On Elections, Tug-o-Wars, and the Dangers of Success

I find myself on the day after last night’s election in an odd frame of mind. You would think that with what amounts to a stunning repudiation of the socialist, collectivist, statist path that we’ve been on as a country, that I would be doing jumping jacks and cartwheels. I probably should be. It was… a very good night to be a conservative. Or at least to be a Republican. But not every one I supported won, and not every thing I opposed was prevented, and so for me it was a tempered victory – as all victories almost certainly are.
I am reminded of a line from the Declaration of Independence. After declaring certain inalienable rights, endowed by our Creator, Thomas Jefferson goes on to outline the purpose of a government.
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Well, last night was certainly an altering of the Government. But it’s at this point, and over the critical juncture of the next two years, that our mettle will be truly tested. I’m warning you now, if you have a great big grin on your face, and you think everything is hunky-dory, do not read any further. Take a day or two. Enjoy the sunshine. Bask in the glow of a battle well-fought. You educated yourself and your neighbors. You block walked, you called, you got out the vote. Good job! Go enjoy that warm feeling, give it a day or two, and come back. You’ve earned it. Enjoy it. But come back because although last night we won a battle, the war goes on.
I am by nature a short term pessimist, so please take this with a grain of salt, but I can’t help but think that if you thought the last two years were bad? Brother, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
We still face crushing debt, both as a country, and many of us in our personal lives, or the lives of friends and family that we care about deeply.
We still face intrusions and increased regulation in our business and personal lives by an entrenched and growing government beauracracy.
We still have a partisan media.
We still face an economy with 9% unemployment, and limited growth in the private sector.
The only difference is that now, we face all of those problems with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, increased representation in the Senate, and increased Republican presence in a lot of State governments. You will note that I do not say a Conservative majority, because the two do not necessarily equate, though every effort will be made to associate the two in the minds of our fellow Americans.
Oh, and there’s still the lame duck session of Congress coming.
If you have a new Congressman or Senator… heck, if you have a returning Congressman or Senator, the time to start talking to them about the agenda, the time to start addressing your concerns with them, the time to help them with a critical infusion of spine and character and responsibility… is now. The temptation will be to sit back and take the rest of the year off. There’s nothing we can really do about the lame duck session, and those people are on their way out anyway, right? And the holidays are coming up. And we’ve been working so hard. That’s all true. But the real danger now is that we as citizens become complacent, that we return to the thinking that “someone else will take care of it” because we voted someone else in.
Think of it this way. Had conservative principles been defeated the kind of electoral defeat that we saw the other side get last night, what would we be doing today? Okay, yes, licking our wounds. But then we’d pick ourselves up off the ground, and start making plans for next time around, and thinking of ways to influence the process in the mean time. In defeat, we as Americans naturally stiffen up, stand up, and get to work. It’s in perceived success that we will find our greatest danger, because we will mistakenly come to the belief that our involvement is no longer necessary. And that’s the real problem.
Our involvement has always been necessary. It’s our lack of oversight as citizens that has brought us to the point we find ourselves standing upon now.
