More Than Four Years

Tuesday’s election is about much more than the next four years.  Likewise the last four depended a lot on what preceded it, and even on what some people hoped would follow in the short term.

Take the 2010 class of Republicans in particular.  Worst than the worse.  Nothing got done on their watch because they want to drive out the somewhat progressive Barak Obama.  As the country struggled with a historic economic malaise, we squandered two years for short term gain rather than cooperate to confront the problems our country faced.  Better to underserve the country than help it if it will help you gain an advantage over your political opponents, right?

Selling political strategy in this country relies on voter impatience.  A rise or dip in a monthly unemployment number can sway polls, for example.  People who know better exploit this snapshot to make a political argument.  It is like taking a single frame from a film and then writing a review.  It is naive, misleading, and it is poor leadership.

So it concerns me that so many serious long-term issues get passed over in our current political discourse.  Until recently, there hasn’t much comment about climate change, for example.  In the recent post-Sandy days, however, this has changed some.  Unfortunately, a lot of this talk is metadiscursive; people — especially politicians with a few recent exceptions — are not talking proactively about the need for energy policy and research to address the problem, but they are talking about how no one is talking about the problem.  Odd, isn’t that?

We shouldn’t be surprised.  We think of our future on a four-year or even a two-year election cycle, not the future, especially not the future of our children and grandchildren (which is a politicians favorite and most abused political trope).  The truth is we look as close to today as is possible.  When it comes to climate change, we still live in the age of fossil fuels and too many people make far too much money for that to change in the free market.

So why do we believe the misleading rhetoric?  Climate change?  What climate change?  Climate be damned!  If the climate does indeed go to hell in a handbasket, don’t fear, the free market will come up with a solution.  You can count on it, right?

Well, look at what the free market has done in recent decades.  As we have pulled back regulation, reduced taxation, and cut government investment, the free market was supposed to thrive and serve all.  Tax revenues, we were told, will increase as the economy grows and GDP rises and this will fund our government services.

Instead, when tax revenues did indeed rise with a growing GDP, we cut taxes more and still further cut government.

There’s a reason why our infrastructure is falling a part and yet we’re still broke.  Even after coming through some very prosperous years, we chose not to fund government, we chose to “starve the beast.”  We don’t have more with less, we have less and less.

Free markets do work, but this idea that the free market inherently serves us all equally is malarkey.  Government exists to serve the people.  Government protects individual rights, markets protect the interests of commerce and share holders.  Private demand steers the free market, government supplies public goods (your roads, parks, clean water, etc.).   In the free market system winners and losers exist.  Government, on the other hand and at least in principle, serves and protects all.  Isn’t that the principle we once took with pride?  Certainly preceding generations did and invested in the future, a future given to us to gut and ransack alas.

At a very basic level — the level of rights — recent political choice and leadership tends to gut government.  The founding principles of the United States depended on basic freedoms, including religious freedom.  In states like Minnesota (Minnesota, what has happened to you?) we have put to a public vote a anti-marriage amendment to the state’s constitution that will codify discriminatory practice.  (I have written quite a lot about this in recent weeks here on a Little Tour.)

The constitution exists precisely to protect the rights of an individual against the whims of the majority.  It is a cornerstone of our country’s founding and key to the individual freedom we claim to respect and value.

Washington DC: United States Supreme Court

Washington DC: United States Supreme Court (Photo credit: wallyg)

With that in mind, look beyond the next four years and look at the nation’s Supreme Court.  Suppose Mitt Romney becomes the next president.  Justice isn’t blind, not in this country.  Judges are vetted for their political beliefs and propensities.  It is a dangerously screwed up system.  We have four justices into their seventies and we can expect some retirement.  Even one retirement could change the ideological — i.e., non-objective — slant of the Court.

The justices that sit on the Supreme Court in four years will determine the future of this country well beyond 2016.  Questions of rights and civil liberties are being put to the ballot all over the United States as well as routinely challenged in the courts; Affirmative Action, abortion, gay rights, and even legislative action like the recent Affordable Care Act likely will face challenges in the courts.  To overlook the future of the United States Supreme Court in the 2012 election is a enormous mistake and a genuine threat to our constitutional government as we have known it.

Voting is serious business.  We need to think long term, and preferably long term into the future.  There is plenty that can be written here, but I think I should leave those who crutch along with the naive belief that men who lived hundreds and even thousands of years ago knew would be best for us today alone.

Instead rely on common sense.    If progressive politics is bad for the United States, why did the United States thrive under progressive leadership?  How well is that trickle down economic model working for most Americans?  And what strategies do we have to compete in a changing global economy where our competitive advantages of the past no longer exist?

By definition conservatives are not the thinkers of change.  To move forward we need to think forward.  And we need to think beyond the next election.


2 thoughts on “More Than Four Years

  1. angrymanspeaks

    Great piece. Well written and clear yadda yadda yadda.

    Often people forget that the next president is likely to appoint several justices to SCOTUS. A very important facet of our government; oft overlooked until the time comes to make a decison about some issue dear to our hearts. Then we whine and cry that the Court is to Conservative; Waaah!

    If these folks had paid attention four or eight or twelve years ago; if we had mobilized the masses that we have on our side before the crisis hit; we wouldn’t have to worry if Obamacare would be affirmed. We could sleep at night in the knowledge that our Supreme Court was protecting us from the Fascist Republicans and their “Constituion Busting”.


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