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This morning there was an commentary in the New York Times about end-of-life decisions (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/31/opinion/taking-responsibility-for-deat...), a topic that strikes to the heart of many of us these days. Like those of us taking on increased responsibility for aging parents. And those of us wanting to avoid wrenching family disputes over our own wishes. Death, that great equalizer, knows no favorites, though she can often be held at bay by throwing unbelievable (and usually futile) mountains of cash at her. If you have it. So my hummingbird mind, naturally, flitted to this election season…
My friends who are Republicans (and, believe it or not, I have many…from old pals to casual gym rat buddies to neighbors to about half of my family) are in a quandary. Nearly all of them see an opening for victory this November and none of them believe that any of the current candidates can pull it off. More importantly, they see the entire process determined by a small, radical wing of their party and, even more importantly, running on the life-support of mountains of cash. Capital (as in monetary) Kingmakers have taken over the democratic process as never before, thanks largely to the Citizens United decision, courtesy of the current Supreme Court. Ordinary folks simply don’t have the resources to compete with a small group of delusional billionaires who can, quite literally, buy candidates and elections. (Any subconscious references to the core of Occupy Wall Street issues are purely coincidental.) On one hand you have Newt Gingrich, my fellow Georgian, whose campaign has been living on fumes…and millions of Super PAC dollars. And on the other, Mitt Romney, who’s been forced to deny everything he’s ever stood for in exchange for the nomination. (Any sub-con references to Robert Johnson at the Crossroads or Faust are, again, purely coincidental.) Then, apparently, enter the Etch-a-Sketch. And his longevity in the race has been fueled by his own fortune, certainly not his ideas. Money talks and bullshit rides.
This is not the terrain of the Right alone. Nancy Pelosi did over 300 fundraising events last year alone. Only the most well-heeled have access to Obama. House members begin fundraising for their next elections before they’re sworn in for their terms. Obama passes up public funding in order to combat the mountains of cash being mounted against him. “And the seasons, they go ‘round and ‘round, and the painted ponies go up and down…”
The problem is not only who determines who runs, who wins. It is who gets listened to. Oil companies have been one the most profitable industries over the past 10 years and still received untouchable welfare from the government. The pharmaceutical and insurance industries so perverted the health care discussion that it turned into the biggest gift either is likely to receive…whether the Supremes shoot down Obamacare or not. Real news has all but disappeared from the airwaves (forget about the Wild West of the Internet where rumor and lies are oxygen) and been replaced by “news-entertainment” that lives on controversy and spin. No one knows who or what to believe. Governance as reality television.
There is no freedom of speech if it has a dollar-sign price tag on it. Corporations are not people. The Supreme Court should not be a political playground. One person, one vote. Our ancestors fought and died to preserve the notion that, all things being equal, we are all equal.
I’m not naïve enough not to know that the wealthy have, historically, always held the high cards. But I also know that, in the past 100 years or so, there have been populist movements that have rebelled against the inequity of the times. The Progressive Movement of Bob LaFollette, Teddy Roosevelt, and others introduced sweeping changes in the early part of the last century. A generation later, the Great Depression was battled by New Deal programs that built an infrastructure, put people back to work, helped returning GI’s go to college and educate Americans in unprecedented numbers.
This is all to say that it ain’t hopeless. And it ain’t new. Ideology is not the answer. The idolatry of ideology is what got us all here in the first place. It’ll take a pissed-off, focused, clear-eyed citizenry to agree on one completely non-partisan goal: get money out of elections. It hurts everyone, regardless of stripe. It is not free speech. It is not free at all. And it’s time to pull the plug. And it’s costing us a fortune…and a future.