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Monday, June 3, 2013

When politics are down and dirty, why bother?

My hopes for my grandchildren include their escape from South Dakota.  This has stirred some positive Democrats to come to the defense of their state and to launch some lofty speculations about what could redeem the state from its single-party government  and its descent into a hate-based version of conservatism.  

This week I turned over my duties as an officer in a county Democratic Party after almost 15 years.  I am allied with the Party on most issues.  I do not think government has the right to overrule women in their choices about their own bodies and their families, or the right to interfere in anyone's choices about those they wish to share and build their lives around.  I do believe that government has to be big enough and strong enough to enforce the standards of equality and justice for each individual and to provide recourse for people being oppressed, suppressed, and defrauded  by bureaucracies and corporations.   In its role as guardian of liberty, equality, and justice,  I think that government must help those who wish to protect the environment from wasteful and polluting human activities,  that it must establish policies to make healthcare accessible to those who are excluded from it, to provide a safe and efficient infra-structure so that the enterprises of its people can function and prosper, that it must regulate finances for the benefit of the people and not the crooks, and that it must operate on a frugal budget adequate to carry out those functions.  

There are many in the Democratic Party who think that in order for the Party to regain power and influence in the state they must relinquish those principles which identify the Party.  To those who think that the only way to grasp onto a shred of political power is to give up basic principles, then why not simply become a Republican?  Those who think that the essential liberal values are too important and defining to be sacrificed are regarded as left-wing extremists.  To win elections, the strategists say, one has to give up the very values that define the Democratic Party.  This intelligence comes from those political theorizers and strategists who comment on blogs and have, apparently, never faced the situations that real people find themselves in or actually engaged in a political campaign.  They have a wide range of notions of what the Democrats must do to regain power.  And most of those notions involve being a Republican.

Some Democrats are in a quandary because what they think are the only people who could be viable candidates for Sen. Tim Johnson's Senate seat have declined to run.  That leaves Rick Weiland, a man with a strong record of work and service, but who has lost two previous attempts to make it to Congress.  Those keyboard strategists have already dismissed him, because he does not seem to possess that "star" status that makes the political heart flutter and the mind go blank.  But they mostly dismiss him because he is a Democrat who has not dutifully renounced his values in order to appear to be what they term a moderate.  Which, as Rick Weiland says, is a Republican.  

Those keyboard strategists seem to think that being in power, even at the cost of any political integrity, is more important than representing the issues that concern real people who are struggling against a state government that has no interest in them.  

Rick Weiland represents a political choice, not an abject submission to the majority party and those who endorse it.  Those Democrats who dismiss Weiland have not the political wherewithal to recognize that whoever runs for the Democrats is taking on the Republican establishment, not just one candidate.  And that establishment has put into office two of the most feckless and unproductive people in Congress.  One wonders why these Democrats dismiss and denigrate Rick Weiland rather than go after the records of the feckless twins, John Thune and Kristi Noem.  Their major legislative initiatives were contrived by the febrile minds of conservatives, which make up fantasies to rail against.  John Thune sponsored legislation to prevent the EPA from imposing a tax on bovine flatulence.  The EPA never intended or even considered such a tax.  But John in his belief that he had a big issue in saving cow farts from the EPA persisted.

Kristi Noem took the same tactic when she promoted the legislation that would prevent the EPA from regulating the dust raised by farming.  The EPA looked to see if there was a public health menace in farm dust which contains the residue of herbicides and pesticides, but it never considered coming into farmland and telling tillers of the soil to keep the damned dust down.  

Our brilliant Democratic strategists dwell on Rick Weiland, who has never been involved in any stupid political stunts of the magnitude of Thune and Noem,  and they solemnly designate him a loser against the records and personalties of the likes of the dust and fart chasers.  These strategists have the right to form and express their opinions, but other people have the commensurate right to dismiss them as stupid and totally obtuse to the real issues that confront so many people in South Dakota and the nation.  Before the Internet, such opinions were generally confined to the corner tavern where they could be expressed and then forgotten by the next morning.  Now they circulate through the cyber atmosphere like cow farts and toxic dust.

It is one of the reasons that people who believe some constructive things can and should be done give up on the absurdity that politics have become.   One of the most notable counteractions to the insult-and-abuse obsessions of current politics is the Occupy Wall Street movement.  It is misunderstood and assumed to have petered out.  Its critics moaned that it failed to announce an agenda and get organized to take some kind of massive action other than make known its dissatisfaction with a country being controlled by the one percent. People so indoctrinated in politics as usual fail to grasp that the Occupy people see the usual modes of announcing plans and organizing people are what the movement wants to avoid.  The usual mode for conducting political business has deteriorated over the years to the point that it is mired in malice, bickering, and  total moral and intellectual inertia.  Occupy people see our political structures as nothing more than obstacles to addressing social issues, and they are convinced that circumventing politics-as-usual is the only way to deal with the problems we face.

An example of circumventing the established order is J.R. Fleming of Chicago who found it absurd that foreclosed houses in the Southside of Chicago were empty and abandoned by the  banks while thousands of people are homeless.   He has formed an organization  that occupies and restores abandoned houses and puts people in them.  He tells interested people: 
“The government failed us. The market failed us. Harvard, Yale and the University of Chicago failed us. Our government — the government — doesn’t belong to us. Forget them; they forgot us. We need to solve our problems ourselves.”
So, while people bicker over candidate personalities and exchange ignorant, ego-driven political opinions, the people who confront the real problems that need solving avoid politics and get to work in ways that actually accomplish something.  The first major accomplishment is getting free from our political system.

The police may close down the Occupy demonstrations, but they can't reach the real work being done. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States