My daughter enjoys hearing stories of when I was living in the Philippines as a missionary for my church. One of her favorite stories goes something like this.
Every year, all the missionaries in our mission would get together around Christmas time for a few days and have a big celebration. There would be all kinds of activities, a talent show, a scavenger hunt, and various athletic activities. Among these, was a tug-of-war. The missionaries were broken out into teams – red, orange, blue, and green. I was on the green team, and the green team lost everything. And the last of the athletic competitions was the tug-of-war.
Now, just before coming out to the Philippines, my uncle had related to me a story about a tug-of-war he’d seen at a scout camp that summer, and the technique he described was so revolutionary, it simply had to be tried. And so, as the tallest, biggest person on the team (though lacking much in the way of actual athletic ability), I was assigned to be the anchor. I tied a loop around my waist, and kicked off my flip-flops in the lush green grass. And when the whistle blew, I turned, dropped to my hands and knees, grabbed for purchase with my fingers and toes, and started to crawl.
And we won the round. It was the first time Green team had won anything that whole Christmas conference. But the next ones up were the Red team, and they were the ones who had won everything else up to that point.
The whistle blew, I turned and dropped, and it was hard. I’m not ashamed to say that at one point, I seriously considered giving up, feeling I was at the end of my endurance. And it was then that one of the female missionaries came over and started cheering me on, jumping up and down, and yelling “YOU CAN DO IT!” over and over.
Well, I was not going to give up in front of that kind of enthusiastic encouragement, so I dug deep, dug in, and started crawling. And we won. I later found out that the anchor of the other team had seen my technique and tried it himself. We won anyway, in no small regards thanks to the cheering of a single young lady who was on the team we’d just beat. (Thank you, Sister Raj, wherever you are).
We won the third round, too, and went home champions of the tug-of-war. I had some pretty ugly bruising along my hips from the rope, but it was all right.
I was in the Philippines for two years. Christmas came round again. Again, we had the big celebration. And again, I was assigned to the green team. And again, we lost EVERYTHING. But whenever we lost something, I would tell my team mates, “It’s all right. We’ll win the tug-of-war.”
And we did. We won the first round pretty easily. And the second round was hard, but wasn’t that bad. It’s at that point that our dear Mr. Ricks got something of a swelled head, and jumped up and down saying something that was probably horribly grammatically incorrect in Filipino, but which basically amounted to “I Will Not Lose.” Ah, hubris.
It was the third round. I was crawling my way to victory. Nothing could keep us from winning the tug-of-war. When suddenly, I was literally ripped out of the ground, and flew what felt like ten feet back to land in a sprawl. Sent the mission president’s teenage daughter flying. And I got up, dazed, and wandered around, wondering what the heck had just happened. (yes, heck. I was a missionary, for crying out loud). I asked someone – how did we lose? And it turned out that we hadn’t lost. We’d won. But at the moment that we’d won, everyone on my team had put up their hands in celebration… but the other team had kept pulling. And I’d been gently reminded how important it is to have a team pulling with you.
The temptation that faces us now is to raise our hands in celebration. It certainly feels like we’ve won an important victory, and we have. But the other team is not about to stop pulling now. If we had been on the losing end, I daresay we’d have spent a day or two licking our wounds, but then would have immediately started planning how we were going to come back bigger and better next time. We’d have started laying out how we were going to build influence, educate ourselves and our neighbors, and in the meantime do what we could to make our voice heard in the houses of Government.

