FREE SPEECH ZONE | Voter Redemption


A parable tells of a room in which “a zillionaire, a Tea Party person and a union member” confront a plate of 12 cookies: “The zillionaire takes 11 of the cookies, and says to the other two, ‘That guy is trying to steal your cookie.’ ”

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Many Americans fell for the demonization of public workers by Republicans and turned on their neighbors while the wealthy laughed all the way to the bank with all the “cookies.” Wise up folks: In 2009, the richest 5 percent claimed 63.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. The bottom 80 percent held just 12.8 percent.

In 2010 Republicans campaigned on job creation and fiscal responsibility and won state houses, governorships, and the House of Representatives in sweeping victories.

What have they done or proposed since then? Across the nation the list staggers the soul in its ideological extremism, childish immaturity, and incompetent management: bust unions, block abortion, redefine rape, limit voting rights, go after public radio, and even reverse green cafeteria policies in the House of Representatives. Oh, and tax cuts for corporate America and spending cuts that do not reduce our deficit and will cost hundreds of thousands their work.

Where is the Republican clamor about jobs now?

We need to get our fiscal house in order-smart, responsible, and shared sacrifice-without losing our humanity. But the “fiscal-responsibility” tactics of callous Republicans take from the bottom and from the old, young, and handicapped and give to the wealthy. Their actions tell us that they care about right-wing ideology, not about people or balanced budgets.

Voters in 2010 got scammed.

Some are paying attention especially in the electorally important Midwest. For example, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker would be defeated if Wisconsin could vote again and recall drives against eight Wisconsin Republican state senators favor Democrats. The same would happen with Ohio Governor John Kasich.

I wrote that the 2010 elections were angry, crazy, frantic, anxious, desperate, and irrational. Such emotions leave us vulnerable to the lure of quick-fixes and the lies of the self-righteous. Many independents voted against self and national interest. Many of the young, poor, and minority Democrats didn’t vote-a bad decision. Many union households voted Republican–ouch. Democratic and independent voters should feel remorse: they have only themselves to blame for their laziness and poor choices.

The harm done: The 2010 election was a victory for the super-wealthy and their agents. They caused the recession that the poor and middle class pay for while the rich get richer. The American Dream, long under attack, transforms to a nightmare.

The elections of 2012 will determine America’s future. Do we want a democracy with a vibrant middle class where the poor, young, and minorities can aspire for the American Dream? Where we can enjoy a secure and dignified retirement? Do we want a government that cares about people? Or do we want a continued and cold decline for most of us?

Thirty percent of voters can’t be redeemed. But the rest can correct their mistakes of 2010. Democrats–especially the young, minorities, and union households–need to vote. And independent voters-the slowest of deciders-will, I hope, reflect on the 2010 election and ask: What happened and what can we learn from it for 2012?

Forget about abstract debates about the role of government, the dysfunction of the Senate, or the nuances of the budget. This election represents food on the table, money for college, a decent retirement–our dignity as people.

Let’s overthrow once and for all the forces that overwhelm the American Dream.