By Steve Bhaerman
“We have a deeply divided body politic. Half of Americans believe our elections are broken. The other half believes they are fixed.” — Swami Beyondananda
The toxic orgy is over – for now.
For months, the media has drawn us into a bitterly hateful, misleading sideshow called Electoral Politics, where the sound of money talking trash has drowned out both reason and compassion. I turned my TV off several years ago, so watching the political ads this season was particularly shocking to my system. At first I imagined that it was just the Republicans spreading toxicity, but I found EVERY political ad pretty much the same: “Let me tell you how terrible the other guy is!”
The problem is, some of those other guys really are terrible. The other problem is, with the tremendous amount of heat and the minimal amount of light, it’s become a lot easier to “throw the old bums out,” and “throw the new bums in.”
According to an article in Vanity Fair a couple of months ago, elections cost seventeen times as much as they did 35 years ago. And most of this money is being spent to turn up the heat, and turn down the light.
It’s probably accurate to say that the Republicans didn’t win this one – the Democrats lost. As Ralph Nader has said, the Democrats have no unifying progressive philosophy and are merely the other, second-rate corporate party. Obama, meanwhile, had the choice to be another FDR or another Bill Clinton, and he chose the latter. Folks, how excited can you get about a health care plan that FORCES people to buy coverage, yet still empowers companies that make their money by denying care?
However, the real issues go much deeper. Two weeks ago in Virginia Beach, we went to brunch with a man about to retire from the state social services system. A lifelong progressive, he was deeply disheartened by a welfare system that has institutionalized dysfunction, where welfare mothers who were welfare children continue to have children and collect checks. When they are called in to the office, they balk because they might miss their “stories” (soap operas). The Democrats, stuck in what the Buddhists call “idiot compassion,” cannot confront this situation for fear of offending their core constituency.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Republicans shield “corporate welfare cheats,” under the guise of supporting “free enterprise.” Somehow, transnational monopolies have become synonymous with free enterprise, but when you have zillions of dollars to spend on impropaganda you can actually blend two incompatible ideas into one big lie. So there are the choices we have been given. Vote Democrat and enable the lowly criminal. Vote Republican and enable the highly-criminal.
In the wake of this final insult of an election where nearly $4 billion was spent to manipulate us into voting for the lesser of two weasels, a transpartisan up-wising is taking shape. This past Sunday, Jacqueline Salit of IndependentVoting.org wrote a prophetic piece for New York Newsday called “The Parties Are Over”. Meanwhile, Utne Reader featured an interview with our friend and associate, Michael Ostrelenk a year ago that likewise points us in the right direction. Instead of obediently following the trumpet call (or alarm bell) telling us to vote for either the red candidate or blue one, Americans are now being called upon to look past the media circus and find out the truth for themselves.
In addition to the Transpartisan Upwising book Joseph McCormick and I are writing together, Joseph and Michael Ostrelenk are collaborating through Reuniting America to bring leaders together across the political divide. If you click on their alumnae page, you will see a surprising variety of leaders who have participated in this transpartisan conversation. Meanwhile, a very exciting conversation is taking place nationwide, and specifically in Seattle, Washington. There, Greens and Libertarians are meeting and creating common ground, with the intention of creating a new “Chautauqua” movement, where Americans meet across the political divide and together answer the three key questions: What’s so? So what? Now what?
So, the current election cycle is over. And as the Swami says, “when you find yourself on a vicious cycle, stop peddling.” In the wake of shock and disappointment – or, if you’re a Tea Partier, temporary euphoria – it’s time to focus on what we want, rather than being mobilized against what we don’t want. Check out the Transpartisan website and find a way to get involved in building a strong and healthy body politic. Make a financial contribution to the Transpartisan Upwising book.
Finally, I quote pundit Wes “Scoop” Nisker: “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”
Let’s we the people become the news in 2011 and in 2012.