Friday, September 4, 2015

5 Things You Can Do To Make the U.S. Government Work

Since not every reader has a spare couple of billion bucks to splooge on advertising for the candidate of your choice (hint: do this before Citizen’s United gets repealed!), I thought it would be a fun exercise in civics to list five things that you, Oh Great and Terrible Blog-Reader, can do in order to fix all the crap that’s wrong with government these days.  That, or you could just sit on your couch watching Fox News and bitching about Obama and how shitty things are today.  Or move to Idaho and dig yourself a survivalist shelter, and stock it with tons of canned food and ammo for your legally protected firearm.  Ready?  Spoiler alert: all of these things will require you to actually interact with another human being, perhaps even talk to them face-to-face and in the same room!!!  Hey, republican democracy is a fully interactive, participation required sport, so I ask again: READY?!?

1. Get to Know 5 Elected or Appointed Officials in your Hometown.  The late, great Thomas “Tip” O’Neil once said that “all politics is local.”  No, he wasn’t a white gabacho trying to sound all Latino-like and say it’s all loco; he meant that the most important politics take place right at the local level.  Do you know who the Registrar of Probate is in your county?  Do you even have the tiniest inkling of what that dude does?  No?  Then ferChristsake, find him or her and actually have a conversation with them.  Here, I’ll give you some talking points:  a) Hey dude(ess), I’m fill-in-your-name-here.  So, you’re the Registrar of Probate for Essex County, huh?  No shit!  What do you do?  Uh-huh.  Uh-huh.  b) Cool!  So, how do you like it?  c) What do you see as your greatest challenge?  d) What would you change if you could?  e) Would you like my assistance in making that change?  f) Do you like sport peppers, onions, mustard, relish and poppy-seed buns on your hot dogs, or is that just a weird Chicago-thing?
Nope- even people from Essex County, Massachusetts
loves them some good ol' Chicago-dog!

àWhy this will work: most elected or appointed town officials interact with the public only on those rare occasions when there is a contested election (meaning, an election that has a different human being running for the same office) and don’t deal with the public the rest of the time.  Why is that?  Mostly because they are busy doing the job they were elected/appointed to do!  Our local officeholders labor on for the most part in lonely obscurity, occasionally gaining nationwide fame because they’re refusing to give a same-sex couple a marriage license, despite the fact that the SUPREME  FUCKING  COURT of the UNITED  STATES of AMERICA  basically told them they had to.  Your little visit with the Registrar will in all likelihood make his day, if not his entire week.  It will also remind him that he works for you.  It’s good to remind our officeholders of that little fact.  Even the President.  Especially him (or her?)

2. Vote.  Then make everybody in your family vote.  Then shame all of your friends into voting.  Then volunteer down at the Senior Center to drive the old folks to the polls on Election Day.  Did you know that just before this country was founded, one needed to be white, free (as opposed to an indentured servant, which was kinda like a white short-term slave), male and, in Virginia at least, Episcopalian AND own enough property to qualify to vote?  Right after the revolution, things got WAY more equal: all the above qualifications remained, except for the Episcopalian one.  Even Jews were allowed to vote, provided that they were white, male, free, etc. etc.  It took a fucking  CIVIL  WAR  to get the vote to black folks, then the repeal of poll tax, then the Civil Rights marches, Martin Luther King Jr., the Seneca Falls Convention, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, Edith Bunker standing up to Archie on “All In the Family,”  the Vietnam War, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, and the whole 1960’s student protest movement, to get where we are today.  Every citizen over 18 who registers to vote may do so.  So GO  AHEAD  AND  VOTE, you lazy dumbasses!  And if you’re concerned that it will be too hard or take too long, then you might want to share your concerns with the Afghan voters who, in their latest election, braved Taliban fighter attacks and waiting lines TWO  DAYS  LONG in order to cast their vote.

And if you didn't you're an IDIOT, gosh!
àWhy this will work: incumbents count on the fact that roughly 15-30% of potential voters, and 20-40% of registered voters will show up for Election Day, so guess what they do?  They make sure that every one of their friends and their friends and so-on actually show up and vote for them, meaning that they go into the election with a stacked-deck and count on voter apathy to keep them in office.  This works great if the official up for election is actually doing a good job.  If they’re using the office as a cash-cow and as a way to get their entire extended family government jobs, and not even bothering to show up and pretend to do the work they were elected to do, you’ve only got your own lazy-ass self to blame for the fact that they don’t get voted out of office.

