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AdLib On November - 15 - 2010

Kesmarn’s brilliant article, Please, tear that price tag off!, impresses the powerful image of our democracy and citizenry as a 500 pound patient, too bloated to help itself or accomplish even the most minor tasks required for its subsistence and survival.

Citizens United may have been the last straw in our Democracy becoming too overloaded to effectively be able to function on its own. In light of the abuse of filibusters, the propaganda machines now established in our society, the laziness, ignorance and easy manipulation of voters, one wonders if Democracy is just lying helplessly like a beached whale in a hospital bed waiting for a sponge bath and a bowl of ice cream.

This reminded me of a little known movie from The Depression era, a fantasy that is quite a bit twisted. It is an oddity. When I first saw it years ago, I was fascinated that anyone would truly think of this as a fantasy instead of a nightmare. Today, I see it in a different light, I still reject it as a desirable fantasy but I better understand why many people back then would have been receptive to it.

The name of the film is, “Gabriel Over The White House”. It was made and takes place in the midst of The Depression and fantasizes about a weak president who radically changes and becomes dictatorial…to the benefit of Americans! Here’s a synopsis:

Newly elected president Judson Hammond is shown to be a lackey of his party, willing to follow the party line even if it’s not in the best interest of the people. Showing off by driving his own car to a political meeting, he crashes at high speed. Comatose, he is not expected to recover. But on regaining consciousness, he is a changed man. Dismissing his cabinet and defying Congress, he assumes near-dictatorial powers in order to cut through red tape and institute sweeping measures to reduce unemployment. He even goes so far as to gently threaten nations owing the United States money from World War I to find a way to repay their debts by reducing their arms races. Having brokered this important safeguard for the world’s peace, Hammond is stricken down, his work done.

During The Depression, as now, people were so desperate and frustrated with the need for big things to get done and changes to be made quickly. The process of our Democracy simply isn’t structured to work that quickly so the concept of a President assuming dictatorial powers to get everything done swiftly, no doubt appealed to some then.

Of course, such naive Americans needed only to look to Germany to see the nightmare that their fantasy would become when brought to fruition in real life.

As Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And we know far too well that Swing Voters can’t even remember history from two years ago (“Hey, maybe Republicans will make our economy better if they’re in control!”), so the ones who decide elections in this country surely won’t know what happened 80 years ago and are fully available to repeating it.

Of course, only as a fantasy, how cool would it be for Obama to be able to institute all the policies we support without having Repubs in Congress thwarting him? The flip side is, then a President Palin would have the same power. So, dictatorships are far too dangerous to allow, for any reason. Yet, as we saw after 9/11, the American public can be driven to support a dictatorial and oppressive U.S. government.

All of this opens a Pandora’s Box of ideas and propositions in today’s America.

1. “Would Americans willingly elect another dictatorial president to go even farther in trampling democracy and civil rights if it meant he could get a lot done?”

2. “Has our democracy become too corrupt to function properly and do what’s necessary?”

3. “How can the damage to our democracy be reversed if Congress and the election process is dominated by those who corrupt them?”

Starting with the first question, sadly, I think the answer is “yes”, Americans would be willing to elect a dictator-type president. I remember a poll of high school students in Bush’s last years that asked if the press should be allowed to publicly criticize the president…the majority said “no”.

Americans want what they want more than they want principles adhered to. If someone like Mike Huckabee became President and declared that God had told him to ignore Congress and the Constitution and do what God told him would be best for Americans…certainly the Tea Party crowd would applaud his diss of government and some of these mindless Swing Voters would cheer his being a man of action.

“Who needs democracy, we want jobs and Social Security and Medicare and we don’t want to pay taxes! Pres. Huckabee says that we can have it all if he doesn’t have his hands tied by Congress! We’re with ya!”

Kind of scary but not so far-fetched. Bush essentially did this with his record number of signing statements in which he declared whether he would or wouldn’t follow laws passed by Congress and how he would change the way they were applied and enforced. And then he just did things under the cover of “wartime” that he had no Constitutional right to do.

As to the last two questions, though it is politically correct to exclaim that our democracy is the greatest in the world…how many Americans actually sit down and study other countries to come to that conclusion?

