How Can We Ever Hope To Bring Americans Together?

Regardless of which candidate wins this year’s presidential election, it’s all but certain that Americans will be more divided than ever. We’re divided by far more than politics. We’re divided by ideology; by media choices; by attitudes toward guns and violence; by attitudes toward the environment; by a woman’s right to decide what is right for her own body; by energy policy; by foreign policy and military intervention; by acceptance and tolerance for those who are different than ourselves; by faith.

As the US, like many other nations, lurches farther to the right, it seems that we cannot agree on anything. One side accepts science while the other relies almost exclusively on faith. One side believes in evolution while the other side believes in creationism. One side works to abate climate change while the other side calls it a hoax. One side embraces other cultures and ethnic groups while the other side chooses to discriminate against them. One side accepts authority and bullying while the other fights against it. One side supports corporatism (aka fascism) while the other supports individuals. One side celebrates wealth and power while the other side celebrates the working class. One side worships individualism while the other side worships community and collectivism. One side demands status quo while the other side demands expanded civil rights.

No matter which candidate wins in November, roughly half of the population will vehemently oppose the winner’s policies.

It would seem that the only thing that can possibly pull our nation together is a disaster – a military or terrorist strike against our nation or a financial calamity on the order of the Great Depression. Ironically, the burst of the housing bubble and the ensuing Great Recession were not enough to create unanimity. Ignoring the facts, each side simply blamed the other for their hardships.

In order to seek more palatable solutions, we must first look at how we arrived at this point. It began with the Nixon-Agnew strategy of divide and conquer. It continued with the GOP’s embrace of southern bigots and evangelicals along with Paul Wyerich’s strategy of voter suppression. It accelerated with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which allowed electronic media to choose up sides and lie at will. And it was cemented by Newt Gingrich’s embrace of parliamentary-style politics which disdained any form of compromise.

So what can we do?

1. To begin, we should all demand more of our media by reinstating a Fairness Doctrine that would require all media, both electronic and print, to operate in the public interest. That means to tell the truth and hold politicians accountable.
2. We should overturn voter suppression laws and make voting easy, maybe even mandatory, for all American citizens.
3. We should bring transparency to campaign finance and overturn Citizens United.
4. We should, once again, make it illegal for corporations to contribute to political campaigns.
5. We should break the lobbyists’ hold on Congress by passing laws to end the revolving door from Congress to lobbying groups, and to limit lobbyist access to Congress.
6. We should end all forms of gerrymandering by passing laws to put control of congressional redistricting into the hands of independent commissions.
7. We should demand that the IRS reinstate restrictions that prevent non-profits from disguising their political focus, thus doing away with PACs and Super PACs.
8. We should institute term limits on all Senators and Congressional Representatives. If it makes sense to limit the president to two terms, it should make sense to do the same for Congress.
9. We should hold the individuals who manage political campaigns liable for lies and disinformation. That would prevent them from avoiding election fraud by simply dissolving the campaign entities following an election,
10. We should demand more of ourselves. We should each seek to inform ourselves about the candidates and the issues in order to meet the expectations of our Founding Fathers by becoming an enlightened and informed voting public.

Even if you don’t agree with these proposals, we must do something. And we must do it now. It may be our only hope for unifying our nation and moving it forward. Indeed, at the risk of being seen as hyperbolic, it may be the only way to avoid another Civil War.

How The People You Elect Are Turned Into Highly-Paid Puppets.

On Tuesday, Heritage Action, the even more political arm of the Heritage Foundation, sent a memo to Republican Congressmen telling them to vote against the bipartisan Senate bill that would re-open our government. As a none-too-subtle threat, the memo noted that the organization would be “scoring” Congressional votes.

In other words, do as we say or we will make sure you have a difficult, and expensive, primary fight!

This is really nothing new. Well-financed ideological groups have controlled our Congress for decades. The four-million-member NRA has long scored votes at the state and national level regarding gun safety and other issues of interest. The US Chamber of Commerce has spent billions to elect officials who are friendly to large corporations. The American Medical Association, Big Pharma and the Insurance Institute of America have spent billions to protect their out-of-control profits in health care. Large corporations peddle influence through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Even churches keep score, picking and choosing winners in elections.

What is new is the sheer amount of money and power now exerted by outside interests. Following the Supreme Court decision that equates money with free speech and the decision to equate corporations with people, the amount of money in politics has increased dramatically. In 1998, it’s estimated that $1.6 billion was spent on US elections. In 2012, that number exceeded $6.2 billion! And the Supreme Court is currently hearing a case that could further open the floodgates.

There are now dozens of highly-partisan “think tanks,” PACs, SuperPACs and lobbying groups that hold out the carrot of campaign financing and brandish a whip for any legislators who get out of line.

If an elected official wants to retain some semblance of independence from the big-money interests, he or she has to constantly beg constituents for money. Is it any wonder, then, that within a month of the 2012 election results, candidates were campaigning to raise funds for their re-election?

Most Americans can see the problem, but they continue to hold their noses and vote for candidates who are more interested in their re-election than the interests of our nation. There is only one way to stop it…stop it! Stop voting for candidates who put corporations ahead of people. Stop voting for candidates who put the interests of their party ahead of the interests of our nation.

Just stop it!

Demanding A 50 Year Cover-Up For Doing Your Job?

Our nation was built on representative government.  But our representatives are so concerned with re-election that many are now afraid to do what’s best for our nation. So much so, that they try to hide their actions from the very people they represent.

The on-going debate over the federal tax code is a case in point.

Before many senators were willing to venture opinions on the tax code, they needed to be assured by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that any suggestions would be kept secret for 50 years! Exactly what, or who, are they afraid of?

In a word, you.

Thanks to the Baucus-Hatch declaration, senators may now solicit favors from the K Street lobbyists without fear of repercussions. They are now free to recommend tax loopholes for their largest campaign contributors and special interests without fear of discovery by the people they are supposed to represent. By the time anyone finds out, they’ll be dead and forgotten.

Not exactly representative government, is it?

In one declaration, Baucus and Hatch have exposed everything that’s wrong with our government. And it’s not just a problem with the federal government. Such secrecy and tricks are used and abused by governments at all levels…city, county and state.

Those with money can buy access to those who make the laws. After all, it takes money to run for office these days…lots of it. So defense contractors, the American Medical Association, health insurance, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Wall Street, multinational corporations, billionaires, the NRA and others write our laws. They write the very regulations that will govern them, and because they write them, they feel free to break them.

No money.  No access.

Only a very few politicians have demonstrated through their actions that they are immune to such power.  Senators Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and a very small number of others have stood on priniciple. They seem willing to do the right thing and explain their decisions to those who elected them.

Far too many others say one thing in public and do something far different behind closed doors. The Baucus-Hatch declaration…along with Senators Baucus and Hatch…needs to go.