I had an interesting conversation recently with a professor of sociology. He and I agreed that what is currently taking place in politics and government has never occurred in our prior history with the same degree of intensity. I referred to it as a "sea change," and he agreed. This is change so fundamental that it is transformative. In other words, we are faced with a change so profound that it will transform our system of governance, our policies, our laws, and our constitutional rights to a degree that will alter the very tenets and principles that make us what we are: a representative democracy.
Our system of governance has been touted as the model for representative democracy in which the people - the electorate, the citizenry, the populace -- have the primary voice in what the nation should be, and how it should conduct itself. Certain words and phrases come readily to mind in this regard.
In the Declaration of Independence, a fundamental principle was affirmed that to secure unalienable rights, governments are instituted "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." In the Preamble to the Constitution is that oft-quoted phrase "WE the People..."--
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Amendments IX and X speak of rights and powers "retained by the people," and President Abraham Lincoln brought a nation back to this fundamental axiom when he spoke at Gettysburg: "...that Government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
We have labored mightily as a nation to make this ideal a reality. We fought a civil war over an act of secession that was an attempt to legitimize a system of human bondage not in keeping with our democratic principles. We fought two World Wars, plus a Cold War, that had at their core world orders (fascism or communism) not in keeping with this fundamental principle of the consent of the governed and the power of the people. We have seen civil rights expanded and injustices protested by the people when government did not comport with our fundamental principles. The point is, this principle is at the heart of our democracy, and cannot be allowed to be demeaned or abrogated by any domestic or outside forces.
In order to have any effectiveness or efficiency, and to secure rights and liberties, a free people consent to cede certain powers to a government made up of the people's representatives from states and districts. It is clear in the Constitution that powers granted to representatives by the people must be restrained by checks and balances that serve to guard justice, liberty and the rights of the people. As the saying goes, representatives are elected at the pleasure of the people and they are in the service of the people. Many amendments to the Constitution are meant to expand or clarify the rights of the people, and some are also checks on a government that has forgotten its role as the servant of the people.
I believe firmly that the Republican Party, captured by radical Right-wing zealots, has lost its bearings, and is intent on bringing about a radical transformation of our cherished system of governance. I believe that they have lost the fundamental principle that it is ordinary citizens who hold the primary power and who consent to be represented and served by those they elect. I believe that most Republicans have also abandoned the very basic principle that they are servants of the people and not privileged elitist rulers.
It is also my contention that the electorate does not fully understand that this fundamental change is not the usual ideological twist and turn that one experiences with the two major parties. In other words, if the Republicans are put in charge of the House and the Senate in 2014, this will not just be a changing of the Guard with a slight variation in ideology, which is the way voters have always looked at "giving the other side a chance." No. A victory for Republicans will result in a transformative "sea change" which will alter our system of government for a long time; perhaps forever.
So, let us look at the changes that the Republican Party espouses -- not as separate pieces with little connection to one another as they want you to do -- but as a "vast conspiracy" as Hillary called it, or a "vast transformative plan," as I call it ( a "sea change"). This has been building ever since Ronald Reagan gained the Presidency, and the takeover of the Republican Party by its most conservative wing was hatched.
1) Attack Voting Rights
The Constitution in several instances refers to the vote as paramount in our democracy, starting with Article I in which the People voting directly for representatives in the House is enshrined. Amendments XV, XIX, XXIV and XXVI enforce this right for certain groups: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude," and "on account of sex." Amendment XXIV expands the right to vote in primaries and for electors, and says it cannot be denied or abridged by failure to pay a poll tax or any other tax. Amendment XXVI expands this precious right to 18 year olds.
Why is it, then, that Republican legislators and Governors around the country (mostly in the South and the mid-West) are intent on "abridging" the rights of voters which equates to "lessening," "diminishing," "cutting-off," "depriving," or "curtailing" the vote? Could it be any clearer that this is what is going on in the states who have either proposed or passed altered voting rights? Could it be any clearer that the SCOTUS helped this abridgment by its ruling on Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (submittal of voting law changes to the federal government for pre-clearance) that basically said: 'we don't need this protection any more; we're over this'? Really?
