From a somewhat ‘expectant of Obama’ article entitled “
Obama Won. Now It’s Time to Change the System”
in THE NATION, this week.
Well, ummmh … you know I was past the re-election of this guy. Past the wondering what it was the 51.5% saw in him. Past the wondering where the economic destruction would end. Past wondering what national security disaster awaited. Past wondering what Obamacare item in that 2700 pages would trip wire another supreme court brouhaha (turns out it’s the item abrogating the pay for fee contract between private insurance companies and doctors ..anyone betting?). I was past wondering about the cliff and if Obama was serious about compromise, or Boehner for that fact. I was past the joke of Obama thinking he had been elected as anything but NOT BUSH, that he had been elected to fundamentally transform America, and re-elected on a mandate of that and raising taxes-rather than, as the polls indicated because he felt better to the public, that he could empathize with them better than some successful guy who started his own business and created probably hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs out of his own actions, even he had been flip flopping in a public manner along the way. I was past wondering if the America Obama professes to love is some other place than defined in the Founding Documents, and modified by Amendments. Past wondering if he really was striving for his legacy as a President, his personal achievement log, or his MOVEMENT.
And then, you see, you read something… and you know. You know there is MORE DANGER
IT IS THE MOVEMENT
But however skilled Obama is as a politician—and despite the many principled progressives in Congress—we cannot expect to enact more than modest reforms until we tame the power of the corporate plutocrats. Ultimately, we need to change the system that ensnares even the most progressive politicians in its web.
Specifically, we need three kinds of structural “mobilizing” reforms that will dramatically level the political playing field, weakening the power of the corporate plutocracy and strengthening the voices of ordinary Americans:
§ Campaign finance reform. America must eliminate the corrosive impact of money in politics. But until a more liberal Supreme Court reverses the conservative rulings that consider corporate money a form of “free speech” (such as Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United), we need stepping-stone reforms that start to address this power imbalance.
Pending legislation called the Fair Elections Now Act would provide public funding to candidates who get support from large numbers of small donors instead of wealthy contributors, bundlers and lobbyists. The act’s lead sponsors in the House are Representatives John Larson, Walter Jones and Chellie Pingree; in the Senate it’s majority whip Dick Durbin.
A number of states have passed “clean election” laws to reduce the influence of private cash in favor of public funding, but courts have struck several of these down. In New York State, reform activists and Governor Andrew Cuomo are backing a public financing bill modeled after a successful law in New York City.
§ Voting reform. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman John Lewis are sponsoring the Voter Empowerment Act, which would make voter registration easier, thus increasing voter turnout. It would make election day registration the law of the land. According to Demos, a nonpartisan think tank, election day registration currently exists in nine states, and voter turnout in these states has historically exceeded the turnout elsewhere by 10 to 12 percentage points. We should also turn election day into a national holiday and require accessible early voting in every state. No one should have to wait several hours to cast his or her vote.
§ Labor law reform. Throughout the last century, unions have been the most powerful vehicles for challenging corporate power. Organized labor was the primary force responsible for giving us Social Security, the minimum wage, the eight-hour day, unemployment insurance, workplace safety laws and funding for public education.
Today, however, only 11.8 percent of the workforce is unionized, even though more than half of all nonmanagement employees tell pollsters that they would like a union in their workplace. Many employers violate the law by firing or demoting workers who show support for union organizing drives. These employers get away with it because the penalties are too trivial to deter them. We need to update the labor laws and give workers a voice by setting real, deterrent-size penalties and enforceable remedies against employers who violate their workers’ right to organize.
* * *
We can’t simply wait for these game-changing structural reforms to happen. In Obama’s second term, activists need to be bolder and more audacious, like the suffragists, strikers and civil rights crusaders before them. A central task for progressives is to expose the agenda of billionaires and plutocrats. We must name names and call out the business moguls whose overlapping memberships on corporate boards, lobbying groups and conservative think tanks make them a ruling class over the rest of us. Only visible, consistent action will create the political space—and pressure—for President Obama and Congress to act on behalf of the majority of Americans.
This strategy worked in Obama’s first term. His healthcare proposal seemed likely to fail until activists began organizing protests at insurance companies and at the homes of industry CEOs, drawing attention to their outrageous profits and compensation, and giving voice to the victims of the industry’s abusive practices. The protests catalyzed media coverage, strengthened Obama’s resolve and pushed reluctant Democrats to vote for reform.
Activists must use protests, civil disobedience, boycotts, lawsuits and other strategies to pressure Congress to act on such urgent issues as foreclosures, underwater home prices, student debt, taxes, the fiscal crisis of states and cities, and raising the minimum wage. Each of these issues has broad support, workable policy solutions and burgeoning movements behind them.
Every time I think I am out of it, they, well…. you know the rest.
Are we getting it?
You will not want to live here.
They will say good riddance.
I would like to stop and wonder if I should just game this system and forget it. But they will never leave people like me alone. Or, if you are reading this, you. What you think, how you think that, how you want to live are a mortal offense to them.
They will never leave you alone. You cannot LIVE a low enough profile.
Sooner or later you will pop up, visible by something you say, or write, or do, or don’t do.
You will not want to live here.
And it will be in your lifetime.