"The problem with the parties," Bernard said matter-of-factly, "is that they think that moving left or right is the same thing as moving forward."
"That sounds cute," I retorted, "but that's sort of without meaning, isn't it?"
"No. Political parties and the electoral process are set up to frustrate progress."
"How could that be? Competition brings out the best ideas, the best people."
"Really?" Bernard paused while we watched a tiny flock of pedestrian birds run after the receding waves and peck into the sand. "I guess that's true for, say, sprinters. It's not so obvious when you're trying to find someone who can best lead communities. But that's not what I wanted to talk about," he said.
"Progress?" I asked.
"Yes. Progress. The electoral process basically ensures that politicians will move to the right or left but not move forward."
"So you say," I offered calmly. It was too difficult to become annoyed at the beach. I listened instead.
"The whole purpose of a campaign is to say, 'gotcha,'" he lunged forward, startling the birds. "So any smart politician avoids making mistakes. And, they need to appeal to the base. So, they embrace left or right mantras and they try to perfect a message. They try to avoid mistakes and try to look good."
"Makes sense," I say. "But how does that obfuscate progress?"
"If you are going to make progress, you are going to do new things. If you are going to do new things, you are going to do them poorly. You are going to look foolish, not in control. You will not look good if you're really making progress."
"And you'll lose the election. It's simply too awkward to make progress and win elections. You can't do both."
"So, to win an election is to turn right or left but not move forward," I repeat.
"My point exactly," said Bernard. And with that, we turned west to watch the sunset. There is something so spectacular about the demise of a day. We watched the sun elongate and then disappear all together. I can't tell you why it looked so beautiful.