One thing about which every one of every political persuasion can agree is that the United States of America is dysfunctional. Even more critical is the slow but obvious move toward authoritarianism. Today, Sessions introduced procedures whereby the press can be sued – no longer a free press. Whether a Donald Drumpf follower, or Bernie the revolutionary, or Mitch the turtle, or Paul the vampire, or Jeff the leprechaun, or out in the oceans saving whales, one can agree that the US culture, its governments, and its economy are similar to a herd of horses that have escaped from a corral – running willy-nilly and snorting gleefully at their independence from accountability.
Mariner has written numerous times about the plight of our ethics, economics, and the tsunami future we face no matter what one believes. He will not iterate these circumstances here. If the reader wants detail, feel free to roam the library in the sections at the top of the screen.
The topic today is to explore to what degree you can, or are willing to, bring the horses back to the corral.
Mariner is reminded (from another time) of the chore of shining his shoes. It was not something he enjoyed. Shining shoes had nothing to do with the day’s reality. Shining shoes was tedious; it was messy and never failed to get shoe polish on his dress pants and shirt sleeves if he made the mistake of dressing first. Fortunately, general dress codes have shifted away from sharp looking leather. Make note, however, he still shines the few pairs he has when a shine is needed. He is blessed that he doesn’t wear them very often.
Do you have a chore you don’t like? Perhaps it’s a bothersome detail like balancing checkbooks or washing the dog; maybe finally raking the leaves out from the garage. There are more such meaningless chores – as many as can be imagined.
Well, imagine one more: cleaning out and fixing your nation. Not something one thinks about on a daily basis but wow does it have a lot to do with reality. The chore of cleaning out and fixing the government can be done with varying degrees of participation.
Before we start defining degrees of participation, let’s consider an overarching strategy: Bring ‘nice’ back. And ‘fair’. In other words, rebuild the center – both in legislation and with elected officials. Fixing the government will require cleaning out bad influences that over time destroy our centrist democracy: gerrymandering – a terrible malpractice. Redistricting committees should be made up of common citizens like a jury in a trial. Money – it has been analyzed many times and it always is the same: Congressmen and other Federal and State elected folks spend five hours a day soliciting lobbyists for donations so the officials can run in the next election. There are two things wrong with this: (1) lobbyists own our legislators; our laws have overwhelming phrases, words, regulations, etc. that make corporate interests happy – to our disadvantage. (2) Maybe if the elected officials could spend that five hours working in committees, something may get done! Further on the money issue, the communications industry makes a killing during elections. Sure it’s a business working to optimize profit but ads are the other side of why so much money is needed to run. What if contributions could come only from the district in question?
Finally, the Federal Election Commission needs some teeth so they can restrict folks like the Koch brothers from deliberately swamping a local election with endless money. This is a practice of the political parties as well.
Then there’s the whole blocking freedom to vote issue. Those who practice eliminating votes are prejudiced by race, class and power.
So that’s the strategy – eliminate practices that are bad for centrist democracy. Further, elect candidates that are nice and seem fair and intelligent. If a campaigner spends too much time talking about one-sided, special interest issues, be wary.
— Degrees of Participation.
Personal opinion – Not every person is an extrovert or has intense opinions. This degree asks only that you telephone your appropriate representative and express your personal opinion whenever you learn of a public issue about which you have a preference. This is not a bad experience; officials and their staff are always nice – after all, you are a vote. A good example is the mariner’s town: loose dogs were a nuisance. Townspeople called their town council members. This provoked a planned approach for dog ordinances.
Citizen Representative – You may feel that a group has more influence than one person. Besides calling your representative, you regularly attend meetings of local issue groups or a political party. Further, you may have a cause like clean water or a common cause group that expresses your views. Donate a stipend – even a dollar or two helps. Become active during election season; campaign for a candidate, vote in primaries and again, if you can, contribute a stipend.
Citizen advocate – besides calling your representative and becoming active during the election season, participate in ad hoc groups advocating a common cause. Visit elected official offices in Washington, DC, perform sit-ins, and attend rallies.
These are varying degrees of engaging in the task of fixing our democracy. The situation is so dire as to take the nation down dark roads if we don’t fix it now. Remember: rebuild the center.