Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

If there was one thing I didn’t expect when Barack Obama was elected President, it was the way our every day political processes would be transformed. Everyone knew that, in the old days, he had been a community organizer.  It was also clear that his campaign organization was far superior to that of John McCain.  Some might say that he organized his way to the Presidency.  I suppose that is a good thing, after all a President should be organized, shouldn’t he? Let the best organizer win.

However, now that he is President, I would have thought that the community organizing stuff would have stopped.  But it hasn’t. Not only has TEAM OBAMA not given up on organizing, the Republican Party has decided to fight fire with fire, and they have started organizing their base too!  Just look at the so-called Town Meetings that recently occurred across the country.  Disruption – that was the plan of the organized Republicans and, in many cases, they succeeded.  They were successful in preventing any useful discussion of the pros and cons of health care reform.  Instead they successfully instilled fear into their followers and then communicated that fear nationally on television to the majority of Americans who could only conclude, along with Barney Frank, that a lot of these people must be spending a lot of their time on some other planet.

Not to be outdone, TEAM OBAMA has ceaselessly put out the call for supporters of health care reform to to contact their Congressional representatives, to show up at Town Meetings, and to do whatever it takes to make their voices heard over the din of the Republican scaremongers.  Instead of a rational debate being waged in Congress, we have entrenched Republican Congressmen and Senators who, having lived for the past eight years with a “my way or the highway” philosophy, still don’t seem to understand that the Democrats have enough votes of their own to pass whatever they want – just like the Republicans did under President Bush.  We have an intransigent Congress, a Congress unable and unwilling to come to a consensus on almost anything.  So what happens?  The political organizers, the community organizers of both parties have taken over and have decided to organize us -as if that will have any effect at all.

Don’t they understand?  We don’t have a vote.  We already voted.  Remember?  This country isn’t a Democracy; it is a Republic.  It is only our elected representatives who get to vote now.  So what is the purpose of all this continuing community organizing?  We, the people, couldn’t change anything even if we wanted to.  The only thing all this organizing has accomplished is that it has disrupted any and all attempts at a rational discussion of the issues.  There is no doubt that this was the plan of the Republican Party – it was they who sent in the sappers and the berzerkers into the Town Meetings.  Their plan was to disrupt and destroy. Political guerrillas, they descended upon open public meetings with Congressmen and Senators, carrying signs and sometimes even guns,  and prevented open-minded talk.

This isn’t democracy.  It’s not even close.  This is what we get when our elected officials are paid off by lobbyists who represent America’s businesses.  This is what we get when we say nothing for years as our highest officials make kidnapping and torture a standard operating procedure.  This is what we get when we allow our elected officials to listen in on our private conversations without any cause, in violation of our Constitution, and we do nothing.  We morph.  We let ourselves be led, willing and unquestioning believers.  Lambs to the slaughter.  It’s a slippery slope we have been on.

If I could say one thing to both the Republican and Democratic Parties, I would say this: stop trying to organize me. Save that for the election years.  If you want to know what I think – ask me. Use the internet in a constructive way – if you dare.  Send me, send all of us, a list of questions via the internet.  We’ll tell you what we think. We don’t need no organization to do that.  Better still, take a vote. A real vote. Via the internet. It can be done securely. Look, if the internet is secure enough for trillions of dollars of banking transactions, it’s certainly secure enough for us to vote. Isn’t it?

So here’s a challenge to both of our American political parties.  Go ahead, organize me. Organize me so that I can vote directly on health care and my vote will actually, truly count. Let’s let all American voters use the internet to vote on the really big issues and tell our elected representatives to just deal with the small ones.  Let’s turn this country into a true democracy. We have the technology today. It can be done. It can be done almost overnight. So, all of you Washington organizers, go ahead.  You want to organize us? Just flip the switch.  Don’t use me, Organize Me.  Organize everyone, organize true freedom and democracy for America.

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She said she was stepping down for the sake of her State.  There were too many investigations, too much of the good people’s money being spent on her defense. She would do the right thing and pass the Basketball of State to her lieutenant governor.  But she’ll be OK, Alaskans, don’t worry – she’ll find a way.  But what about Alaska?  What will Alaskans do when Putin rears his head and flies over Alaska and then where does he go?  What about that? What will the Alaska newpaper industry do now? Remember how she said she reads all the newpapers and news magazines? But then she couldn’t recall the name of any of them?  Of course not.  Could you if your mind was so chock full of facts from non-stop reading of every possible news magazine and newspaper available in Alaska?  Of course not, you would barely be able to think straight or even talk in complete sentences because of all the information overload you would be experiencing.  Think of the financial impact this will have on the news publishing industry – who’s going take up where Sarah left off , who’s going to buy the newspapers, I mean all of them, like Sarah did?

Sarah won’t be suffering, because, inevitably, she’ll be back.  Look at her poll numbers.  A recent Gallup poll said that 71% of Republicans would vote for her if she ran for President. It is here, in these statistics where we can get an idea of something far more ominous than the stepping down of Sarah Palin.  Our process for selecting our supreme leader, our President, is badly broken.  Sure, we elected Barack Obama – our candidate for change – but the jury is still out on him, and we have some time to go before we can say for sure if we will get the change we thought we were getting.  But leave President Obama aside for a few moments.  Just think back in time…

There was George W. Bush – a C student from Yale who managed to dodge combat duty in Vietnam.  He could stir people’s imagination by alluding to high sounding principles, but in the end had neither the intelligence nor the principles we thought he had.  Then there was Bill Clinton – a smart guy for sure – but his principles were a little shaky and his definitions of commonly used words, like “sex” weren’t the same as everyone else in the country.  If we go back in time we find that a good many of our Presidents were by no means the best and the brightest, nor were they the most honest and brave. Some,  like Richard Nixon had obvious character flaws, and others, like Ronald Reagan had a hard time distinguishing between reality and the movies – “Go ahead, make my day”:  a President ( a former Hollywood actor) who received his guidance for running the country from old movie scripts.

