Thursday, May 27, 2010
Jerry Ortiz y Pino Guest Blog: Democracy Takes a Lot of Work
This is a guest blog by Jerry Ortiz y Pino, a State Senator and candidate in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in New Mexico. (Photo is of Jerry at last year's Taos Pride.)
Bill Moyers’ last episode of Journal ran on PBS a few weeks back. I missed it but heard so many comments about it that I found it on-line later and spent an hour and a half watching it. I urge you to do the same thing; just google and watch it -- then let’s talk.
Nothing I’ve seen captures the American dilemma in 2010 as effectively as Moyers’ conversations with Jim Hightower and Barry Lopez on that program. However, I would also encourage you to read the April, 2010 Harpers piece by Kevin Baker, “The Vanishing Liberal,” because his angle on the same topic adds extra emphasis and depth.
What both the television conversation and the magazine article make clear is that we are too late to prevent the end of democracy in the US -- it’s already happened. Now the task is to recover it, a far more formidable challenge.
How we allowed our precious democratic enterprise to get hijacked and morphed into what we have today, a plutocracy masquerading as a democracy, can only be explained by our collective laziness, carelessness, inattention.
We literally went asleep at the wheel while the enemies of democracy, the super-rich, stole our inheritance right from under us. So slick was that picking of our pockets that many (perhaps most) Americans still aren’t aware that we’ve been fleeced. But make no mistake: we have been taken to the cleaners—and the final confirming evidence of that con job is the recent mind-numbing Supreme Court decision averring that corporations are people.
As for our political leaders, their woeful weakness under enemy fire could be a training manual for “How not to protect Democracy." Those who haven’t surrendered completely and thrown-in with the plutocrats have been reduced to an ineffectual chorus of compromisers, intent on “making the best of a bad situation.” Pitifully few heroes have stood against the stealth conquest.
Baker says it well in describing our hapless fatalism: “We have learned to be helpless. And in this state of political depression, it no longer matters how many elections liberals win for the Democrats or how badly Republican, right-wing policies fail or how much damage they do to the country or the world. There is simply no way to do anything differently.”
After they lay-out the dimensions of the problem, how our plutocrats (the tiny fraction of the very wealthiest Americans) have manipulated our institutions, our governmental laws and regulations and our business and commercial principles, to insulate themselves from any attempt at limiting their total control of our economy, our politics and our society, Moyers asks Hightower, how can we ever get out of this mess.
The answer, begun by Hightower, is completed by Barry Lopez during the second half of the program. And it is an answer echoed by Baker in the conclusion to his piece: “There is no longer any meaningful reformist impulse left in our politics ... simply voting for one man or supporting one of the major parties will not restore it. The work will have to be done from the ground up and it will have to be done by us.”
There is, I’m afraid, no other way than to roll up our sleeves and start working at rooting out the rascals.
It means work, the kind of work Hightower describes the Populist movement of the late 1800’s conducting: organizing; meeting in church halls, living rooms and community centers; public education sessions; reading, analyzing and discussing -- and building organizations determined to resist, to stand firm for principle.
Over and over in the history of our country there have had to be similar citizen movements to take back Democracy from the enemy within -- the far more dangerous and insidious enemy than those from outside, the ones we easily mobilize against. Today the work means taking up the civic dialogue and it means actually learning about what is going on from sources other than network news.
If we don’t, the corporations which now control us and our votes will go unchallenged and we will have lost the most precious of all our gifts: the right to self-determination; not through a revolution or invasion, but through a million tiny steps toward being lulled to sleep.
The enemy is not government; the enemy is not business. The enemy is the powerful tiny minority who control both government and business to ensure that their power and profit will go unchallenged regardless the political or business climate.
If we don’t get to work, they will remain in control. Start by watching Moyers’ last show and reading Baker’s article. Then let’s get to work on a constitutional amendment that makes clear corporations truly are not people.
This is a guest blog by Jerry Ortiz y Pino. To submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.
To read our previous posts related to the 2010 lieutenant governor race, visit our archive.