hay rickhay rick's Journal
I joined DU in early 2008. After a dozen years I am just reaching my 5,000th post. I'm using the occasion as an excuse to formulate my beliefs on our current political situation. TRIGGER WARNING: I believe we are in a bad place and likely headed to a worse place.
About me. I am a member of the silent generation. I retired after 34 years with the postal service. I was an active union member and officer. I moved to Florida at the end of 2011 and within months got involved with Patrick Murphys campaign to take down Allen West. After that campaign I got involved with the county Democratic Party. I am a super volunteer. I go to the office most days and answer calls, check the mail and email, and handle walk-ins. I train volunteers. I write our newsletter and maintain our contact lists. I set up our mailings, phone banks and canvassing. My commitment to local activism is also one of the reasons I dont post more online.
Sadly, the current era can be summed up in a single word- Trump. American democracy has been transformed into a zombie and Trump is merely the nasty odor of the rotting, decomposing flesh as it pierces our consciousness. Over the past few decades, my cohort has witnessed the sabotage and the ultimate repurposing of our institutions as servants of oligarchy. Milestones along the way included Nixons race-baiting southern strategy; PATCO and the expansion of right to work laws; tax cuts for the rich (death tax!); the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, the consolidation of media ownership, and the rise of Fox News; the promotion of gun rights and right to life as wedge issues; Bush v. Gore and Citizens United; the War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq, and support our troops; more tax cuts for the rich; multiple rounds of environmental and financial deregulation and trade agreements without meaningful environmental and labor protections. The list goes on.
It seems clear to me that if we are to reclaim a democracy that is of, by, and for the people, it will not be a return to normal. Normal no longer works. Normal brought us here. If normal includes the electoral college, Citizens United, packed courts, unregulated monopolies, unchecked discrimination, over-priced for-profit healthcare, and under-regulated pollution, we should be running in the opposite direction.
While I am skeptical of the desirability of a return to normalcy, I am equally skeptical that better alternatives are easily achievable. One major impediment is the widespread disengagement of people from the political process. Many Americans think of citizenship as a right, but not necessarily a duty. Democracy is just another consumer good, to be evaluated in terms of utility and cost. Political engagement and participation cost time and effort and consumers (as opposed to citizens) reflexively seek to minimize costs. Too many people buy the convenient fantasies that "both sides do it," that there is no difference between the parties, and that non-participation in the political system will absolve them from responsibility for our shared fate.
Trump is a bully. Many of the people who come to our office are traumatized by the ceaseless displays of malice emanating from the oval office. They turn on their TV and feel like they are stuck in an abusive relationship. They are depressed and reach out seeking comfort and reassurance. I sit in our office and take calls from and schedule meetings with people who want to slay their nightmare monsters. They ask me what they can do to help and I have to tell them that, beyond donating money, what is really needed is more people to make phone calls or knock on doors. Most people don't want to do either.
My greatest concern, though, is the effect of the looming impacts of climate change on the political process. My belief is that our current system is incapable of responding on a scale and in a time frame commensurate with the magnitude and urgency of the challenge. If the choice comes down to maintaining a habitable planet or preserving a sentimental attachment to our once-great democracy, I expect our constitution to be discarded as casually as one would toss a fast-food burger wrapper into the nearest trash can. My conjecture is that the next stage of the American experiment could well be an imperial presidency which historians will label as Donald Trump's singular lasting legacy.
If you've read this far, I apologize if my speculations bring you down. My glass is ordinarily at least half full- occasionally with an adult beverage. My beliefs about the current trajectory of our democracy have not infected my belief that people of goodwill can effect change for the better. "Living in interesting times" is an ancient curse. It's also a challenge and an opportunity to act decisively on behalf of our most cherished values.
Profile InformationMember since: Thu Jan 31, 2008, 10:08 PM
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