Americans must reclaim their democracy

Dan Lucas_July 2012_BW

by Dan Lucas

Crap. I was really hoping my fellow Republicans would snap out of their infatuation with Donald Trump. Unfortunately, he’s still dominating in the polls. I honestly don’t understand how people cannot see through this man. To me, he always comes across as abusive, petty, vain and shallow.

There is one thing he excels at – he knows how to tell people what they want to hear.

For me, he has always been the GOP version of Barack Obama, the GOP “magic man.”

On top of the abusiveness and petty and vain behavior, there are even plenty of reasons to question Trump’s credentials as a conservative. He was a registered Democrat for almost the entire decade from 2001-2009, and as recently as four years ago he wasn’t a registered Republican. He had the Clintons as wedding guests to his most recent wedding in 2005. Despite now saying the right things about the 2nd Amendment, he previously supported the “assault weapons” ban and longer waiting periods on gun purchases. In 2011 he announced he had evolved on the issue of abortion and was now pro-life. He had previously been pro-choice. He has advocated for a Canadian-style, single-payer plan – which is far more extreme than Obamacare.

For Republicans or Democrats, our choices for 2016 are not great at this point. It’s like being the last one to go pick out a DVD at a motel at the coast on a stormy winter night.

This isn’t a problem with the candidates, for either party. God bless them for being willing to serve and put up with everything they have to put up with. This is a problem with the people who elect them. The quality of the field of candidates reflects the quality of those who would elect them.

Back on February 13th, the day Gov. Kitzhaber was expected to announce his resignation, I went down to the capitol at lunchtime. As I got ready to head upstairs I noticed a large enclave of reporters gathered outside the governor’s office and snapped a picture of them. I wasn’t trying to, but I also happened to take a picture of these profoundly appropriate words on the wall below “In the souls of its citizens will be found the likeness of the state – which if they be unjust and tyrannical then will it reflect their vices – but if they be lovers of righteousness, confident in their liberties, so will it be clean in justice, bold in freedom.” These same words apply to our nation.

Back in 2012, I wrote a column on why money matters in politics. I noted “Our form of government is ‘high maintenance’; it requires a great deal of citizen involvement to work well.” This mess is on us. Through our collective disengagement from the political discourse, we cede political power to those with money to buy TV commercials. It’s a vicious cycle. Voters don’t pay attention, lobbyists and special interests gain power – power given to them by uninterested citizens. Then citizens get frustrated with the inevitable results and want a quick fix, a “magic man.”

I get it, politics are unpleasant and downright ugly at times. They can be very divisive. Sometimes it’s hard to tell Republicans from Democrats. For example, despite claims that he was standing up to Wall Street, President Obama’s 2008 campaign “raised more money from the financial community than any other politician in American history,” which was repaid when “Wall Street amassed more profits in the first two years of the Obama presidency than all eight of George W. Bush’s combined.”

I largely avoided politics for most of my life, but that doesn’t really work and it especially doesn’t work if we want to hang on to this magnificent “government of the people by the people for the people” we’ve been so blessed to inherit. That so many of our predecessors fought for and when necessary gave their “last full measure” for.

With all of its flaws, it is still the best thing out there. As Winston Churchill said “democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” It’s why so many Iraqis after the fall of Saddam Hussein risked real danger to vote and were so proud of their purple fingers.

Democracy will be much harder to win back if it’s lost. Please let’s all get more involved, if even a little bit more. Please reject quick fixes – it’s taken us a while to get into this mess caused by our inattention – please let’s be patient and persistent in restoring it.

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