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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

It's not the man; it's the machine

I've met Pat Buchanan -- he wore a nice red, cream and blue tie; I met Steve Forbes, he invited me onto his very nicely appointed campaign bus; I met Orrin Hatch, he was, seemingly, a very nice man.

I used to work for a newspaper in Iowa and the joke was that you could get a presidential candidate to deliver your pizza during the caucus season. All of the above men seemed reasonable except for Forbes. He was on his flat tax kick and when he talked in that hypnotic monotone you couldn't help but stare into his eyes, looking for a spark that wasn't in the conversation. And, it was a wasted effort. Steve Forbes had the deadest eyes I have ever seen on someone in the habit of breathing.

Still, how very contrary the public image and the person. Nice in a one-to-one, while a part of the lunatic fringe when it comes to thoughts on governing. So, what is it that makes these men stark raving advocates of the right when the country spends most of its time in the middle?

I rail and raise a hue and cry about the hands of government smacking us around. But, I fear the hands are interchangeable. A Democratic opportunist has the same tailor as a Republican one. Which raises the questions: Has the system "achieved consciousness"? Did our government become a living entity when we weren't looking?

Is HAL running the country?

If viewed in terms of a sporting contest, I have very few moments when I want to jump to my feet, fist clenched and scream, "Yeah! That's MY government!" My "team" doesn't thrill me so much as I'm afraid of the goons on the other side. It's a very mechanical support that I give to my candidates; I practice artificial enthusiasm because that's about the best I can do. It's a reaction that is a close cousin to the nervous smile on the lips of a shopkeeper paying protection money to a grinning extortionist.

The sickening truisms that fall from everyone's lips -- including mine -- are blazing clues that something is amiss: 'It takes money to run a poitical campaign;' 'term limits are never going to pass in Congress;' ''I don't want to run for office because they'll dig up dirt on me;' You can tell a politician is lying when her lips move.'

Good grief! The beast is at the door and we're rummaging through the pantry for a doggie biscuit when the real meal it desires is us.

How can people fit that kind of political reality into their brain pan? It is anti-human. It is fear-based. It is elitist. But, even more interesting is that it appears uncontrollable. Even the perpetrators get smacked by the machine.

Presidents get black eyes nowadays, not from a fawning press, but from a bureaucracy that won't budge when it needs to -- hello New Orleans? Collect call from FEMA for you. Yet, they keep feeding the beast -- as you're reading this, a law is being passed or debated that impinges on some aspect of your life despite -- read this carefully -- EVERY level of government being controlled by a party supposedly committed to small government and less federal intervention.

I think that's ironic... but I'm not sure I understand irony anymore since I listened to that Alanis Morrissette song. Whatever it is, it seems like a triumph of the system over the human.

That's why we have what I call machine-speak. In machine-speak, liberal is a bad word because it acquiesces to human foibles and needs. The inside-the-beltway derogative slang for such people are goo-goos and squishies. Warm and fuzzy, indeed.

Tom "The Hammer" DeLay got into government with the express notion that he wanted MORE Republicans. That was his goal. He knew how the beast worked. The strategy is to get more people of your party in, not to be "idealogues" -- the latest GOP curse word -- but to work the system.

And, the Dems get no free pass, here. Though I've spent most of my life with a Republican president in office, the machine was fed by a Democratic Congress.

One of the keenest disappointments I've seen in the political arena was Paul Wellstone's decision to run again after he promised he wouldn't. I wasn't dissatisfied with his job and had he not made the promise, I wouldn't have had an issue. I still voted for him, but my suspicion that something about our political process warped a person was fed anew.

In a nation full of very smart people -- and the ass who cut me off on the freeway in the rain this afternoon -- there has GOT to be a trunkful of suggestions as to how we can starve HAL instead of HAL starving us. We can start with term limits, but that does nothing about the bureaucracy.

What can we do?

link | posted by Jae at 3:48 PM |


Blogger Renegade Eye commented at 9:54 PM~  

"It is better to vote for what you want, and not get it; then to vote for what you don't want, and get it."-Eugene Debs

Blogger Olive commented at 12:30 PM~  

I have friends who, in 2000 and (unbelievabley 2004), complained, "it doesn't make a difference --Democrat or Republican... it's all the same."