The Brennan Center for Justice reminds us that restrictive election laws have passed or are pending in 18 states:
Photo ID laws. At least 11 states have introduced legislation either requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls or making existing photo ID laws more restrictive.
Proof of citizenship laws. At least 2 states have introduced legislation requiring proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register or vote.
Making voter registration harder. At least 8 states have introduced legislation to limit voter registration mobilization efforts and reduce other registration opportunities.
Reducing early voting opportunities. At least 2 states have introduced legislation to limit existing opportunities to vote early in person.
Making it harder for students to vote. At least 1 state has introduced legislation that would make it harder for students to register and vote.
Reducing opportunities to vote by mail. At least 5 states have introduced legislation that would make it harder to cast ballots by mail.
Making voter purges worse. At least 1 state has introduced legislation to limit protections for voter purges and increase the chance of wrongful removal of eligible voters
And, let us not forget the other little “tricks” that have been instituted:
*Changing of polling place locations at the last minute so that people can be refused at the wrong poll and then given bogus directions to the new location
*Cutting of clerk positions to make registration lines longer
*Long lines at the polling places caused by lack of machines, ballots, election clerks
*A lack of instructive publicity on any of these changes
*And the latest tactic: closing rest rooms at private polling places
It is clear that these radical Republican saboteurs want to reduce the ability of certain populations to vote for the opposition party or nominee. They are intent on abridging the most powerful and effective voice the electorate possesses, and they know it!
2) Attack the Federal Government
They are laying the groundwork for the dissolution (or diminishing) of the federal government. That is one of the keystones of their conspiratorial Plan. They demean and abhor the central government with certain phrases like: "bloated bureaucracy," "socialistic," "bullying,” “debt-ridden,” “intrusive.’ These oft-repeated words and phrases are not random; they are a vital part of their Plan to undermine central government.
They want the states to have the primary responsibility for governance. They want to turn many programs over to the states: Medicaid comes to mind, as do food stamps, and other social welfare programs. The Paul Ryan Budgets of the past few years indicate the extent to which this prevails. They prefer that the federal government deal only with broad issues like Defense or disaster relief. They do not like federal mandates, and they will abolish as many as they can if they gain power of the Congress.
It is no accident that the (Republican) representatives of the people are blocking legislation. They do not want this first black President to have any legacy that could be a positive one. So they block his proposals and policies. One of their favorite weapons is the 60 votes necessary to gain cloture of a filibuster. They have effectively used the filibuster to prevent all kinds of legislation from passing, including a jobs bill and infrastructure repair.
The radical Republicans are also hell-bent on getting rid of as many environmental, business, financial and economic-related regulations as they possibly can. Not only will they curtail regulations, they will also cut-off or diminish budget appropriations for certain regulatory agencies like the EPA or OSHA, and perhaps even the IRS, in order to undermine the ability of federal agents to investigate violations, inefficiencies, non-compliance and illegalities.
Finally, there are two additional weapons in their arsenal; one around for some time now, the other just beginning in earnest. They are: opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the Impeachment of the President. The Republican call for repeal of the ACA or Obamacare has been on-going since it was first introduced. But ever since the ACA actually signed up more than 14 million people for insurance and benefits, the critics have gotten less vociferous.
However, out-of-touch Republicans still make repeal of Obamacare one of their main talking points. I cite Richard Hanna of District 22 in NY state, who calls for repeal of ACA in his brochures and his recent TV ad (instead of "reform" which was his initial mantra). He clearly represents someone touted as a "moderate" Republican who is now spewing forth the same line as the Radicals: repeal Obamacare and protect the 2nd amendment. It is clear that he is playing to the ultra conservative wing of the Party, but more chilling is that he has given up any sense of principle, or of constituent representation, and has simply begun to mouth words as though he were a ventriloquist's dummy.