What other industrialized nations have democracies where corporations can pour in unlimited amounts of money to influence elections? Or require candidates to publicly attest that they are religious and their faith is Christian-based? Or have campaigns that last years and require hundreds of millions of dollars, squeezing out from participation most of those who aren’t wealthy or already in office?

And what about how our Congress works? Where states with less than one million people have the same power in the Senate as states that have 40 million people? Where the tyranny of the minority continues to reign and simple majority votes are insufficient to pass legislation?

Then there are all the special interests and corporations that are free to lobby with mountains of cash to stop what they don’t like and ram through what they do want.

Moving to a slightly different allegory, our democracy now seems like a car that is in disrepair. The hydraulics of the steering are messed up and it is hard to steer, the blinker only signals right, the tires are all low and the engine is clogged with muck so the car moves slow and sluggish, covered with mud that is constantly slung at it from all directions.

The real question is, is it throwing good money after bad to try and fix it? Do we need to buy a new car?

As unlikely as it is to ever happen, for America to return to a democracy from the plutocracy it has become, perhaps what’s really required is a new Constitutional Convention that incorporates all of the developments in our society and democracy that The Founders simply couldn’t and didn’t foresee.

Some proposals that I would like to see contained in a New Constitution:

  • The Senate would be more representational of the nation, still 100 Senators but one Senator from each state and then additional Senators based upon population.
  • Elections would be publicly financed and on an alternating basis, broadcast and cable networks would be required to provide free airtime to candidates.
  • Any Congressperson could be recalled and replaced by their state’s voters.
  • The Senate and House would conduct votes on bills, decided by simple majorities.
  • Lobbyists would be allowed but prevented from providing any financing to politicians (since elections would be publicly financed).
  • Corporations are not people and may not participate in any way in elections.
  • Truth In Advertising laws for political advertising that allow ads to be pulled and advertisers/politicians to be fined for false claims. In egregious cases, election results could be nullified and after falsehoods had been publicly exposed, a new election would occur.
  • Justices on The Supreme Court would not receive a lifetime appointment. Instead, they would receive a term of ten years which would need to be renewed by the current President and Congress or else a replacement would be made.
  • An explicit and concrete separation between church and state. Any church would be permitted to promote political agendas, candidates or participate in the electoral process but would not have tax-free status once they do so.
  • A Fairness Doctrine that requires news networks to provide legitimate and accurate counterpoints to whatever they present.
  • Voting would be one week long, encompassing weekends to provide for the most participation.
  • Retirement pay and health insurance are rights of all Americans and may never be privatized. The U.S. will provide single-payer health insurance to all Americans.
  • Military spending capped to a maximum percentage of GDP except in case of an emergency. In such cases, authorization for such an emergency will expire in no more than 2 years and may not be renewed or refinanced in any way in a new request.
  • Torture and the death penalty would be outlawed in all cases as cruel and unusual punishment.
  • Taxes on those making $10 million or more may not be reduced below 50% of income. Only deductions that were applicable and useful to most Americans could be made available to wealthy tax payers (all businesses would still be able to write off expenses, of course).
  • Fines and jail time for white collar crime would be as punitive as street crime. Top executives are personally liable for all crimes committed by their corporations.

That’s a number that come to mind. If we could have a new constitution, what would you want added into it?

Written by AdLib

My motto is, "It is better to have blogged and lost hours of your day, than never to have blogged at all."

69 Responses so far.

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  1. Nirek says:

    Our democracy has been perverted. We need to go back to where we had citizen legislators NOT professional politicians.

    That is my view WHAT is yours?

    • bito says:

      I don’t know if we ever really did have “citizen legislators,” Nirek. Many of the white males at the founding came from state and local political positions and/or the were among the wealthiest. What did set them apart was their indifference on many matters that allowed them to do what was best for the country. Quite the opposite of what we have now.