3. Get educated about the Issues.  From more than one source.  This item is deceptively hard, because for every Fox News, there’s an MSNBC and a PBS.  And, for every message, there’s a media: billboards, blog posts, newspaper and magazine articles, pop-ups, TV and radio commercials, blimps and skywriting.  And thanks to Citizens United, those political messages will be EVERYwhere, literally screaming at you in an attempt to get your attention.  And heaven help you if you live in a state or district that is considered politically up-for-grabs.  I lived in New Hampshire for a while, and the media avalanche during the Presidential Primary Season just about buried me.  So, how do you do it?  How do you educate yourself?  Use the computer you’re on right now for something other than reading or scoring the coolest Star Trek coasters on  Start with Google and Wikipedia, then go to wherever the answers lead you.

OMG, WHY is mom researching Immigration Policy?
Does that mean we have to move AGAIN?!?

àWhy this will work: despotic rulers, demagogues and really fiendish douche-canoes rely on an uneducated, apathetic, easily intimidated population in order to impose their will on the masses.  What works for a Hitler or a Mao also works for politicians within a democratic republic, albeit in smaller doses, and without all the killing.  If you’re uneducated about a particular issue, you just might believe whatever line they’re singing about it at the moment.  And really well funded politicians have ads, focus groups, and talking heads who can increase the volume level and coverage of any politician’s message.  So figure things out for yourself first. This will help you to sift through the mountain of crap-ola that invades the mediasphere every Election Season.

4. Make your own laws.  I live in Massachusetts, which has as one of its quirkier laws the one that says citizens have the right to propose laws, and their representative in the Great and General Court, our legislature, is required to introduce the proposed law for debate and a vote.  Lots of states have these laws on the books, generally known as initiative laws.  If not, your state might have a process for putting petitions on the ballot.  This is how a lot of citizen-laws are made.  There’s nothing so magic about it.  Sure, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer draft it, and you’ll probably have to get a lot of signatures to get your question on the ballot, but at the end of the process, you will have made your own law.  Just make sure the law is a good one, not a selfish or silly one, like making every May the fourth “Star Wars Day” on your state.  Even though it SO  TOTALLY should be!

...or get stabbed by this totally phallic pen!

àWhy this will work: hey, if the old laws aren’t working for you, maybe your new law will be just the right fix we all need.  This is what democracy is all about.  The people, demos in Greek, rule, “cratia,” also Greek.  This is because democracy was invented in Greece.  We practice it here in America, kind of.  We have a Republic, the Roman’s take on Greek democracy.  Res Pvblica means “the people’s business,” which is actually done by our elected officials so that we, the people, can devote our energies to our jobs, families, and our wacky, borderline hobbies like turning the living room into an exact replica of the USS Enterprise (TNG)’s bridge.  However, sometimes we the people have to take matters into our own hands and “do it like Greeks.”

5. Revolt and start from scratch.  Did I mention I lived in New Hampshire for a while?  Those wild Granite Staters have as part of their state constitution the Right to Revolt.  I kid you not.  If you live in the 603, a.k.a the “Live Free or Die” state, you can revolt against New Hampshire, overthrow the government and start from scratch.  There are a few caveats, however: you have to try all the peaceful  (and legal) ways of change first.  You then have to overpower the state police, the National Guard, and all the 2nd Amendment gun-nuts way up north.  THEN, your revolution MIGHT succeed, unless the United States of America intervenes (which they might), so it’s an iffy prospect at best.  In that case, how about having a revolution outside of New Hampshire that has a chance at succeeding?  Why not call a new Constitutional Convention and draft an entirely new system of government, one which takes into account all of the info-tech improvements that have happened since the first American Revolution in 1776.

àWhy it will work: ok ok, this one's the hardest to pull off (don't try this alone or at home!), but the case can be made that it's time to have a new government here in the United States.  Back in 1776, the fastest a message could go was limited to the speed a person could sail in a boat or ride on a horse.  Today, information travels at light-speed.  This means that the citizens can, in fact, exercise direct democratic rule, a-la Athens during the Age of Pericles.  Why not have a nationwide broadband channel that broadcasts just public policy questions that must be voted on.  Bribe the citizens into participating by giving tax credits for every vote cast.  Run government this way, and we can eliminate Congress and the Senate.  We'll still need an executive department and head of state, so the President stays.  And we'll still have to have a highest court in the land, so The Supremes can stay.    
Clarence Thomas isn't smiling because he didn't get the memo to "Go Commando" under the robes for this year's pic

If this sounds far-fetched, remember that our Founding Fathers convened the first Constitutional Convention with the limited purpose of making changes to the Articles of Confederation.  They ended up scrapping the whole enchilada and creating the federal government we enjoy today.  Or don’t enjoy.  And there is, in our Constitution, a procedure to allow us to do the same thing they did to the government they created.  If you want to look it up, it’s in Article V.

So now that you know how to make government work, go out there and DO something about it!  If you don’t, I don’t want to hear any of you whining about how crappy our government is, because, you slacker, you refuse to do anything at all to fix OUR government!

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