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Political Mindfulness

Updated on October 22, 2012

The presidential election in the United States is a high profile event. During the campaign, each candidate uses all means at their disposal to convince voters that they are the better choice. Their arguments are based on two premises: 1) that they are a better choice and 2) that their opponent is a worse choice. These arguments are presented to the American public via television, radio, telemarketing and the Internet both directly and indirectly. The election is as much a contest of effective message delivery as it is of message itself.

Candidates attempt to prove that they are a better choice by sending messages about what they did and what they will do. What they did in the past is somewhat relevant. Naturally if someone was unethical or criminal they might be a bad choice, yet perhaps the lessons they learned from their past mistakes might bring an important perspective to government at exactly the right time. However, since no one can predict the future, there is no possible way to know whether this would be the case.

For this reason each candidate endeavors to highlight failures in the other’s past. This is the essence of what is called, “negative campaigning.” The strategy of negative campaigning urges that the voters judge the candidates on the basis of whom they fear the most. Typically this is where name-calling is used. “Liberal,” “conservative,” “socialist,” “tax and spend,” and “tax cuts for the wealthy” are some examples. These labels are meaningless, because they invite us to label someone as part of a group who theoretically all think the same thoughts.

There is no more ludicrous idea in the universe. No one ever thinks the same thoughts as anyone else. It is a neurological impossibility. No one ever has exactly the same idea as anyone else. Therefore to grasp at a label in an attempt to define a candidate for President of the United States - or anyone else for that matter - is a complete waste of time and energy. Furthermore, to attempt to predict what a person will do as a result of their label simply makes no sense at all.

And since no one can predict the future, all of the candidates’ statements of “I will” or “I will not” are irrelevant. For example, “I will cut taxes,” they say, or, “I will not raise taxes;” these statements are meaningless. Neither candidate knows what will happen. There may be circumstances in which it would be unwise to cut taxes, or in which it would be imperative for the good of the nation to raise taxes.

In the past, the actions of each presidential candidate influenced the future that is now our present. However, in a practice of mindfulness, the present moment is all there is. Looking at the present moment though a lens filtered by neither past nor future, realizing that every moment is irreplaceable and unique, we can only look at the present moment and be grateful to have it. You lived moments in the past, but you cannot live those moments now. You may (and probably will) live moments in the future, but you cannot live those moments now, either. They only moment you that can live right now is the present one. That is why it is of paramount importance to enjoy this moment right now to the best of one’s ability. When the next moment comes, it becomes the most important, and so on.

Usually the challenger will say that the present moment is in some way bad, but since we are so grateful for it, we know that this cannot be true. Therefore the challenger’s criticism of the incumbent’s actions that brought on the present is to a great extent irrelevant. Usually the incumbent will say that the today is better than the past in some way. This is equally false because in reality every moment is equally precious. Yesterday cannot be inferior to now, because every moment of yesterday was equally precious to every moment of today.

The only reality in the messages from either candidate is what can be gleaned from their assessments of what they have done and their statements about what they intend to do. Their assessments of their own accomplishments reflect their learning (or lack thereof) from their experiences. If one ran a business, what did they learn from that experience? If another was President of the United States, what did they learn as President?

Unfortunately we are deprived one of the most powerful tools of character assessment because no candidate ever admits they made a mistake. Of course we all know that absolutely everyone makes mistakes. This is part of what makes us human. But it is often not our mistakes that define us; it is how we make up for our mistakes. To hear the stories of our candidates’ mistakes would be an invaluable tool to help us decide how to cast our votes.

Instead we are fed a fantasy of larger-than-life candidates for president who apparently make no mistakes. All that is left to us is to make the best of the situation - to maximize the potential of all of each and every moment. All we can do is use our brains and hearts to try to discern who is speaking from expediency and who is speaking from the heart; which candidate has a plan and which one has only slogans; and which candidate speaks their own words and who speaks words they have been told to speak.

Both candidates seem to succumb from time to time to the seduction of the strategist and both are somewhat reactive to the fear of losing the election, yet both have moments of fearlessness in which actual truth can be seen. American voters, I believe, have a responsibility to use all of their senses to try to discern the truth about each candidate. Try to leave your preconceptions behind. Try to see beyond the grooming - of both of their appearance and their rhetoric - and catch a glimpse of the real person. You owe it to yourself and to the rest of the electorate to vote for a person and not for a caricature.