  2. bitohistory says:

    Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage. -- H.L. Mencken

  3. caleb36 says:

    Of the many worthwhile Constitutional changes you propose, the most urgent is limited terms (10 years would be reasonable) for Supreme Court Justices, including all currently serving Justices. The present group of ultra-conservative Justices will likely remain in office for decades with their lifetime appointments, strangling democracy as the third, co-equal branch of government. Limited term appointments would mean that hideous decisions such as Citizens United (declaring corporations to be persons under the Constitution) have a much better chance of being overturned within a reasonable time frame.

    In terms of much more doable non-Constitutional reforms, the most useful would be elimination of the Senate filibuster. It is my understanding that the Senate can eliminate the filibuster rule by majority vote. The Democrats, still in a majority following the November elections, should do it! The filibuster has proved to be a one-way filter, blocking liberal legislation but not stopping conservative legislation.

    • AdLib says:

      Cheers Caleb36!

      In terms of what would make the most profound impact on our democracy, those two would be at the top of the list. I think that if you add one more element, public financing of elections (and a contraction of elections to a matter of months instead of years), all of the rest of the changes could fall into place.

      A lifelong appointment for the SCOTUS may theoretically have been a great idea but in practice, it has become completely corrupted. The concept was, with a lifelong appointment, they would not be beholden to political parties or interests as they could be if having to run or be reappointed.

      Instead, what The Founders didn’t foresee is that The Congress would become so corrupt and certain Presidents so unprincipled, that partisan hacks like Thomas, Alito, Scalia and Roberts could become appointed and steer the nation off the tracks.

      Since we now know this can happen, the appointment should be long enough to keep them from being beholden to outside interests but short enough to be able to replace those SCOTUS justices who have proven themselves to be a detriment to our democracy and society.

      As to killing the filibuster, though when Dems are in the minority, we might want them to be in a position to stop the Repubs, we live in a democracy and the principle is that the majority decides things.

      Yes, it would allow the Repubs to pass more things we oppose but why look at the glass as half empty? It would also allow the Dems to pass real reforms and revers the most destructive Repub policies.

      And, it would reflect democratic values far more than allowing a tyranny of the minority. After all, it takes only one Senator’s filibuster to thwart the will of a nation, represented by 59 Senators out of 100.

      Imagine if in elections, a candidate who received 59% of the vote couldn’t win because he didn’t get 60%? Would that truly be democracy?

      The filibuster was always intended to be used as a last resort, its abuse requires it to locked away in a case, only available in case of fire and that’s all.

  4. Khirad says:

    Chomsky on post-mid-term America and what democracy should really mean.

    In other words, very apropos to this article, IMHO.

  5. PepeLepew says:

    I’ve become convinced the Parliamentary system really does work better. The United States system was an experiment that worked for many, many years, but has become corrupted by corporate money and I think by people who don’t buy in to the concept of separation of church and state.

    Two things I like about the Parliamentary system is that when an election is called, the election season lasts something like six weeks. In a country like Canada, spending on campaigns is strictly controlled by law, so it’s difficult for corporations to buy an election.

    Secondly, I like that a majority party takes over the government, or is forced to form a government with other parties if they don’t have a pure majority (In Canada, you probably won’t see a majority party any time soon because there are four or five major parties). So, this forces the need for compromise, middle ground, etc. Honestly, I really believe these systems simply work better than the American model, which was a new thing that had never been tried before. Less corruption (though Canada has had some doozie corruption scandals over the past 25 years), less influence by corporations, more compromise, etc.

    • AdLib says:

      Right with you on that, Pepe.

      The elements that made the American system of democracy so appealing in the beginning are now what make it deficient compared to the parliamentary system.

      Now, if only we had that system, the current plutocracy in this nation wouldn’t be in place or wouldn’t be able to remain in place.

    • kesmarn says:

      I’m beginning to realize the value of a “vote of no confidence,” too Pepe. Not so much currently as during the Bush administration. That dragged on for far too long.

    • Mightywoof says:

      I agree Pepe -- I also think not having fixed terms is essential. The only term limit up here is that an election has to be called within 5 years -- so, depending on how successful a party is in governing, they can call an election after a couple of years or hang on for the full 5. It makes the opposition parties very careful about pushing the governing party’s back against the wall in a minority situation -- they may be blamed by the electorate for forcing an unecessary election. With term limits in the States, there are no consequences for the opposition’s farting around the whole time until the next election -- and the next election simply becomes one of messaging and manipulating (a practice that starts as soon as the previous election ends).