Let us make this point: voting for a "moderate" Republican in this atmosphere is equivalent to voting for the Radical Right and for their plan to dissolve or diminish the national government as we know it.
Impeachment is only now beginning to gain ground as a tactic of the Radical Right. They figure that as long as they have constructed some "scandals" for public consumption, they might as well use those to bring down a President whom they despise. So the ratcheting-up of the Ben Ghazi tragedy, the IRS hold-up of 501(c)(4) approvals, the latest scandal within the Veteran’s Administration and perhaps the NSA data-gathering, might be their way to bring impeachment to a head, and possibly to a trial. They believe this would not only damage the President's legacy, but would serve as a showcase for their claim of central government inadequacies.
3) Put An Elite Core In Charge
This Radical Right conspiratorial Plan is being perpetrated on an economic front as well. The Radicals want to return to a model of government and society that has always lurked in this nation's history, because we descended from European countries mainly attuned to monarchy and aristocracy. The Republican Party brand has taken on the aura of being the Party of the Rich and Powerful, and it does not back off from that branding. Why? Because it serves another facet of their Plan: democracy is weak and flawed because it cannot act quickly and decisively. They desire a government built on the ethnicity, success, money, influence and education of a "ruling class" who will know what is best for our country, and who will act on it.
Many of the Founding Fathers would have agreed with such sentiments, and, in fact, they acted to protect property rights, enshrine an elite Senate, and to appoint (not elect) Presidential electors who were gentlemen of wealth and prestige. The book by Thomas Pikitty titled "Capital In the Twenty-First Century" suggests that we are essentially accumulating and supporting an inherited aristocracy in this country which is poised to replace representative democracy with a plutocratic system of rule by the wealthy few over the many. In other words, these Radicals don't just envision a slight change; they want to return to a system of governance that eliminates the people as the fundamental political component, to be replaced by a few wealthy and elite individuals who will guide our economy, our society and our government in the "right" way. Since the Congress is already about 50% millionaires, they have already taken giant steps toward this model, and their Plan would take this elitist concept even further.
4) Attack the Public School System
The Radicals want to set up a private school system that favors the rich and powerful as the only ones, with few exceptions, allowed in. Charter schools mark the beginnings of this concept. Public schools will end up serving only the poor and the handicapped and the middle class. What the Radical Right is aiming for is the eventual emergence of a private school system that will educate the elite class, and a public school system that will conform to a certain conservative curriculum, impose certain religious and ethical concepts, along with conservative ideals that will serve to keep the rest of us in our assigned niche. Why else do we see the conservative majority on the SCOTUS allowing (mostly Christian) prayers in public gatherings, and Republican legislators throughout the nation touting privately-run charter schools?
Do you somehow believe that the unchecked rise in private school tuition, especially in the Ivy League, is happenstance? Do you figure it's just accidental that the middle class and others are being burdened with huge debt when they attend prestigious colleges? Already, some students accepted at Ivy League Schools are choosing to go elsewhere because they can't afford the resultant debt. Do you think it's uncalculated that Congress has not lowered the interest rate on student loans? Education, we say, is the key to success and to a larger income. Under the Republican Plan, this axiom may well be limited to the scions of the rich and the powerful.
- Give special privileges like tax breaks and tax rebates and tax reductions and tax credits.
- Create a separate system of justice for the rich and the powerful, in order to protect inside traders, white-collar frauds and cheats
- Cut all the taxes that the rich are required to pay: income tax, corporate tax, property tax, social security and Medicare taxes, estate taxes, taxes on long-term benefits and investments
- Find more ways for the rich to extract money from the tax revenue system before anyone sees what is happening and calls for oversight
- Give more huge subsidies and supplements to corporations that make multi-billions in profits
- Allow the rich to spend enormous sums of money to buy access to, and services of, elected officials (SCOTUS again led the way with Citizens United and McCutcheon)
- And just recently making its appearance: reserve the fastest segments of the internet for those most able to pay handsome fees.
