A single phrase can sometimes tell one so very much. Brian Sudbeck's letter of last week, responding to Adam Krefting's critique of the contemporary political system in this space on Oct. 10, contains one such phrase.
Mr. Sudbeck offers the useless advice that young people like Mr. Krefting, non-voters mostly, should just give up and go ahead and cast unneeded votes for one or the other of the two wings of the Federalist Party (and here is the juicy phrase), "until a viable third party emerges."
Ah, where to start? What does "viable" mean? Properly, it means "able to live," that is, able to survive. I suspect, however, that what Mr. Sudbeck (like so many) means is "able to elect a large number of candidates."
So he is implying that rational voters should only transfer their voting loyalty to any new party after said party has already (somehow) fought its way up from the bottom, and put as many (or nearly as many) people in office as the dinosaur parties now have.
This, of course, simply ignores the fact that the only way for an initially small political party to put people in office is to grow larger by receiving the votes of voters who had previously voted for candidates of the established parties.
He has reversed cause and effect. He counsels us to wait until our support is no longer needed before conferring it.
The fact is that America already has at least two, and perhaps three, "viable" political parties other than the Ds and Rs. With several hundred elected officials, candidates in most contested races, thousands of dues-paying members, and an established infrastructure in every state, the Libertarians are the third-largest party in the country by any rational measure.
The Greens also seem to be well established, and even have an elected legislator in California.
And the Reform Party may even survive its internal difficulties, at least in some states, such as Minnesota.
But voters who refuse to be satisfied with this sort of viability, and follow Mr. Sudbeck's advice to wait for electoral success to blossom by some sort of magic, without voter support, will only reinforce the status quo. They will, therefore, contribute absolutely nothing to addressing the very real, and understandable, frustrations voiced by Mr. Krefting.
More importantly for the individual voter, assessing a party's "viability," no matter by what definition, is not the best criterion for deciding where to confer one's vote.
What the candidate, if elected, will do to preserve -- or change -- the status quo, ought to be the overriding consideration. Of course, if one is very happy with the status quo, then one can afford the luxury of using the wrong criteria. That's because, unless a lot of people wake up to how they're being manipulated, the status quo will pretty much take care of itself.
Work only needs to be done to change it, not to preserve it. Adam Krefting is quite right: Young potential voters are not failing to vote because they are "apathetic," or foolish, or dumb.
The politicians, and especially the two dominant parties, do ignore them, and it's a positive feedback cycle. Young people don't bother to vote because they have correctly perceived that there is no hope for real change inside the established political system.
So I offer young Americans the exact opposite of Mr. Sudbeck's "give up" advice: Register and vote for anybody other than the two parties that got us into this mess.
Dethrone them and end their reign.
Patrick L. Lilly, 53, is a longtime Springs-area resident and Libertarian activist. He has run for office twice, and now acts, unofficially, as an issues analyst and adviser for Libertarian candidates throughout Colorado. He is an unrepentant freelance writer, retired typographer, and homemaker who lives in Cheyenne Canyon and climbs fourteeners in his "spare" time.