So is this our meritocracy?  This is the land where anyone – literally anyone, it seems – can become President.  Is this a good thing?  What does it say about America that approximately 1/3 of Americans have already said they would vote for Sarah Palin to be President?  We have so many truly gifted, intelligent people in America who could undoubtedly perform admirably as President.  We have so many principled, honest, and forthright people who would work tirelessly for our country. But where are they?  Where are all the truly gifted people who have what it takes to be a legendary leader?

There is a flaw in our democratic system – a very serious flaw.  Somehow we have evolved into a system where, more often than not, we are forced to choose, not between the better of two individuals, but the lesser of the evils.  Why?  Is it the hidden oligarchy that pulls the strings of our government via its enormous wealth?  Has our system become so corrupt with big business and lobbyists shoving money at candidates and elected officials that no intelligent person or person of principle can even be considered for our highest office?  How is it that in a country of 300,000,000 people that, not too long ago we had to choose between George W Bush and John Kerry for President?  Is that truly the best we can do?  That, in itself, is absolute proof that the wheels have come off our system.

Is it possible that the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, has fallen so far that its guiding lights and inspiration are now Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck?  Is this some kind of a joke?   Is it possible that of all the potential candidates for President that Sarah Palin is the best the Republican Party can do?  Surely there are at least 299,999,999 other Americans better suited for the job.  But, it’s true – the majority of Republicans today want her.

The situation is truly sad, but Sarah is right, we shouldn’t cry for her, Alaska.

We should cry for ourselves.

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It was the Greeks who invented democracy, but their democracy was very different from ours.  In ancient Athens citizens voted directly on the issues, sort of like the traditional New England town meetings in the U.S.  However, as the U.S. developed it became clear that this type of democracy simply could not function in a land as large as ours and a new form of democracy, representational democracy was created.  This is the form of government we have today: we elect our Representatives and Senators, our President and Vice President, and we expect them to perform and make decisions on our behalf.  The problem is that sometimes it doesn’t seem that our representatives remember just what our interests are.  Sometimes our representatives are swayed by inputs from lobbyists.  Sometimes our representatives just don’t seem to have good judgment – at least they don’t make the decisions we would have made.

We are in an interesting position now – actually we have been in this position for ten years or more – we can, if we want to, return to a more “pure” form of democracy, a form of democracy that more closely resembles ancient Greek democracy or New England town hall style democracy. We can vote via the Internet.  This isn’t a new idea, the concept was discussed by Jodi Kantor in a CNN article in 1999, and I imagine others had talked about it before that.  Perhaps many Americans thought we weren’t quite technologically ready for it then. There were concerns about security and fraudulent voting and such.  There were, it seems, also concerns by some elected officials that they might be out of a job if this happened. So it didn’t.

Now, about nine years later, we are no closer to using the Internet to cast our votes than we were then.  The issues about voting security have long been put to bed. After all, if our banks are happy to conduct millions of financial transactions every day over the Internet it ought to be safe enough for secure, private voting too.  Yet, it is surprising that we don’t even talk about this. We don’t even do this on the level of small town voting, and yet it would be so easy and convenient to have virtual town meetings and let everyone vote on issues relevant to any particular town. But we don’t

I guess everyone has heard that we, the USA, have now officially lost the lead in physics research to Europe. You know, the CERN facility in Switzerland and the large hadron super collider that will soon try to create the conditions that existed immediately after the Big Bang.  Well, we haven’t only lost the lead in physics to Europe, we’ve also lost the lead in democracy to Europe (Oooohhh…those “European ideas” the Republicans are so afraid of). In 2007, Estonia (yes, Estonia) conducted their Parliamentary elections using Internet voting.  It went very well, thank you. What did you expect?  So now the good citizens of Europe have shown that they have the technology to transform democracy and lead it into the 21st century, while the U.S. pretends that it can’t be done and just ignores the whole idea.

The thing about Internet voting is that it could allow each of us to vote on issues that we care a lot about, things like: should we go to war with Iran now or wait a year; should we go ahead and actually build the bridge to nowhere; should we make the rich pay their fair share of taxes; should we make the taxpayers bail out the banks; should we have national health care; should public education be free all the way up through college level; and whatever else we think we should do.

So how come no one talks about this? How come no one is interested? It can be done. Estonia (a former member of the Soviet Union) already did it! It’s time for America to awaken from its Bush/Cheney induced narcolepsy.  Those Europeans, with all their scary “European ideas” are leaving us in the dust in technology, education, health care, and now, even democracy.  It would be very simple to start using Internet democracy for small towns; but it could quickly grow and be used on the state and national level. We certainly have the technology readily available.  Perhaps we should listen to Robert F. Kennedy when he quoted George Bernard Shaw who said, “Some men see things as they are and say why – I dream things that never were are say why not?”

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