(Publius gave a shortened form of this speech at a recent gathering of Democrats in a small town in New York State)
What is this election about? the economy? the national debt, jobs? environmental issues, social issues or spending issues? taxes or entitlements? Is it about individual initiative or community support? Probably all of these and more.
Before I tell you what I think it’s about, let me tell you what I fear it could be about:
1) What I fear the most perhaps is that this election could be less about those who will be elected than about those who will remain un-elected, but in positions of power.
This is what is at stake: the takeover of our government by un-elected power-brokers who have the resources to employ lawyers, lobbyists, and bundlers to an extent not seen before.
They have the ability to dictate the terms of legislation, policy and rules that protect them from law enforcement, enhance their incomes, subsidize their businesses, and provide favorable tax breaks that keep them from having to pay their fair share in taxes.
Make no mistake: it is part of a plan that has been developing over several decades, culminating in the current Republican Congress intentionally blocking all legislation designed to stimulate the economy, and the Radical Right-wing Tea Party that has taken over the core of the GOP.
Those who still believe that Republicans will use elective office for the benefit of the middle class, or small businesses, or those who work for a living, have not comprehended this monumental on-going plan to change how, and for whom, government operates.
Translated, this is about no more government aid programs for the poor and the middle class. It’s about limiting central government and giving states more power than we have seen in our lifetimes. It’s about right-to-work laws and the destruction of unions. It is about a false trickle-down view of wealth epitomized by the $2 trillion dollars in corporate profits that is not being invested in job-creation. Don’t you wonder how much that one self-serving act has contributed to the over 8% unemployment rate that has plagued our economic recovery?
So, my greatest fear is the takeover of our democracy through manipulation of government and politicians by a plutocracy headed by the epitome of plutocrats: Mitt Romney.
2) My second greatest fear is related to the first: that this election is about BIG money.
More specifically, it’s about lies and distortions and negative TV images backed-up with huge amounts of money from third-party super-PACs that don‘t even have to reveal their sources, like:
Chamber of Commerce - $100 million
Sheldon Adelson - $100 million
Karl Rove’s Crossroads Group -- $300 million
Charles & David Koch -- $400 million.
It’s not the old way of overt corruption. It’s a new way of hidden, secretive money being used to undermine democratic processes.
It’s a new way of making congressmen or senators so beholden to a donor that they feel under obligation to deliver for that donor. It’s a new way of fostering dependence on huge amounts of money to fund election campaigns, and to bend the machinery of government to the benefit of a privileged few. It comes down to our representatives being seduced to put their primary focus elsewhere than on service of ordinary people.
It’s about the Supreme Court equating corporations with individuals, thus protecting their political giving by a constitutional guarantee of free speech. But protected free speech for corporations is clearly undermining the free speech rights of those with fewer resources and less money. We have arrived at a point where unfettered money is destroying the franchise, and the one-person one-vote concept. Money has weighted the vote in favor of the very rich, who can turn an election into a fraud quicker than you can say Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan.
3) My third fear is that this election is about tearing down not building up. It is about the destructiveness of war, and the fact that the GOP thinks bellicose talk is the key to foreign policy. Not only do they want to continue war in Afghanistan, there is no guarantee that they will not intervene in Iran, or some other Middle Eastern country.
It is about treating women as weak-willed, dependent second-class citizens for whom they want limited rights to make choices -especially about their health care - or to earn equal pay for equal work. These are exactly the denigrations that tin-horn dictators or tyrannical rulers have used to enhance male power and dominance in authoritarian societies.
It is about laws made under the guise of combating voter fraud in order to suppress the votes of certain groups in the electorate, many of whom do not have the wherewithal to comply with the requirements of those laws. Voter suppression is a heinous act not worthy of a nation that has grown in stature each time it has extended the franchise and made it easier to vote.
Mostly, Republicans want to diminish or destroy programs that grew up under FDR and LBJ -- the New Deal and the Great Society programs. They call these programs a re-distribution of wealth or class warfare - but it comes down to this: they resent the fact that through our graduated tax system, they have to pay their fair share of taxes and share their success and rewards with others who need a hand-up to reach another level. They resent and reject that altruistic concept quoted from the Bible at the RNC: “of him to whom much is given, much will be required”.
It is about characterizing government as the enemy of the people. Except, if it involves protection of the rich, military readiness, abortion or religious symbols and practices. In those cases and more, they make use of strong central government as absolutely fundamental to enforcing their policies and their beliefs.
As one author said: “Today’s GOP has nothing to do with the party of Lincoln, or the Grand Old Party. It is an authoritarian party that wants to impose its brand of conservatism that would not only roll back the 20th Century, but would replace our democracy…with an oligarchy in firm and complete control. This kind of government is ideal for control of a populace by the moneyed elite.”
Finally, then, what I think this election is really about is people. It’s about YOU and ME. It’s about where we will stand in the midst of this attempt at a power-grab. It’s about what each of us will do in the face of big money and governmental control by the 1%. It’s about how much we will give of ourselves to oppose these out-of-control forces that threaten our way of life and our way of governing. It’s about commitment and dedication to fundamental principles that we can not afford to have trampled.
That’s why I support Barack Obama for President. I support him because I believe his principles coincide with mine: like reforming government; investing in people; expanding choice, protecting the vulnerable, providing universal health care. I believe he sees government not as the Great Destroyer, nor as the wielder of overwhelming power; but as Enabler, as servant of the people, as a force for good that empowers our citizenry in cooperation with other sectors of our society.
So I say to Mitt Romney: I represent a large group that still feels the impact and importance of what this President says and does, not just on the day we voted for him. That’s why huge numbers of us are still willing to give a major portion of our time, our talents, our money and our loyalty to this man.
We believe Barack Obama is the man for our times because he cares about middle-class prosperity, values and well-paying jobs. We believe he is the one who can lead us out of the Bush recession into a new prosperity because he has already averted an economic disaster. We believe he is the one who will continue to provide real accomplishments just as he did in his first term. We believe he is a man of balance and integrity who will continue to work for the good of the many not the few. We believe he is the man committed to peace and understanding in the world, but who stands up to terrorist acts wherever they occur. We believe he is a man of bold ideas who can lead us to a future independent of the dominance of foreign oil, to an appreciation and understanding of environmental changes that we must make, to an educational system that brings out the best in all of our children and young adults.
Elizabeth Warren brought the house down at the Democratic convention when she said:
“Mitt Romney’s the guy who said corporations are people. No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. And that matters, because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”
Un-elected power-brokers and Big Money could capture this election and our government unless broad numbers of ordinary citizens join this march to re-elect our President. And, to elect a Congress dedicated to the primacy of government of the people, by the people and for the people which must not be allowed to disappear from this earth.