This article, "Frustrated lawmakers run for the exits: 'DC is broken'" showed on my AOL feed Tuesday as I imagine it did yours. Written by Mychael Schnell for The Hill, the article strangely makes it seem that the level of dysfunction in Washington is somehow new, which it's not and hasn't been for quite some time. Still, it has some interesting points.
A record number of Congressional members--19
Democrats and 11 Republicans--are bailing due to the vitriol level of bitter partisanship
and growing inability to solve even the most mundane of issues. However, the political system isn't "broken"
as the author alleges. In fact, Washington is running exactly as it is intended
to by the ruling oligarchy (or kleptocracy if you prefer).
Congress, and indeed our entire operating
bureaucracy, has been hijacked by a relatively small group of very wealthy
individuals, who have managed to get their hands on the key levers of power in
this country, and set up barriers to prevent their removal. This group of
individuals are there to serve the interests of Wall Street, not the average
Corporate lobbyists literally write bills designed to
serve the interests of their paymasters, the big banks and wealth managers,
technology, medical, and military companies among others. Meanwhile, no one is
there to look out over our interests. The system is aimed to reward the wealthy
and powerful while offering vague promises of change to the rest of us.
Benjamin Franklin famously said in 1787, at the close
of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, that they had been bequeath
to us a Republic to keep, if we could. Well, we couldn't. While there has been
those chipping away at it from nearly the beginning, it was the Supreme Court that finally laid our
Republic to rest on January 21, 2010. In
its place, we were given a Corporatocracy.
In doing so, corporations became de facto "people" with all the rights of ordinary citizens, but with one very important exception...free speech.
The court held that money was now the equivalent to
"free speech". Corporations were free to spend all the "free
speech" they wanted, be it on politicians, campaigns, or political parties,
but what about flesh and blood citizens? Were we going to be allowed to spend
what we wanted on candidates and campaigns to?
The answer was
"no". The average citizen's financial "free speech" would
remain capped, as if uncapping it would matter anyway. Corporations were now
free to step out of the shadows. They could drop tens of millions of dollars
without blinking an eye. The result was that voters now had a much influence on
elections as spit in a hurricane!
As an example, according to the FEC, during the
2019-2020 election cycle, corporations reported spending $4.1 billion dollars during that 24 month
period. In addition, Congressional candidates received $4 billion dollars while
the two political parties, Democrat and Republican, were given $3.2 billion
dollars. Corporations funded Political Action Committees ("PACs") to
the tune of $13.2 billion. Lastly, electioneering communications and general
communications reported to the FEC a received a overall total of $55.5 million
dollars. Unions give just one dollar for every ten given by corporations.
The impact of Citizens United is all the more made
clear when you consider that 96+% of all media---TV, radio, print, social media
platforms, etc---are owned by just five corporations. This means that these
same corporations can not only essentially underwrite a candidate or political
party, but their control of the media allows them additional influence to
affect your thinking on any given issue or candidate.
It's not surprising that members of Congress are opting
out, and who can blame them? The few idealists elected to office and thought
they could make alliances in order to make a real difference, have found out
otherwise. Bills not favorable to
corporate or special interest groups, are typically blocked or watered down to
the point of bearing little resemblance
to their original intent.
In addition, it's not uncommon that newly elected
members of Congress are often inundated with committees assignments, which are designed to
keep them too busy to think about actually fulfilling any of their campaign
promises while it indoctrinates them into the mechanics of the system. They are also expected to spend hours upon hours fundraising for the party, party leadership and attending functions where they meet their new owners. It seems that you can promise whatever you want during the
campaign just as long as you don't take it too seriously.
As the idealists (and naive) continue to vacate the
halls of Congress, who do you think will fill their seats---more idealists?
Perhaps. But in a political system which has intentionally been corrupted to
serve the interests of Wall Street and the very wealthy, we're much more likely
to see more charlatans running on promises they have no intentions of
fulfilling, even if they had really wanted to. Former House Speaker Sam Rayburn
(D-GA) summed up the political process in Congress the best when he said
"to get along you have to go along".
So is there anything we can realistically do? Actually, we can still do a lot. We can
help elect Independents and third party candidates. After all, Independents
have the largest bloc of registered voters with 49%. Meanwhile, the percentage
of Democrats (a distant 29%) and Republicans (20%) continue to shrink. Besides,
why should two minority parties control our government? If nothing else, we can
vote to oust the incumbents. At least it would be a change of faces!
There are also a number of issues you can get behind
that would make real impact, such as getting behind Rank Choice Voting, Term
Limits, or ending partisan gerrymandering. Roughly half of all states prohibit voter
referendums. That's where citizens sign a petition to put an issue on the
ballot. Once the requisite number of signatures has been reached, the matter is
placed on the ballot and its voted on by
the general electorate. That would be a great issue to get behind!
A key issue to consider is working to get some
elected or appointed political offices changed for partisan to non-partisan. Why,
for instance, should the State Auditor, Treasurer, Agriculture Commissioner, or
Secretary of State be a partisan office? They are Constitutional offices. They
don't make any laws. They simply enforce existing laws. The same goes for the
offices of County Clerk, Circuit Court Clerk, or County Attorney. Why on earth
would you want those to be partisan positions?
As an aside, it's worth nothing that the Board of
Elections at both the state and local levels have Democrat and Republican
Election Officers to oversee the affairs of their respective party as it
applies to voting. But why doesn't Independent and third parties? They literally
have no representation!
Currently Independents and third party voters are
simply dumped in with whichever of the two corporate owned parties are the smallest
to boost their overall numbers, and you can bet that their interests are
totally ignored. So why isn't there a
third non-partisan election officer looking out for Independent and third party
voters? That would be a great issue to get behind.
You could volunteer to work for some local group on a particular issue of interest to you. Maybe you'd want to serve as a citizen lobbyist to help get support on some particular cause by lobbying you local elected officials. For example, why don't citizens get to vote on increases of taxes, fees, or rates, including any utilities owned by the city? You could help create or join a neighborhood association or block watch. Finally, you could write letters to the editor of your local newspapers.
Personally, I've been urging voters to ignore
endorsements by the news media for over 20 years. The reason is because I
believe the media should focus on solely on reporting the news and not trying
to influence elections through endorsements in order to promote their private agendas.
That's not their job. Instead, their job is to provide the public with a honest
accounting of the facts without bias.
At the very least, those doing the interviews and
making the endorsements need to disclose their name, their position, and their
party registration (or political leaning) in the name of full transparency.
Very few news media endorsements do this. They also need to release the entire unedited
transcript of each candidate interview instead of the editors providing
excerpts or corrected responses (unedited filmed versions of the interview would
These are just a few suggestions. There are, without
a doubt, many more. The point here is to become and exemplify the change you
want to see. But to do that you have to
get off your butt to make it happen instead of whining about how things have
become. We lost our Republic by sitting on our collective behinds and assuming
someone else would protect our nation and preserve our Constitution for us
while we played video games or daydreamed our lives away watching so-called
"reality" television shows!
There's an old expression which says that a nation
gets the government it deserves. I don't know how true that is, but I can't
imagine the average American, regardless of their origin, race, religion,
ethnic status or gender, wants to see this great nation continue to circle the
drain ever tighter. So, what's it going to be? More bitching and moaning or
doing what our Founding Fathers did--- taking a stand? It's your call.
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