Mr. Smith, Come Back to Washington

Jefferson Smith: I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don’t know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for and he fought for them once. For the only reason any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule. Love thy neighbor. And in this world today of great hatred a man who knows that rule has a great trust. You know that rule Mr. Paine and I loved you for it just as my father did. And you know that you fight harder for the lost causes than for any others. Yes, you’d even die for them. Like a man we both knew, Mr. Paine. You think I’m licked. You all think I’m licked. Well, I’m not licked. And I’m gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if this room gets filled with lies like these. And the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place. Somebody will listen to me.

This is a quote of Jimmy Stewart’s character, Jefferson Smith, in the 1939 movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

This movie starts off very charmingly: A small town boy with an honorable and hard-working father who dies. Jefferson grows up and becomes the leader of the Boy Rangers. He gets a chance to fill a Senate seat with the support of his hometown and after an ambivalent coin toss by the senior senator from his state, Mr. Paine (who at one time was idealistic but has become crooked). Mr. Paine was friend and admirer of Jefferson’s father.

Mr. Stewart pulls out all the stops in the range of his emotions during this film. No matter that it’s a 72-year-old movie, it has me emotionally spent at the conclusion.

To say that the character, Mr. Smith, is naive and innocent when he arrives in DC, is the proverbial understatement. Even the women of Washington are way ahead of this greenhorn.

I first saw this film in about 1980. I recognized the absurdity of Congress, then. How much lower we have sunk, since. Certainly so much more so than in 1939.

The following are my generalizations, ideas and questions. I’m no one important and don’t claim to be. This isn’t a post to encourage rudeness, ridicule, or violence in any form. If you make a comment as such, I will delete it. I welcome calm, positive comments and exchange of ideas. If you mention any politician or political party by name and try to sway others, I’ll delete that, too. Suggestions on what is missing, generically, and how to make things better are most welcome. Haters, go somewhere else. In the past, I’ve voted for various political parties, except for Communist. There is no perfect person and no perfect party. That’s what we need to realize.

I’m so tired of political lies and fluffy rhetoric. The over-inflated, unachievable promises never change; only the faces. When’s the last time you heard a federal, state, or local political candidate admit that they’re one person out of many and what they wish to do may not come to pass on the grandiose scale which they promise? The last time you heard someone not promise pie-in-the-sky, sweeping reform if we only will vote them into office? Somehow, they are the magician for which we all have been waiting?

It all sucks. In the ensuing 235+ years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, it has been proven over and over and over that actions speak louder than words everywhere…but in the political arena; where, for some odd reason, the exact opposite rings true.

I’m tired of seeing local political, state political, and federal political lies and corruption. I’m so sad to be reminded on a daily basis of just how corrupt and self-serving many politicians are. I’m especially tired of name-calling. I’m insulted by folks who cannot remain faithful to spouses and family members or the values and principles with which they were raised , but want me to think they’ll be faithful to their constituents. I’m fed up with a Congress who is so busy with in-fighting that they cut off MY nose to spite the other guy’s face.

One huge, nagging question I have for federal elections is, “Why do we still need an electoral college?” Why should 538 people get to decide for the rest of America? Why isn’t it just the matter of majority?  In the 18th century, much of America was uneducated and there was limited access to political information. Exchange of national information could go no quicker than the family horse or the trains, until 1837 when the telegraph was invented. Today, our breaking news is being beamed by satellites about a nanosecond after it’s spoken or posted. When do we say it’s time to tweak the electoral process?

I wish I had answers, but I don’t. I wish I could have a “vision” of how to fix the stupid. We’ve made (or allowed)  it so that only a particular “breed” of people can run for office-those with mega millions of dollars through inheritance, questionable business dealings,  or connections with other millionaires; all egomaniacs. Congress, as well as state and local governments, has become not a place to get the business done of moving Americans forward with a decent level of prosperity and fairness, but a place to meet other millionaires and make deals. Politicians–the original “networkers.”

Nothing stirs our passions like differences in politics. What “could” be adult exchange of ideas often ends up more like hitting one another over the head with our sand shovels. Is that the only degree to which we are willing to participate? Is it too hard to stop spouting rumors and rhetoric and do some digging?

Politicians really are only human beings, like the rest of us. Oh, they make a lot more money than most, thanks to all those connections; however they really aren’t as indispensible as they would like us to believe. Since the Founding Fathers, mistakes have been made in the name of government. They seem to have multiplied, exponentially.

I do know that we need to educate ourselves about political candidates. We cannot rely on the smoothest speaker or the best-looking person or the one belonging to the largest religious group. We need to learn the difference between possibilities and inflated promises; the difference between goals and rhetoric. The candidates should not mind providing information about their taxes and how they make their living. It always is that which is hidden that is suspect. Sometimes the best person for the job is not the most popular. Think about the “popular” people in your high school. What were they willing to do for their popularity? Popularity is not the primary indicator of a person’s integrity.

We need a revolution in how we think and process political ideology and information. We need to revolt against a system that says you need to come from wealth and have wealthy connections. Mostly, we need to revolt against laxity in participating in our governmental elections. Can we really complain that loudly if we have never had more than 63% of registered voters actually cast their ballots (according to in Presidential elections since 1960? In the 2008 Presidential election, the percentage was 56.8. The lowest since 1960 was 49.1% in 1996. During the non-Presidential election years, the percentages drop precipitously, according to their chart. During those years (years when Congressional and local elections can take place), the percentage falls from a high of the mid to upper 40s in the early 1960s, to mostly the mid 30s in percentage. That’s a lot of not paying attention! The President can do only so much harm to or good for a nation. Congress, however, has more power. Some say the local politicians have the most decision-making powers. We need to realize that a lot of important governmental business is happening in the non-Presidential election years. Not only Congress, but statewide and locally.

It is not my business how you decide to vote, and that is as it should be. But we do need to vote. Today, we need not only one Mr. Smith, but we need his type in the majority. Mr. Smith, please come back to Washington–and bring your honest, dedicated, Golden Rule-loving Boy and Girl Rangers with you! It is our responsibility to be involved in finding them.


~ by saginawrobin on March 9, 2012.

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