Remove or diminish all the programs and projects that assist the poor, the elderly, those with disabilities, those with special needs, and those who, they say, should be able to help themselves in the middle class, and attack women who have held the key to Democratic victories.
Eliminate TANF, WIC, ACA,
Social Security, Medicare - reform them to death
Devolve social program funding to the states in block grants, as with Food stamps and Medicaid
Diminish Pell grants
Get rid of all Community Action Agencies (remember ACORN?)
Repeal or slow Section 8 Housing
and so on....
7) Attack the Labor Movement with all the vigor of a war.
This accomplishes at least two things: it removes obstacles from the path of free-wheeling corporations, and it assures lower wages. All this started with a certain President who knew the importance to the business community of a reduction in the power and influence of Labor unions. When the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) went on strike at major airports, this president struck with a vengeance. In fact, it was something never attempted before in our history.
On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired every member of the union who defied his order to return to work and then declared their union illegal (even though they had been on strike for just two days). This action has been called the beginning of the end of the Labor Movement, and the day the middle class suffered a set-back from which it has never recovered. In the ensuing 30+ years, wages have remained stagnant, health insurance is not necessarily a job benefit, and a pension is not guaranteed. Even full-time work is difficult to find, and unions have dwindled to a precious few. Now we have Right to Work states where unions cannot easily organize and non-union workers do not have to pay a fee to the union. America is a country left with a huge income inequality gap because the ability of the middle class to advance has been hijacked.
But, here's the rub (please do not forget it!): Reagan had help from the AFL-CIO! The largest organization of unions in America told its members to go to work, and thousands of union members and workers crossed the picket lines and went to their work as pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, truck drivers, etc. And what's more, the majority of Americans went along with this action against PATCO. Lesson learned: an uninformed electorate failed to perceive the intent and motivation of a radically conservative President who appealed to their emotions. Labor capitulated to the wrong side, and paid for it, dearly.
No wonder that we now have states like Wisconsin denying collective bargaining rights, 45 million people without health insurance, people and families working multiple jobs, fast food workers making slave wages, on-the-job safety regulations cut and violations ignored, a minimum wage that automatically lands an employee in poverty, and no viable on-the-job representation.
In spite of this difficult lesson from actual history, there are still individuals and groups today (including unions) who will either vote for moderate or radical Republicans intent on destroying their livelihoods, or who will refuse to vote because they do not want to stand up and be counted.
And so we come to our conclusion. There are still those who do not understand that the Radical (and the captive moderate) Republicans are bent on diminishing the middle class so that the elite class can call all the shots in both government and the economy. Many voters did not even get it when potential Republican candidates for president traveled to Las Vegas to meet with Sheldon Adelson, the gambling tycoon, in order to lick his boots and vie for his money and support (something like the boot-lickers of the AFL-CIO in 1981!).
And, voters don't understand that the Republican Plan is already in operation; there are already a few rich people like Adelson and the Koch brothers who are calling the plays for their minions to follow. We have a corrupt process of elections and governance, backed by the Supreme Court, that denies the People their constitutionally-guaranteed role as the cornerstone of this representative democracy. Too many of our representatives no longer represent the People; they instead represent the rich, the corporations, the powerful who dictate to them what they will and will not do to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer, and the middle class as stagnant as they can possibly be.
We, the People are not just being bamboozled; we are being expunged from the whole process. It is time to stop supporting rich Plutocrats. It is time to stop voting for pimps of the rich. It is time to take back the powers we were given. We the People must extract ourselves from Reaganism and Tea Party fanaticism, and declare our support for one another. We must use every means at our disposal to break the strangle-hold of the rich on this country. First, we must VOTE, but we must also protest, petition, demonstrate, support third party candidates and write-in campaigns where there is no progressive candidate. We must support constitutional amendments, law suits, coalitions and unions, recall elections, etc. Otherwise, we shall be left with a coup d'etat -- a complete takeover by an elite and privileged aristocracy who will continue to transform our government and economy to their purposes and not to those of "WE the PEOPLE."
You Have Been Forewarned.....