I said, "you're about to find out what a difference it makes."

It's impossible to feel good about the results of the 2000 or 2004 elections. No matter how you slice, dice or serve it up. My principals seem, somehow, irrelevant.

Blogger Olive commented at 1:38 PM~  

I just think the stakes are too high and the likelihood of affecting a movement too slim to stubbornly vote with our hearts and not our heads. I don’t think a Jesse Ventura-esque surprise win can happen on a national level. Within the current election model, it’s possible to waste ones vote. I hate that too – it flies in the face of what we say we value about our democracy – the right to CHOOSE our representation.

Having said that, I don’t think we should abandon our ideals either. If we agree we’re not ready to give up the fight, then we must make election reform our top priority. Without it, nothing else matters. Without it, men and women will continue to buy their way into the White House. The product they must deliver to their clients costs us dearly -- everything from the bankruptcy bill (MBNA Bank) that will ruin countless lives, to ridiculous appointments (Michael Brown) that have already resulted in the ruin of countless lives.

I’m not talking about Bush-style reform, which is the dismantling of any program that doesn’t provide a high-fat snack for the neo-con elite.

I am talking about the type of reform that my Sherlock dictionary describes – “a change for the better as a result of correcting abuses,” and it includes the following:

--Electoral College reform
--Major party federal-funding reform (Nearly $300,000 in federal taxpayer money was handed out to major political parties in the 2000 election).
--Instant runoff voting so you CAN cast a vote for the candidate you want and not the one for which you’re willing to settle.
--Everyone votes! (Hey, It’s just crazy enough to work). There are a myriad of ways to tap into the true will of the people: Internet voting, making election day a national holiday and/or expanding election day, same day registration in every precinct in America and uniform and fair ID requirements (registration shouldn’t be an impediment to voting), making sure EVERY precinct (yes, even those in African American communities) have enough polling sites and voting machines, enforcing laws that prohibit voter suppression and intimidation.
--Conflict of interest reforms ala Kenneth Blackwell who was Ohio’s election chief AND co-chair of the Committee to Re-elect George Bush in Ohio. Blackwell promised to “deliver Ohio’s electoral votes to George Bush.” He did.
--Ballot access. Democrats and Republicans are usually not held to the same getting-on-the-ballot rules as third party candidates. That’s not fair.
--Open presidential debates. Democracy doesn’t work without an informed electorate.
--Campaign finance reform

And the mother of all reform issues;

--Elimination of Black Box Voting machines and making sure there is a voter PAPER TRAIL. All previous reform issues are mute if the ruling party can just steal the votes they need. As we saw in 2004, it doesn’t matter how long people stand in line to exercise their right to vote if idiot-A gets credit for the vote cast for idiot-B.

We get another crack at this thing in 2006 and I think we (liberals) have a real chance of regaining the House and Senate… which is at least – if not more – important than the presidency. The neo-con ‘house of cards’ is falling and not even David Blaine will be able to change our perception of election-day results if the Republican rats keep jumping off the Rove Boat the way they have since Katrina, the DeLay indictment(s) and Frist insider-trading investigation.

I don’t know if this trend will continue, but I have to hope… or get serious about renewing my passport.

We need to specifically identify the real progressives in the Democratic Party and weed out the fakers and sellouts.

Get behind those Democrats who have proven themselves men and women of integrity. Those who have more often than not come out on the right side of any given issue, treat them like basically good teenagers who’ve gotten in with the wrong crowd – invest in them, but not without strict rules and enforced accountability. To those who are total sellouts – get rid of ‘em.

I’d be interested in beginning a list of those Democrats we can get behind. I’ll get the list started:

Good Democrats:

--John Conyers
--Barbara Boxer
--Maxine Waters
--Barak Obama
--Ted Kennedy
--Howard Dean
--Add yours

Troublesome Democrats:

--Hillary Clinton
--John Kerry
--Nancy “[Bush is] oblivious, in denial, dangerous” Pelosi
--Add yours

Not Democrats:

--The DLC
--Joe Lieberman
--Joe “you’re the real deal” Biden
--Chuck Schumer
--Zell Miller (did I even need to say it?)
--Add yours

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