Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Snapshots of the Soul of American Democracy, 2011: Three Disturbing Takes

This is one of those news-commentary compendium postings I do every now and then, when several articles that seem to me to connect dots appear around the same time.  What strikes me with the following three articles is that they seem to be connecting the same dots from different vantage points.

All three articles address the underlying reasons that we see such a sudden proliferation of initiatives in state legislatures across the U.S. and at the federal level to pit one group of Americans against another: to pit the "Christian" nation against Muslims with spurious anti-Sharia laws; to pit citizens against so-called illegal immigrants with mind-boggling laws like one under consideration now in my state legislature which would require anyone using public services to have a notarized copy of a birth certificate in order to qualify for a service like an emergency room; and to pit "traditional" families against gay and lesbian people.

Each of these articles suggests to me that this flurry of pending legislation has, at least in part, a diversionary intent.  It's designed to keep us fighting as further inroads are made into our democratic system by a wealthy elite of corporate owners who want to have total control of the political process.  And to undermine our democratic system.

The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class -- pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.

By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.

And here's George Lakoff on the patriarchal mindset being used to justify this grab at power by corporate elites: 

The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.

The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women's rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on.  . . .

Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life.

And, finally, here's Jim Hightower commenting on the role that the judicial branch of government has been playing and continues to play in the corporate takeover of our democracy:

Forget modesty and humility, an aloof and arrogant judicial branch of government has arisen and become openly political. Federal judges across the country are flagrantly abusing their authority and public trust by rigging America's economic and political rules for the further enrichment of already powerful and privileged corporations. The 'umpires' have taken sides against us, and it's time to call them out.

Progressives, along with honest conservatives, must focus more on this corporate takeover of the judiciary and directly challenge the judges' service to the moneyed elites. Let me be blunt: John Roberts, the leader of the pack, has turned into an autocratic, unelected national lawmaker, imposing his political vision as the law of our land. He is doing major structural damage to America's unifying sense of fairness and justice. We can't allow him to keep hiding behind the judicial robe while he mugs us and our democratic ideals. He should be impeached.

We are living through a moment of unprecedented peril for American democracy.  Unless we inform ourselves about what is happening and why it is happening, and unless we organize to fight back--as people in Wisconsin are now doing--it may soon be too late to recover the democratic structures we've built painfully and all too imperfectly since the beginning of the nation.

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