Doing Right By the People
As the actual voting begins in the contests for the Republican and Democratic Presidential nominations for 2016, many thoughts and feelings come to mind regarding the future of this campaign. The campaign so far has been very hectic and yet extremely shallow. Some candidates have already dropped out on both sides. Several more are likely to follow suit within the next month or so. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised by candidates and Super PACs in order to try to sell voters a candidate to lead this country for the coming four years. Much of that money will have been spent in vain accomplishing little more than scapegoating and fear-mongering people into voting for one candidate over others who will ultimately fail to pass the test at the polls sooner or later.
So far, especially in the Republican contest, much more time, effort and money has been expended trying to explain how each of the candidates is most capable of solving crises which have been exaggerated out of all proportion to reality. Instead of dealing with day-to-day concerns facing everyday Americans, blame for society’s ills is being placed on people based on their immigration status, religion, sexual or gender preferences, or country of origin. Complex issues involving economics, terrorism, foreign policy and other major areas of interest are being lumped together in the formation of simplistic solutions that can supposedly be easily implemented through the heroic efforts of the one and only candidate who can accurately identify the cause and cure that will improve our lives and create an American Utopia of the future.
In fact, most of this flurry of activity is little more than a distraction from attempts to excuse the bankruptcy of the Republican brand when it comes to serving the needs of anyone other than the oligarchs who finance their campaigns and have been given increased political clout by both legislation and court decisions in recent years. They appear intent on waylaying any efforts on the part of the people to slow or even reverse these trends and return democratic political and economic power to those who are not currently among the top 1% economically. Economic difficulties faced by increasing numbers of voters are increasingly blamed on undocumented immigrants, cheap foreign labor and government regulations/taxes which are harming the conduct of free-enterprise capitalism. Never mind that deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy have allowed for the relatively unfettered accumulation of great wealth controlled by a small percentage of the population through processes more accurately called predatory capitalism. They have succeeded in also convincing large numbers of the people they’ve been fleecing that their true enemies are actually people worse off than themselves similarly preyed upon by business and political leaders in foreign lands.
Blaming refugees from wars, natural disasters, despotic governments and harsh economic situations can be a very convincing explanation for increased hardships for the average working people in this country, especially when accompanied by promises of swift and decisive action if you simply elect to put the right person in charge. Walls will be built, mass deportations conducted and strict border enforcement and militarization put in place. Little, if any, thought is given to addressing how to fund it all, or whether or not any of it violates human rights, let alone the Constitution. Dividing and conquering the oppressed has for millenia been a tried and true means of maintaining a status quo of privilege and plenty for the few provided at the expense of the many.
Race baiting, immigrant bashing, religious bigotry and the rest of the nonsense filling the pretense of any so-called “issues-based” rightward careening of the GOP campaign juggernaut has gotten thoroughly out of control. Children are often actually frightened of clowns, despite their supposed designed purpose of providing comic relief. The potential results of allowing the current version of the Republican Clown Car to ultimately succeed in taking power come November, should be enough to frighten more than just children.
So far, the limited discussion of issues near and dear to the hearts and minds of most mainstream Americans, including jobs, education, the overall economy and the increasingly unjust degree of economic and political inequality that exists in the US, as well as the world as a whole, has been conducted either in the Democratic primary or outside of the two-party system altogether. Perhaps the main reason it even exists in the Democratic debate at all is due to the presence there of a candidate who has never even been a member of that party. That the Sanders campaign has been able to gain the momentum it has in the past months is a testament to the degree to which the party has been failing to address the needs and aspirations of large numbers of the constituents it has long sought to represent – or at least claimed to.
Clinton has definitely sought to include more progressive elements of the Democratic Party in her campaign than she had in the past. Her ability to assuage lingering doubts on the parts of many as to her willingness and ability to reign in the moneyed interests, despite being seen as a willing participant in currying favor with the corporations and financial institutions throughout her political career, may well determine the success or failure of her run this year. The GOP may make enough of a mockery of the process to ensure the Democratic nominee’s election in November regardless, but I think it would be a mistake for her to go out of her way to alienate the party’s progressive elements to win either the nomination or the general election.
Arguments about electability or realism in approaching how to create a society and government that is more fair, equal and just in its treatment of all members, and of all people in the world at large, are often used as excuses not to try to do better. The ACA was a vast improvement for healthcare in this country. Pointing out that it could be improved further does not mean one is advocating that it be dismantled and reassembled in its entirety. Yet this is what the Clinton campaign has alleged the Sanders campaign proposes.
Likewise, there have been many other progressive initiatives throughout the Obama Administration, some even proposed by president Obama himself, which have been totally stymied by a recalcitrant GOP Congressional delegation. Some fell by the wayside after the 2010 midterm elections, when the GOP took control of the House. However, others, such as proposals to increase the minimum wage and the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ yearly budget proposals, were often not even supported by a majority of Democrats when they came up votes on the floor.
Doing more than simply giving up in the face of a hostile Congress and saying that nothing can be done to accomplish reforms needed to serve the interests of more than just the wealthiest of Americans is NOT analogous to what the House was doing when it proposed repealing the ACA over 50 times. For one thing, nobody in their right mind thought that was anything other than an attempt to take health care coverage from millions of people – especially since they never put forth a proposal for replacement of the system. The American people can sway Congress in ways other than just electing its members. Holding down the aspirations of millions and allowing other millions to remain impoverished, undereducated, underemployed and underserved by their own allegedly democratically elected governmental representatives because it is too difficult to crack the gridlock created to preserve the oligarchic power structure currently in charge isn’t good enough. Congress can and has in the past done better by its constituents than merely passing deadline-beating legislation at the last possible moment before taking another underserved lengthy vacation.
If the job was meant to be easy, anyone could do it. By running for the Presidency, one is making the unstated assertion that they can do the job better than anyone else. Making excuses instead of doing what needs to be done (and it can be done within the rules set by the Constitution, regardless of what many seem to believe) should disqualify one for the job.
President Obama has accomplished much in his two terms, some of it by just preventing the crazies from totally taking over foreign policy. Steadying the economy, passing the ACA and Dodd-Frank Financial Reforms (as imperfect as they have proven to be) are not trivial. They also are not complete. More needs to be done to get the country on the right path. Much of it can be gleaned by simply reading his State of the Union Addresses and discerning what was and what was not accomplished that was contained within them. Unlike the last GOP debate, when Donald Trump got a free pass for not showing up, the President doesn’t have that option most of the time (Nixon was an exception which I doubt many seek to emulate).
If the two-party system continues to successfully refuse to meet the needs of ever-increasing numbers of Americans, either a change in the parties or a change in the system to better reflect and achieve the goals of the people must be found. I like democracy enough to know that we’ve been getting further and further from it for decades. Let’s reverse the trend and start making our politicians meet our needs and not the desires of their benefactors. Bernie is proving you don’t need the financial support of the billionaires to run a good campaign. Let’s get big money out of politics altogether and turn one dollar one vote into one person one vote for a change, and then see who gets elected.
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