We have reached a dangerous place – a juncture, beyond which lies either hope of recovery and restoration of our Constitutional Republic or the continuing erosion and eventual erasure of our protections as citizens against a rapacious government.
This proverbial fork in the road holds more peril than merely choosing the wrong path; we face that choice in every election – indeed, with hundreds of choices we all make each day. The greater concern is the way in which we make our choice – the resources we consult and the methodology we employ.
Very few wise choices have risen from such a miasma of misinformation, mischaracterization, and unreasoning fear and hatred as we are witnessing today.
This cycle has seen the rise of Donald Trump, a candidate who doesn't fit the central casting mold. He is unusual and bold, brash and unapologetic in his statements. Yet he is not without precedent. We are witnessing the rebirth of the populists, nothing more.
The political structure with which most of us are familiar is in truth a relatively new thing. People think of primaries as full-blown elections. They are not. The word that appropriately precedes "primaries" is "party." These are party primaries, designed by political parties to choose the candidate behind whom the party intends to coalesce support for the real election – the general election.
For most of our nation's history, primaries were not the method of choice for determining nominees.
The primary is merely a means of gauging support for this or that candidate, not a federally mandated or constitutionally established election. Parties can choose their nominees in whatever methods that state chooses – with a party primary election, a caucus or convention, or, as done in Colorado, with a decision by party leadership. As long as the established rules are followed, these choices are the business of the party, not the general public, who gets their say in November.
This is one of the reasons our founding fathers eschewed party structures, hoping instead for ideological constructs based on merit and competence, not on membership. In other words, they wanted the best candidate to emerge from among many by virtue of having been lifted above the others by a groundswell of public support.
"But isn't that why we have primaries? To determine that?" you might rightly ask. The answer is yes, but with a difference that holds a transformative distinction.
Marshaling support is always a difficult thing, and doing so without the benefit of an organization makes that task far more imposing, so rather than disbanding the ideological coalitions that formed around past candidates, these free associations of like-minded people became standing parties, charged with safeguarding the views around which they originally formed, and providing a beacon to others who may hold similar views.
In other words, they became a brand, known for an ideology. Those who agreed with that ideology shopped within that brand; those who did not shopped elsewhere. Following that retail analogy, the pre-party "Mom & Pop" stores became national chains, with similar marketing and presentation.
There has always been a political yin and yang within any nation of free people. There are those who believe that each of us should be empowered to make his own decisions – for good or ill – finding our path to success or failure depending on our own efforts. Government exists to ensure we have that freedom by protecting the rights with which we entered this world from infringement by those who would "stack the deck" through corruption rather than merit.
The other side views individuals as messy pieces within a larger collective. Individual liberty must be suborned to collective goals, as determined by a central group of planners, who presumably know better than you how your life ought to be lived. To these, government exists to establish the definitions of success and then ensure that people receive it equally.
Of course, these myopic "Solomons" never assign such restrictions to themselves, as that would be far too limiting for them to achieve their utopian goals, which thankfully makes them easier to spot, as their neon hypocrisy shines like a "vacancy" sign on a lonely nighttime highway.
To these people, we are always just one regulation away, just one program short of peace on Earth and a chicken in every pot.
There appears to be a harder edge to the disagreements between members of the two parties. Trump is no doubt a polarizing figure. He has managed to appeal to those conservatives among the Republican faithful who are tired of being misled, lied to, and beaten down by the Democrats and the leadership of their own party.
They have good reason to feel this way.
However, a rift is appearing – a fissure that is widening between those who support Trump and those who do not. The tenor of the disagreement has grown entirely negative, with statements like "you're not a real Republican" or "only mycandidate can save the nation!"
Whenever we resort to absolutes to make sense of a circumstance that are anything but absolute, we are setting ourselves up to be either proven wrong in an embarrassingly public way or proven right at the cost of losing close friends and associates.
There is very little in this life that is all of one thing and none of another – and nothing illustrates this more than politics, where little is ever as it seems anyway.
The parties make their rules and choose their methods for determining a nominee. One candidate making more effective use of those rules isn't "cheating" or "stealing"; he is merely making more effective use of the rules, just as their opponent might've. Period.
Don't let these arguments; misunderstandings; and, in many cases, misapprehensions of the rules create in you a heart hardened against people you have known and loved. Don't let your anger define you. Losing or winning doesn't proffer a characterization of value on a person, and as long as laws are not violated, then losing or winning will be a thing we can each accept with grace and humility.
While losing doesn't mean you were cheated, winning doesn't mean you are vindicated. We are all judged by how we treat one another and, most importantly, how we treat ourselves. Tell yourself the truth, even if it hurts, because lying to yourself only prepares the soil of your heart for the seeds of discord, which, come November, will surely reap a bitter harvest.
The author is the communications director for the Global Faith Institute (globalfaith.org) and welcomes visitors to his own site, readmorejoe.com.