Temperate Rain-Forest Aristocrats
|Tongass Dems Flyer|
You know, this is a heaping pile of crap. This is political junkie tangential commentary that you can completely avoid if you are one of the regular readers for the more environmental focus of AKCenozo. Please forgive me a couple hundred words.
History is tempered by the hazy work of rhetoric and high flying ideology. We so often fall short of those delusions of some cherry utopia just dangling right there, not-quite in our reach.
When I was about 13 years old I read, in probably a Texas textbook, that oft quoted phrase penned by Emma Lazarus engraved on a plaque inside the statue of liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
I trembled in my ignorance then, believing that such words and such sentiments represented open hearts and minds and commitments that rose above and beyond my own shortcomings that being a young man coming of age entails – manic puberty and pimples aside.
But, you know what? It’s a sham and a damn shame such beautiful words and the statue of liberty itself has been put through such dirty political white washing abuse throughout the history of this country. It seems that “give me your tired, your poor,” is more about having a steady cheap labor force for menial jobs. It appears that “your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” is a justification for xenophobia and monumental immigration bureaucracy, because, you know, freedom’s not free.
As for lifting the lamp beside the golden door, that’s the butler showing you out pointing to your slum, your ghetto, your poverty, your isolation. Ah, but he does remind you with a wry smile that those golden hinges could be yours. The opportunity is there and ripe for the taking.
And there is opportunity in this country, no doubt. But there is also destitution wrought by shortsighted policies and practices being hammered out in halls of power, politics and wealth. Our representative democracy is being run by politicians out to win, those trying to save their skins and those fortunate enough to have the cash to catch their ears or if their really fortunate put them in their pocket.
Yeah, nothing new really. I don’t think I’ve ever run across a good example where a society’s political and social institutions are completely, if at all, aligned with its stated aims. But, when I randomly stumbled across the Tongess Democrats’ $125 a plate Inaugural Bartlett-Gruening Dinner fundraiser I was struck by the obscenity of this whole joke we call a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Honestly, who’s going to turn up to this dinner? I mean I could probably swing $250 for my wife and I to go and rub shoulders, smile broadly and put my nose ass deep into somebody’s nether regions – but not without a bit of consideration concerning our family’s budget.
This is not to say $125 is incredibly steep. Wildly expensive fundraising dinners have been around for awhile. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Caroline back in 2009 (as one example) held a $1,000 a plate fundraiser dinner for his very own PAC. That’s lunch money when you look at the $50,000 a plate fundraisers that both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan put together back in 2012, raising between them, in one night, around a cool $3.5 million dollars.
This is completely overlooking the fact that for the election cycles for congress and president in 2012 the total price tag comes in around $6,285,557,223. Around 45,334 folks contributed 10,000+ and another 1,877 contributed $95,000. I don’t know about you, but if someone gives you 10 to 95 thousand dollars you better be giving more than a good handshake and pearly whites.
Politicians aren’t evil as a rule and the wealthy aren’t universally bad and there isn’t some sorta grand scheme to throw all poor people under the bus. Self preservation is a strong motivator for rich and poor alike and breaths in every social avenue. Given our current political landscape, though, how is it that poor and middling income folks are supposed to pursue their own self preservation or advancement?
Don’t give me that hard work boot straps bullshit either, the government feeds the mouths of the rich while filling up their private jet fuel tanks as well – think sugar, big agribusiness and financial institutions. We’ve created a system of politics and consequently governance that is setup to be the mouthpiece and arm of a host of corporations and people that have the resources to sit at the table.
In 2010 the Supreme Court only helped to further entrench this structural problem by ruling in Citizens Untied that essentially money is a form of free speech. The fundamental logic of this ruling seems so outrageous I won’t even take the time to piss on it. But, I will say this, I can talk and ramble on just as much as the CEO of Exxon, but I sure the hell can’t dump much into political campaigns and Super PACs.
The idea that Exxon’s financial political contributions and wrangling are equated with my ability to write this blog or speak out in public is a devastating to anyone’s common sense.
Okay, What’s this got to do with Tongass Dems?
Ultimately, the $125 a dollar plate dinner the Tongass Dems are having this coming weekend is just another pebble in the bucket. A marginal representation of the problem that money plays in limiting participatory democracy for a majority of people.
If the Tongass Dems really wanted to have a fundraiser and be inclusive they’d put together a spaghetti feed for $10 to $15 dollars a plate and give time for those that attend to express their opinions, concerns and needs – hell I’d even help to get people there.
This, of course, would open up the possibility that angry rambling dissatisfied and possibly delusional folks would show up. But that’s kinda what representational democracy is – messy.
Beyond the Tongass Dems, if you think that money is not free speech I encourage you to sign the Move to Amend campaign’s petition to reject the Supreme Court’s supremely absurd ruling in Citizens United. Share it with your family and friends and be sure not to be consumed too much by the heavy weight of cynicism and disgust while you contemplate the state of money and politics in this country.