In the March 2 nd edition of your Daily Republic, we were treated to a dissertation titled: "How does one define freedom?" This is a very important subject these days because of the ever-increasing erosion of our American freedoms. I'm not talking about the phony-baloney "Obama is going to take our guns from us" hysteria, but rather very real attacks from Republican politicians on our most fundamental freedom, our right to vote.
One line in the article that really struck me was: "The Founders knew well from history that a democracy always self-destructs when the people discover they can take from others to give to themselves." This well-worn line, used extensively and exclusively by conservatives, has almost become their mantra. Right-wing extremists are afraid poor people will take over the government, take money from the rich, and then give it to themselves. Like most simplistic conservative slogans, this one doesn't involve any external factors, such as those found in the real world, and since it is so simple, it resonates well with their gullible target audience. Also, like most conservative themes, it focuses blame on the wrong people. In this Daily Republic column, we have discussed the fact that far from being "entitlements" funded by rich taxpayers, Social Security, Medicare, state disability, and unemployment insurance are all funded from workers' payroll contributions. You would be surprised by how much money you have contributed to these programs over the years. My employers and I, for example, have contributed about half a million dollars to these insurance plans.
It is not the poor worker, but the wealthy and powerful who discovered long ago that they could manipulate governments and "take from others to give to themselves." It is the wealthy and their corporations who fund conservative think tanks and Political Action Committees and who own the media that influences us voters. It is the wealthy who lobby and bribe our representatives with donations, who then enjoy the resultant contracts, subsidies and tax loopholes, and feed off of our nation's natural resources. And it is the wealthy, through their Republican representatives, who are trying to take away the American citizens' ability to defend themselves from their actions by curtailing our right to vote. It is the Republican state election officials who cut-down the number of voting hours and who reduce the number of working voting booths in Democratic precincts. It is Republican state legislators who are actively trying to disenfranchise the minorities, poor, and elderly with photo I.D. voting laws. It is the Republicans who gerrymandered their districts, ensuring that they would remain in power in their state and that their representatives in Washington would be mostly Republican, even when their state votes mostly Democratic. And Republicans in Mississippi are now trying to overturn portions of the Voting Rights Act protecting all Americans from their continued abuses of political power.
We are blessed here in California and in Fairfield with representatives who understand that a citizen's right to vote is the essence of our freedom. Voter suppression tactics are rare here and just last week, our Fairfield City Council agreed to hold local elections in even-numbered years, which should increase voter participation. Unfortunately, we Fairfielders live within the larger economic turmoil and political uncertainty caused by the obstructionist Republican usurpers in Congress.
America's great freedom does not come without great responsibility. If we are to rely on our government to protect us from abuse by the powerful, we need the knowledge and resolve to protect the strength and integrity of our government in return. We must all open our eyes, our minds, and our mouths.