Crowds in Grant Park, Chicago, await Barack Obama's victory speech
Who so would be a man must be a non-conformist
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
View from the Bridge
Comments on the Recent Election
-- John Oliver Mason
We did it! Barack Obama will be our next President! I feel like this nightmare of reactionary government could be finally over! But we still have a job to do afterwards; this is the first phase of putting forth a progressive agenda. After we rest up, we have to strategize for implementing an agenda which includes universal health care that treats health care like the necessity it is, rather than a rich people’s luxury; withdrawing our young men and women from Iraq, and going for diplomatic solutions, rather than always playing cowboy; and making it easier for workers to join unions for their empowerment.
I performed the great civic act of voting, following the words of my late great mentor, Harry Hyde Jr.: “Vote as you please, but please vote.” John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, tried to use the old scare word from the Cold War era -- Socialism! -- to frighten people. But do we really know what Socialism is? It has been for SO long used in conjunction with Communism, particularly by the Communists but especially by wealthy and powerful forces in this country who want to protect their power. Ronald Reagan, in the ’fifties, toured the country trying to worry people about the dangers of “Socialized Medicine,” that is, a national health care system in this country, like those in every other industrialized country on the planet -- including South Africa, after the fall of the Apartheid regime.
But through the work of the Bush administration and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, we do now have Socialism in this country -- the Treasury Department has the authority to purchase stock in some of the financial institutions that had trouble, thus nationalizing them. I said it, the N word. The corporations are now starting to say, “We can’t do it by ourselves anymore, please regulate us.”
The Republicans have once again used the scary word of Socialism to raise fears that money will be taken away from the stereotypical “hard-working Americans” and passed over to “lazy welfare bums.” But what was the $700 billion handed over to the financial institutions so they don’t go down? What was the partial nationalization of the banks and mortgage companies? These corporations handed out risky loans, and instead of collapsing like they should under the strict lazier laissez faire rules, they get handouts. Where is the indignation there? Who is there to say to the CEOs of these corporations, “You should get a job, pull yourselves by your bootstraps, not go on welfare, it’s bad for your morals”?
No, the corporate media teaches us to look downwards for the scapegoats for our problems. The racial angle is crucial to this as well, with fear of African-Americans “taking jobs away from’ white workers. Much of the popular media play into this fear, not just the news but cop dramas and sitcoms as well. I heard the radio ads from the Republicans warning about “Congressional Liberals taxing workers to pay for their friends,” using the identification of Liberals to the Civil Rights struggle.
This shows the mean streak of convervativism, in its desire to maintain the class privilages of those in power. Liberals have tried to be reasonable, saying, “No, it’s not at all like that.” But conservatives have used fear to get people on their side who otherwise would not join with them. -- fear of crime in the streets and “liberal judges’ letting criminals out, so that Civil rights laws could be circumvented; fear of foreign invasion, Communism, terrorism, etc., so that civil liberties could be eliminated at home and dissidents could be crushed; fear of losing one’s job and ability to pay the mortgage and bills, so that affirmative action laws could also be eliminated. They did not want to be reasonable, they have used the charges of “soft on crime,” “soft on communism/terrorism,” “traitor,” “appeaser to communists,” and other endearments, in an attempt to force liberals and others to back down and be quiet about those issues.
But now that we know that game, we don’t have to be intimidated. We see they have terror and fear as their weapons. Is this what we want to win in political debate?
The conservatives have also abandoned George W. Bush, denying that he was one of them. They are giving him the Herbert Hoover treatment -- Hoover was a free enterprise purist, and so did nothing to end the depression, hoping that the free market would take care of everything. But conservatives rejected him -- the free enterprise system always works, see, so Hoover must have been a sort of socialist, was their thinking. The same is happening with Bush -- the economy is in hell, so he’s not a conservative, even though his administration followed strictly the conservative playbook -- use of military force as a foreign policy, cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations, relying on the free market to solve economic problems.
Alas, I have known of some working class white people who were racist -- I grew up among them in my hometown in upstate Pennsylvania, my father being the worst of them. In the twenties, there was heavy Ku Klux Klan activity, like in my hometown of Dallas, where a cross was burned across from the Catholic women’s college being built at that time. But we can and have and will overcome racism, sexism, and other mental barriers, as individuals and as a nation -- I have done so myself. Racism in this country has been what Marx said about religion the “opium of the people,” a way of comforting lower-class whites with false notions of “racial superiority,” no matter how bad off they are.
With the McCain-Palin campaign bandying abut the word Socialism, could we finally have an intelligent discussion about Socialism? We who identify ourselves as Democratic Socialist must take the lead in reviving the word and concept of Socialism, and not have the news media do it for us and thus distort it. This has happened with the Feminist movement -- after women got the right to vote in 1920, the whole movement just collapsed; it came together again based on the Civil Rights and anti-Viet Nam-war movements of the ’sixties. I recall the movement being joked about in the popular media, back in the day, but it succeeded to a point where a female President was and remains a distinct possibility. The same can be said about Socialism; we can revitalize the movement. It would help a lot if we could implement certain electoral reforms:
Eliminate the Electoral College -- This dinosaur of a governmental body was formed in the 18th Century, by the affluent white men (with all due respect) who wrote the Constitution, who did not trust the masses to vote intelligently. The screw-ups in the voting in 2000 in Florida -- you remember, the “dangling chads” -- caused the Electoral votes of Florida to be handed to Bush by the Supreme Court, in spite of Gore having the slight majority in the popular vote. Conservatives gloated at this; they knew of the purging of the voting rolls, they knew things went wrong, but they had a blast with it. After that, you see what happened -- The government following a policy of welfare for the wealthy, two wars going nowhere, our own government abandoning its citizens after the floods in New Orleans. If we can eliminate the Electoral College, we won’t have this again.
Make it easier for minor or third parties to get on the ballot -- This would be a state by state action, since states control voting laws. There is the perception, maybe even the reality, that there’s no real difference between the two parties, so people don’t even bother to vote, because they don’t believe it would make any difference. If minor/third parties are allowed on the ballot, they can at least do what they have done best in American politics, liven things up, put out interesting ideas for the major parties to steal; or, hopefully, attain office.
After the election, our work is not done. Okay we can celebrate and take a break, but then it’s back to work.
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