      • kesmarn says:

        I love your perspective from Up North, MWoof. It’s great to have another lens with which to view the American scene.
        Don’t you dare ever leave the Planet! 😆

        And that goes for Pepe, too.

  6. escribacat says:

    I agree with just about all your points for the ideal constitution, but I know plenty of people who wouldn’t. So…it’s their country too, right? What about them? In fact, as repulsive as I find them, the teabaggers are also Americans. I think it’s this ideal that keeps Obama “caving” as the screamers over yonder like to call it. He’s thinking, “It’s their country too.” He’s right. He won the election with 52% or something like that, if I remember correctly. That means another 48% didn’t vote for him. Even though I disagree with just about every single policy on the right and I have never voted for a republican in my life, I still can see that they truly believe that small government is good and so on. I can see that my viewpoint isn’t the only one. It actually makes sense to me that our country just seems to lurch back and forth from left to right — it’s a reflection of our population. What’s that great quote — “Democracy is the worst system in the world, except for all the others.”

    I have doubts about the viability of democracy in a nation as big as ours. (I have doubts about the viability of any monstrously large entity, but that’s another issue.) The closest thing to a democracy I ever saw was when I spent some time years ago in an Israeli village. There was an “election” while I was there. There was no “campaigning,” just a lot of arguing. There was a slate of issues and all the villagers met and argued about the issues and then they voted. The majority ruled. It was simple and sweet and it worked — but only because it was just a village and the issues were important to everyone so everyone got involved and voted. There weren’t any outsiders interfering and no “corporations” influencing the election. It was quite beautiful.

    • AdLib says:

      Khirad began a fascinating conversation in TO/OT about the claims of limited government and states rights having a long history in this nation of being code for the anxiety of whites about encroachment upon their power and dominance. Passive or aggressive racism.

      Btw, I think Khirad should explore this in an article, the consistency of the use of this code in American history is fascinating.

      Secondly, though TPs and racially uncomfortable people (to be charitable) still make up a big portion of this nation, their numbers or shrinking. The question is, should the majority be seeking to placate them? Can they be placated without being able to “take their country back”?

      If the TP was legit, they theoretically should support a majority of the proposals above. Laws that say only human beings are people, having the people pay for their own elections, citizens empowered to recall their own elected officials, limiting the power of the SCOTUS judges (i.e. government), etc.

      What’s revealing is that though they claim they’re all about financial and personal responsibility, they don’t oppose the non-Democratic and non-governmental forces that oppose their “principles”.

      As we saw after Carter, the Moral Majority gained power and sway over the GOP. IMO, this is history repeating itself. Another self-righteous group whipped up by “liberal” attempts to move the country forward, seeking to oppose what they see as changing the status quo and bent on enforcing their minority, extremist agenda upon the majority.

      Yep, sadly, 47% did vote for McCain over Obama and yet it was one of the widest margins of victory for a president in many years.

      I see what you do, the pendulum swinging back and forth but I think it is keeping us from achieving any meaningful progress, one step forward, two steps back. At this point in history, the ramifications for stagnation could be profound. We could condemn one or more generations to a quality of life that is much worse than their parents enjoyed.

      Looking back to the era of the Civil Rights Act, it seems obvious today that those opposing change were rightly ignored. There may be a political price to be paid in the short term for doing the right thing, as Johnson paid but I do think those who want progress in this nation need to press forward without regard for those who want to keep us mired in the status quo…or go backwards.

      • bitohistory says:

        AdLib, This is the video on states rights/slavery that you were referencing.

        “Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader.” An interview with James Loewen.

        Insightful and thoughtful.

      • escribacat says:

        I see your point about States rights and how it generally works nowadays. There was nothing to prevent my Israeli villagers from deciding that all Arabs were non-entities (well, the Arabs all lived in their separate village). The Federal gov’t does play the role of Moral Parent in this country, forcing the South to integrate and so on. This was a good thing, in my opinion, but was it “democratic?” Not particularly. So, there are flaws in democracy.

