Grassroots Campaigns: Restoring Democracy

Everyone tends to scoff at the idea of a grassroots campaign, at least at the federal level. After all, ‘corporations are people’. Money is speech. Unlimited money can be poured into elections. Huge financial entities have the same rights as individuals. Many big donations can be anonymous. Sounds like Orwellian ‘double speak’ doesn’t it? But these things are the law of the land in our democracy/republic. And not everyone is happy about it. Corporation are. Rich folks with a political axe to grind are.

We the people, of limited means, are not exactly delighted as we find our democracy turning into a corporatocracy, worse, a kakistocracy. We find our puny personal budgets unable to contribute enough to political campaigns to ever exert any kind of individual pressure on policy. We find ourselves losing ground in the policy wars. Tax cuts favor the wealthy. We see that people with money are avid to cut programs that benefit less fortunate Americans. People who need food stamps must prove they are working. Medicaid is always on the chopping block. Trump’s new budget suggest cuts to SSDI. Small wonder people are becoming tribal. There is power in numbers.

The mentality that has been trending for quite a while is that the safety net is being used by a bunch of deadbeats. Since the courts keep assisting these people in getting benefits so that the government cannot find the takers, indiscriminate cuts will please those Americans who insist they are being ripped off. The problem is that cuts to SSDI will probably end up hurting honest disabled folks who need help most.

Bending over backwards to protect the rights of giant corporations has given us a government that panders to giant corporations. As long as the Citizens United decision allows rich folks to dominate our democracy, we the people find that federal money is not making its way into our communities. Our corporations no longer act as benefactors. Although infrastructure is a recurring topic, nothing is happening to improve the aging infrastructure in our towns, villages, cities. Working parents find their wages stagnant, and they get no help with child care. Our medical system is still too random and does not help everyone. Medical bills are sending far too many families into bankruptcy. Many seniors cannot afford all the care they actually need. Corporate money has influenced state governments to bust unions that used to fight for citizen’s rights.

It often seems that corporations, who have abandoned America in droves, have more rights than citizens do. They have aggregate rights equivalent to their dollar value and their political contributions and their lobbying. How can we the people compete?

This is why I see great value in the current push by Democrats to fund candidates for 2020 with grassroots money. Overturning a court decision can be very difficult. It could take many years to reform the whole ‘corporations are people’ routine which brought us to Citizens United, a very bad ruling for we the people. Ignoring the ruling, blithely going about the business of a major election without big money donations would not be at all illegal and could take all the air out of a common complaint that ‘there is too much money in politics’.

Using grassroots funding is a brave thing to do, an act that is revolutionary in spirit but does not break any laws. If every Democrat agrees to run on a level playing field it could work. Joe Biden is clearly not willing to stake his presidential run on small money donations. He is asking for big money donations. If even one Democrat goes against the grassroots campaign model will that make the whole issue moot? Does it give Joe Biden an edge in the race or will it work against him? Are the Democrats who are running grassroots races being too unrealistic to compete against Republicans who have no compunctions about tapping big donors and who don’t mind promising favors in return. Didn’t we always find quid pro quo pretty shady? There seems to be a lot of shade around lately.

We do live in interesting times and I find myself admiring the steel of the new Democrats who are taking the party out of the corporate sphere and back into the domain of the American people. It will be interesting to see if showing some ethical backbone will be a winning stance for the Democrats to take and if it will begin to restore some perspective in a society that has come to believe that money is all and that a good economy is enough to give us the democratic society our forefathers dreamed up. Hint: it’s not.

