I believe in government, which is established through the means of politics.
The government we get and the political means by which it is derived is imperfect, and to expect perfection from either is overly idealistic or dangerously ignorant.
As Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, save for all the rest.”
But not even Churchill would have imagined the state of American democracy today, where money has become consuming and evil, and where most citizens have become so cynical and contemptuous of the “system” that feeling justifiably irrelevant and ignored, they have opted to sit out election after election, even when their country's fate is in jeopardy.
For the past several months I have received hundreds and hundreds of emails, all desperately seeking money for this campaign or that — emails from President Barack Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Mike Bennet (Colorado), Tom Udall (New Mexico), Kay Hagan (North Carolina), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey (Massachusetts), and would-be senators, Scott Brown (New Hampshire), Joni Ernst (Iowa), John Lewis (Montana), and congressional candidates without number, not least Scott Peters and Carl DeMaio.
I have also received impassioned appeals from Gloria Steinem, Robert Redford, Carole King, and UC Berkeley professor and former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, along with Mitt Romney and Karl Rove.
But the most persistent appeals, as in everyday and sometimes twice a day, come from Julia Brownley, the Democratic incumbent in California’s 26th Congressional District (Ventura County); one of which read, “George, we’ve asked, we’ve pleaded … but we’re still coming up short.”
I do not know, nor have I ever met Julia Brownley, but her campaign gets high marks for persistence; she gets my compliment, but not my contribution.
Then there are those recurring appeals from the Democratic Campaign Committee (DCC), including this header:
“George, we’re pleading (there’s a lot of that). We’re out of people to email (apparently not).
“This week, you should have received an email from President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton. That's how important this is! With 12 days to go, we're getting massively outspent by Republican groups (another $4,700,000 against Democrats was announced just this week). And we're fighting with everything we’ve got to turn it around. We need 8,000 more donations in the next 24 hours if we want any shot at giving President Obama a Democratic victory for his final two years.”
Then the president emailed:
“I know that you’re tired of all the emails, George. But I need your help. Republican outside groups are swarming to attack Democrats across the country. And if they win in November, they'll do everything they can to erase everything we have accomplished. We still need 6,387 Democrats to step up and chip in today. Can you answer my call-to-action right now?”
Not to be outdone, the National Republican Campaign Committee weighed in with a plea from Speaker Boehner, one bearing his signature that read:
“We've got to end this month with a Big Bang. To date, 6,642 grassroots supporters have stepped up with a contribution — we're almost to the 7,000 goal.”
Then, in bold print:
“We really need this. Can you help once more?”
It ended: “Thank you for your support of the conservative cause.”
Obviously, my name’s on a whole lot of campaign email lists and solicitations come addressed, not as “Dear Mr. Mitrovich” — oh no, far, far too impersonal — but “Dear George.”
And yet, with very few exceptions, I’m not a campaign contributor, even to those in whose candidacies and causes I believe in.
Tim Wirth of Colorado served one term in the U.S. Senate, and opted out. As he explained to Richard Reeves, presidential biographer and nationally syndicated columnist, “I didn’t come to this job to dial for dollars.”
Wirth, who went on to head the UN Foundation in Washington, told Reeves he found himself spending half his time in office raising money — and he hated it.
A serious and substantive fellow, Tim Wirth knew that saving his conscience was more important than saving his Senate seat — so he didn’t.
Our democracy is imperiled by many factors, but the inextricable link of money and politics gives lie to Abraham Lincoln’s promise of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
No one I know thinks the present system of money in politics is okay; a list includes major donors who despise the “system,” but feel helpless to either change or stop it.
If Albert Einstein was right, that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting a different result, then a state of insanity has been achieved by the American nation.
Thus, in our declining state of depravity, do we as a people, as a nation, simply resign ourselves to Citizens United, Wall Street and wealth’s usurpation of our democratic rights or do we demand radical reform?
“The USA doesn't do radical, Mitrovich, get a clue.”
What was the Boston Tea Party?
What was the American Revolution?
What was the Declaration of Independence?
If you do not know, then I will tell you.
They were among the most radical acts ever, by any people, at any time, in any place. True, we did not sever the king and his queen from their heads, but our revolution was no less radical than that of France; indeed, it was the inspiration for the French Revolution.
The radical reform I propose to save our democracy, is this:
1. The requirement that every citizen of eligible voting age be required by law to vote, following the examples of Australia and Switzerland.
2. That Election Day is a national holiday, with the closing of all businesses, save police and emergency services.
3. That federal elections be paid for from a fund created through the imposition of an annual tax of $25 on every U.S. taxpayer. This would not be a “check-off” on your tax return; it would be imposed by law.
4. With 138 million taxpayers, such a fund would create $6.9 trillion for Senate and House races every two years — in Senate and House races in 2010, $3.69 billion was spent. It would also pay for presidential, Senate and House races each quadrennial — in 2012, the total spent for presidential and congressional races was $6.28 billion.
If you tell me you would fight any such plan that cost you $25 a year to save our democracy, to get money and corruption out of politics and governance, to end the stranglehold that Wall Street and big banks have over Washington and our lives, if you tell me that such a tax would be a denial of your freedom, then I will tell you that your understanding of “freedom” and the sacrifices paid through too many wars and too many lost lives to insure that freedom, that your understanding is limited to your pathetic self-interest.
Tough words, yes, but tough words intended.
Remember what President Kennedy said in his Inaugural Address:
“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”