Every so often, a handful of us go out and vote. And after those elections -- state, national or local -- editorial writers, columnists and politicos bemoan the low turnout, hand-wringing over what has been accepted as "voter apathy."
In our minds, something deeper than inattention is happening. Turns out, two of America's most despised failures as presidents just might have been right.
Jimmy Carter blamed America's woes on a "crisis of confidence."
Richard Nixon offered that a great "silent majority" really held America's true values.
The Grin and the Crook might have been ahead of their time.
It's easy to chalk Election Day no-shows up to those folks simply not caring.
Americans are forced to make a choice if they choose to participate in the democratic process -- and it's just possible too many see no acceptable option.
But if it's a choice between evils, what is more in line with the ideals set forth by the Founding Fathers: choosing neither or capitulating to thieves and despots?
Imagine, for a moment, the imminent change in Kansas health care was your decision and yours alone.
Here are your choices -- and you can make no other.
The federal government will pay the state's increased cost for three years if you decide to expand Medicaid services to more Kansans. After three years, the feds will pay 90 percent of that cost -- if you believe Washington still can pay that bill when it comes due. Regardless, you have no way to pay for those increased services that then simply cannot be stripped from the neediest of Kansans.
Or, you take a stand against what you see as an intrusive expansion of government and shun federal money -- excluding thousands of Kansans from a program that could improve their lives, save them from bankruptcy or transform them from disabled to able-bodied. That federal money will be spent, mind you, just not in Kansas.
This enormously weighty debate is but a microcosm of the lack of real choice voters have, the unbearable black-and-whitedness of it all.
Take a stand against the expansion of Medicaid and you are heartless -- that's not American.
Accept the money and that future debt and you are irresponsible -- that's not American.
What's the best choice? Is there one?
What would Benjamin Franklin do? Thomas Paine? Dwight Eisenhower? JFK? Will Rogers?
Could those who drink neither tea nor Kool-Aid be the most patriotic among us?
If you support one mistake over another, does it mitigate the fact you advocate change for the worse?
America is fractured at a time when there are potential catastrophes around each corner. And solutions are few and far between.
We look up at our leaders on opposite precipices as they hurl ideology; the only victory they can boast is staggering the other.
We watch from below knowing regardless of who falls farthest, fastest, hardest, this great silent majority who will bear the brunt of that fall.
Whether the target is our pocketbook or our freedom, we will lose. We have lost every time. It's burned into our collective memories. And we are weary.
Today, we are represented in state and national government by the likes of Sam Brownback and Tim Huelskamp -- who make no bones about their intent and their enemies. There is no middle ground with either. We have slightly more softened views of senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, although even the tone of once-commonsense moderates seems strangely sharp these days. These from the right have their polar opposites on the left -- and they battle to continual stalemate to the detriment of all.
We are a nation divided, but not nearly as much as many would have us believe.
Which raises a question.
If most of us live in the valley between the left and the right, why are we run by the fringe? If so many have made a conscious decision not to be sullied by their mud, why -- how -- are they still in charge?
A line from "Star Wars" comes to mind: "Who's the more foolish: the fool or the fool who follows him?"
We wholeheartedly believe America has as much wit, wisdom and commonsense as it ever has. We believe those with the most American of ideas and ideals have chosen to keep their talents outside of the wasteland of politics. We see them every day, leading our businesses, teaching our children, fighting our wars, doctoring our wounds, keeping our streets safe.
Maybe the time has come for a watershed moment. Maybe that moment is a viable third party. And maybe it's as simple as a requirement that "None of the Above" be added to each and every ballot. Our guess is a surprising number of Americans would vote "present" rather than for what's "less wrong."
If there's a better choice out here, we would be happy to hear it.
Editorial by Ron Fields