The storms and blackouts of the past two weeks kept me from posting this blog before the election as I had intended. I wrote it because the paradigm of the 99% vs. the 1% that we’d evolved into as a nation reminded me how good life had been when the percentages were more equitable. And I wanted to raise a voice in support of Democracy, not the Oligarchy that threatened us. Judging by the results of the election, Democracy won this round. The people weren’t silenced and the election couldn’t be bought by the super-rich, no matter how hard they exercised their checkbooks. What a pity they didn’t give those hundreds of millions that flowed so readily, to the staggering number of unemployed Americans.
Please, God, let this be a step on the road back to the America we loved. The one in which the American Dream still flourished and the class divide between the Haves and the Have Nots hadn’t become a divide between the Have It Alls and the rest of us. The America we lived in before corporations were treated as people, businesses regulated government, rather than government regulating business…where the Constitution didn’t get trounced every time the President or Congress needed new powers. The America in which the great Middle Class backbone of our country wasn’t so marginalized it barely existed.
Evolution of a Democrat
I was a Republican for a minute when I was young and read the National Review with fervor. But I became worried when my friends began to get rich and switch political parties. Why? I’d ask them and invariably the response was : Because the Democrats want to give away my money to the poor. Hmmm. That response didn’t seem to me to speak well for either my friends or the Republican Party.
So I decided to do some research to see if I could find out who’d been in power when significant pieces of social legislation had been passed. Sadly, I couldn’t find any at all in Republican Administrations. Tax breaks for the rich, co-opting of natural resources, breaks for big business and the richest among us… I found a lot of that, and plenty of rationalization about why it all made sense for the greater good… but no single piece of major social legislation. No Civil Rights Movement, no Women’s Rights Movement, no Gay Rights Movement, No Social Security or Medicare. I expect, when you get down to an ideological level, for a Political Party to be the one you choose for yourself, you and it have to have quite a few beliefs in common.
Going into the election of 2012, my list of the common ground I expected to find in the party I voted for looked something like this:.
1. Separation of Church and State was one of the Founding Fathers’ really good ideas. When the two get mixed up together (usually for artificial and self-serving ends) they impose irrationality and over-emotionalism on the law. School prayer, contraception, reproductive choices, are not issues of State, and should not be used as political footballs. Pulpits should not be used for political purpose or to put anybody into the White House.
2. Evangelicals can’t co-opt Jesus for their own political agenda. How on earth did so many fundamentalist “Christians”, who are so keen on asking what would Jesus do turn out to be both bigots and hawks? Jesus would not have sanctioned hatred of homosexuals, feminists, a Democratic Congress, Nancy Peloci, Hillary or any ethnic group. Nor would he have waged unjust wars on countries in order to secure oil rights and billions for the Industrial/Military complex. His name should never be invoked as an excuse for political gain, propaganda or electioneering and Religious Organizations should lose their tax exempt status when they actively try to impose their religious beliefs on politics.
3. The Constitution was the work of divinely inspired geniuses. It is still the law of the land and all the recent encroachments upon our freedoms, our privacy, and our civil rights are in direct contradiction to its brilliant dictates. They also obviously serve a partisan political agenda, so it’s a wonder we’ve let them get away with it. Doing away with Habeas Corpus, holding the accused without right to counsel, phone taps without warrants and 1,000,000 surveillance cameras watching our every move – to say nothing of Echelon monitoring every electronic transmission in 160 languages 24/7 – does any of that sound like our Constitutional right to privacy is being upheld?
4. The Environment is our future and our children’s legacy. When the wilderness, the Rain Forest, the birds and bees that pollinate, the animals that keep the balance, the clean, free water and the genetically unaltered food chain go down, we will go down, too. The Planet’s well-being should never be placed in the hands of self-interested corporations, or those who are on their payroll. Putting control of environmental regulatory agencies into the hands of those who were recently employed by the very corporations they’re supposed to regulate, or those who have already helped eviscerate the environment, or are lobbying to do so, is a criminal act.
5. Women must have sovereignty over decisions about their own bodies – just as men do about theirs. Until we decide it’s a good idea to let women regulate men’s testicles, men should have no right whatsoever to regulate women’s reproductive functions. In the face of recent egregious attacks, misinformation and smear campaigns by the Republican Right, the Evangelicals and Catholic Church against Planned Parenthood, whose only function is protecting women’s health and healthcare choices, we must rise up in a body and tell the government to stay out of people’s bedrooms and leave women’s medical and moral decisions to women and their doctors. (Judging by the election results, we’ve done just that!)
6. Corporations are not people and should not have the rights reserved for people. They are businesses. Their motive is profit, not the common good. It’s nonsensical to assume that what’s good for corporations is necessarily good for Americans, witness the outsourcing of American jobs to the detriment of American workers, the rape of pension funds, and the trickle down economy that never trickled anywhere except to corporations and the rich. Corporations and financial institutions need to be regulated. They should not be permitted to give unlimited money to political campaigns because it puts politicians and the political process in the pocket of Special Interests. It doesn’t take a genius to know that if you put the foxes in charge of the hen house, with no one to control their predatory intent, the chickens don’t stand a chance.
7. Corporations and Banks must not be permitted to control our media, elect our Presidents or spend billions on corrupting our officials, simply because they have the unlimited money and power to do so. Six financial institutions now control our financial system… they not only received a $780 billion bailout with our taxpayer money, they were lent another $30 trillion by the Fed immediately after. They’ve never been richer or more powerful and they intend to stay that way, unless we can find a way to eliminate the deadly concept of “too big to fail.”
8. Sex Ed in Schools. The dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and the use of contraception must be taught in our schools. It’s tragically laughable to think ignorance is a synonym for morality, and that celibacy is protected by it. Or for that matter, that ignorance of any kind is ever a good idea. The idea that not teaching about sex will keep kids from having it, is ludicrous.
