
The two primary political parties have degenerated to the point that they manufacture polarity and then use the polarity they have created as a primary means of generating cash. The amounts of money spent on campaigns to re-elect incumbents is obscene. The influence of non-local money to influence local policy is painfully corruptive. The net result is a dysfunctional and ineffective government.
Things have to change. Things have to change because we have structural problems in this country, the solutions to which will not be found in manufactured polarity or the power of corporation nation states. Effective solutions will be born of a desire to find the best solution, best practice, best policy, through thoughtfulness and compromise. I honestly believe that if we are to survive as a nation we have to recapture the confidence of our citizens in the manner in which the work of this nation is conducted and I personally have zero faith that our current system can recover and deliver.
In this state of mind I was introduced to the American Party. The American Party was formed by a Democrat and a Republican who were so disenchanted and so convinced of the irreparability of our current system that they decided, “If change is required but impossible, an alternative must be created.”
The American Party was founded on four principles: Governance from the middle without ideological loyalty, gradually replacing the political class through term limits with citizen-legislators who serve for a time and then go home to live under the laws that they passed, complete financial transparency as essential to credibility, and increasing the global competiveness of our country.
In only a year, the American Party has gathered the 10,000 signatures required to become a registered political party in our state, fielded four candidates in the last election and garnered some 153,000 votes in aggregate.
It’s a solid growth rate, and in the coming year we will put forth several initiatives to solve structural problems in our state.
We think that a large number of people share our frustration and want to see the power that our government has, directed back toward solving real problems with best-practices solutions.
There is great power in our electorate if they believe that their votes actually can foster a government that is focused on solving problems instead of creating fear that is used to polarize and paralyze.
Actions are, after all, more important than words, so I hope that you will visit our web site www.americanpartysc.com, and follow the initiatives that we present and support this coming year.
We would love for you to join us in reclaiming our government.
Richard L. Beck, D.M.D., is the former mayor of Folly Beach.