Commentary - #18 November 25, 2005

This Year & Next

We need to take our government back! Why? – Because we’ve found that it fails in even its most basic functions, safety and security. We’ve learned the hard way. 9/11 and Katrina have been the toughest of teachers. It’s time to stop pretending. We can no longer say: “Let George do it.” In a democracy, “We, the people” are ultimately responsible, else it’s no democracy. If you’re looking to play the blame game; look, like Pogo, in the bathroom mirror and repeat after me: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Why? – because the people’s representatives, in Congress assembled, have failed us. Stop looking at the President. Stop repeating after Harry Truman, “the buck stops here” as if the great American majority is absolved of responsibility. We’re not a single “ship of state” such that one person at the top, “Oh, captain, my captain,” can be blamed if we, as a nation, act like the Titanic.

With an approval rate of 28% and declining, the performance of the Congress is rated much lower than even the very low 37%rating of the President. Yet, every two years, we typically re-elect incumbents to the tune of 95-98%. Who’s responsible for that? We have a Congress that, instead of honoring its Constitutional responsibility to declare war, or at least ask a lot of questions to investigate Presidential claims of why we should go to war, followed the President like lemmings over the cliff by handing their responsibility over to him. So, we not only get a war that is arguably unconstitutional, we get one based on claims that don’t hold water. We’ve been "spun," flim-flammed and fooled. Notice: I'm not claiming that the President has lied to us. I don't believe this claim. After all, many reporters and commentators have stated that the President had determined to go into Iraq to take out Saddam months before 9/11. It appears that the President's mind was made up and that he surrounded himself with "intelligence" people who told him what they thought he wanted to hear.

Yet, we act as if we hardly differ from those to whom P.T. Barnum peddled his bill of goods a century ago. Now we’re told -- and we’re fools over and over again if we un-questionably believe what we’re told -- that we’re fighting to bring democracy to the Middle East. Do you believe that one can plant a precious flower in the desert!, or that, having planted a seed, we can force it to grow and flower at the point of a gun? That we should be engaged in a war without end? -- not (as we’ve been told when fighting the great wars of the past), a war to end war.

Our Constitution is being violated in other ways, right before our very eyes, yet we seem to see not, not to want to see, or we don’t want to believe what our eyes and ears are telling us. As citizens in a federal Republic, why do we ignore the fact that our government is becoming over-centralized? You haven’t noticed the signs and signals? For the latest, look at Bush’s reaction to Katrina. Ironically, it’s the kind of reaction that Republicans associate with “tax and spend” Democrats. You got a problem? -- Have the federal government throw money at it! Where is Ronald Reagan (“get power and money out of Washington”)? Where’s Tip O’Neill (“all politics is local”)? They’re both rolling over in their graves.

As one commentator on the latest turn in the screw of 9/11 accountability stated on the last day of summer (indeed!): “The American people deserve answers!” Yes, they do. Why are WE not getting them? One reason is that we’re not demanding them. We’re not doing enough questioning. We’re not doing enough to challenge those in authority. Too many are too prone to credit uncritically what the President and various media pundits feed them. Congressmen are feeding us, too, as with the kind of political pablum or self-serving propaganda that Members of Congress typically serve up in their newsletters, sent out at our (taxpayers’) expense via a Congressional “frank” even though the Members doing the sending are less than frank.

What’s to be done? We need to work to change and put some backbone in the only one of the three parts of our government that can really count for WE, the people – the House of Representatives. We’ll have a historical opportunity to do so next year, in 2006. Constitutionally, the House is (or rather, it should be) the branch of government that is the most democratic part. It should be the part that is more than just one of three; that is, greater than 1/3 in power. Unfortunately, the power of “We, the People” to be exercised through the House of the Congress has been steadily diminished over many years. It’s been degraded by successive imperial presidencies that hide behind such questionable tactics as “executive privilege” and “recess appointments” by Presidents who have sought to steadily increase the power of the executive branch relative to the Congress. It’s been depreciated by the judicial branch, by judges who use their power to make law rather than interpret it constitutionally.

