Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Given A Real Choice, Voters Pay Attention-- Alan Grayson, Thomas Paine And The Lame Duck


A lot is being made about how voters in states where Republican legislatures tried making it more difficult to vote, voters responded by helping defeat Republicans. That makes sense. Many Americans take democracy seriously. Unfortunately, it isn't only the Republicans who sometimes try to subvert it. This whole bullshit about using the lame duck session-- filled with defeated congressmembers who have no accountability to voters-- to seriously alter America's social contract is a disgrace being foisted on us by our transpartisan (conservative consensus) political elite. This isn't about Republicans or Democrats; this is about the political elites paying back the corporate interests and wealthy families who finance their political careers and comfy lifestyles. And it's a disgrace.

One of the most important thinkers among our Founding Fathers was certainly Thomas Paine, who was also the most dedicated to democracy than the rest of them. It's worth reading Common Sense from time to time. It isn't very long. Let me pull a quote from it in which Paine is arguing for the perfection of democracy in terms of proximity between elected officials and voters.
[T]hat the ELECTED might never form to themselves an interest separate from the ELECTORS, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often: because as the ELECTED might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the ELECTORS in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflection of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this... depends the STRENGTH OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE HAPPINESS OF THE GOVERNED.
This is the exact opposite of the Grand Bargain Obama and Boehner are trying to push through a lame duck session where the will of the people can be thwarted with impunity and with no regard whatsoever to the wishes of the voters. I'm expect of Boehner but Democrats in Congress should be ashamed if they participate in this absolutely anti-Democratic exercise.

If there's one contemporary American politician who reminds me of Thomas Paine, it's certainly Alan Grayson, who just won an historic landslide election to Congress from Orlando, not just beating his hapless Republican opponent, but beating President Obama as well. Grayson was on Joy Behar's TV show right after his victory and what he had to say about democracy in our country could just have easily been said by Thomas Paine two and a half centuries ago.

ALAN: I think it's even worse than that, and far more dangerous. What the Republicans are doing [now] is different from what they normally do. They normally try to vilify groups that can't fight back. They vilify the undocumented because they can't vote, so they can't retaliate. They vilify pregnant teenagers because they can't vote either. Here, they're vilifying the voters. They're attacking the voters. They're pissing the voters off, and that's a very dangerous thing for elected officials to do anywhere.

We had lines as long as six hours here in Central Florida to vote, and it was simply because the Republicans wanted it that way. It's because [Republican Governor] Rick Scott wanted it that way. It's because the Republican super-majorities in Tallahassee wanted it that way. If you make voters your enemy, the voters know that, and they are going to fight back.

JOY: Well it seems as though it is easier to register for a gun in Florida than it is to register to vote. Something has to be done. It's still up in the air, isn't it, Florida, at the time that we are speaking?

ALAN: Well, it's close, but the President is ahead by a significant margin. What matters here is that the Republicans have established themselves in the voters' minds as the anti-voting party. And it's a very short step to go from the anti-voting party to be the anti-voter party. People now recognize in a very fundamental, direct way that the Republicans do not have their interests at heart. If they won't let you vote, that means they're not going to do anything else for you either.

JOY: Tell me something. What is your prediction for the Tea Party? Because they seem to have taken a bit of a hit, not necessarily in Congress, but just generally. Do you think that they're done, or will they come roaring back? What do you think about that?

ALAN: I think the Tea Party is dead, because they would never talk about solutions to people's problems. You know, what people want to hear about is full employment. They want to hear about universal health care. They want hear about an end to discrimination. They want to hear about progressive, fair taxation for everybody. They want to hear about peace. They want to hear about the things that matter in their lives. Whether it is education or housing or healthcare or jobs, the Tea Party never had an answer for that. As I've said before, the Tea Party's answer when you didn't have health coverage, when you couldn't see a doctor when you're sick, was, "Don't get sick."

JOY: Right.

ALAN: And time and time again, whatever the issue was, it was always the same. They want to talk about some kind of nonsensical fabric that fills only their own heads and no one else's, and not deal with the real problems in people's lives. And that's a dead end. In politics, that's a dead end. You can't ignore the voters and expect support. You can't ignore the problems that people face that are too big for them to solve individually, and expect the voters are going to rally around you. The Tea Party was a Koch Brothers' construct right from the beginning, and now the construct has collapsed, like a house of cards.

JOY: Do you think the Koch Brothers will collapse?

ALAN: Well, you know, I think that their idea that they could manipulate 312 million people to do their bidding for them, that idea is collapsing. People are waking up. Their tools, the Koch Brothers tools, are basically lies repeated endlessly on TV. That tool is becoming ineffective. We're paying a price for it, because now people don't believe what they see on TV, and that's unfortunate. But the fact is the Koch Brothers have proven that you can't fool all the people all the time.

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