        And I also agree that the conservative thought pattern is fundamentally “wrong” and morally backward, but I also see that they would argue with you and me about that. They truly believe liberals are trying to ruin the country with debt and ruin their businesses with taxes and regulations. I get uncomfortable with the term “Repug” and so on because it simply demonizes people — the same thing Fox news does to the progressive side.

        Anyway, even though I’d be quite happy living under the constitution you describe, I still say that a lot of Americans would not. It makes more sense to let social evolution take its slow course — as Questinia describes below, two steps forward and a lurch back — rather than forcing it. Otherwise, it risks becoming a totalitarian state. Something like us trying to shove democracy down the throats of Iraqi’s whether they asked for it or not.

        • AdLib says:

          Appreciate your thoughts on this, Escrib.

          I do differ with you and Q though, I don’t think we’ve been moving forward over the last thirty years in many areas including a stronger democractic system, economic inequity, partisanship and division, education, regulation over corporations, etc.

          While progress is held hostage by the fearful, backwards-looking Americans, the forces that have been and continue to push our democracy and standard of living deeper into decline are consolidating greater political and economic dominance over the American people.

          As you say, we don’t want to trade oppression by the wealthy for oppression by government, we don’t want a dictatorship. But, in similar times, Johnson did push through the Civil Rights Act even though the parents and grandparents of many of these Tea Partiers were just as resistant to change.

          It’s challenging to reach a consensus with those opposed to change that change should occur. And in the meantime, our system could become entrenched in a way that makes profound change no longer viable.

          I do think that our democracy is best served by majority decisions being implemented, with consideration of the minority opinions but not beholden to them.

      • Questinia says:

        I disagree with the backward motion you describe. I think it is two steps forward one step back, one step forward one and and a half steps back. We are doing the cha-cha, lurching forward, being dragged back in a mangled tango. Change is VERY hard for conservatives. Liberals need to understand this. Instead conservatives get mocked. It’s like throwing the scared child who can’t swim into the pool. It’s not a linear progression, it will speed forward, hit a plateau, get stressed and regress again. We are in a regression currently because of the stress of the economy and the election of a black president. A regression/recession.

        A conservative once told me “The sixties brought too many changes too quickly, we weren’t ready for it”. To which I replied “Yeah, but the people who needed rights can’t spend the only lives they have mired in discrimination. They don’t have time to take it slow”. That’s essentially the conflict. Like they say, depending upon your attitude toward what the sixties meant in fact and fiction, you develop into either a conservative or a liberal. We are still wrestling with it.

  7. Questinia says:

    Ever think of running for office Adlib? We need people like you!

    I’m serious.

    • AdLib says:

      Such a kind thing to say, Q, thank you so much!

      The reason we need a Constitutional change is that most people could never afford the massive amount of money required to run for office. Even if you were elected, once you stood up for the people and against the corporate interests, they have unlimited amounts of money to remove you in the next election.

      And anyway, people would probably hold that youthful indiscretion against me. I mean, that guy was dead when I got there.

    • bitohistory says:

      And I await to enjoy and consume your thoughts into the ramshackle remains of my mind.

  8. SueInCa says:

    Great article Adlib. You know, people choose or inherit their relgion in the same manner. How many people do you know that are attending a church where they have actually looked at the church doctrine or looked at the history of that religion to find out what it is really built on? Not many people. They will follow a religion because “everyone else does” or “because they like their building” or “I just felt the need to belong”.
    This is how cults thrive. This is how fundamentalists sects thrive. It is the reason most people, if you ask them about the beliefs or doctrine of their church, will look at you like you are giving them a test or something. And most will not have the answers either.

    • AdLib says:

      Thanks Sue!

      So true, I often express to friends of mine struggling to debate relatives or friends out of being RW Repubs, “They didn’t arrive at their political beliefs using reason, you can’t use reason to convince them out of it.

      Studies have shown that, as with religion, many people are indoctrinated into their political beliefs from childhood and they become personally vested in that party as being the “right” one. That is not a position that facts, reason or betrayal by that party can sway them. My party, right or wrong.

