The We or Me Society

The We or Me Society

By Siegrid Raible

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a
More Perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic
Tranquility, Provide for the common defense, 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 to the United States Constitution

In June 2015, America began its quadrennial quest to elect a president. This being the second week in February 2016, we have politicked a full seven months, held the first caucus and thankfully have only nine months left ’til Election Day. With a good part of the world torn by political strife, we live in a country where every four years we vote to either return the current resident to the White House or elect to give a new resident a four-year lease. For 240 years we have witnessed the peaceful transfer of power. How have we managed to pull this off? Will the hollowing out of the middle class affect the democratic future of this great country? And, does money corrupt the political process?

Part of the answer to these questions lies in the fact that we Americans believe in fairness and the principle of equal opportunity. We feel that through the voting process, we can affect the future course of our country; that we can mold a society based on fairness. To craft a fair society, we have to decide how much we, the people, are willing to invest in our society. In other words, how much are we willing to invest in ourselves, i.e., its citizens? That sense of fairness is being tested in this election cycle. We have two political parties with distinctly different views on fairness and equal opportunity.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a 74 year-old Senator from Vermont, vying to become the Democrat’s standard bearer against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has ignited young and old progressives with a new spin on democratic socialism. He’s all for equality of opportunity and a deep belief in a government that serves everyone not just the one percent. His theme is income inequality and the corrosive effect it is having on our democracy. It is his position that today’s economic elites, the so-called one-percenters, those few individuals with outsized pools of money, have the wherewithal to influence political contenders and through them implement policies detrimental to the great majority of those without deep pockets. If the disparity in income continues and the sense of fairness is eroded, political instability may follow. To change this dynamic he’s calling for a political revolution – not an armed rebellion, but an electorate involved in grass-roots democratic politics. A believer in campaign finance reform and the precept of one person, one vote he does not accept any contributions from any political PACs.

The new kid on the block for the Republican Party is none other than Donald Trump, a 69 year-old billionaire realtor/reality show star from Queens, New York, with strange orange hair, whose claim to fame is that he is a winner even though he bankrupted four companies, leaving bondholders (i.e. financiers) holding the bag. He’s proud of the fact that he was able to write off his company’s debts through what is euphemistically called restructuring; he was effectively rescued like the banks during the Great Recession. Those with the wherewithal know how to game the system. His book on acquiring wealth, The Art of the Deal, was published in 1987, three years before his first corporate bankruptcy filing. It’s different for those claiming personal bankruptcy. There is no restructuring for them; they lose everything and they are to use his phrase, losers. For the last seven months of this election cycle it has been Donald Trump 24/7 with the news media garnering ratings and commercial revenue each time Trump insults women, Mexicans and Muslims. This past Monday, he was dealt his first political loss in Iowa.

Now it would seem that the Grand Old Party will have to find the strength to support a candidate in the more traditional mold: someone who supports free market capitalism and in particular corporate capitalism with its defense of deregulation (i.e., smaller government/less oversight – read: Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water), and increased restrictions on labor unions (those who must sell their labor for a living), a belief in a strong, robust military and its promotion of conservative social issues and agendas (read Judeo/Christian beliefs) – say like the third-place finisher in Iowa’s caucuses – Marco Rubio. Republicans have not addressed the issue of campaign finance reform. Donald Trump has pretty much financed his own campaign with free air time provided by the media. Marco Rubio, a young politician with four children and a modest income receives contributions through the billionaires’ PAC Conservative Solutions.

What if we took money out of the election cycle equation? What if both parties considered the best interests and the general welfare of its citizens? And what if we, both republican and democrats, became active participants in the political process? Might the one influence the other and might we just get the government we deserve – a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Might we then be moving towards that more perfect union expressed in the preamble to the Constitution?

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