9. Arts and Letters must be supported by government because they are fast becoming the last bastion of freedom of expression, in a country that once prided itself on its intellectual open-mindedness. The notion that the rich can afford their own art and the poor don’t need any, is reprehensible.
We also need to protect our free press as it is our bulwark against a press manipulated by political agendas. With a handful of giant media corporations dictating what news we receive on a daily basis, we’d better keep National Public Radio and Television in the reporting business as long as possible.
10. Gay Marriage is a matter of fairness, equality under the law, and Civil Rights. It is not a matter for religious organizations to adjudicate. Marriage should be recognized as a legal contract between willing adults of either gender, and all rights should be assured no matter what gender constitutes the pairing. Those who want to consider marriage a sacrament can do so in their own religious rites, but these should have no bearing on the legality of the union.
According to the American Bar Association, half of straight marriages end in divorce – could gay marriage possibly do worse than that? Marriage is really a contract between two people, presumably entered into with good intent, but a high probability of failure. Governments should get the hell out of people’s bedrooms and stop being hypocritical about morality. If we simply allow the identical marriage laws for all couplings, everyone’s rights will be protected. And just so you know, Civil Union is not equal to marriage – not in taxation, in inheritance or in a gay spouse’s rights in a time of illness or crisis. So we can’t just offer Civil Union as an equal option, as it would not carry with it the rights and privileges that heterosexual married couples now enjoy. (I’m happy to see that every anti-marriage equality referendum was defeated).
11. Healthcare. It’s incomprehensible that a nation as rich as ours does not provide healthcare for every single man, woman and child. If other countries can do it well, so can we. Even if Obamacare is less perfect than we’d hoped, it’s a massive step forward. It provides protection for those with pre-exiting conditions… precludes insurance companies from putting lifetime limits on your coverage… insurance companies can’t drop you when you get sick… parents can keep their kids on their policies until age 26… small businesses get big tax credits for offering health insurance to their workers… there’s free preventive health services and birth control for women (unless you work for a religious-based organization that opposes birth control) to name just a few of the very important benefits we didn’t have before.
12. We Must Label GMO’s. Our foods are being poisoned by genetically engineered pesticides that are being spliced into their seeds. This is being done for corporate greed, not for the public good as corporate PR would have you believe. Countries in Europe have outlawed this, and if we refuse to do the same, we must at least label these foods not made by Nature but by greedy corporations, so we can protect ourselves and our children from the terrible diseases such tampering with Nature can precipitate.
13. War. The war in Iraq was bogusly perpetrated on us, with blatantly false representations, and a self-serving agenda that cannot be justified, as other than a way to put money into the hands of the already rich and impose our colonial will on countries that don’t want it or us. The War in Afghanistan was always insane and unwinnable. No one has ever won a war in Afghanistan and no one ever will. Just imagine what we could do for education, infrastructure, healthcare, Social Security, Medicare and job creation if some of the 53% of our tax dollars that currently go to the military was spent at home.
14. Illegal Immigration. Instead of building a wall to keep out Mexicans, thus forcing the Statue of Liberty to get a blindfold like Justice has, why not let the Mexicans in, give them a decent wage, give them the opportunity to work toward citizenship, and tax them like everybody else? Ditto for other immigrants who want to come here. Wouldn’t that make more sense than paying them pennies to tend the gardens of the rich and harvest lettuce, and then complaining about having to provide them with health care? We were a nation of immigrants that took its strength from diversity… we must find a just way to honor our immigrant heritage with fairer immigration policies.
15. I Take Great Pride in Being a Liberal. Despite all the rhetoric of the Far Right, the Liberal Agenda didn’t fail, it flourished, and so did we, as a result. It fought into law some of the best ideas we’ve ever had as a people. Social Security, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights – Liberals fought for all of these iconoclastic, breakthrough, gorgeous human steps forward. Liberals fought the War on Poverty, the battle for workers doomed by hazardous conditions, the battle for a Minimum Wage, the battle to get any rights for illegal and exploited immigrants, the battle on infringement of our privacies and freedoms, even the war on unjust wars… these are only a few the battles Liberals have fought and frequently won, to everyone’s benefit. Liberals favor reform where it’s needed, are open minded to new ideas that can spell progress, are tolerant of the ideas and behaviors of others, and take pride in reaching out a helping hand to those who need one. And Liberals are still willing to take to the streets to replace the status quo with something better, braver, free-er, and more intrinsically American.
Election and Beyond
I don’t think any political party is perfect. I’ve often voted for the Platform not the man who was running for office, but in an admittedly imperfect world the Democratic Platform most assuredly had more in common with my heart and soul than the Republican one did, so I’m thrilled and relieved by the results of this election. So very much of what I care deeply about had been in jeopardy. I believe this election was a triumph of Democracy and the Voice of the People over Oligarchy and the belief that the rich can buy anything they want, including the Presidency of the United States.
Hooray for the young women who came out in record numbers to protect their sovereignty over their own bodies…for the people of every race and age who patiently stood on lines seven hours long to cast a vote and make sure their voices were heard… for the people of diverse religions belief systems who told government that marriage equality is a matter of fairness, civil rights and equality under the law…for the people who made it clear that religion mustn’t run governments…for the people of every walk of life who said, “You can’t buy my vote with your billions and you can’t fool me with your lies.”
Now, there’s lots of work to do. We need to find a way to replace obstructionist partisanship with a spirit of compromise for the common good …something we were much better at in the 20th century than in the 21st. From this point forward, we don’t need the audacity of hope as much as we need the audacity to pitch in and help the President make the next four years the game-changers we and America so desperately need.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2012