      These are petrified people when it comes to social progress, they are upset and intimidated by change and will even lock arms with the ones harming them most to fight against change.

      This is why I think they have to be left in the dust as we move forward. Trying to recruit these people is futile, they do not respect or have interest in compromise. And their way means standing still while the rest of the world passes us by.

      I think Obama and the Dems trying to compromise with the TP Repubs is a huge mistake. I don’t see any strategy, just cautiousness but the Dems and Obama may fall into the right strategy without planning it.

      Perhaps the best thing is to keep all eyes on the Repubs for how they’ll make things better and when that doesn’t work and they go wacko, the Dems and Obama step back strongly into the spotlight to fight for the people and call out the Repubs for merely wanting to nakedly grab power at the expense of the well being of the nation.

      As I say, Obama and The Dems seem meek right now, this isn’t an act. But the Repubs will soon get full of themselves with the power that’s being unnecessarily ceded to them by the Dems…and they may sink of their own weight sooner than later.

  9. whatsthatsound says:

    Terrific article, Adlib.
    Honestly, I really think America is looking more like a failed experiment with each headline. It seems to be a populace sold, lock stock and barrel, to war mongers, robber barons, financial hoodlums (banksters, in other words) and a phony group of “elected representatives” who act only as their functionaries.

    I wouldn’t even know where to begin to get back on track beyond the ideas you’ve put out there, but I would like to see this: Something to revitalize the Rust Bucket cities of the Great Lakes, not only for economic reasons, but as a symbol. Akron, Toledo, and especially Detroit: these were the cities that won WW2 for our country. And they were the first cities to be abandoned to global interests as our former enemies were built up to the point where they overtook our industrial base. This is how you treat a “war hero”? By telling him thanks, and then telling him you’re giving his job to the guy he risked his life to save us from?
    America needs to show greater decency to its veterans, of course most importantly its human ones. But those cities are veterans too, they gave everything, and got the shaft. It’s a real symbol of our moral decay that this was allowed to happen.

    • AdLib says:

      Cheers WTS! I can’t express how optimistic I was that once Obama became president, he would revitalize the rust belt with green tech manufacturing.

      Wind turbines, electric cars, fuel cells and solar panels, the technology of the future needed to be manufactured and we have the manpower and experience in that region to make it all happen while revitalizing that section of the nation.

      And in return for helping them bounce back, the Dems and Obama earn the loyalty of what were swing states.

      Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The Stimulus should have been that tool, it should have been far larger to accomplish a lot of that but Obama’s belief that what the country needed most is bipartisanship, led him to accept a smaller bill that harmed that kind of recovery and progress, as well as his own political strength.

      I still think that’s the answer, we sure need that kind of a jobs bill though with a Repub House, I doubt there’s much help on the way for anyone earning less than a million.

      I’ve said it before, Americans as a whole are not that bright, they don’t act to avoid trouble, they keep walking into the quicksand until they’re about to drown THEN they freak out ti save themselves.

      Until the plutocracy that has regained power in our government has so oppressed the majority that they are about to drown, they will keep marching into the quicksand deeper and deeper.

      I think real change can happen but only when the suffering of the majority becomes unbearable.

      • Questinia says:

        The only way to bipartisanship was to have won the people over FIRST consequently giving the opposing side an “offer they couldn’t refuse”by demonstrating the dems had the people on their side. Instead, Obama tried to join with a group that could effectively split him from the electorate, which they did. This is not using the triangle dynamic to one’s advantage.

        Rahm did not help.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        those were exactly my thoughts too. That the region that has done so much for the country, but in a way, also done so much to harm the environment in its older Industrial Revolution Incarnation, could both regain power AND “atone” for itself through becoming the world leader in green technology.

        Now, surprise, surprise, it looks like it’s up to Japan, and China, to move forward on that and reap the benefits. The stimulus was misused and the greatest American opportunity since perhaps The Marshall Project (or Carter’s earlier aborted attempt to go green) was squandered. As a nation, you only get so many chances.

    • kesmarn says:

      On behalf of those Rust Bucket veteran cities, may I say “thank you” to you, WTS!

