Monday, March 30, 2009


Sam Smith

One of the greatest problems with our politics is that the values of the mainstream have been increasingly defined by the elite. And it's not just the right - effective as it has been at convincing people that gay marriage and abortion are the major obstacles to a decent life. Now that the Democrats are in power, we are seeing the flip side of this manipulation of debate and information and what amounts to a damming of the mainstream.

Both parties are primarily beholden to their campaign contributors, the very people who have led us into our current disaster, and while their approaches may vary, both parties share a common obeisance to the most powerful and wealthiest. The question of what would help the bulk of Americans becomes of secondary concern.

You can see this revealed as supposedly liberal columnists worry about populism, almost as though it was a new form of terrorism. You can see it in a stimulus bill badly skewed towards the desires of the top of the heap. You see it in the White House seeking to further institutionalize the private health insurance industry, among the most useless businesses in America.

The list could go on and on, but there's another list that's even more important: that of issues blocked by the establishment's dam from even entering the mainstream downstream (and ignored by the major media) even though many have widespread support.

Test it out. Circulate the list below among friends or at the next meeting of your favorite group. Add ideas to it or delete them. Come up with your own damn list. If you try it as formal poll, include a question about the participant's political leanings, for it is useful to know which issues cut best across ideology. Then post what you've found on the web (a copy to the Review would be much appreciated). The web has been well used by major manipulators of opinion on both left and right, but its potential to help ordinary American communities and groups take back the town meeting approach that the power brokers have co-opted and to find unity with other communities and groups remains largely a dream.

In the best of worlds, every political and civic organization in the country would come up with its own plan and priorities, instead of having it determined by the big players in Washington and Wall Street. It would be an easy but effective first step in a populist revival that the capital - in all its persuasions - fears so much. It would help undam the mainstream.

Here's a starter list. Just add anything you want and cross out anything you or your group doesn't agree with and see what's left:


Nationalization of failed financial institutions.

End of secrecy by financial institutions on the use of federal funds

Use of federal revenue sharing to get more recovery funds quickly to the state and local level

A return to the financial controls of the Glass-Steagel Act

Greater use of stimulus funds to help small business.

Use of local bankruptcy judges to reorganize loans threatened with foreclosure.

State banks modeled on the North Dakota example

Changing pro-lender state laws endangering homeowners

Creating cap on credit card interest rates to levels of the 1980s.


Single payer healthcare


An end to our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

No torture.


End of more than one foreign tour for National Guard troops.


Decriminalization of marijuana.


Federal support of local public schools but without federal interference


Use of only secure and verifiable voting machines.

Public campaign financing

Instant runoff voting


An end to illegal wiretapping by the government

Respect for the 10th Amendment by leaving states and the individuals those powers not specifically granted the federal government under the Constitution. Government should be conducted at the lowest practical level.

Restoring the right of juries to judge both the law and the fact.


No dismantling of Social Security

If you take a poll or a meeting vote, please let the Review know. Breakdown by political persuasion would be helpful.

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