The contract between a government and its people is understood to be one where the government has to not exercise its power entirely.
Parental, in other words.
A government which fully exerts its power over its people is a tyranny, a totalitarian regime, fascism.
A people who do not exert their responsibilities can be viewed as child-like, refusing to accept their position as necessary to the functioning of the nation as a whole. This is the paradox of the one versus the many: how much difference can one man/woman/vote/dollar make?
The Dalai Lama and other Buddhists will tell you, quite a bit. See, it's not ultimately about the exertion of influence but about the exercise of freedoms. The pursuit, if you will, of happiness.
To digress for a moment, one reason I agreed to blog after katrina urged me time and again was the opportunity I saw to influence even just one person to think differently, to let one other person know he or she was not alone in what they perceived around themselves. To understand that we are connected.
I see the struggle for the political will of this country coming down to three factions:
First, the right, with its individualistic, opportunistic, capitalistic thinking that by each of us pursuing our own self-interests, we can lift the nation as a whole, on average, higher. This work, believe it or not, but it's not enough, clearly. For the first hundred and fifty years, this nation operated in precisely this fashion and for one hundred and fifty years, we left people behind.
Second, the left with its notions that every problem is so intractable that it demands we gather in as many resources as possible to allow the government to dictate solutions to us. This works in some instances, particularly in emergency situations when consensii must be reached quickly. Indeed, we've seen the failure of underactive oversight of government in the Hurricane Katrina debacle.
Third is the middle, the vast majority of Americans, some 60-80% of us, who sit there and see the failures of both sides as well as the successes and wonder why there cannot be a better way that combines the two.
I wish there was an easy answer for them but there simply is not. The political tides of this nation ebb and flow on the backs of these people: the philosophy that can capture more of public opinion will be the philosophy that prevails at that particular moment in time. When the left can exert influence, like during the 60s, progressive philosophies are tried, and while their strengths are revealed, their weaknesses are immediately exposed as well.
Similarly, as in the 80s, when a right-wing philosophy is experimented with, whatever strengths it exhibits is coupled immediately with its weaknesses.
This opens the door to communication and marketing, of course. This is why we no longer talk about policies when comparing two candidates, but about the effectiveness of the "message" and the messenger. This is why politics is now covered like a horse race rather than a debate. The right had seized on this secret during the Reagan years and managed to massage it for decades. Indeed, if Bill Clinton hadn't won in 1992 by stealing this technique from Republicans, it is likely that President Gore would now be talked about for a third term. It's not so much that Reagan did anything remarkable during his two terms that had people talking about his image on Mt. Rushmore, but that he followed nearly twenty years of malfeasance, corruption and perceived incompetence. All you needed was a trained chimp at that point, and twenty five percent of the country would rejoice for the Second Coming.
Sort of like Dumbya, now.
We are on the cusp of a moment which cannot be denied. People have grown weary with right-wing bromides of privatization and laissez-faire economics and benefits for the rich. So long as these were not perceived as hurting the hundreds of millions in the middle, the middle was content. While it is conceivable that John McCain could steal away this election, it would be only a temporary delay. The age of progressivism seems to be upon us, yet again.The pendulum has swung once more and to the left.
The question is, what to do about this? The 2006 elections showed us an interesting mandate: while Americans are tired of the right-wing "lower taxes will solve everything" mantra, they clearly have become indoctrinated to the right wing message of "left=anti-America." This is one reason the Obama flag pin trope worked so strongly during the primary campaign, both as an influence on leftists who had to abandon Edwards and Kucinich ("See? He ain't buckling under to no flag pin wearing fascists!") and on rightists ("See? He ain't American!").
The 2006 elections saw the rise of the middle left: people like Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill, rookie senators who won in traditionally red states by running not as Democrats but as disaffected Republican-could-bes. Yet, they support many progressive ideals-- some are pro-choice, some are pro-healthcare, some are pro-safety (antigun, the right would call them).
This has created a gulf in the Democratic party, as the puffed-up chests of MoveOn.org and dKos over the sensible and calculated moves by Obama to move to the center in time for the general election are rolled out. Democrats.com, in fact, has asked its supporters to escrow their donations to Obama by banking them with truly progressive Congressional and Senate candidates, thus indirectly supporting him while not allowing him to take advantage of their support.
Madness, but they have every right to be infuriated. Obama set himself up as a candidate of the left, and did nothing during the primary campaign to dissuade the Obombers from believing he was anything but in sync with them.
Well, see, that's not entirely true. He did flip-flop on the NAFTA and on a few other issues, taking first a strongly progressive view and then whittling it back and effectively kneecapping his original position.
In point of fact, it is the Obombers who have to suck it up and understand they got bamboozled. Anyone with a lick of sense, yours truly among them, realized this would happen.
Friends have asked me if I had painted myself into a corner with my strong support for Hillary and my strong denunciations of Obama. Possibly, but you'll notice something: I'm not the one who's disliking Obama more and more each day now!