Something of a change for my readers today, for once I will not be discussing the daily load of political BS being shoveled upon we Americans citizens from our elected "representatives"...A nice change huh?
So what will I be talking about today then if not the usual political tit for tat? Well, to be blunt, I want to talk about a book that I believe could open people's eyes on how their government SHOULD work.
And before your eyes start rolling into the back of your heads, please bear with me.
The book in question was written by my all-time favorite author, Tom Clancy. That's right, the same man who has been thrilling readers for nearly 30 years and making politicians and military men alike ask "how does he know that??" has inspired me. But how does this relate to how our government should work? The title should help clear that up a bit..
"Executive Orders" was written in 1996 (seems like an eternity ago) and takes place in then the near future (1998 or so if I remember properly) and starts off in a shocking fashion.
At the end of the previous novel, "Debt of Honor", an airliner pilot who was distraught over the death of his son during a brief conflict with the United States single-handily decapitates the entire US government by ramming his airliner jet into the US Capital Building during a special session of Congress presided over by the President and with the majority of both houses of Congress present and all 9 members of the US Supreme Court...All except newly sworn in Vice President Jack Ryan (who is the main character in Tom Clancy's novels to those who don't know) who narrowly escapes the explosion.
Suddenly, Mr. Ryan finds himself with an unimaginable burden to bare, the US Presidency, since he is next in the line of succession...for which he is the only remaining member. He also finds himself without a Congress or Supreme Court...He IS the US government, at least for the moment.
Worse still, Mr. Ryan is not politician and only agreed to be Vice President because the previous VP had been caught up in a sex scandal (big shock) and would only be holding the office for a year or so til the next election in which he would relinquish the office to someone who knew the political game and was better suited for the duty. Now suddenly he must figure out first how to work in Washington D.C. while simultaneously reconstruct the US Government.
Now I won't get too much into the plot of the book because I want to focus not on the possibility of such a thing but how he decides to deal with the situation he finds himself in.
Instead of simply choosing to surround himself with political insiders and try to return to busy as usual, he decides instead of playing the political game, he is going to change the rules...and try to fix the problems that ails our government. He acknowledges that our government was designed to be inefficient to some degree but that was no excuse for how Washington was operating and decided to try and change that. Sound familiar? It should because it's what every politician has promised to do for decades now but seemingly always forget once they get to Washington.
Next, President Ryan calls on the American people to do something rather shocking..
"Therefore, to you, and to the fifty governors, I have a request. Please, do not send me politicians. We do not have time to do things that must be done through that process. I need people who do real things in the real world. I need people who do not want to live in Washington. I need people who will not try to work the system. I need people who will come here at great personal sacrifice to do an important job, and then return home to their normal lives."
"I want engineers who know how things are built. I want physicians who know how to make sick people well. I want cops who know what it means when your civil rights are violated by a criminal. I want farmers who grow real food on real farms. I want people who know what it's like to have dirty hands, and pay a mortgage bill, and raise kids, and worry about the future. That's what I want. That's what I need. I think that's what a lot of you want too. "
"Once those people get here, it's your job to keep an eye on them, to make sure they keep their word, to make sure they keep faith with you. This is your government. A lot of people have told you that, but I mean it. Tell your governors what you expect of them when they make their appointments to the Senate, and then you select the right people for the House. These are the people who decide how much of your money the government takes, and then how it is spent. It's your money, not mine. It's your country. We all work for you. "
-Executive Orders p.165
Now here's where this all ties into today in the real world. Clearly this is a fictional character in a book of fiction but boy does Mr. Clancy hit the nail on the head. Leave it to an author of fiction to create a politician most Americans could only dream of..
President Ryan is the kind of President I believe all Americans should hope and dream for. His opinions on the major issues may not fly with a majority of Americans but he is brutally honest and knows the true purpose of our government in this great nation: to work for us, the American citizen.
The sad truth however, as Jack Ryan finds out after he makes this speech in the novel, the "MainstreamMedia" and political establishment immediately resist this idea of having non-politicians run for political office since such people automatically have no experience with how our government works and how "the game" is played...But that's the point! Imagine having elected officials who care more about their country then how they are going to get re-elected and covering their own arse instead of doing what's right for the nation. It's hard for most Americans to even grasp let alone believe in. And yet we strive for such a standard every election cycle and to some degree that was released this last election cycle when the Tea Party ran many who were not career politicians to try and shake up the system and they succeeded in some cases and I think that is a great thing for America. However whether these new elected officials will remain loyal to the people who elected them and avoid getting sucked into playing "the game" in Washington remains to be seen just yet.
Even harder for most Americans (including myself) to imagine is a President who had the political guts to ask such a thing of his fellow citizens...and actual MEAN it!
Now, being a political realist, everything I have ever learned about politics both in school and in life is that such idealist hopes are naive at best and foolish at worst. The simple fact is, no government is perfect and certainly ours has its flaws but I refuse to believe that such a change is impossible to achieve. I shouldn't have to feel foolish for believing that the government should truly work for the people as our founders intended to nor should I give up such a belief simply because conventional wisdom and the establishment tell me it's impossible. I also refuse to believe that our government is beyond help and simply can't be fixed and that I should just except that and move on. As an American citizen I have the RIGHT to demand that my government work for me and for all citizens and as such hold my elected representatives fully and wholly accountable for their actions in Washington, whether good or bad. This is how our government is supposed to work, period. End of story.
And no one is going to try and feed me this crap that it's only one party in Washington that has corrupted the system..Both the Democratic and Republican parties are guilty of propagating this myth that "We work for the American people" while simultaneously throwing us under the proverbial bus and saving their own skins. The two parties may be ideologically miles apart, but they are lock-step in continuing this fantasy that they really work for us and everything they are doing in Washington is in our best interests.
And for that, I am a little thankful for the Tea Party movement. I may disagree with their politics at times but I can't deny they have got a lot of Americans interested in how their government is run and encouraged Americans to hold their politicians truly accountable and I hope that trend holds..
Now normally I don't get into such heated talk about how flawed our government is but reading this book has truly inspired me to issue this wake up call for not just Whigs such as myself but to all Americans. While I acknowledge that achieving the kind of accountability that Jack Ryan asks of the American people in Mr. Clancy's novel is not likely in my lifetime, it doesn't mean we shouldn't try and I am certain that slowly but surely, we will be able to hold our politicians more accountable and hopefully in turn make our government actually work like it's supposed to..For us.
My thanks to Tom Clancy for writing "Executive Orders". I find it amazing how a book written 15 years ago can still instill such passion, even in a realistic political wonk such as myself. My hats off to your sir.
"Executive Orders", by Tom Clancy. Copyright 1996 G. P. Putnam's Son Publishing, page 165