liberal ["liberalis" L - suitable for a freeman, generous; "eleutheros" Gk - free] (adj) generous, open-minded, not subjugated to authoritarian domination; (n) one who believes in liberty, universal suffrage and the free exchange of ideas. elite ["eslire" Fr -- to choose fr.L "eligere" -- choose] (n) the choice part; best of a class; the socially superior part of society.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

sounds like ...

According to OpEd News, our President has taken to quoting a former German Chancellor:
"Protect the homeland" is the SAME phrase that Hitler used when he proposed the creation of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. Hitler said, "An evil exists that threatens every man, woman and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland."

All American Patriots

This new website looks like a CIA storefront for the Republican Veterans of Desert Storm. Supposedly, they are not officially launched yet, but I would appreciate your checking them out and getting back to me on who they hell you think they are and what the hell you think they're doing on the internet.

Election Reform is launching a Right to Vote Initiative along with a number of other grass roots, non-partisan, public activist organizations. This is clearly the issue of the decade and will be -- as it has been for the last two months -- the main thrust of this writer's screed. The FairVote initiative is originating under the auspices of Right to Vote Initiative, The Center for Voting and Democracy, contact Andrew Kirshenbaum at / (301) 270-4616 /

I first read about the Initiative in an editorial by Steven Hill and Rob Richie at Truth Out. They posted Kerry and Brokaw's comments on the need to fix the election system, and then included detailed versions of the Fair Vote Initiative's points.

I will have much more to say on this point in the days ahead, holidays notwithstanding, but for now a couple of points stand out and require comment.

The Fair Vote Initiative does not mention anything about campaign finance reform. In my view, campaign finance reform is an indispensable ingredient to any formula for fair elections in America. Right now, the people are voting on the corporate candidates, not the peoples' candidates. Congress is supposed to be our lobbying organization, but they have been completely bought off. Without meaningful campaign finance reform -- taking corporate money out of the elections -- we will not be to "pry open our democracy" to more representative candidates.

The other issue is that voting in the United States is a state-level right. Enfranchisement is not guaranteed by the Federal government because originally, the union was formed by compromises that left a lot of questions of sovereignty and liberty to the states. Otherwise, the framers of the Constitution would never have been able to cobble together a deal. Every state had different rules for who gets to vote.

Eventually, as states competed for settlers, taxpayers, professionals, farmers, tradesmen, and skilled and unskilled laborers, they began expanding the franchise. First it went to anyone who owned enough property, then people with the correct pedigree who paid enough taxes, then people who fought in the army, then people of color, then women, and then young adults. This movement was seen as a way of insuring involvement of local interest groups in politics, as well as insuring the state credited constituencies for the contributions they made.

To propose a Federal law guaranteeing the right to vote will be such a revolutionary departure from the expansion process that the franchise has thus far undergone that it will be very hard to force it to gain traction in Washington. Indeed, Washington is the last place we can expect any support for such a movement. Washington is the locus of the most concentrated political and economic power in the country. Any dilution of that concentration is going to be rejected by lawmakers. The only way the right to vote has ever expanded in the United States is by local and state governments seizing upon the issue through grass roots activism, and then indirectly forcing other localities and states to do likewise by a form of "confederate pressure."

One of the main obstacles to popular reforms in any area of American society since Vietnam has been the disparate effort of reformers in the teeth of an ever more unified conservative, corporate financed and media controlled public discourse. If we try to change the system from the top down, we may play right into the hands of the Republican/corporate hegemonies. Freedom is messy. Let's keep it that way and start the national movement for fair elections on the state and local level, so we can REALLY bury the powers in Washington beneath an irresistible and surging tidal wave of popular support for democratic reforms.


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