      The Dem governor of Ohio, who was just thrown out of office by the T-Party, had planned a forward-thinking high speed passenger rail system to link Ohio’s major cities. The funding was already in the pipeline. Hope was in the air.

      Sez the new Repub/Wall St. governor: “Nay! No high-speed rail! Forget it! But — how about I should channel those billions from the Feds to my cronies in the old-style creaky freight rail system? OK?”

      Thank gods, the Feds said no to that one.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Hi Kes,

        I’m from Columbus, and am a proud Ohioan.
        Michigan and Ohio, etc. have been among the least served by Reaganism and corporatism, and it is a great tragedy.

        • kesmarn says:

          Sadly true, wts, and as I noted earlier, now that GM has turned around and re-invented itself (thanks to our President), investors are trampling each other to buy stock in it. Again, Obama gets no credit for saving jobs in the area. Think how much worse things would have been if the automakers had all gone under!

          • bitohistory says:

            k’es, I have lived in a a few areas where the main industry has been shutdown or had major layoffs. The ripples though the community are devastating. Not just the main industry and their suppliers, but everything from shoe stores, to churches and bars. The magnitude of Obama helping to save the US auto industry is hard to imagine unless one has lived in such an area. Yet he is chastised for helping corporations and those damn Unions. The ruin he, and a Democratic Congress, helped prevent is immeasurable.

            • kesmarn says:

              It’s so frustrating, b’ito. How do you base an argument on “what might have been, but wasn’t”? Especially when the present situation is undeniably tough?

              I often think back to the flap over the — was it — avian flu? swine flu? I’ve already forgotten. But it was scary headlines for days. Obama and the CDC orchestrated a really effective development and distribution program for the vaccine. All Obama got was grief. I remember snarky stories about how he and Michelle “grabbed” some of the early, more scarce doses for themselves. Bogus. And, on the other hand, they “didn’t trust the vaccine enough” to let their kids have it right away, or so went the RW legends.

              Long story short: epidemic averted. And no credit ever to the Obama administration.

  10. Khirad says:

    I remember a poll of high school students in Bush

    • PepeLepew says:

      That’s not just high school students. Many other polls have shown that the many Americans do not really believe in the First Amendment.

      This is a 2007 survey done by FirstAmendment.org


      • AdLib says:

        It’s not a coincidence that as our schools go downhill, we end up with Repub leaders like Bush and Palin.

        The more ignorant the people are, the more binary their thinking. Good an evil, American and socialist, them and us.

        It is the ability to see shades of gray that differentiates adults from children and the visionary from the follower.

        Without being taught how to use critical thinking, politics and society become a religion where the leader announces how the world should be seen and the faithful happily swallow it all with an “amen”.

        Only our smarts and determination can get us out of such a complex predicament.

      • bitohistory says:

        That’s a chilling poll, Pepe.
        Glad I’m not a non-Christian reporter 😉

        Seriously that is a very sad comment on both American’s attitudes and education. Onward Evangelical Christian Soldiers?

    • AdLib says:

      Hey Khirad -- Agreed, one of the items on my wish list was barring corporations from any role in elections, which would also help protect the recall elections of Congresspeople from abuse.

      Once the nationalistic blinders are pulled off, it is outrageous that our system of elections is worse than in third world nations.

      I agree in general with Maher’s proposal, my summary is simply that most people vote from emotion or allegiance, not reason. This may have been less true in some parts of American history but more true in others, it’s not terribly unique.

      As has been said before, at many points in American history, “The masses are asses.”

      • Khirad says:

        I was thinking of Costa Rica and the wonderful community holiday they’ve made of voting.

        But, what say you of the Oregon model?

        My thinking being that the counterargument to keeping polls open for a week would be expensive.

        So, why not just send everyone registered to vote a ballot in the mail? (not costless itself, of course)

        Or, like the state of Washington, if you still want to go to the polls, you can either drop it off, or vote traditionally?

        • AdLib says:

          I like Oregon. And BTW, they have early voting in many states which allows voters to go to select polls to vote throughout the week.

          In essence, it is happening on a small scale, I would just suggest doing it on a bigger scale.

