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We the People?

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When, two hundred and some years ago, this country became a country with exciting new concepts of governance, “we the people” meant white males, probably most of them land owners, educated to the standards of the late eighteenth century. That “We” has changed radically: WE now includes women, black and other shades of people, uneducated people, immigrants from countries with different religions and cultures. We used to pride ourselves on being a “melting pot.”

Today, in this country, middle or upper class, educated white males may well be one of many minorities. Until now, however, it was never questioned that presidents had to be from the small group of rich, highly educated (preferably law) white males. 

This country now is a totally different country than what it was when the Constitution was put in place. Its population is a multiple many times squared of that of the few while males, who argued and finally agreed on the wording of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers would not recognize, let alone understand, today’s world. 

Slowly at first, our politics grew with the times, now women and people of whatever color, are no longer excluded from being voted to important positions in the various branches of government. This year, suddenly, we also have the possibility of a woman or a black president.

Pundits, news anchors, learned professors and everybody else, is debating whether a woman is more electable than a black man, or even whether we are ready to accept a woman president. Pollsters are dividing the population in ever smaller segments, now called “demographics.” All people who run for office have learned to rely on polls to adjust their message to a specific smaller and smaller group of people.

Why do we even have elections any more, when we have these experts unraveling this complex population and their individual needs and wants for us. With computers and telephones almost everyone is immediately accessible. The technology is there for We the People to have a role in a Government FOR the People. Congress, for instance, could determine almost instantaneously what We the People think of any issue or concern and act accordingly.

In the Primaries, we are asked to vote for the two people who eventually can be chosen or assigned by the parties as candidates for president. That too is no longer simple. In some states all eligible voters vote for who they want to be a candidate for the presidential election. In my state, only registered Democrats or Republicans can vote for a candidate for their own parties  And then, in the Democratic Party of today, it is not necessarily the popular vote that determines the Party’s candidate, but a special group of Super Delegates who ultimately decide who might be more acceptable to run in the general election in November, and/or who has the greatest chance of defeating the candidate of the other party (whose “presumptive” candidate today is not necessarily the man who will be chosen at the Republican Party’s Meeting later this year). Oh, what guessing must be going on in closed meetings, while We the People try to make up our minds, knowing that the whole process is incredibly costly, and so complicated that we cannot understand it. And yet the larger than normal number of people who made the effort to vote in these elections and caucuses shows that we are desperate to be heard, 

This president, and nis party, have been demonstrating that We the People have become an almost negligible factor in where the country goes. Once in the White House. this president has made clear that he can do pretty much as he and his close advisers please--regardless of a system that established three powers that were supposed to keep each other within bounds.

I have asked many friends and strangers, and I ask myself, what am I voting for? Or, what does my vote mean, if anything? From the answers I have it is abundantly clear that all we know is that the whole rickety system is not what we thought it was, and so we vote for who we like the best, knowing full well that our “liking” has almost nothing to do with the “issues”--and they are many. We have no idea, for instance, what any of the three candidates think, or might do, propose, imagine, could be done about global warming, obviously a most important issue. Do any of them know what could, or should, be done about the financial woes that underlie our entire so-called civilization and that now seems to be in free fall? We know that all of them have said they would do something about getting us some kind of health insurance, but we doubt that means much. We know they all promise us jobs, or lower gas prices, or lower taxes, but, sorry, we don’t trust those promises. One of the three says we might stay in Iraq for the next 100 years, the other two promise to pull troops out of Iraq, but when you read the fine print that just means combat troops and that is not even half of all the force we have there. All three must know that 80% (that is four out of five) of We the People want us OUT of that war altogether. NOW. And most of us do not have any desire to be part of a new kind of empire ruling the world. But now it appears that that is what our leaders, from Reagan on, have been establishing.

Where we live it is harder to get work. and what work can be found earns us ever less than we need. Is there anything any of the three can do about that? Or even wants to do anything about? They too must know that the economy is not run by -- not even controlled by -- the government, but by corporations. In fact, most of us get the impression that Congress, and the rulers of this government, are working for and rewarded by big Money.

So, where does all of that leave We the People?

At times when I am particularly cynical I realize that this whole endless, multi-million dollar, primary voting thing, is yet another tremendous waste, benefitting only the Media and the hundreds, maybe thousands, of staff, experts, pollsters, charter planes and buses in overdrive, and overhype: a whole industry that has formed around these so-called elections. 

I ask myself, who in his right mind would even want to be president at this time? One of his, or her, dozen first jobs would be to correct at least some of the painful messes that this Administration carefully saves for the next president to clean up. Hey, much as we all yearn for a change, something better, it might be just reward for a Republican to get that job.

Frankly, We the People, feel we are being ignored, deliberately confused and lied to. We feel screwed.

I have never wanted to belong to either of the two parties because it seemed to me that what differences there were, were more within each party than between them. The blind discipline of the Republican party in Congress these last seven years, has given the president a free hand to do whatever he decided. That has gotten us in deep trouble on all fronts. Even a Democratic majority has been unable, and perhaps unwilling, to break through this monopoly.

It convinced me that a two party system must inevitably lead to this kind of “You’re either for or against me” rule, which, in a rapidly changing, very complex world, is obviously totally counter-productive. We cannot be an important voice, or force, in an increasingly complex world, with a so-called unitary presidency (there are other words for that, but the word is not democracy). 

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robert wolff lives on the Big Island, called Hawai'i
his website is wildwolff.com

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True democracy - the original idea - is still beau... by August Adams on Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 5:49:17 PM