Anticipating Hillary’s Campaign

 
 
Would anyone describe a man as cold and calculating? They
might call a man ruthless but women are not generally described in that way.
Cold and calculating sounds smaller, less powerful than ruthless. It sounds
petty. Would we rather have a President who can be cold and calculating which
suggests that all actions taken are weighed without emotion and with at least
one selfish eye focusing on what is in it for me, or one who is ruthless? We
would hope for a President who is somewhat selfless, who puts the needs of the
nation before his/her own needs. Ruthlessness can be read as simply giving no
quarter to one’s enemies, which the nation’s hawks would find laudable, or it
can be read as rapacious human greed as a filter for any and all decisions,
which no one really sees as laudable. Cold and calculating describes someone
who never behaves from altruistic motives. Calling Hillary cold and calculating
is sexist, but subtle enough that not everyone sees it. If the label sticks it
is deadly; who wants a President who is cold and/or calculating?

I have already written that the Republicans have been
extremely disruptive and have challenged the Obama Presidency at every turn.
They have been the root cause behind a historically contentious six years. They
have basically walked over the legal line on some very key and hard-won rights.
We have a law which says that abortion is legal but Republicans are working to
make abortions impossible to get in some states. What they are doing is against
the law, but they just keep appealing court decisions so that their illegal
activities are always in adjudication. Meanwhile they busily write more rules
that make it impossible for women to access that technically legal abortion.

They know all Americans have the right to vote and yet the GOP
has passed thousands of local laws that make it harder for people to vote and
the courts seem to be upholding these laws. Because of these seditious
activities (and more) I will not be voting for any of the Republicans who have
announced or will be announcing a run for the Presidency regardless of how
moderate they sound as they campaign.

If Hillary runs I do plan to vote for her. I am, however, like
everyone else. I want to know where Hillary Clinton stands on the issues. I
want to hear how she talks about the issues. Since I cannot in all conscience
vote for any Republican it really doesn’t matter to me where Hillary stands on
the issues. She has to come down to the left of folks like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul,
et al.

Still, I would like to know what she thinks about the Trans
Pacific Trade agreement, known as the TPP; will she continue to halt the
Keystone Pipeline because it threatens fresh water resources in Nebraska; where
will she stand on money in politics and Citizen’s United? Exactly how will she
help the middle class? How will she hold her own against the obstructers, the
greedy right wingers who think that they are paying for our benefits and that
they no longer want their tax dollars to go towards these programs. They don’t
want to pay for abortions; they don’t want to pay for Medicaid, or food stamps,
or welfare, or Medicare, or Social Security. I did not know Americans got to
pick and choose which laws their dollars would be used to support. I thought
our tax dollars went into a single fund to be spent on all programs the people
asked Congress to fund. Who knew?

What does Hillary believe is the right size for our
government? How much regulation of Capitalism does she believe is necessary to
protect citizens from unbridled greed?

Has she put together some kind of package to offer the
American people and what is in it?

Does she believe with Obama that diplomacy and negotiation are
the correct ways to approach aggressive nations, or is she more hawkish? It is
clear that her “yes” vote on the Iraq War will follow her, that her opponents
will try to frame it as a deal breaker. However, I remember what Saddam Hussein
was like, so belligerent and bellicose. When George Bush and his loyal henchmen
(or was he the henchman) hammered home  numbers of WMD stockpiles that were supposedly
carefully hidden within the boundaries of Iraq and told us that there were, in
fact, mobile arms factories that could evade our observers, I began to think
that we would have to go into Iraq or Saddam might take us out while we were
busy hunting terrorists. They lied and yet she is to blame. This is a typical
Republican strategy. Blame the opposition for your own sins, do it often, and
do it loudly and hope that it sticks. I don’t have a problem with how Hillary
voted on the Iraq War.

I love peace, though and feel that we must have peace now more
than ever so that we can turn our attention and our dollars to solving pressing
global problems. I also believe that all nations must understand that we will
go to war if we have to.

Food and fresh water will become scarcer and scarcer as the
population grows and grows. If we don’t keep the world on a peacetime footing
and work together to solve survival issues before they actually threaten our
survival we won’t have to imagine the apocalypse, it will arrive.

