To be completely honest, I didn't plan to vote next February. I really didn't see any point in wasting my time or getting my hopes up. After the incompetent leadership of the Bush Administration, I was waiting for a miracle; waiting for some miraculous leader to step forward and put an end to the sectarian squabbling and bring us into a golden age. Unfortunately, it looked like business as usual. In all of the debates and all of the television interviews, I never really saw anything worth getting excited about. Interviewers seemed to be more concerned with who is the next "threat to democracy" and what the candidates thought about cheating spouses. Everybody gave the same vague slogans and promises:
"I'll cut taxes." or "I'll make the world safe from terrorism."
Let's face it, we live in a crippled democracy. There is a reason why when it comes to voter turnout, we rank 139th out of 172 democratic nations. Not that I don't love this country - as Mark Twain said, "Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it." Right now, as it has been for a good long while, we live in what is called a plutocracy; that is, a country ruled not by the masses, but by a privileged minority. If the government official doesn't initially belong to that privileged minority, they quickly join the fold.
Take Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor for example. I sat in a labor organization meeting with some of his staffers and workers were concerned about Central American Free Trade Agreement legislation. If CAFTA passed, we'd see thousands of American jobs disappear to Central America where they could produce goods without having to worry about fair wages. His representatives told the workers that it was horrible legislation and they shouldn't worry too much about it...and of course, Pryor ended up voting for CAFTA. Luckily, the working people of Central America rose up by the tens of thousands and sent Bush and the foul trade agreement packin'.
The only way to have a true democracy is to have a transparent and accountable government. It is not a democracy if the people don't participate. A little over a week ago, I heard of a candidate who surprisingly believes in the same thing. A national organizer for the Obama campaign came to UCA and spoke to the student body for two hours, addressing all questions and outlining most of Barack's main platforms. Unlike the other candidates, Obama started his career as a community organizer for Chicago's South Side. He's also the only one still running that has had zero corporate political action committee campaign contributions. Every penny of the two-hundred million dollars that he has raised came from individuals and grassroots organizations. He has a solid understanding of why people have lost faith in American democracy, and what it will take for the people to reclaim ownership of the system.
One simple idea is to eliminate shady back-office dealings. When a bill comes forward to be approved by the president, he wants to put the American public in the room. Have a table with him in the middle, the lobbyists to one side, his advisors to the other, and a camera poised front-and-center, broadcasting the proceedings on C-Span for everyone to see.
He has plan after plan to promote social consciousness and participatory democracy. Doubling the Peace Corps in size, doubling Americorps, creating a Classroom Corps to supplement public education, a Health Corps to improve public health outreach, a Veteran's Corps to assist veterans in hospitals, nursing homes, and homeless shelters. Even a Clean Energy Corps to weatherize and work on renewable energy projects. He wants to get college people actively involved in their communities - offering a $4,000 tax credit to student who commit to more than 100 hours of community service per year.
He's also a candidate with a healthy worldview. There are many countries whose economies are so crippled that they are only able to pay the interest on their loans from the IMF, World Bank, and African Development Bank. The premise of being able to pay these loans off is so alien to them because interest just eats away every hand up they could possibly get. Obama supports complete debt forgiveness to the 18 poorest nations to give them the leverage to be able to enter the world market. However, he shares the same sentiment for Americans of course, and is committed to put an end to predatory lending practices that we suffer at the hands of Credit Card and Mortgage companies. He also plans on instituting a federally funded transitional employment service, which will serve as a training spot and hand up to unemployed Americans.
Also, other than Dennis Kucinich (who recently had to drop out of the race), he was the only candidate who was openly opposed to the War in Iraq from the outset. While the media was selling the war to the public and while all of the other candidates (who had access to a wealth of information that we citizens don't) either went with the flow or rode the fence. In this way, he was one of the few to stand up as a person of principle.
I could go on and on and on, but instead you should just check things out for yourself. For once, I'm excited to vote, and on February 5th - I'm gonna go cast my lot and pray that in the face of an impending recession, we get off of the couch and choose a capable candidate. I'm not even advocating that you vote for Obama...JUST VOTE!
Kenny Grand is a NOC Facilitator and member of the University of Central Arkansas chapter of YDS
This posting paid for by the Democratic Socialists of America PAC.
Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.