I've long been aware of the growing schism between the actions of our elected officials and the best interests of their constituents (we the people). I've pondered it and agonized over it and watched as it has grown to ridiculous proportions.
I've gnawed at the whys and the wherefores, mocked and shamed the guilty and thrown every rock I could find at the pathetic system that props up the disgusting status quo, tells horrible lies to us all, ignores the common welfare it is charged with promoting by the U.S. Constitution, and drags us kicking and screaming into unpopular, immoral and pointless wars while drowning us in a maelstrom of mindless waste and consumption – consequences be damned.
My own political awakening goes back to the early 60s at the height of the Civil Rights movement. I favored Democrats then because they came closest to being willing to give a listen to the pleas for justice and equality. They weren't perfectly aligned with the movement (see George Wallace), but they were aligned, by and large, or at least sympathetic. Democrats were, at least nominally, the voice of the little people. As Native American leader, Carter Camp once said, “They [the Democrats] were the only ones willing to give us a seat at the table.”
The Democrats were never perfect, just as the good old days and the American Dream never really existed, but they were all we had – the only ones the impoverished, powerless and disenfranchised (and their champions) had to turn to. So it's been agony watching Democratic politicians pull inexorably away from us in favor of those who could bankroll their campaigns. An inevitability perhaps, given the sad and sorry state of our corrupted and compromised system, but a devastating one to those who yearn for justice. Shameless sell-outs hurt all the more when they come from your friends and allies.
Watching Lawrence Lessig's TED Talk solidified some things for me: it's not about treachery, betrayal or shifting loyalties, I mean it is, but it is really about only one thing – money.
* If the video isn't working for you, you can view it here: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim
* There is also a cool YouTube channel here (h/t Burned): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw2z9lV3W1g&feature=youtu.be
About those rich folk, that .05% who fund national campaigns:
Several studies have shown that wealth may be at odds with empathy and compassion. Research published in the journal Psychological Science also found that people of lower economic status were better at reading others' facial expressions -- an important marker of empathy -- than wealthier people.
I would argue that empathy and compassion are what we most need now. That these are lacking in those currently running the show comes as no surprise. Just as it is no surprise that they are missing in our public policy, both foreign and domestic. Only one of the many reasons that the rich should not be in charge.
As Justice Breyer says in his dissent “where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard.” Far from freedom of speech protection, McCutcheon amplifies the voice of a handful of ultra-wealthy that can afford to give $3.6 million directly to candidates, and muffles that of the 99.99% of Americans who can’t afford to give at that level or even $5, $10 or $100.
The Framers wanted Congress to be dependent “on the people alone.” Sadly, Congress is more dependent on big money in elections—a dependence that is sure to increase now. Dollars don’t vote, but they do limit voters’ options and mold the policy agenda to the desires of big money.
The desires of big money have ruined us. To rise from the ashes we must shed them, shake them off like fleas, and restore compassion, empathy and wisdom to our nation.
“Compassion is the new radicalism”
The Dalai Lama
It's all about the Benjamins, baby. That's the crux of the biscuit – the heart of the matter.
The one worthy goal in American politics today, the one thing that can make a major difference for us all, is getting Big Money out. That includes every aspect of the system: from corporate personhood and the public service-to-lobbyist revolving door to campaign reform and term limits – we must get Big Money out! Accomplishing that will deliver self-governance back into the hands of we the people of the United States of America. Then, and only then, will we see some justice. Then, and only then, will we be a democracy.
“America has no functioning democracy.”
Congratulations to Mayday PAC on meeting the fund-raising goal of $5 million by midnight last night. Thanks to everyone who supported this effort. May it produce results that truly, meaningfully and positively impact all of us.