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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Home for Political Christmas

Age teaches us that we should be more concerned with giving rather than receiving. That’s why the older we get, the fewer presents we see under the tree from Santa. It’s a great value to learn, even if it might take away from the magic of the season. But if instead of toys and gadgets, Santa Claus could stuff our stockings with political goodies, I’d be the first person in line at the mall, waiting to have my picture taken with the bearded man, asking for the change that realpolitik just can’t bring fast enough.

My list would be long, and I’d print it out in triplicate and CC it to all the elves, just to make sure he got everything right. It’s a long list, but I’ve tried my damnedest to be a good boy this year, I’d tell him.

“Not like those gun lobbyists,” I’d say. “They tried to buy off the Easter bunny with illegal campaign contributions.”

“Ho ho ho!” Santa would respond, wiping a tear away from his eye. Then I’d get on with my list of demands, qualifying each request with a very sincere, doe-eyed “please, please, please!”

I’d start off with the basics. I’d tell him that I want congressmen that can’t be bought and sold like cattle at an auction, lawmakers who use the privilege of leadership to stand up for what it is they truly believe rather than kowtowing in obeisance toward those who sign the checks. There is only one group of people that representatives and senators should be beholden to: voters. Give the politicians something that would remind them of that, I’d say. Like a conscience. Or a wall-mounted fish that sings the Declaration of Independence to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.” Both are good, and it’s your decision anyway. I’m just voicing a sentiment – you’re the one who brings it to fruition.

Then I’d ask Santa for a population with the capacity to care more and see the forest for the trees. So many people shut off from information overload when the nightly news comes on. They’re exhausted by bad news and become callous to what’s going on around them. Because of that, they can’t even find the energy to care about what goes unreported in their own communities: the families living in third-world poverty this Christmas or the child who won’t be able to receive a much-needed coronary transplant because his parents can’t afford health insurance. I’d ask Santa to bring the families happiness, and then give the kid a heart. Then I’d stop and ask him to give the voting public one as well.

And while I’d definitely ask for an end to war and an end to extremism, I’d remind Santa that extremism isn’t the enemy of democracy. Apathy is. It’s easy to for the political elites to rally around issues, but it’s hard to get the people to back them up as our world becomes more fragmented. It’d be easy to ask for universal healthcare, an end to the war in Iraq, or a balanced budget. But what we should really be asking for is a country full of people who would find the energy to inform themselves about issues of social justice rather than blindly voting or worse, not voting at all.

Finally, I’d ask for media that concentrate on explaining those complicated issues, rather than obsessing over what Hillary Clinton wore on a campaign stop in Iowa or whether there’s Christian backmasking in Mike Huckabee ads. Many people vote rigidly along party lines because they simply don’t know enough about issues, and that’s not what politics is about. Politics isn’t about clinging on to a past that doesn’t work; it’s about being able to adapt to the challenges around you, regardless of party membership. And the best way to do that is by tweaking with the media and making them a vessel of information, rather than just a way to unwind at the end of the day. Then I’d plead with him, for the love of God, to please keep Britney Spears and Paris Hilton out of the news in the coming year.

(Santa would laugh and say he’s an eternal man-elf of happiness, not a miracle-worker.)

As the photographer in a green and red jump suit would start getting exasperated and the crowd people anxious to sit on political Santa’s lap grew, he’d shake his head and tell me that he’d only be able to grant one request per person. I stop, worried about how I should spent this wish. There were so many wrongs to be righted in the world. There were so many things that could be made more efficient. There were so many people in need. How could I rectify that in one simple request?

I ask Santa if he’s ever heard of Niccolo Machiavelli, the founder of statecraft and advocate of deception. Santa nods and I tell him all the things Machiavelli ever said about politics. It is better to be feared than loved. The majority of men will be content to let you do what you please if you do not interfere in their daily lives. Political ambition comes before everything else.

Sadly, much of what Machiavelli had to say holds a lot of truth in today’s world. Our government makes itself a divisive, polarizing force rather than one that can bring people together. Our electorate turns out in low numbers, especially for local and state elections. And billions of dollars are spent just so that we can hear the same five talking points looped ad nauseam on the nightly news, when all the money people spend to be reelected could be put to much better use.

My political Christmas list is a long one. But the moment is there. I’ve got to limit myself. And then it hits me. I know what I want. I look Saint Nick straight in the eye and tell him exactly what he needs to do to make this country a better place.

“Santa,” I say. “Bring me an America that proves Machiavelli wrong.”

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