The Hammer Forum, University of California, LA, 04/19/12
Restoring Our Republic by Rejecting Duopoly
by Rocky Anderson
Freedom. Equal opportunity. Compassion. Security. Those are core values upon which our nation was founded – and which we, as Americans, have had in common. Yet, those values have been severely undermined by Republicans and Democrats alike during the Bush and Obama years. They can be restored – but only if we break loose of the stranglehold the two dominant, duopolist parties have on our body politic.
In the past, our nation has failed, on occasion, to live up to its promise. But we, as a people, have aspired to regain the moral high ground. And we can do it again.
It is by holding true to our principles and becoming engaged that we assert our roles as citizens – and as moral actors. Believing in something and acting on it is what gives our lives meaning and enriches our days on this earth.
We were embroiled in the Vietnam War, but millions of empowered Americans took to the streets and wouldn’t let up until the war was ended.
In the 1970s, Presidential and congressional committees thoroughly investigated serious abuses by the FBI and CIA during the Cold War and publicly disclosed their findings. That was truly a great moment for our constitutional system of government.
Among our elected officials there were true statesmen and stateswomen – people who recognized the wisdom of Justice Brandeis’s observation that the best disinfectant is sunlight.
Yes, our nation has faltered, but we sought the high road – we aspired to be and to do better.
Now things are very different with the entrenched corporatist and militarist Democratic and Republican Parties. There is no call among our elected officials for investigations – for disclosures – for accountability – or for making things fundamentally better.
Instead, our President said with regard to war crimes and illegal surveillance that there will be no accountability. And he turns a blind eye to the criminality of the Wall Street bankers who contributed to his campaign. The rule of law has been decimated when it comes to holding wealthy and powerful people accountable for their criminality.
That is tyranny – one person deciding whether or not the laws will be applied – and as to whom.
Timid, cowardly elected officials – political prostitutes – are now running the show. They don’t have the courage and integrity to discern and expose the truth, then take measures to make certain that similar abuses are never again perpetrated in our name.
Perhaps that is why the majority of poll respondents want a third-party or independent alternative. Perhaps that is why people are leaving both dominant parties in droves. Perhaps that is why President Obama’s previously enthusiastic base is disillusioned. And perhaps that is why the approval rating for Congress hit an historic low of 8%.
These elected officials and their political parties maintain the insane war on drugs and impose minimum mandatory sentences contributing to the world’s highest rate of incarceration, with clear racist implications. They drive up our debt to historic levels, mortgaging the futures of our children and later generations, while they give massive tax breaks to the wealthy. They avoid their responsibility to reform our immigration laws. And many discriminate against people on account of their sexual orientation – an issue with respect to which President Obama has demonstrated that, for him, like Mitt Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch, politics trumps even the most fundamental principles.
The U.S. economy was democratized during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt through the next four decades because of compassionate public policy focused on greater opportunity for all, an economic safety net for the most vulnerable, and basic human decency.
The wealthy paid their fair share of taxes.
The middle class was thriving and our economy was generally prosperous.
Compare what is happening today with control by the duopoly of the transformed Democratic and Republican Parties.
Our government is bought and paid for. All one has to do is follow the money to determine why public policy so badly undermines the interests of the American people.
The U.S. health care and insurance system is a tragic, expensive, unjust aberration among developed nations because of the corrupting influence of money from the medical, for-profit insurance, and pharmaceutical industries – and the failure of Republicans and Democrats to end the obscene plutocracy.
President Obama vetoed the EPA’s effort to further restrict ozone in our cities. Why? Once again, the corrupting influence of money from polluting industries took precedence over concern for the public health.
Because of the astounding influence over our government from the fossil fuel industries, Democrats and Republicans alike have failed to provide essential international leadership in combating climate chaos.
And the stranglehold the military-industrial complex has on our government is because of the pork barrel politics of Democrats and Republicans who have sold our nation and its people down the river – simply so they can brag during their campaigns about all the federal money they bring to their states and to their districts.
They see that as good politics. I see it as treason.
We can eliminate the corruption that has transformed our government. We can clean up our campaign system with public financing of campaigns and free and equal access to the public’s airwaves. We can eliminate the perverse notion that corporations are people under the Constitution. We can reverse the Citizens United case and stop the obscene purchase of elections by unrestrained corporations. But to achieve that, we need to pursue a route other than continued blind loyalty to the Democratic or Republican parties.
As working men and women and their families struggle every day just to get by, Congress and the President refuse to demand a renegotiation of trade agreements to bring back jobs lost to other nations. We need fair trade, not simply free trade.
Likewise, the two dominant parties have refused to implement proven initiatives like the WPA to put millions of people to work in repairing our rapidly deteriorating infrastructure.
Notwithstanding the corrupt relationship between the two dominant parties and the financial industry, we must break up any banks considered too big to fail. And we should restore the Glass Steagall Act, which prohibited the common ownership of investment banks, commercial banks, and insurance companies. If we really want change, we must elect people to office who are committed to changing the rules so they serve the interests of the American people rather than solely the corporate elite and the two political parties they have purchased.
Our Republic is being transformed into a tyranny – with an imperial presidency unlike anything known before in U.S. history.
Many of us thought the Bush years were simply an aberration – but in many respects, it is now worse. In many instances, the courts have been removed from of our system of checks and balances by the Obama administration’s aggressive invocation of the state secrets doctrine. Wars are being waged without the constitutionally essential authorization of Congress. U.S. citizens have been assassinated by order of President Obama without any semblance of due process. And Congress and President Obama, in perhaps the most subversive and anti-American act ever, have authorized the kidnapping and indefinite detention for up to one’s life, without charges, without trial, without legal assistance, and without the right of habeas corpus.
Together we can stop the betrayal of the people of this nation – the betrayal of the American dream – and the betrayal of the values that have made our nation and our people what we were before the transformation toward totalitarianism and plutocracy by the two corporatist and militarist dominant parties.
Now is the time to break free. Now is the time to insist upon an end to the greatest economic disparity since the 1920s in income and wealth between the small, elitist class of the U.S. financial aristocracy and the rest of us. Now is the time to demand that our Republic be restored.
It CAN be done – if we will, together, stand up against the Republican and Democratic Parties – and FOR economic, social, and environmental justice. It CAN be done if we stand up, tenaciously and courageously, for the values of freedom, equal opportunity, compassion and justice. It CAN be done if we organize together for the restoration of the American dream and the values that provided a guiding light along the extraordinary American journey.