By George Smith
Democracy is a cool word: It means, simply, the power in government rests with the people.
Many people believe that to be true. Well, actually, the United States is a democratic socialist republic, which is akin to a democracy, but with more of a “friends with benefits” arrangement.
America in the most recent past was shaping itself into a plutocracy (government by the wealthy) and, the last four years, was leaning toward an autocracy (one person in charge). President Donald Trump, backed by his legislative allies and the Supreme Court ruling that corporations were ‘people’ and could spend as much money as they could afford on political candidates and issues, put into place a take-no-prisoners form of government.
“My wish, my want, my way” was his unspoken Oval Office mantra.
Plutocracy, in its basic form, is inherently bad. It is the ruling of a government by the wealthy class. It is the government of the day in this nation, the government that is making decisions for you and me. Our government is ruled by rich individuals and corporations who push massive amounts of money into the political process in order to control it.
And control it, “they” do. It is a fact that elected federal officials spend more time raising money for their next political race than they do working for the citizens they represent.
We have a distinct separation of the “common” folk in this country and the privileged class; a majority of those money-holders are making sure that the division between the two classes remains a vast chasm, an ever-growing chasm, with the economically middle and lower class perpetually falling lower on societal’s financial ladder.
During the past year, as COVID-19 devastated lives and the economy, the wealthiest citizens gained more wealth; new billionaires popped up like daisies after a spring shower.
The foundation of this country was laid by the mental, financial and physical labors of highly educated (for the time) men, all landholders and relatively wealthy individuals who wanted to control their own destiny. The foundation was solidified by these believers in freedom joining forces with Everyman, all believers in the limitless opportunities this country had to offer.
Over the past 250 years or so, there have been shifts in the individual political power bases of the legislative and executive branches of government, but, mostly, elected leaders tried to work together to ensure that the main principle on which this country took root — “…that all men were created equal…” and maintaining certain freedoms — were sacrosanct. (Women and people of color were afterthoughts then, and to various degrees, are still in that category today.)
Now, due to the philosophical divisions inside both political parties, and the amount of rabid anti-themism exploding from the “Far Left is Best” attack bullies of the Democratic Party and the ultra-conservative, “white-is-right” arm in the Republican Party, the gap between common sense and senseless partisanship is as wide as any time in our history.
The Republican Party is being held captive by a bevy of radicals (some newbies and some old hats trying to stay in power), a corps of Trumpuppet aginners elected on platforms of hate and division. These professional naysayers have pledged to run the country’s fiscal future and global standing aground rather than work for compromise on key issues: pandemic response, education, continued economic recovery, deficit and debt, hand-up funds for the nation’s poor and disadvantaged, the future of foreign aid, immigration reform and right-to-vote issues.
On the other side of the aisle, young representatives joined with long-time socialist advocate Bernie Sanders to demand reforms in climate change, gun laws, introduction of specific socialistic programs, open borders and equality — in human rights and opportunity, but even when the “right” has not been earned or is not fiscally practical.
No longer does the art of compromise have a prominent place in political discourse; the legislative miracles accomplished with Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Tim O’Neill are ancient history. President Bill Clinton, despite his personal problems in the White House, built a legacy of compromise with Republicans via the passage of the bipartisan welfare reform act and the bill that unregulated the financial institution (not the best piece of legislation to pass but it was a “compromise”.) Under Clinton, a “free-spending Democrat”, our government had its last budget surplus.
Clinton was not a political chameleon as many opponents charged, then and now; he was a civil rights liberal and a fiscal conservative…perhaps the last of that particular political species we will see in our lifetime. More of his ilk (politically speaking, not on a personal level) is needed.
In a positive political environment, Republicans and Democrats prosper, as both sides use compromise as a way to get at least part of the individual parties’ (and individual lawmakers’) agenda enacted.
In today’s heated environment, which is a buttress of pettiness, rock-hard immovable stances on key issues and political division, rancor and bully-boy tactics is commonplace. Civility is something found only in a dictionary; bile and bitterness flows down the aisles of both houses of Congress like stagnant wastewater.
As a people, we are into using “labels” for individuals and ideas rather than looking at different ways to build a coalition embracing different views to form the basis of compromise legislation.
The overall political picture is further clouded by deep-pocket lobbying groups and special interests that back candidates based on single-issue stances rather than what is the best pathway for the country.
In a word, the present political melting pot is a mess of unappetizing ingredients, heated over a coal-fire of personal dislike, whiney-baby rhetoric and further fueled by our elected officials afraid of being removed from office by a demanding constituency that puts short-term interests over long-term national gains.
Is it too late to stop the slide that could end up with America as a non-player on the global scene? It is not too late. We have a new start with this new president.
But with the specter of Donald Trump hovering over the landscape, with the festering divisions and red-hot political rhetoric heating up social media, with our present crop of ME-in-the-spotlight legislators, and with no way to get them out of the way sans term limits, the present is looking more and more like the future.
Only we, the voters, can change it. The question is: Do WE have the will, the courage, the determination to say, ‘Enough!”
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