October 21, 2008

Taking Control

I must introduce this by apologizing to David Swanson for limiting his excellent essay for this blog. Please follow up and read the entire thing by clicking on the link below:

Sweeping Astroturf

By David Swanson

Imagine for a second that it's November 5th, and the Democrats are set to control both houses of Congress and the White House. Perhaps they even control 60 Senate seats, making Republican filibusters impossible. Now what?

For the past two years, numerous activist groups have opposed the demands of their own members by arguing that the Democrats were helpless. They couldn't get past filibusters or vetoes, and were therefore as impotent as newborn babes.

[...] While you can't get any results from watering or fertilizing astroturf, you can sweep it. If the Democrats take both houses of Congress and the White House, and especially if they take 60 senate seats, their principal recent excuses for all variety of crimes of both omission and commission will vanish. Accomplishing this with margins of victory too large to plausibly steal remains an uphill fight requiring full attention. And fighting election fraud, which is already almost openly underway, will require working on the behalf of candidates who will not lift a finger to help themselves. We need all hands on deck for this one for the next two weeks and possibly far beyond.

But come November 5th, pseudo-grassroots groups, also known as astroturf organizations will have to begin thinking hard about how they will relate to both their members and to a government swept by the party whose wishes they habitually defer to. With that in mind, here are my recommendations:

First, begin to think and act more in terms of individual representatives, senators, and president, and less in terms of party. [my bold] The health care plan we all favor, H.R. 676, has 94 cosponsors, and we are about to elect more. No longer can our silence on such legislation be justified by the need to elect someone other than McCain. We've already elected Obama. He's in the White House.

Second, begin to think in terms of Congress as the first branch of our government. [my bold] If we allow all power to continue to remain in the White House, we will be represented less well during the next four years, and all power will still remain in the White House when the next Republican lives there. We need to restore the power of the purse, the power of subpoena, the power to ratify or reject treaties, the power to legislate free of editing by "signing statement," and the power to begin and end wars. If we cannot restore those powers to the branch of our government they were supposed to belong to now, while we have the supposed people's party cooperatively running the Congress and the presidency, then when can we?

Third, clearly and publicly lay out the policy demands that you, as a legitimate activist organization, are making of our government, and do so in November. [my bold] [...]

We should demand an end to our imperial wars in the Middle East. This will have been the third consecutive election in which we voted for that change. If the will of the voters is matched by the official election outcomes, and if those outcomes remove the major recent excuses for inaction and regression, then it will be time for us to demand clearly what we, the people, the sovereigns of this nation, want. We don't want to reduce any occupations or move them anywhere else. We want our men and women brought home. Now.

We don't want to enlarge the world's largest military. We want to shrink it. We want to shift our resources to where they will do some good for people. We don't want to put our children into debt funding weapons, wars, or Wall Street. We want major investment in green energy, jobs, affordable housing, education, and foreign aid. And I mean major investment, with no excuses about the needs of poor struggling billionaires and arms dealers.

[...] Remove the cap on income taxed for Social Security. Remove the loopholes and tax corporations. Undo the Bush tax cuts for millionaires. Undo Paulson's Plunder. Tax financial transactions. End wars, and begin closing the 1,000 or so military bases we maintain to our great detriment in other people's nations around the world. [...]

We want the minimum wage made a living wage and indexed to the cost of living. We want the right to organize a labor union restored. We want corporate trade agreements shredded and new trade policies written to benefit people, not corporations. [...]

We also want money removed from politics. If a completely Democratic government does not create public financing and free air time for candidates, then they can drop all pretense that they want it. If they don't give the District of Columbia representation in Congress, then the people of DC should hear that message loud and clear. If the Democrats who constantly tell you they can't do things because they're afraid of the media are swept into power and refuse to break up the media cartel, we can henceforth assume they enjoy being afraid. And if they do not establish the right to vote and to have our votes openly counted, including universal registration, weekend elections, and on-site hand-counted paper ballots, we can henceforth assume winning didn't feel as good to them as it does to normal people.

We have an opportunity to either do great things or expose great flaws. We want war profiteers in prison, not just off our payroll. We want predatory lenders in prison, not multi-million-dollar public housing. We want torturers, war criminals, Richard B. Cheney, and George W. Bush prosecuted, imprisoned, and impeached. We want every future government to know that we are a nation of laws. If an election alone could communicate that to future tyrants, then the election of Jimmy Carter would have prevented the presidency of George W. Bush. [my bold]

We can't expect to accomplish everything we want by next spring or even in the space of four years, but if we are afraid to even articulate what we want, we will never begin to accomplish it.


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