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Brin On The State Of America

United States Capitol

Image by lofaesofa via Flickr

Science Fiction author David Brin posted Saturday with an insightful piece on several of the problems that are conspiring to actually rob us of liberty.

Do You Despise Congress?

With an 11% approval rating, you would not be alone, and here are some of the reasons why this may be the case:

The oft-noted phenomenon where Americans hate Congress but love their particular representative is undoubtedly the result of Gerrymandering. The practice leads to homogenization of districts and thus to hyper-partisanship and marginalization of minority (in the sense of political ideas) voices in districts designed to favor candidates of one party or the other.

For balance, this isn’t strictly a partisan issue — Maryland recently went through a bought of the deplorable practice in favor of Democratic candidates. But Gerrymandering is extremely harmful to obtaining consensus and moving forward to solving problems; regardless of who does it.

However, an equally important factor in dividing and immobilizing progress in our political sausage-factory is Republican intransigence and their outright war on facts and science:

I have long pointed out that Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution of 1995 started out with some impressive activity. Part of it was disturbing, like the banishing of all scientific advisory staff from Congress, freeing right-wing members to simply declare any facts they felt like uttering. This action was an early harbinger of what became today’s pyrotechnic, outright and open War on Science.

Republicans moved from being merely disagreeable in the mid-1990’s to claiming their rightful mantle as the party of “NO” after 2000. As an example, Brin notes that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is almost exactly modeled on the Republican’s own counter plan in response to Hillary Clinton‘s health care reform proposal. Only now, the same provisions (including the same “market-based” solutions and individual mandates) are now considered horribly socialist.

He explains, “Republicans under Gingrich, in the 1990s, appeared to (occasionally) want to deliberate, negotiate, dicker, come up with some way to move ahead”.

Now they don’t.

And Brin also offers an important note:

…the GOP-led Congresses from 1996 through 2006 were also the laziest and least effective in 100 years.

I don’t say that from any “liberal” perspective. Rather, I base it on objective and unambiguous standards of hard work, time and productivity. Giving their employers what they pay for. The recent Republican Congresses passed fewer bills, held fewer hearings, issued fewer subpoenas and held fewer days in active session than almost any other since the era of William McKinley. The record is damn near perfect. There are no metrics of legislative or deliberative indolence that weren’t broken by the GOP-led Congresses of the last decade or so.

…The GOP owned Congress and the Courts for ten years, and operated all three branches of government for six of those years, with nothing whatsoever to stop them from passing anything they wanted. Yet, amid a tsunami of complaints, they would not even issue subpoenas or hold investigations to harass their enemies! Nor even show up on days that they were paid to.

Americans are acutely aware that we currently have a “do-nothing Congress” but most, shackled by their party loyalties, fail to examine why this is the case.

It certain appears that there is a clear pattern over several decades of GOP candidates using social “wedge issues” to bait their base into the polling places. However, unless some of the more rabid Tea Party candidates manage to convince the Republican establishment otherwise, that base is likely to have a long wait for their “representatives” to introduce legislation to make good on their promises.

Although Brin only gives a brief mention the impeachment debacle, which I feel was defining moment in the ongoing GOP transformation, he is on point with his main observation — given the power to make good on overturning abortion rights and ending Social Security and Welfare, they did nothing.

On the Democratic side, to be fair, candidates have not delivered on a number of issues important to its base, but for the large part, few if any of the candidates even promise to do so. The once progressive party has shifted to the corporate middle as well, with disastrous consequences.

I and other liberals have been very critical of the Obama administration for such lapses, but for anyone paying attention during the 2008 campaign, Obama never promised anything on the checklist of progressive agenda.

There are a few fighters out there, but they are mostly ignored by the Democratic establishment, busy with deregulating and giving up at the earliest sign of Republican resistance to their most tepid requests for any legislative change designed to aid anyone not in the 1%.

On the other hand, this Republican unwillingness to do anything may lead many to question why a group of people so opposed to governing bothers to run for office.

The answer becomes clear when you look at what legislation did pass during those years (admittedly with the help of many Democrats):

One constituency actually got enough attention to get bills passed. Do you remember which? De-regulation of the banking and mortgage and credit industries. Liberation of Wall Street gamblers. Removal of gas mileage standards. Plenty of the sort of thing that sent our economy toward a cliff.

Money.

Wall Street and corporations pay the bills and lines the pockets of politicians looking out for their most important constituent; themselves.

Brin also brings in the fact that voting machines are ALL manufactured by the very same far-right company (under several subsidiaries) and that those machines are extremely hackable and insecure — making the result of elections more than a little questionable.

To close out the list he takes a shot at the Citizen’s United ruling that Stephen Colbert has made a mockery of quite effectively:

Stephen Colbert hands super PAC to Jon Stewart

All of these forces are working to removing the power from the people and concentrate it in the hands of a few very wealthy people. It is not hyperbole to suggest that this arrangement will lead directly to less liberty for the majority of Americans.

The only way to stop this from happening is to get the money out of the system — and no who can make a difference is proposing this at all.

That’s what is missing from the 2012 presidential race and out national conversation.

-Chris

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January 17, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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