Saturday, November 8, 2014
The Mid-Term Elections - Last Gasp of Obstructionism Before Genuine Renewal?
This past week, common sense got whacked in the national mid-term elections. Around the country, citizens who voted put Republicans firmly in power in both houses of the United States Congress. Republicans also took firm control of state legislatures around the country. How could this happen, given the narrow interests that Republicans support and the abject obstruction they represent on most important issues?
The biggest reason for this political debacle is the corrosive influence of corporate power and money on our election process. The conservative majority on our Supreme Court opened the floodgates on legalized bribery with their 'Citizens United' decision on campaign finance. Corporations and billionaires are able to buy the politicians and public policy they want by pouring essentially limitless amounts of money into our elections. Our system is rigged to serve the interests of the rich and powerful.
By a wide margin, the Republican Party is the principle conduit for the corruption of our politics. But the Democrats are only marginally better. Both parties are up to their ears in a system built on moneyed influence. The vast majority of politicians that are attracted to elective office these days are unprincipled opportunists lining up to feed at the 'dirty money' trough.
A big part of the problem lies with citizens who don't vote. Only about a third of the electorate voted in this mid-term election. Most of those non-voters were registered Democrats or Independents. Some of their failure to vote can be attributed to indifference, but many citizens are just fed up with the open influence peddling that has replaced honest discourse in our system of governance. Right or wrong, they register their displeasure by dropping out of the voting process.
Republicans don't have that problem. They cater to a handful of single issue voting blocks, who come out to support conservative politicians. I'm talking about gun extremists, anti-abortion zealots, anti-gay evangelicals, and people who have an aversion to taxation of any kind. Only about twenty percent of registered voters make up the Republican base. They tend to be older, whiter, and male. No matter. They can be counted on to vote. What amazes me is how many of these misguided souls are poor. For them, a vote for a Republican is ultimately always a vote against their own interests. Because the Republican Party is a corporatist party. They really don 't care about their base. They support the bases' narrow issues, so the base will keep showing up with their votes on election day. The actual constituents Republican represent are Wall Street bankers, self-absorbed billionaires, and corporatists that are focused on profit to the exclusion of all else.
So, here we are. Republicans, who have successfully obstructed and thwarted most of President Barack Obama's progressive agenda for the past six years, are now the majority in both houses of Congress. They will continue to obstruct meaningful climate legislation, and they will continue to try to derail the affordable care act, the President's single most important legislative achievement.
Moreover, they will leverage their majority to push legislation that will 'amnesty' billions of dollars of corporate profits that have been hiding in plain sight for years in foreign banks to avoid being taxed. They will squeeze the life out of the regulatory process by denying operating funds to the Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies, whose job it is to protect the public from bad corporate behavior. They will look for reasons to funnel more and more government money to military contractors, despite the fact that the Untied States already spends more on its military than all of the rest of the world combined.
The Republican majority will not do anything to help the middle class. They will not raise the minimum wage, or support job creation programs. They will aggressively resist any initiative that does not serve the interests of their big money enablers. They will deny the most basic science, when it doesn't fit their political agenda. Forget about meaningful action on climate change. Forget about reproductive choice. Forget about any kind of useful environmental legislation. The Republican game is more tax breaks for billionaires, more subsidies for dirty energy, more cuts to anything that helps the middle class.
The next two years are looking pretty bleak. Even before this last election, the American Congress only registered a 15% approval rating among voters. The level of public discontent has never been higher, and it can only get worse.
I see a silver lining in this unfortunate set of political circumstances . We elect our governments to protect us against foreign enemies, to maintain law and order, to nurture a healthy economy, to look out for the well being of all citizens. That's a tall order for Republicans, whose stated goal is to 'drown government in a bathtub'. Until the next election, Republicans will be in the lead. If they perform as they have over the past few decades, they will fail miserably in their responsibility. Despite their expertise in shifting blame, they will find it difficult to avoid being tagged with the ineptitude that will surely be reflected in their lack of achievement for anyone other than Wall Street, billionaires, and craven corporatists.
By 2016, the public disgust with the corporate plutocracy that has displaced democracy in America will likely be at a fever pitch. In the next two years, I expect Republicans to thoroughly discredit themselves.
Echoes of the coming public backlash can be seen in some of the state-level initiatives that passed in this most recent election. In Wisconsin, Ohio, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Florida, dozens of communities had initiatives on the ballot calling for a Constitutional amendment that eliminates 'Corporate Personhood' and repudiates 'Money being treated as Speech'. These political referendums all passed by as much as 70% of the voters, including many that characterize themselves as conservatives.
I am convinced that Move to Amend [ www.movetoamend.org } is the .key to restoring true democracy in America. Its Constitutional agenda would take away citizen rights and 'personhood' status from corporations. It would affirm that corporations are nothing more than state chartered legal fictions that, by law, must be accountable to the people for their actions. The Move to Amend Constitutional Amendment also says that money is property, not a form of speech. Having boatloads of money should not include the right to use it to buy politicians and pervert the American political process. What we see every time Move to Amend finds its way onto a local ballot, is that voters sign on with their overwhelming support.
The most important response to America's political malfeasance over the next two years is to expand awareness of the Move to Amend agenda. As a citizen, I believe serving that end is the most important thing I can do.
We cannot count on politicians to deliver the fundamental political change we need. It must come from the grassroots. 'We, the people' must step up and demand the brand of governance the founders of our nation intended, free of corporate dominance; and free of moneyed influence. We must become the change we wish for.