When You Voted In The Midterms You Were Too Late

My last post drew quite a few emails and tweets.  A moment of clarification is required.

My assessment of the recent mid-term election is this: It was much like a WWE match in which two very similar looking characters fight for the amusement of the crowd.  One of them dresses up like a bad guy, the other like a good guy but in the end they are in the same dressing room together and they get paid by the same people (not the American people, but those who bribe them with campaign money).

I warn that being drawn into this drama and rooting for one of these two corrupted characters or teams is dangerous.  I agree that rooting for teams can be fun and that we do it all the time in sports.  However, accessing this same pleasure in our political system has much larger implications and is helping to quicken the decay of our nation.

Most of the emails I received did not object to my logic.  People tend to agree with me that both the Republicans and the Democrats are bad.

Generally there was this question: If one of the teams is going to fight against teaching children science and has a racist bent and thinks all Americans are not equal and wants to use the government against women but not banks, why shouldn’t I vote for the Democrat in this November election?  What else am I supposed to do?

There are two parts to my answer:

  1. Don’t be fooled! Even though the Democrats make political hay by pretending to be for these causes, take a look at the economics.  As long as there are these emotional subjects hanging in the balance they can count on you to vote for them.  In addition, every time a Republican starts an anti-gay movement or claims that creationism should be taught in science class, wealthy liberals and powerful interest groups reach for their pocketbooks and increase their donations.  Should any of these important issues (abortion, gay rights, civil rights, immigration…) be decided clearly and permanently, the Democratic Corporation has lost a huge source of control and funding.  They want closure on gay rights and abortion about as much as the Republicans do – not at all.
  1. The real vote for this election wasn’t in November.  It took place during the primary. When you look at the California ballot and you see only Republicans and Democrats, that’s because back in June we had a vote in our open primary system and very few people voted.  Sure, CNN and MSNBC and FOX don’t cover the primary, and very few people were posting “I Voted!” on facebook.  But that was the important vote, that was the real vote.  In 2016: Vote in your primaries.  That’s your chance to vote for an independent progressive who doesn’t accept large campaign donations and will work on behalf of the American people.

Vote in your primaries people, especially in open primaries if you have them.  Vote in your primaries and then have real candidates in your races in 2016.

Vote independent.  Vote small money.  Vote campaign finance reform.

Advertisements

The Danger Of Politics As Sport

I continue to wonder, with all of the bad things that our government has done lately, how people gather the strength and energy to root for their political team anymore.

Certainly there is an element of hatred for the irrational.  The Republicans play a very standard bad guy in our progressive town – they don’t want to let gay people get married, they want the government to regulate women’s bodies but not Wall Street algorithms, they love science when it will make a bomb but they hate science when it’s in a classroom, they scream and shout about freedom and turn and demand death and bombing in the same breath and with the same slobbering, mad desperation.

They make themselves easy to hate.

But the Democrats are not good guys.  It’s easy to forget, but this isn’t some kind of game.  We can’t pretend that in these elections, if Democrats win, that this is in any way good for the American people.  They are very much owned by the same kinds of people who own the Republicans.

We can’t afford for the same motivations that drive us toward sports fan-ship to guide our political process. The World Series is an important event, but it pales in comparison to the sake of our future and the destiny of our children.

Indeed, there is a pleasure to being part of a winning team. I watch the Giants win the World Series and as a fan I am glad. It is a great feeling to have our team crowned champions. Winning is terrific.

It is exciting to root for our sports teams. It is another matter altogether to pretend the political system wins have anything good behind them. When you vote Democrat and a Democrat wins, it is in no way clear that you have won. Or that you are likely to win in the future.

Cheering these victories or suffering these defeats are empty unless you have paid thousands of dollars to bribe the winning candidates.  Unless you’ve given politicians a serious amount of money: They aren’t on your team.

And the sad fact is that they never will be.

Vote independent.  Vote small money.  Vote Campaign Finance Reform.

Corporations Make Terrible Neighbors

What exactly is a corporation?  This is a great question.  If you read through the recent pro-corporation rulings by the Supreme Court you will find, as Jeffrey D. Clements shows, that the Supreme Court Justices don’t ever actually say exactly what a corporation is.  The defense of corporate personhood is instead masked in metaphor.  “It is not corporations attacking our laws; it is ‘speakers’ and ‘advocates of ideas,’ ‘voices’ and ‘persons,’ and variations on what Justice John Paul Stevens called in his Citizen’s United dissent, ‘glittering generalities.’”

Corporate personhood is a dangerous concept, one which threatens the very foundations of our democracy.  As Eric Holder resigns from his post, one can only consider the additional impact of his now infamous memo which initiated the reign of ‘too big to fail.’  As Taibbi describes Holder: For years he would flip-flop from public defender to corporate lawyer, but in the end he stopped the flip-flop and has remained, until this day, a man that the corporations can depend on.

The current conditions are savage and dangerous.  Corporations have been given the same rights to free speech and privacy that citizens of this nation enjoy and at the same time they have been given immunity from prosecution for crimes they commit which citizens in our nation do not enjoy (except, perhaps, for a few of the Clinton/Bush/Obama friends and NFL football players).

The BP oil spill?  Nobody went to jail for that.

The financial collapse caused by investment banking’s risky and fraudulent behavior?  Nobody went to jail for that.

The recall of millions of cars due to a series of deaths caused by a known fault in the design?  Nobody went to jail for that.

While corporations are important economic tools they do have a tendency to “aggregate immense power, corrupt government, drive down wages, trash public resources, concentrate markets to squeeze out competitors, and more.” (Clements)

The astonishing accumulation of power and wealth by large multi-national corporations, their ceaseless attempts to disfigure our democracy in order to generate more profit, the amazing steps these vehicles take to avoid paying taxes or hiring American workers or even coming clean about the destruction they’ve created in their pursuit of profit are all fostering economic despair in our nation.

As long as a corporation has free speech AND cannot be put in jail we will see the disintegration of our basic economic structure continue.

The Sneakiest Among Us

Reading The Divide by Matt Taibbi I’m reminded of a truth in this struggle that is often lost.  While our country succumbs to an oligarchy of the most sinister mediocrity we can remember, it is important to see that this isn’t a fight between poor people and rich people.  This is a fight between the vast majority of Americans, something like 99.95% of us, and a very small minority who work to corrupt and manipulate the government, the market, our future and our way of life for their own personal gain.

The folks who own the Republican and Democrat corporations, the individuals and groups that spend time buying up congresspeople and who have our presidents and judges in their pockets, these aren’t just wealthy people.  These are wealthy, corrupt, mean spirited people.

Whether you make $3,000 a year or $30,000 a year or $300,000 doesn’t tell the story.  The question is: How far do you go to subvert our democracy with whatever money you have?

Certainly it is the case that a person making very little money will have a hard time influencing politics with it (a low threshold for corruption is spending around $5,000/year) but that should not confuse us as to who is who in this battle for the future of our country.

Wealthy, poor, successful, defeated, whatever race or sex or orientation or religious background or belief system you come from there are only two questions: 1. Do you use large amounts of money to buy our politicians?  2. Are you a judge, congressperson or president who consistently favors that wealthy minority over the rest of our American people?

I can answer that I won’t sell our people down the river for power or profit.  I’m sure you aren’t looking to buy your way to sustained success or inordinate access to power (99.95% of the time anyway).  We are on the same team.  Time to throw off this fake democracy and build the functional governance we deserve.