Hillary needs to address big picture problems that need
solutions more and more desperately every year as solutions to these problems
keep being put off by meaningless distractions and by contentious awakenings
around the world. She will, at the same time, have to address domestic
challenges that are threatening to make the American middle class disappear and
that are destroying hopes of upward mobility.

I wish Hillary did not even have to run against these
hooligans from the GOP. How does anyone take them seriously, but she will be
expected to. I think I may turn off my TV until the election. There is no way
this can be pretty.
 
By Nancy Brisson

Corporations Are Not People

Corporations are not people. I am terribly disappointed that the Supreme Court made the decision it did in the case of Citizens United. Corporations are set up by people, they are run by people, people work for corporations, people buy from corporations, and people profit from corporations; corporations, however, are a business entity, not a person. A person has a vote in a Democracy; a corporation does not. This decision was clearly about money and political funding. I truly believe that this is one of the most bizarre and inappropriate rulings I have ever heard about from a 20th century or, for that matter, a 21st century court, in any Democratic nation.

I further believe that this decision is proof that American Conservatives are exerting undue influence on politics in America through a well-planned set of strategies that have played a long game of stacking the deck in their favor. They also had the great good fortune to appoint a number of Supreme Court justices. If you look at the number of conservatives v. liberals, the balance is close, but if you look at the number of Roman Catholics the court is skewed. Fortunately, Obama was able to add two fairly liberal members to the court with the result that, rather than the questionable decision in Bush v. Gore, we got a pass on the Affordable Health Act (sort of). Too bad we cannot overturn Citizen’s United.
I have never believed that Obama is against corporations. But I do believe that Conservatives think that if they get rid of labor unions, if they lower the standard of living for the middle class in America, if they take America to the edge of financial disaster, if they get rid of pensions and health care, and if they undo laws that protect the environment by denying that environmental damage is having any serious effect on the earth’s climate, that they will be able to bring the corporations back to America and return us to the heady days of the 1890’s. They are having some surprising successes in achieving their agenda.
This is a difficult fight. We miss our affluence. We miss our jobs. However, look what we will have to give up to get them back. We are a nation that has chosen Capitalism as our economic engine. But we also know that Capitalism can be brutally single-minded in its pursuit of profits. We know Capitalist businessmen can abuse their employees and also the power they get from their profits. We learned the hard way about the need to regulate Capitalism. Perhaps we need to analyze those regulations, which may work in a prosperous economy, but hold business back when we need to stimulate growth. Perhaps some of the more onerous regulations can be relaxed. However waging a war on the middle class to lower its prosperity and make it more attractive for resourcing (I think that’s the term for bringing businesses back to America) is not worthy behavior in our Democracy.

Obama’s argument that “no man is an island”, that no business succeeds without the benefits it derives from government and consumers, was perhaps a bit too blunt and should have been accompanied by a more complete description of what Obama meant, but his argument is still true. Business cannot exist in a vacuum.

And last but not least, a government is not a business. A business has one goal which is to make profits. Government is about finances, yes, but it is also about social interaction, security; it is about the citizens who fund it and who rely on it to do the kinds of things that keep a society’s members healthy and productive and safe from exploitation. Our government, our Democracy, is a great government because it belongs to the people and the people get to take care of their own needs. Our American government may resemble a business in some ways, but it is not just a business. We all depend on it for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We do not expect to be strong-armed by a political party made up of a group of Americans who are determined to exert their will over the rest of us and will use any trick to hang on to the current rules that benefit the wealthiest among us. I think Conservative Republicans think that this is their moment. Let’s disabuse them of that notion.

We expect these two groups, Democrats and Republican, who hold such contrasting views at this moment, to work together so that we can avoid extreme policies and practices and arrive at a set of strategies acceptable to both groups that will help us pick a careful path to a prosperous future without giving up all the personal gains we have made. There is always that saying from Eastern philosophy which says “all roads lead home”, but what it doesn’t say is that some roads take the long way, and some roads have more obstacles and dangers. Let’s find the middle road, the one that unites us again as a nation with common goals for finding our new future together.