Monday, February 27, 2012


QUITE SIMPLY, our democracy doesn't work because we (collectively) don’t pay attention. This makes it really easy for anyone to say anything, and if repeated enough, that anything becomes fact. Here are some examples:

  1. In the run up prior to the 2008 elections – notably the first contest in over 60 years where an incumbent or former president or vice president did not stand on the ticket – oil prices skyrocketed to over $145 per barrel. Gas prices jumped. People paid more money at the pump and had less money for other consumer products.
  2. Coincidentally(?), the US dropped into its greatest recession since the great depression.
  3. Now, preceding another presidential race, the outcome of which may have interesting tax consequences for oil companies, oil prices are again skyrocketing.

The spin:
  1. The Iranians are threatening to close the straits of Hormuz.
  2. The oil companies need to shut down refineries in order to retool for the summer formula.
  3. The administration is not serious about cutting our dependence on foreign oil or it would have okayed the Keystone pipeline carrying Canadian tar sands oil to our gulf for refinement.

The facts as I see ‘em:
  1. Oil companies on the east coast are shuttering refineries because there is a reduced demand for their product.
  2. The US exports record amounts of gasoline offshore.
  3. Keystone? As of Monday, February 27, Canada was still a sovereign (foreign) nation.

Defensible conclusion:
  1. The run up in oil prices can damage a teetering economic recovery while enriching oil companies and speculators.
  2. The price rise can damage the Obama reelection efforts.
  3. The run-up is political and is a cynical stick in the eye to the average American trying to fill his or her tank while strugglingly under-employed.

  1. In 2002, the US engaged in an insurgency in Afghanistan in order to find and kill the Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center.
  2. In 2003, the administration alleged that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was plotting to supply terrorists and use them in attacks on the United States. A pre-emptive war ensued with the US in the role of aggressor for the first time in its history. Later the allegation was proven false.
  3. In 2011 Arab nations took it upon themselves to throw off the chains of dictatorship and overthrow their oppressive regimes.
  4. In Libya, NATO elected to provide support to rebels as Gadaffi’s regime brutally murdered it people. As a member of NATO, the US provided tactical and air support.

The spin:
  1. With the decision to support NATO, critics claimed Mr. Obama was engaging in a third war at a time when our troops were beleaguered and our treasury unable to support this third front.

The facts as I see ‘em:
  1. After Mr. Bush admitted that he didn’t spend much time thinking about bin Laden, the Obama administration authorized a mission that removed the leader.
  2. The administration has pulled combat forces from Iraq and has fast-tracked the pull out in Afghanistan.
  3. The overthrow of Gadaffi cost no American lives.

The kicker:
  1. Some of those concerned about Obama’s third front are clamoring for greater US involvement in the Syrian Civil War and a pre-emptive assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Defensible conclusion:
  1. Disengaging militarily in the Middle East and Central Asia will help return the US to its long-held position as a moral world power; ignoring, for the moment, our less-than-upstanding use of economic might.
  2. Eliminating those who would threaten peace, stability and our sovereignty can be accomplished without major military deployments.
  3. Our security can be protected through the judicious use of our intelligence operatives.
  4. Bringing troops home does not determine whether one is soft on defense.
  5. Results determine the ultimate quality of policy.

  1. Decades ago, the solons in Sacramento were considered out of touch and corrupt. The first step in trying to remedy this was the development of a full-time legislature. Being engaged as a full-time employee, it was reasoned, legislators would be less susceptible to pay-offs from industry lobbyists and special interests groups.
  2. When the full-time legislature found itself unable to wrangle with budgetary problems, a proposition passed with a trailer that mandated budgets could only pass with a two-thirds vote of the assembled. Smaller groups of ideologues could stymie the process.
  3. Because of this gridlock, term limits were imposed so that those elected would have to return to “real work” rather than making a career of politics. With each step the ability for legislators to accomplish their tasks moved further and further away.

The spin:
  1. The legislature is corrupt.
  2. We need to let them know they work for us.
  3. They need to quit playing fast and loose with our tax money.
  4. We need to take back California.

The facts as I see ‘em:
  1. The people of California have voiced that they wish their pet program – education, fire protection, police protection, prisons, state parks, aide for dependent children, highways and infrastructure – to continue to be funded. They expect services to be rendered when need arises.
  2. In the next breath they veto any attempts to raise revenues in order to fund those programs.
  3. The term-limited legislature is one of the few venues of employment where with experience comes disqualification.
  4. The two-thirds plurality in order to pass budget offers a diminishing number of ideologues the power to hold hostage the mechanics of state and control the pace of legislative movement.

The defensible conclusion:
  1. The voter-imposed remedies to the failings of the legislature have themselves proven to be failures.
  2. A return to one-man, one-vote majority rule would return the threshold of democratic decision making back to 50%+1.
  3. Electee’s terms should be limited only by the specific will of the electorate.
  4. Such a solution will only work if voter demands the truth from their punditry, pays attention to the deeds of their elected officials and takes appropriate action in the voter’s booth should those elected officials fall short of expectation.
  5. If voters would rather not pay attention to the affairs of state, then the autopilot solutions we have in place should remain (Hell! Let’s make up some more!) and we shouldn’t be surprised about the results.

WE ARE A NATION of individuals who can open the garage door remotely and turn on the television remotely, yet not even remotely be engaged in our representative government. We just expect it to happen. We are happy when we are told to be happy and angry when we are told to be angry. We are, sadly, on autopilot.

This will be remedied when we, as a people, return to the habit – embrace our duty – of paying attention ourselves to the nation’s needs, the government’s actions and the hits and misses that link or separate the two. Then acting accordingly on Election Day.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. A Fcebook buddy adds:

    The thing about democracy, just like any form of government, is that it's only as good as the people participating in it. A despotic dictator can be a good despotic dictator. A ruling oligarchy can be a good ruling oligarchy. A democracy can be a good democracy..., or not. There's nothing particularly magical about democracies..., the theory is that sharing out political influence over more people than in the prior two examples will tend to even things out and make 'good' outcomes more likely. But when those people don't pay attention and allow themselves to be influenced by a few money-driven propoganda machines the system is no better than any other. The big difference is that in a democracy we have nobody to blame except ourselves...