That said, how much does it matter whom we elect as President of the United States? It matters a great deal, but not in the way you may think. The President is a seed, and the President’s term in office will be a crop. If we sow the seed of fear by voting out of fear for the future, what harvest will we reap? If we sow the seed of regret by voting out of regret, how much different would that harvest be? But if we sow the seed of setting a high value on each moment, or the seed of love for our fellow humans, or the seed of confidence in the inherent generosity of the Infinite, would not that crop yield the most bountiful harvest of all?

Americans: listen carefully, vote mindfully. Peace to you and your family.

What do you think you have observed in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election?

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    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom Rubenoff 3 years ago from United States

      All good points, but I do not think that term limits is the answer. I believe that election finance reform is the answer to the "professional politician." Level the financial playing field by taking the Super PACS out of the game. If there is no reason to seek money, money will be taken out of the election equation.

      As I voter, I might want to vote the incumbent out of office. But, on the other hand, I might not. I think the choice should be left up to me, and I do not think my ability to choose should be limited by term limits.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      And I should add: and then there are the Super PACS, etc., the purchasers of professional politicians. The seasoned politicians spend a great deal of their time working for themselves and raising money outside of what work we pay them to do that most of us now know hasn't been getting done.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Elections have yet to rid us of "professional politicians" because the incumbents have inordinate advantages that make elections unbalanced in favor of those entrenched. Public displeasure and a rating of 10% approval finally saw a sea change in 2014, but only the lowest hanging fruit and "writing on the wall" vacancies brought about the tipped balance which was only partially the result of the public displeasure. After all, only some of the seats in Congress were even up for election this last time around.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom Rubenoff 3 years ago from United States

      Thank you Perspycacious. I think that your suggestions for changes to the constitution are good ones. I think, however, that we already have term limits; they are called elections.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      We need a some amendments to the Constitution to update it, and to put term limits on holding office, plus a single six year term for the office of president, in addition to an updated definition of "war". Until those and other needed changes are tackled, not much will change.

      I liked the idea of seeing how candidates corrected mistakes they have made, but try to get one to even admit they were anything but perfect!

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States

      I empathize with your position, Sally. I think at the local level we often vote people of value into office, but by the time it gets to the state level already something seems to have happened to the person. Perhaps the fact that I do not understand this phenomenon means I am politically naive. Thank you, Sally.

      ToKnow, I think politics, like everything, changes all the time - just not in the way many of us would like. I too will vote.

      I also know whom I will vote for, Ruby. However, I do not feel strongly enough in favor of my choice to recommend him to anyone. I agree it is important to participate in the process. I hoped by writing this to help a few people see past the many irrelevant distractions to make a choice independent of manipulation. Thanks so much for reading my work.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I have a clear vision of whom I will vote for. I enjoyed reading your message and I agree with much of your assessment. I feel that it is an honor to be able to vote, many do not have that option..Thank you..Cheers.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Politics will never change. Every election and every candidate tells us what we want to hear. It doesn't stop me from voting, but it always seems like it is the lesser of two evils, we have to choose from .

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I'm reading your words with a similar mind, and I'm wondering if you wrote this right after last night's Obama/Romney debate.

      I'd been staying away from the debates, having become sorely tired of those slogans and sound bytes, and was on the verge of not voting at all when my daughter showed interest in watching last night's event. So I went along for the ride.

      Although I'd been paying attention to rhetoric and events throughout the year and feeling well informed on issues, I hadn't immersed myself in watching these characters perform. By last night, I think I was ready to experience the drama with clear eyes and ears.

      I came away from the performance knowing that I can't vote for either of them. To me, each is a talking head. I didn't see anything real about either of them in terms of their personal convictions or their genuine concern for humanity. I just saw opportunity, advantage, blame, defensiveness, aggression, and an odd kind of conciliatory behavior on Romney's part so that he wouldn't look like a war monger.

      With that much said, I will vote two weeks from now, but it won't be for either of them. I'm looking at other candidates on the ballot. One of them might get my vote, maybe not. Instead, I just might write in the name of my next door neighbor who has a view of reality more like mine, a view much in keeping, I think, with your points about recognizing the present for what it is, accepting and acknowledging mistakes as valuable lessons, and using that knowledge and honesty to pave the road to the future. I'm not about to sow a seed of fear or regret. If the seed I sow doesn't result in the next POTUS, at least I've added to the gene pool in a way I can live with.