On Sale Now: Your Government

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On Sale Now: Your Government

A Guide to the Perplexed on Real Hope and Real Change

 

A child holds a sign that reads “A Future to Believe In” before U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders addressed students and community members during a campaign meeting with students at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire January 22, 2016. (Photo: Katherine Taylor/Reuters)

Let the Bidding Begin...

What’s happening here, in this campaign, is pretty simple.  There’s a bidding war going on for the control of government.

For the first time, the masses of people who’ve been left out of the political process are standing on an equal footing with corporations and the uber rich.  Bernie Sanders has given “we the people” a chance to purchase our nation back from vested interests.

It’s a rare opportunity, and if we seize it, we can make our political system work for us, and take money out of the equation forever – or at least until we forget the bitter lessons of the post-Reagan era. 

So how did we get here, where “we the people” are locked in a battle with virtually the entire political system that is supposed to serve us? 

Compromising against ourselves – the long slide to the right, and the defenders of the status quo

One of the most surprising things about where we are is that even the so-called liberal commentators are lining up against “we the people.”  They do it because they’ve been immersed in the game of low expectations for so long they simply can’t imagine real change. 

Folks who condemn the xenophobic hate speech coming from the likes of Trump, Cruz, Rubio—oh hell, the whole Republican Party—seem to forget that this kind of talk became permissible in a civil society because it was used to distract people from the Republican Party’s real purpose: to disable government and then to discredit it, or as I’ve characterized it in the past, a bunch of arsonists posing as firemen. Democrats were complicit in this, because they did not confront it.

The stench of money

And while Democratic cowardice certainly played a role, the stench of money hangs all over this long, slow slog to the right.  Candidates of both major parties dependent upon corporate contributions and handouts from the ultra-rich were loath to confront the steady stream of right wing wackiness coming out of conservative policy factories like ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, etc.

As a result, the country slid a little further to the right with each election.  And the prospect and likelihood of real change evaporated as progressives and liberals compromised with an ever more extreme brand of conservatism, accelerating the Oligarch’s takeover of our country, and the disenfranchisement of “we the people.”

That’s why, even if Hillary Clinton is reluctant or unable to acknowledge it, that PACs and multimillion dollar payouts from corporations matter.

Alienation and the roots of our rightward drift

Against this backdrop, the establishment from both parties lost the confidence of the American people.  Increasingly, “none of the above” won elections, as the number of potentially eligible voters choosing not to vote exceeded the number of votes the winning candidate(s) received.  This left the hard-core conservatives with a disproportionately strong influence on elections, and it led to gerrymandering, which further reinforced their power. Add to this a corporate-owned media which puts balance above accuracy and truth, and the game was completely rigged.

This addiction to “balance” is just one more example of how the mainstream media (MSM) regularly treats us to false equivalencies. One of the more common stories over the past few decades has been detailing how Washington is dysfunctional. 

Invariably, the theme is generally of the “pox on both their houses” variety.  You rarely hear or read about the reality in which one party—the Republicans—are engaged in a scorched earth effort to make government ineffective.  For example, in the first two years of Obama’s Presidency, Republicans conducted more filibusters than in the previous 61 years combined. And it’s only gotten worse.

Unleashing our national id

Meanwhile, conservatives used wedge issues to distract folks from seeing the real fruits of their destructive policies.  Scapegoats like gays, immigrants, and even the government itself were invoked to keep people from seeing the obscene fruits of the Ayn Rand policies of the right: grotesque income inequality and the recessions it causes; poverty; a loss of political power; massive exports of jobs; a dangerously warming planet as well as environmental devastation; and a future that for the first time in US history looks bleaker than the present. This, then, is why anti-establishment candidates are thriving.

Which brings us to today, and the unique players in the Presidential primaries. Here’s how they break down. 

Acolytes of the angry id

On the one hand, we have members of the mostly white, middle-aged middle class consumed by anger and in search of someone to blame. They used to be stakeholders in the establishment, but while they were being dazzled, distracted, and dazed by conservative myths, they lost the unions that gave them standing, the manufacturing jobs that gave them dignity and a good salary, and the sense that they were in charge. Many of them are now flocking to the likes of Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, and the Republican establishment is panicking.

Keepers of the status quo

Here we have the middle-of-the-roaders—the vestiges of a liberal press, politicians who pioneered a “third way” ploughing the middle ground, and the other people who haven’t been completely screwed by the system.  These are the over-$200,000-earning Democrats who broke for Hillary in New Hampshire. It also includes a sizable number of folks who think our problems can be solved by better tactics or shrewder application of conventional political maneuvers. These are people who value experience even if it hasn’t led to solutions. These are people so immersed in the current dysfunctional system they believe themselves to be keepers of the “real world” and want to protect us from the “unrealistic dreamers.”

Believers in Real Hope and Real Change

Remember Obama’s slogan, Hope and Change?  I asked then: Hope for what? Change to what? Well, seven years later we have an answer.  Hope for a system that puts “we the people” back in charge; change to a system that assures we stay there.  That means taking the money out of politics, and creating a level playing field for all Americans; one that features an equitable distribution of wealth and income; a right to education; a right to affordable medical care; and investment in a government that works to assure a sustainable environment, an equitable prosperity, and a just civil society.

Martin Luther King didn’t say, “I have a tactic” or “I have a strategy.” He said, I have a dream.” 

This is what Hillary Clinton and her surrogates don’t get.  Change of the magnitude we need requires a political revolution.  And it can only work if each of us who understand this, enter the bidding war and buy our government back from the Oligarchy. 

Putting trim tabs on a sinking ship won’t do it.  We need a new ship.  And if we get the people who’ve dropped out of the process back into the voting booths, that kind of change is possible.  We’ll get a few more progressives into Congress, but even the incumbents will be answerable to us, not the Oligarchy.  Watch how that changes their votes, Prof. Krugman.  Watch how real change occurs, Secretary Clinton.

John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and book one of a trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.

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