Thursday, October 28, 2010

Civics Lesson

"Too many Americans feel powerless against the influence of private lobbying groups and the unbelievable flood of private campaign money which threatens our electoral process."

Jimmy Carter said this thirty years ago in a State of the Union address to the nation. In many ways, and I'll let you do your historical research on your own time, the current administration's plight parallels what was going on in this country in the late seventies. Carter was a Democrat, too.

Did you know that seven million jobs were created during Carter's four years as President, mostly due to his fiscal restraint and stimulus plans? Yes, I said fiscal restraint - that means a Democrat vowed to, and achieved, government-spending shrinkage without affecting so-called entitlement programs. In fact, he created programs that created jobs and training opportunities for millions of Americans. In fact, there's a long list of accomplishments from that administration - the peace process which made Camp David famous, Federal funding for education was increased by 75%, a national health plan was proposed, the minimum wage was brought up to be in line with reality and the government's civil service system was reformed for the first time in the 20th century. Carter faced one crisis after another - oil and gas shortages, crippling inflation and a population so disinterested in voting that only 1/3 of the population that could vote even bothered to go to the polls in 1976 and at the midterm.

Between the Nixon/Ford and Reagan presidencies, we had four years of Democrat influence. Did the Dems open up to the public at large and publicize their leadership and the progressive programs that were strictly Democrat ideas? You bet they didn't. Just like now.

The difference today is that the average non-ultra-rich American operates under the illusion that making a choice of the lesser of two evils is the way things are supposed to work. Just like when they're out of Kraft Slices at the WalMart, there's always Velveeta. As it stands, if political in-activism continues on the trend of "they're out of that'" there won't be any cheese, not even the Government kind.

Isn't it far more effective to initiate change from within, as evidenced by the Teabaggers current success in forcing the GOP away from the center? So-called Tea Party-endorsed or -sponsored candidates are running exclusively as Republicans. The pressure from the right is on, supported 24/7 by "fair and balanced" coverage and, as usual, the Dems are silent. Where are the Merlot-sipping hipsters that are needed to move the flabby Dems to action? Getting ready to vote for some other powerless entity to make a point, it seems. Unfortunately, to the victor goes the spoils and a big win by the GOP in this midterm will yield a double mandate: they will get their way so that the ultra-rich can get ultra-richer, ready to fund the next bashdown of the Everyman and the "shrug" agenda of the ultra-right will get a foothold here. Would it not be better to try to retain some legislative control by supporting the Dems now and THEN work the party over like a red-headed stepchild, but from within? Wouldn't it make sense to corral the party power that can move sensible, humanist agendas forward and can win elections with candidate of YOUR choice?

One can't be an activist without being active. Democracy is not only about making a choice, but also making the changes that make more choice possible.

So, yes, please vote, but make the vote count. 'Cause, ya know, the Rent's Too Damn High!

While we're on the subject, let me say one thing about New York: Richard Ravitch, the state comptroller recruited by Governor David Patterson who has a long history of dealing with fiscal crisis in intelligent ways for government, said that when he got to Albany, he was shocked not only by the fiscal condition of the state, but by the attitudes of the legislators. Both sides lack the political will to be real. And without getting the politicians back to earth, New York will simply run out of money. How do the politicians respond? They stall.

As an aside, I wasn't a Herman Munster, I mean, Kerry fan by any stretch, but only because he was far too reposing, much like the current state of the Dem Party. Bush versus Kerry in a fight at a biker bar? Put my twenty on the goofy guy in the Stetson.

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