I’ll be honest: I don’t pay attention to politics anymore. It’s not that I don’t care about our country, our world, our safety, our future, our communities. I do care, tremendously. But I’ve reached a point of deep understanding that leaves me, not jaded so much, as honest. Now that I see the underlying patterns of how our political system operates I hear no new stories. Each new issue may be a little different from the last, but the plot line, the characters, the dynamics are all the same.
Once you see the truth of the system, the issues and outputs no longer surprise or carry much meaning.
Today we need to change the system. That’s the one area of politics that fires up my freedom-loving self. It’s time to update the system itself so that we start telling new stories, healthier stories, stories of true democracy.
Same old story: Government married to business breeds favors
What is the old story that tells nothing new? It’s the marriage of our government and business and the unhealthy accountability that breeds. It’s the system which allows business to consistently have more say than citizens about who gets elected, how taxpayer money is spent and what laws are put into place. It’s the system which gives business a voice and a vote, but leaves citizens screaming hoarsely into the wind. It’s the system that creates legislation that aims first and foremost to protect and support business and then, as a secondary consideration and only if it fits right, also does something useful for citizens.
Business isn’t bad and that shouldn’t be what you read here. But business is selfish and concerned only with money. Businesses operate on quarterly profit & loss statements, often with horizons only as far as the next big bonus or the unfolding of a golden parachute.
Citizens are concerned with much more. Citizens want their children to live healthy, safe, happy lives. Citizens want to work hard, earn fair pay, and have a chance at meaningful livelihoods. Citizens want clean air and beautiful lands. Citizens want strong communities and trusted neighbors. Citizens want the freedom to choose and the right to know. Citizens scream at the top of their lungs and are barely even noticed.
No matter the issue, from healthcare reform to the Farm Bill to regulation of food processing to outsourcing jobs, the story is the same. Business lobbyists explain to legislators how what’s good for business is also good for people and then sign the big campaign check post dated for the following re-election cycle. It’s simple: Legislators owe their jobs, their livelihoods to business, so they have to be accountable to business. Simple.
But this is not democracy.
Tell a new story: Real democracy empowers people
The new story can only unfold in a new, reshaped system. The new story isn’t about an issue. It’s not about ground beef or financial regulations. The new story is about becoming a stronger democracy and fulfilling the promise of fairness, freedom, community and opportunity. The new story tells of people, strong and vibrant, playing roles every day in the governing of this country.
The new story tells how the government IS the people. In the new plot line, citizens actively shape their local, state and national governments. The new story line shows, over and over, how citizens are truly important and concretely impact government, how good laws protect people’s health, their hard work, their communities, their landscapes and their freedoms. In the new story, business sits on the sidelines watching as citizens work together to shape a sustainable future, a future that builds upon the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Accountability to citizens instead of businesses
Headline: Government escapes its degrading relationship with business and becomes accountable to citizens.
Democracy is about people, real people and their hard work, ingenuity and passion for community. Freedom consists of having a voice and a vote and being able to use both.
In our new story, we reshape the political system so that legislators and those in government act for the best interests of citizens. In our new story, government no longer caters to the interests of the wealthiest businesses, but instead is held accountable by citizens. For so long citizens have been fighting the same fights over and over, living the same depressing story again and again because the system itself did not support them. Citizens fighting tooth and nail to have a voice in their own “democratic” government? This is not the story of freedom, this is not the story of the greatest country in the world. This is the story of a tainted relationship, a broken government.
Our new story sees the system changing, evolving in a thousand different ways. The structures shift so that citizen voices become much louder than business lobbyists. The incentives change to push legislators to listen to citizens and act on their long-term behalf instead of acting as paid representatives of generous lobbyists. This isn’t a soft and idealistic story. This is the story of concrete changes that remove business from direct contact with government representatives and put citizen voices in the forefront.
Remove the money
The fundamental shift requires that business money no longer controls politics. Today, legislators are paid if they deliver laws that support business. So we change the system so that business cannot pay into the political system. This is so much more than campaign finance reform. We need to reshape campaigning completely and put in place regulations that make campaigning about people and real ideas and not about expensive attack ads.
In our new story, business cannot contribute to electoral campaigns and cannot lobby representatives. High-level government administrators and legislators are not allowed to go back to work for their previous business employers directly after a stint in government.
Legislators and administrators can call on business representatives to join government discussions as actors in the community and marketplace, as secondary voices which can join the debate. But those represented businesses have no way to contribute financially to the livelihoods of those in government.
New party: No issues, just the system
The United States was born out of the reshaping of government and that reshaping must continue. Out system must evolve towards greater democracy and freedom. Today we need a new political party (actually, we need several new parties) that focuses not on the issues du jour, but on evolving our democratic system. We need to change the rules of the game so that government officials respect and listen to tax-paying citizens. We need to change the rules so that legislators debate each other in a fair arena not tainted with millions and millions of dollars from the pockets of wealthy companies. So that government administrators explore issues with open minds, looking for the outcomes that will benefit their constituents’ children for years to come instead of being told what to do by business representatives.
We need a new political party dedicated to making our country more democratic, to increasing the freedom of every individual by enhancing the voice of every citizen. We need a political party that isn’t mired in the rhetoric of a specific issue, but that carries a deep, passionate commitment to the values of freedom and equality, to the importance of active citizens, and to reshaping the political system to respect and represent citizens, communities, human beings.
What shall we call this new party?