For a long time, I have been using this blog as a way to promote both progressive and populist visions. Like many progressives, I have been more likely to align myself with Democrats than Republicans due to philosophy differences, although there are some issues which I and many people agree--regardless of party line. However, after the latest debacle regarding our economy and the debt ceiling, I see that being an Independent is the only recourse I or any populist has left to combat a two party system that is fundamentally broken. To declare my independence allows me the freedom to support only candidates who will uphold a progressive/populist agenda and, I hope, this includes Independents with a wider vision than either party will allow.
However, it also prevents me from caucusing in my state, which is very sad to me. Iowa does not have the ability to have an Independent caucus, and unless there is an Independent Party, there is mandated need. As long as there is a two party system, most people who care about the future of the country are left out in the cold.
And here are some reasons why:
1) Corporate interests have taken over politics. In each of the branches of government, there has ostensibly been a corporate takeover of the funding of candidates and issues. As such, neither party is immune to big monied interests who write many of the bills that Congress votes for, the Executive branch make exceptions for, and the Courts support interests of in interpreting Free Speech law. We are left with a blind taste test where it doesn't really matter much if you like Coke or Pepsi better.
2) The government has stopped working for the people who particularly need it to function well for: the poor, elderly, and the young. Most debates that have centered around the economy have, at best, place held the defense of retirement, health care, and education. By withholding funds for these groups, the social net has frayed to the point of breaking. Rather than working on ways to secure these budget lines, both parties are beginning to dismantle the system to the benefit of the wealthy and to the detriment of the rest of us.
3) We are applying 20th Century solutions to 21st Century problems. For instance:
- Whether we like it or not, the world around us has changed and is not going back to the good-old-days ever again. This means we can no longer be the bull in the China shop and throw our weight around in the world in the same way we used to. We cannot afford to police the world without causing pain to our people and innocent people elsewhere. Proof of this old world vision is Barack Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. If I were the Nobel organization, I would demand it back with an apology to those who preceded him in receiving it.
- Also, if we want to bring back industry in America, companies who are here have to put aside a pure profit motive mentality and put people to work. Greed is not good and, as we've seen, corporations lack the emotions of people. Therefore, it should be criminal for companies to do business in the USA without a large percentage of their workforce being in it.
- We need to change the way we educate kids. We cannot afford for one child to fail and our education system should be changed to reflect that challenge. Our teachers are good and can be better, but the systems they work in are so dysfunctional that in many cases schools are no longer places where kids can learn. School systems that are unable to properly manage schools to help their kids to be successful and parents who don't value education enough to help their kids to succeed need to be brought to task. And we shouldn't be afraid of technology to bring our best teachers in front of students. The fact that we have teacher shortages in key areas should not stop kids from being educated. Teachers need help, make sure there are aides and tutors in the budget. Also make sure that their promotions are a result of teaching excellence, not seniority.
- We need to change the way colleges work. Every person who has the mental acuity to get one, needs a post-secondary education, whether in a trade or a specialty. Students should not be allowed to continue their educations until they have provided two years of service in either the military or in human services. When they complete their years of service and have a plan for college, their education should be paid for. Colleges should be either trade/teaching colleges or research colleges. Students with the talent to complete terminal degrees should earn the privelege and their further education funded by taxes.
- Basic human rights: we should not be arguing over who can or should be married. If the laws really worked, we all would have the same rights and the same protections under the law.
- Governments should not be in the business of deciding what we can do with our bodies, but should be able to levy taxes to offset the results of poor decisions and/or rehabilitation which the person would have to pay back, either in service or in reparations.
- Religion has a place in democracy, but it has no place in government.
4) Democracy needs defending by those who are stitting on the sidelines. Gaming the system is a capitalistic power-brokering notion--aka: counting your chicken before they have a chance to hatch. However, as democracy is not the same thing as Capitalism, the system only works when democractic principles work. Therefore, there should be a national referendum that calls for the immediate dismantling of the two-party system. That all elections would be non-partisan, that all funds would have to come from individuals, and that there would be a maximum amount of money that could be raised and spent in an election cycle. But we have to be the one's who push it.
Have I given up hope? No, but I won't support those who promise hope and can't or won't deliver. Nor will I give in to the idea that only the powerful count and their interests are paramount. This is still our America and we know we can do better. We need an Independent people's movement to bring about equitable change. We won't get there unless misguided fear is replaced with pragmatic plans that people can easily understand and support. Ready to roll up your sleeves?