I find myself on the day after last night’s election in an odd frame of mind. You would think that with what amounts to a stunning repudiation of the socialist, collectivist, statist path that we’ve been on as a country, that I would be doing jumping jacks and cartwheels. I probably should be. It was… a very good night to be a conservative. Or at least to be a Republican. But not every one I supported won, and not every thing I opposed was prevented, and so for me it was a tempered victory – as all victories almost certainly are.

 I am reminded of a line from the Declaration of Independence. After declaring certain inalienable rights, endowed by our Creator, Thomas Jefferson goes on to outline the purpose of a government.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Well, last night was certainly an altering of the Government. But it’s at this point, and over the critical juncture of the next two years, that our mettle will be truly tested. Take a day or two. Enjoy the sunshine. Bask in the glow of a battle well-fought. You educated yourself and your neighbors. You block walked, you called, you got out the vote. Good job! Go enjoy that warm feeling, give it a day or two, and come back. You’ve earned it. Enjoy it. But come back because although last night we won a battle, the war goes on.

My daughter enjoys hearing stories of when I was living in the Philippines as a missionary for my church. One of her favorite stories goes something like this.

Every year, all the missionaries in our mission would get together around Christmas time for a few days and have a big celebration. There would be all kinds of activities, a talent show, a scavenger hunt, and various athletic activities. Among these, was a tug-of-war. The missionaries were broken out into teams – red, orange, blue, and green. I was on the green team, and the green team lost everything. And the last of the athletic competitions was the tug-of-war.

Now, just before coming out to the Philippines, my uncle had related to me a story about a tug-of-war he’d seen at a scout camp that summer, and the technique he described was so revolutionary, it simply had to be tried. And so, as the tallest, biggest person on the team (though lacking much in the way of actual athletic ability), I was assigned to be the anchor. I tied a loop around my waist, and kicked off my flip-flops in the lush green grass. And when the whistle blew, I turned, dropped to my hands and knees, grabbed for purchase with my fingers and toes, and started to crawl.

And we won the round. It was the first time Green team had won anything that whole Christmas conference. But the next ones up were the Red team, and they were the ones who had won everything else up to that point.

The whistle blew, I turned and dropped, and it was hard. I’m not ashamed to say that at one point, I seriously considered giving up, feeling I was at the end of my endurance. And it was then that one of the female missionaries came over and started cheering me on, jumping up and down, and yelling “YOU CAN DO IT!” over and over.

Well, I was not going to give up in front of that kind of enthusiastic encouragement, so I dug deep, dug in, and started crawling. And we won. I later found out that the anchor of the other team had seen my technique and tried it himself. We won anyway, in no small regards thanks to the cheering of a single young lady who was on the team we’d just beat. (Thank you, Sister Raj, wherever you are).

We won the third round, too, and went home champions of the tug-of-war. I had some pretty ugly bruising along my hips from the rope, but it was all right.

I was in the Philippines for two years. Christmas came round again. Again, we had the big celebration. And again, I was assigned to the green team. And again, we lost EVERYTHING. But whenever we lost something, I would tell my team mates, “It’s all right. We’ll win the tug-of-war.”

And we did. We won the first round pretty easily. And the second round was hard, but wasn’t that bad. It’s at that point that our dear Mr. Ricks got something of a swelled head, and jumped up and down saying something that was probably horribly grammatically incorrect in Filipino, but which basically amounted to “I Will Not Lose.” Ah, hubris.

It was the third round. I was crawling my way to victory. Nothing could keep us from winning the tug-of-war. When suddenly, I was literally ripped out of the ground, and flew what felt like ten feet back to land in a sprawl. Sent the mission president’s teenage daughter flying. I picked myself up, and wandered around – somewhat dazed – wondering what the heck had just happened. (yes, heck. I was a missionary, for crying out loud). I asked someone – how did we lose? And it turned out that we hadn’t lost. We’d won. But at the moment that we’d won, everyone on my team had put up their hands in celebration… but the other team had kept pulling. And I (and the mission president’s daughter) had been gently reminded how important it is to have a team pulling with you.

The temptation that faces us now is to raise our hands in celebration. It certainly feels like we’ve won an important victory, and we have. But the other team is not about to stop pulling now. If we had been on the losing end, I daresay we’d have spent a day or two licking our wounds, but then would have immediately started planning how we were going to come back bigger and better next time. We’d have started laying out how we were going to build influence, educate ourselves and our neighbors, and in the meantime do what we could to make our voice heard in the houses of Government. Our involvement has always been necessary. It’s our lack of oversight as citizens that has brought us to the point we find ourselves standing upon now. Let’s not repeat the mistake at this critical juncture.

If you have a new Congressman or Senator… heck, if you have a returning Congressman or Senator, the time to start talking to them about the agenda, the time to start addressing your concerns with them, the time to help them with a critical infusion of spine and character and responsibility… is now. The temptation will be to sit back and take the rest of the year off. There’s nothing we can really do about the lame duck session, and those people are on their way out anyway, right? And the holidays are coming up. And we’ve been working so hard. That’s all true. But the real danger now is that we as citizens become complacent, that we return to the thinking that “someone else will take care of it” because we voted someone else in.

Zach Ricks

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