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Fighting City Hall: Yes, it Really is a Bad Idea

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Many a sage has told eager young turks with a thirst for taking on the system that, in a nutshell, “you can’t fight city hall”.  This bit of advice is crucial for anyone seeking influence over our nation’s political process to hear. It is extremely unfortunate that people with good ideas often go about promoting them through means which are destined to failure; means such as raucous protests, extreme social commentary, or confrontational methods of public speaking while addressing those who might be sympathetic to their cause. Whenever an individual attempts to challenge an established political structure or machine, he or she must, before setting out on what will surely be a most arduous journey, recognize the fact that the only way to upend the status quo is by working within the system. Nobody has ever thrown him or herself into a juggernaut and emerged a hero. In fact, the opposite has happened; at best, our crusader will emerge tired, mangled, and, of course, utterly defeated. We should not dwell on what may happen in the worst case scenario, except to say that it would probably make the latter seem like a marginal victory in comparison.

As aggravating as it sometimes seems, the American system of representative democracy for the most part does work ,and work fantastically. While there are a slew of instances in which elections have been rigged and voters unduly influenced throughout its long and colorful history, these are, thankfully, glaring exceptions to the rule. Our government, at all levels from the municipal to the federal, has afforded us an atmosphere of legal stability that, aside from the nineteenth century’s Civil War, has brought millions a quality of life which was unthinkable to them or their immediate ancestors. Considering that this will have been in effect for over three hundred years by the close of the 2000s, why would anyone honestly search for an alternative? The only motive I can think of is utopianism, a seemingly idyllic but actually terrifying ideology which we will cover shortly, whose adherents believe that all things can be made faultless if just a bit more effort is given to achieving this goal. Since perfection is nonexistent, we should not expect this wholly subjective floating abstract to make a sudden appearance in the American political landscape. Waiting for it is akin to sitting outside on early Easter morning in anticipation of that kindly rabbit to hop along bringing candy and colored eggs for all to enjoy. It is just not going to happen.

What can happen, though, are the flaws in contemporary politics being tended to by sensible public officeholders who craft legislation containing effective solutions for the problems which their respective constituents are facing. Obviously, said public officeholders must have attained their positions through, you guessed it, working within the system. This is perhaps the strongest case for why it is much better to bring about necessary change from within as opposed to outside, as one method has been proven to work and the other not.

About Joseph F. Cotto