          As for an all mail-in vote, that works for me too. And definitely, voting on weekends is a great idea. I mean, if voting is so important, why do it in the middle of the week when people are miles away from their polling place at their place of work and have to rush home or else miss voting?

  11. bitohistory says:

    Anywhere you can stick this in there AdLib?

    • AdLib says:

      Wow…damn right there’s a prominent spot for that quote and sentiment!

        • AdLib says:

          What is most revealing is that the Tea Party, despite claiming to be inspired by the American Revolution, goes out of its way to avoid Jefferson’s existence and philosophy. Just as RW Repubs do (remember the TX School Board has completely removed Jefferson from their history books?). Even though he was the principle author of The Declaration of Independence!

          They are an admitted fraud, claiming they want freedom but silent on Wall Street Reform and many of The Founders who opposed the wealthy and corporations accumulating too much power.

          We’ve thrown around a lot of names about a populist group under which the majority of Americans could become activist. The Tea Party chose that event, what about using the name of a far more influential thing that made American Independence possible, acknowledging Thomas Paine’s invaluable contribution…”The Common Sense Party”?

          After all, what better answer to what’s going on in this nation and the Tea Party than “Common Sense”?

          From Wikipedia:

          (Thomas Paine’s) principal contributions were the powerful, widely read pamphlet Common Sense (1776), advocating colonial America’s independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and The American Crisis (1776

  12. AlphaBitch says:

    Thanks. Wow -- so Kes and I would be some of the prototypical founding “Mothers”. I like that!

  13. Questinia says:

    There is irony to democracy. There really has never been a true democracy here, and what we are seeing now are just the tenets of the Founding Fathers gone metastatic.

    I will have more to say later.

    What you are probably entreating, Adlib, is a call to pluralism, where people have more of a say. That’s not a democracy per say, but it probably could be integrated into the system we have now.

    • AdLib says:

      What I think would be valuable is a pluralistic revision of the Constitution so that it functions more truly as a democracy.

      It’s far-fetched to think it ever could happen but as the plutocracy and economic injustice becomes too much in this country to be sustained, maybe the REAL people (not the reformulated Moral Majority as Tea Partiers) will finally rise up and demand big changes.

  14. AlphaBitch says:

    Great, thought provoking articles, both of you!

    Having worked for the biggest law firm representing various associations (ie, we were the lobbyists), and having rewritten bills so that our clients were better served: how about no riders on bills? So what if they have beaucoup bills to process? What do you think I’m paying them for? I want a “yes” or “no” vote without all the strings and riders attached. No more “A bill to authorize mandatory jail time for all wife-beaters” with an attached rider “It’s OK to rape young children”. They stand alone or not at all.

    • AdLib says:

      Absolutely! The way such political “gotcha”s corrupt legislation is obscene. Remember Angle accusing Reid of wanting to give Viagra to sex offenders?

      That was one of those amendments proposed by Repubs as a rider on the HCR bill, to deny Viagra to sex offenders, done so cynically to force Dems to vote against it or allow the amendment process to commence which would have derailed a vote on HCR.

      The planting of political land mines in bills should be prevented.

    • bitohistory says:

      Agree!! When I watch the proceedings in Congress on C-Span and the clerks read a title of a bill it invariably ends with “and for other purposes.” I often wonder “what exactly are those ‘other purposes’?”

      • AlphaBitch says:

        I don’t know, but it makes me feel icky if it has anything to do with David Vitter…….

        You have to remember, I was in the free-for-all world of Texas politics. I MET Dick Armey and Charlie Wilson. I was there when Henry B. Gonzalez (God love him) punched out a man for calling him a communist because he was a progressive. I once sat behind dear Miss Ann (Richards) at a concert in a “joint”, and she kept asking me if her hair was too big and if I needed her to “pat it down”. I’ve seen the beast of politics and governing up close. Nuthin like the Texas Lege to convince you that true idiots (see Armey and Wilson above and add to that Delay) can get elected and rise to power on the simple premise of bullshit. How do you think Bush was successful?

    • kesmarn says:

      Great idea, AB!

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