It’s high time that the power of a democratic people was restored -- not only for our sakes, Americans here at home, but so that our great democratic Republic will once again serve as a “city on a hill” and a beacon to the rest of the world. ONLY YOU CAN DO IT; only YOU, the so-called “ordinary” American voter. Like those who responded to 9/11 and Katrina, none of us are ordinary. Aroused by crisis or challenge, we are capable of extra-ordinary things. The 9/11 and Katrina crises demonstrated that the American people are better than their government. We, the people are self-organizing, self-motivating, resilient, resourceful, courageous and full of initiative.

If there’s any shortcoming, it’s political. There’s too much political apathy and naivete, even unto cynicism, which is destructive. We’re handed too much power over the to “pro’s,” the “best and the brightest” who usually turn out to be terribly unwise, and to government bureaucrats and the politically self-interested. We don’t often feel our own political oats except when there’s a crisis. We are mostly represented by go-along, get-along nice guys and gals in the House. But how well are we “represented” when there’s both a need for leadership and new forms of representation that empower us, too? We care about the world our children and grandchildren will inherit, yet we elect people who play politics in the present tense and behave in ways that oftimes seem remarkably childish, short-sighted and self-promoting.

And so isn’t it time to elect a new kind of candidate to the Congress, one who…

* Believes that…

  • We need to take back our politics and our government.
  • As the first three words of our Constitution remind us, “We, the people” should be (and now can and should become) the true source of power in our great, American, democratic Republic.
  • Politics should honor the following order of priorities: Individual rights, responsibilities and potentials first, Family and family values second, Community and community values third, and government and its bureaucratic values last.
  • It’s time to put more of the “public” and less of private, self-centered and self-interested values back into politics, business and government.
  • We need to do more to nurture both the common good and common goods so that future generations will inherit a more secure, safe, sustainable and beautiful world.
  • Life is sacred.
  • People are spiritual beings, not just made of body and mind.
  • Politics is too important to be left to professionals – the so-called “political class” of consultants, lobbyists, lawyers and political junkies.
  • “All politics is local” (or largely should be, with a tip of an Irish hat to Tip O’Neill).
  • “Let’s move power and money out of Washington” (with a tip of another hat to our late, great President, Ronald Reagan).

*Is honest to a fault, a candidate who will speak the truth to you, even if it hurts (as it often does, which is why so few politicians speak to it).

* Is rooted in the down-to-earth -- localities and communities among real people with real issues -- yet has nation- and world-wide experience that can help his District speak with a more effective voice in the corridors and committee rooms of the Congress.

* Will work doggedly and continually to engage, involve and empower you, American citizens, in what should be YOUR politics – a PEOPLE-BASED POLITICS, not a money&media-based politics -- a new/old politics that pays more attention to the problems and issues that concern you and generations of your families, your communities and our future.

* Is an aggressive leader, innovator and entrepreneur who thinks for himself and who never fails to “tell it like it is,” not a merely nice but weak “yes man” or “go along, get along” type who will sell you short when the pressure in Washington gets too great.

* Is someone who is committed to change and who arrives in the Congress armed with a program of reform designed to empower you, not inflate himself or the hot-air balloon of the Washington “club” that Congress has become.

*Though new, doesn’t need to spend his first year being trained for the job; rather, arrives ready to work for you where “the rubber meets the road” in all spheres, domestic and international, from day one on the job.

*Will constantly work for conservative change – significant reforms that honor the oldest and best values of our great Republic.

*Doesn’t like Washington, who sees it as an overblown, overly big and powerful “company town” -- a candidate whose values are those that made our country great – as reflected in a down-to-earth, small town, local, entrepreneurial, resourceful, self-reliant, truthful, hands-on, “let’s do it” state of mind.

* Understands that an incestuous mix of big money and big media have corrupted our politics and government, so that if we don’t commit ourselves, and make good use of new technology, to return to an old people-based politics – the politics of “The Greatest Generation,” we’ll lose our Republic.

* Thinks that it’s time to select, not settle. People need, deserve and can elect more exceptional Congressmen and women. Why be satisfied with just an ordinary Rep. when you can do better? The GOP can show that choice, competition and a “Search for Excellence” are Republican values-in-action, not just business rhetoric.

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#17 July 27, 2005 - To The Editor, Boston Globe Magazine
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