Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Give Up

I support the Weak and Feckless Approach. Trust is based on mutual respect and reciprocity. If, at this moment of rage and cynicism, the ruling class goes even further and snubs popular opinion, then that will set off an ugly, destructive, and yet fully justified popular rebellion. Trust in government will be irrevocably broken. It will decimate policy-making for a generation.David Brooks, NY Times

I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to blog about the lessons of Massachusetts or the direction the President should take in its wake. But leave it to David Brooks to bring out the worst in me. First let me begin by saying that what happened in Massachusetts was a message but not the one that the talking heads and pundits in the media are determined to sell us.

The election in Massachusetts was about President Obama and it wasn’t about President Obama. What am I saying? Am I trying to have it both ways like many of the talking shirts on television who purport to be journalist? No. Let me explain. The election in Massachusetts and the two governors’ races prior to it was not about the President or his policies. What those voters and future voters are repudiating is how our democracy currently functions or fails to function. What the fight over the health-care bill demonstrated to many Americans is that when it came to how our democracy works they didn’t know Jack. Prior to the health-care fight most Americans believed that our democracy functioned like it was taught in civics class so many years ago by a pleasant slightly overweight elementary school teacher. What they witnessed in the past few months turned their stomachs and rightly so. Many Americans had believed the system was broken and now they have some idea how truly broken it is.

The election in Massachusetts was about the President in the fact that he has not been the President he campaigned to be. He was the candidate of change and yet since his election he has not begun the most important change of all, fixing our broken government. The President like so many other politicians thought that the way to fix Washington was this elusive false narrative of bi-partisanship. The way to fix Washington has nothing to do with bi-partisanship in this toxic atmosphere. The term bi-partisanship supposes that you have two parties that are interested in a greater good, the benefit of the people. We currently do not have two groups who share that belief. What the two groups do share is that the greater good is their re-election and job security. The way we fix Washington is to allow our government to function on the most cherished democratic principle; the majority rules. The history of how we have gotten to this mythical 60 vote plateau is long and tawdry but the truth is as long as we allow it to dictate our politics then people like Ben Nelson and Scott Brown become more important than the will of the people.

When President Obama came into office his advisers mistakenly thought that it was George Bush and the Republicans that the public was repudiating, but it was deeper than that. Poll after poll showed that Congress and the government had historical lows in popularity and trust with the American people. To understand this you have to understand the Republican agenda. The Republicans have for decades sought to limit government and its influence in the lives of Americans. Many people have been blindly led to believe it was for patriotic reasons but the truth is that those who have power and rule over others do not need the same government as average Americans do. They don’t need or want for the government to regulate industries, or provide emergency services, or safety nets. In order to convince the American public that government is unnecessary and ineffective each Republican administration has allowed the government to function ineptly and then said, “See we told you the government can’t solve problems.” What this systematic assault on the government through incompetence has done has convinced a large portion of the American electorate that government is unable to help average people. The most recent example would be the Bush administration response to Hurricane Katrina. Has the federal government ever looked more pathetic?

If I were President Obama my number one priority would be to do a series of weekly fireside chats with the American people. I would begin by saying that I am just as appalled at the democratic process as the rest of the American people and we need to begin the process of changing it. Most Americans voted for dramatic change not in their lives but a dramatic change in how government functioned. President Obama was elected to change how the government worked in the lives of average Americans and that should have been one of his top priorities because without that mandate any changes in policy were doomed by the politics of negativity and incumbency. It is time for the President to side with those who elected him and rally those folks to help repair this broken democracy. Until we address this problem it won’t matter what the policies are or who the President is there will be no change. With the latest opinion of the best Supreme Court corporate money could buy the time for change has never been more critical.

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

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