Structural dysfunction

I usually get around to watching my queue of Bill Moyers’s programs. I procrastinate because I know that I’m in for some depressing stuff. So, I steel myself for a strict diet of misery as I make my way through the episodes.

Among the programs viewed in last night’s lineup was an interview with Jim Hightower, an occasional guest of Moyers. Hightower is synonymous with populism, and he’s not about to go gently into his good night. He’s still at it after all these years.

As is his wont, Moyers wonders about the efficacy of protesting and struggle, since things have only gotten worse since Hightower raised his populist banner. Against the sobering reality, we are treated to images of this group and that group bringing truth to power and whatnot. Also, one has choices, reminds Hightower, and one of those, of course, is to simply quit, which he refuses to do.

I was reminded of my writings long ago wherein I decried the “stiletto” syndrome: so many groups focused on narrow concerns, thereby losing the political forest for the single-interest trees. After all, I surmised, there is likely a common cause for all the social maladies. If the many groups could combine their resources to strike at the root of the underlying evil, success could be more achievable.

The most obvious big-tent approach is via political parties. But that’s hardly working for the Rest of Us. Today’s Democratic Party, which used to be associated with us working stiffs, is now as beholden to the monied interests as the G.O.P., which has always and unabashedly been the party of the rich white man. The fat cats. The plutocrats. The capitalists.

Reasonable minds may disagree, but one doubts that the current political landscape supported by and suffused with dollars was what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they concocted their grand experiment in democracy. The whole thing is a present mess, to be sure, yet foreseeable. Madison, Franklin, et al. may have broken the yoke of “tyranny,” but they clearly created, albeit unwittingly, a monster of mayhem and misfortune in their desire to prevent concentrated power. In effect, they established a constitution that traded monarchy for oligarchy while preventing easy fixes, allowing the dead to rule from their graves.

Despite the expansion of the voting franchise, the rigidity of a two-party system holds sway, effectively obstructing meaningful representation of the people’s will. When the winner takes all, third parties don’t stand a chance. More of us can vote, but only between D and R.

I seriously doubt that the Democratic Party can be recaptured by Labor. Once the first Wall Street check was cashed, the people lost their voice. The party is, at best, a prophylactic against the crazies who occupy the alternative, but no longer seems an effective vehicle to address the needs of the Rest of Us.

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