Monday, November 24, 2008

Who speaks for We?

“We the People,” begins the United States Constitution, establish the document that organized political concepts powerful enough to fuel the world’s longest-standing republic.

But just who are “We”?

The general consensus of 1776 was radically different than, say, the 1900s—a given, nowadays—but the viewpoint held by the citizen of just two or even one decade ago was strikingly different than what is currently being touted as constitutional. Answering the call of “We” was a totally different electorate in 1800 than 1900 than 2000—and than 2008. And “We the People” see our constitutional burden vastly different in our times than theirs.

However, it is not just the substance of what is considered standard American operating procedure that is of concern. The number of people willing to share in that viewpoint is key. Does any one philosophy of government in this country have, indeed, a mandate?

There is no end of mouthpieces willing to claim the “mandate” signified by this “landslide” election. While the electoral-college system apparently does yield a landslide in that one aspect, I was surprised to see the slim margin of victory, percentage-wise, in the popular vote. Comparing “yes” votes for Mr. Obama versus “no” votes in the aggregate, the 52% garnered by the Democrats presents a spread of four percent. Listening to reports of other such election issues with the same point spread—the California Proposition 8 issue, for example—I hear no such victorious spin.

Whether an election’s results are awarded a “mandate” handling depends mostly on who is speaking for “We.” It is the wattage of the Air Time that creates that illusion of difference.

I suspect that, taking the closer look, “We” may be dismantled and studied for the pluralistic potpourri that it really is. We are not a bi-polar society anymore. Those self-appointed spokespersons for the legendary and oft-patriotic-sounding “We” know that. A body politic that has espoused the mantra of multiplicities (“diversity”) cannot use that splinterhood of existence to its advantage when numbers count. Suddenly, the “We” coalesces when votes are needed.

Beware the sales pitch. The salesman needs your money more than you need the salesman’s product.

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