Dear American Democratic Party,
How are you doing?
Wasn’t that last episode of “The Daily Show” amazing?
Anyway, now that we’ve gotten the small talk out of the way we need to chat for a moment. Or rather I need to talk as young, educated, progressive, socially-conscious voter. And you need to listen.
First, I’m writing to express my condolences and offer comfort in your hour of need. Second, I also wish to give some of my own personal insight into what’s been going on in America from my viewpoint. And finally, I have gathered the thoughts of others in this letter for your meditative contemplation at what went wrong. We want you to have a seat. This is an intervention.
Six years ago you ask for the votes of progressives, liberals, women, people of color, college students, gays, urban residents. After 2008, when you got all those votes from a quilt-patch coalition that voted for the promise of a new America, you appeared to become immediately scared of the people who didn’t vote for you. You sell all out of these people (aka 'your base') to run to the right-side of everything (aka not your base, the people who dislike you). You compromise and capitulate before negotiations begin on any important policy. You don't want to really talk about income inequality, don't want to take on corporate elite, didn't activate Occupy activists, didn't regenerate your Unions, ignore the millions of hungry/angry activists on college campuses who are waiting for something to get behind, don't talk about tackling college debt.
When Obama was elected in 2008, you had both Houses of Congress and you spent the first critical years of an early administration compromising with GOP (Obama at fault here in a big way), giving tax breaks to the wealthy, extending the Bush tax cut when those hundreds of billions could have been used to rebuild infrastructure, create millions of jobs, and dramatically improve the economy. You have one of the most successful presidents who has given millions healthcare, reduced the deficit, improved the economy, and then you run away from him. You don't tout any of your accomplishments, you don't inspire. You appear to be a feckless, phony, and wandering herd who has grown so scared of FOX News and conservatives that you try to pre-empt their critique by shooting down your own base while remaining bland and non-threatening. Even after you've compromised your voters, values, and positions, the GOP still attacks you time and time again regardless of facts, experts, or the well-being of anyone. And then you are surprised when your base doesn't show up in midterm elections. You don't give them anything to vote for except fear of the worst case scenario, which we will now see for the next two years.
Now I want to talk to you about the primary driving factor in politics and in this country, which is fear. Fear and doubt are deep and invisible things, yet they can motivate people to do very real harm. I believe fear is a part of a short-term as well as long-term systemic disease in our system.
Certainly big money is a contributing factor along with the monopolized right-leaning media. But these aren't the material causes (the seed), just the factors that contribute to the rapid exponential growth of this cancer. But there is a deeper fear that is historical and must be addressed/
America has its own strange paradigm of fear. We fear losing an empire we never really should have had. Our government, our economic regulations, our mentality, and root philosophy is not set up to be an empire, yet all of our work after World War II has been geared toward this incongruent empire drive. By the end of the 20th century we had a quasi-empire. Roughly 5% of the world's population (that's us) controls about 20-25% of the world's economy. We also spend twice as much as any other country on bombs, planes, and tanks. We have military bases in over 100 countries. We are a nation straining to hold on to something we shouldn't have gotten. We seeks to hold the upper hand in our currency and value. We do this through corruption, financial blackmail, coercion, and our military. This corrupted economic, diplomatic, and military strain to maintain as much power abroad has now come home to roost in America in the last 30 year.
The Machiavellian ruthlessness that we used against others we now employ against our own citizens in corrupted media, slashing benefits for hard workers, destroying our own water/air/earth, militarized police, SWAT team raids. These disturbing trends show a clear and present violation of everything a people's republic is supposed to be and more indicative of a corrupted oligarchy that uses every means to cover itself in the flag and the Constitution.
Citizens are blinded to their rapid loss in rights and economic progress by keeping them in a constant state of panic/outrage/fear/rage. And then we let everyone arm themselves so random bursts of violence remind us to be grateful, be scared, only trust the corporate state, the military state. The sad thing is that there is more than enough money to go around. You could continue to improve the lives of everyday Americans and it would still be a huge boon to corporations and the 1% elite. In fact it would probably benefit them the most. But there is no interest in compromise when you can get people to live small, fearful, suspicious of the individuals and collectives, and surrendering to the centralized corporate interests.
That is my understanding of how fear is operating in our country and causing a rapid decay that is not in accordance with natural developments in a society. The strange thing is that despite all this America is relatively healthy...despite its government, despite the rapacious destruction of the environment, despite the backward tax codes, broken court systems, despite the fact that we continue to shoot at our own feet, and hack away at our own legs in fear of others, we manage to hobble along. But this is less because of America exceptionalism and more because our 20th century infrastructure -unlike every continent in the world- has faced no world wars, civil wars, coups, widespread devastation. Our death be one of a thousand cuts if we don't start healing our own hatred, fear, and greed.
In our current political discourse there is a a chicken and egg argument of what came first: the blatant use of big money to turn the US into an oligarchy or the interests/fears of big money? I could see it both ways but I really think the interests of big money is what triggered the steady tearing down of campaign finance laws to create an oligarchy of corporate and super-wealth caste system of inheritance over the last 30 years. These interests are steeped in maintaining an empire which can't be sustained. It just can't. On some deep level we all know that, from any sociologists to the military officials planning drone strikes around the world to corporate interests. And from that there is this senseless lashing out of violence and corruption. We see this play out not only in our elections but in our use of military, in our use of media, in our use of police force, even in our obsession with disaster movies and TV shows. Has there been any more stable culture in human history that is in a constant startle and fear state. Contemporary American culture displays the signs of a culture in panic, hysteria, exhaustion, and desperation. The solution is to remove the causes of this fear and panic. Of course getting money out of politics would go a long way to us being able to sit down as sensible citizens. But the only way out of this fear cycle is to the opposite: strategic love, a fearless compassion willing to explain rather than run, and to appeal to our better angels.
No one gets the gold star for being silently virtuous or smugly aware. Just ask Al Gore. In this arena, an unspoken virtue is flipped into an advertised vice by your opponent. Just ask all the Dems who ran away from the Affordable Care Act and are now packing up their offices on Capitol Hill. But patience, intelligence, clarity, and 'loving-toughness' are rewarded. Use these tools to promote the larger interests and to rebuild this nation. We are counting on you. We, the young progressives, know that the GOP is a bunch of aging robber barons. We know that the Koch Brothers and their ilk are shamelessly looting our nation's coffer and exacerbating the income inequalities in this country. We know that this stagnating economy and increased disillusionment pose the greatest threat to America's long-term stability.
Moving forward there must be some thread of historical understanding in your decisions. If not, then you will be swept back into the paradigm of hysterical fear that seems to grip the political machine. You must explain and clarify your positions, outline your achievements, reward your base, and stop operating out of fear. The reptilian brain is small but deeply embedded. It sees suspicion in everything. The higher instincts of man can override the pesky rodent mind. But you must call upon them. This is politics.
A Young Progressive