Friday, September 3, 2010


If we look to the philosophical precursors of the Declaration of Independence, we find much emphasis on property. But with Benjamin Franklin’s encouragement, Thomas Jefferson discounted its importance and demoted its status. So the Declaration of Independence resonates with the words expressing the Creator’s endowment to all people: “inalienable rights” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

All Americans honor the words, but only half really believe them. The radical split in our two-party system, which arose in George Washington’s administration, is between those who give priority to property and those who give priority to people. The split is small-c constitutional; it defines who we are collectively; it divides us into those whom we now call Republicans (also conservatives) and Democrats (also liberals).

We need no help to identify which party prefers property to people and which prefers people to property. Republicans want small government and low taxes. They prefer state rights because state governments are small, also weak, thus even less able than the federal government to resist the corrupting blandishments of fat cats, big corporations, and their campaign contributions. They want low tax rates for the rich, in defiance of the economic facts about the decreasing value of money as its amasses and the dangers of its aggregation. They resist regulations as restraints on the free exercise of property rights and the pursuit of profits. They want little or no corporate regulation regardless of the safety, health, and environmental effects of corporate operations, products, or services on peoples’ lives. For the same reasons, they resist laws favoring equity or equality. Those who are not rich but hope to get rich and thus support the rich are praying to win the lottery of life. Good luck, and best wishes that you do not discover that the rich are laughing at you all the way to and from the bank.

Republicans are campaigning anew and vigorously on distortions, misrepresentations, and blatant lies; and using scare tactics, tried and true, to direct anger and hatred at the scapegoats-du-jour. Their Tea Party associates—say, Sharron Angle, Jan Brewer, Rand Paul—are dissembling their far-out positions and dodging the press. In recent weeks, only two Republicans have acted honorably: Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Hatch, both outspoken in rejecting anti-Muslim hysteria. When a New York Jew and a Utah Mormon take a shared stand virtually alone against bigotry, they shame other party leaders and most followers. I find it hard to vote for the mendacious, the mute, or the mean.

I subscribe to the Preamble of the Constitution. Like the introductions to most legislation, the Preamble gives direction for understanding and implementing the articles and amendments which follow. It reads: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” The Preamble is not very Republican; “property” is mentioned nowhere. Nevertheless, I doubt how many or how much Democrats subscribe to the Preamble, although it favors their traditional values.

Currently, Democrats seem incapable of campaigning. Obama has done his usual stand-up-one-minute, stand-back-the-next routine. As they say in his Windy City, all talk, no walk—and no cred. Everywhere they are so demoralized that they are calling their convictions into doubt because they lack the courage to advocate them.

If the Democrats think that their major legislative initiatives—stimulus, bank and Big Three bailouts, health care reform, among others—resulted in laws which did, have done, or will do the country much good, why are they silent on them? Why do they not tout these achievements if they believe in them? Instead, demurring or mumbling about their accomplishments, they give credence to Republican obstruction or rejection under the brand name “party of ‘no’.” Ironically, Democrats going into the campaign are acting like the party of “no” by decrying Republicans and their promises to hold investigations ad nauseam, undo what good has been done, and, in fulfillment of party dogma, repeat the failed policies of their all-Republican, Bush-league government for six years. Sorry, my friends on the left, these counter scare tactics are no rallying cry for hope, transformation, or anything else, including my vote.

Will Rogers joked, “I belong to no organized party, I'm a Democrat.” I belong to no organized party either, am a registered Independent, and do not want a choice between autocratic ignoramuses, ideologues, or incompetents on the right; and know-it-all wafflers and weaklings on the left. So I am more apprehensive about the approaching elections than about any other which I have ever anticipated. The parties differ in their policies but agree on their politics. But politics always wins out, and the people always lose. Prove me wrong, or let me sleep through it.

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