Monday, March 13, 2006

Who is for the Little Guy?

After the 2004 election, the political discussion centered on the Red State/Blue State divide and the so-called moral values that defined it. This is a spurious debate because politics is always about how the spoils are divided between the elite and the working class, it is only that the losers generally aren't aware of it. Most of our national politicians remind me of magicians, waving scarves around with one hand to divert attention from the ace they're slipping up their sleeve with the other.

When I was young my Grammie used to say that the Republicans were for Big Business and the Democrats were for the "Little Guy". Now, 50 years later, Republicans are still for Big Business but most modern Democrats appear to be for....Big Business (although there exceptions on both sides). Actually, it seems to me that both parties have morphed into a collective Corporationist party. The pharmaceutical industry won big with the Medicare Prescription Drug bill; the mining, logging and drilling interests won big with misnamed legislation like "Healthy Skies" and "Healthy Forests". The banking industry won big with the bankruptcy bill. The oil companies actually helped write the administration's energy policy.

Unfortunately, the majority of Little Guys buy into the political spin. While we are busily obsessing about intelligent design or gay marriage, we don't notice that our wages are falling behind the cost of living, that our jobs are fleeing overseas, that our employers are dumping the pension plans they once promised us. We shake our heads in agreement with doing away with the "Death Tax", although only the 2% of us with estates large enough to qualify would have ever have to concern ourselves with estate taxes anyway.

Little Guy families provide their children when we go to war while our leaders offer only stirring speeches. It is my class that struggles with a deteriorating health care system. (Remember how terrible they told us it would be if we let Hillary give us national healthcare? The joke is on us now. I tried to contact Harry and Louise for advice when I was out of work and uninsured but they were nowhere to be found). It is telling to compare how our leaders let the unemployed hang on by their fingernails, being oh-so-reluctant to extend unemployment benefits to the glee with which they press huge tax breaks onto their wealthy cohorts....and revealing how they think billionaires need more money while evidently minimum wage workers do not.

Bread and butter issues - jobs, healthcare, war - the Little Guys are losing all of them. Meanwhile, the party we used to consider "our party", the Democrats, trembles at the prospect of being accused of fomenting class warfare, of being called soft on defense, of being labeled "sore losers". Kerry folded like a deck of old cards when conceding the election after promising that in 2004 every vote would be counted, despite myriad voting problems, especially in Ohio. Even if the election results wouldn't have changed, he should have kept his promise until these issues were fully brought to light and fixed...for all the Little Guys who wanted to vote and couldn't or voted and had their votes thrown away. Does anyone doubt that if the election had turned out differently (and if 59,001 Ohio votes had gone differently, it would have), George W. Bush wouldn't have taken it all the way to the Supreme Court...again? (This being be the party, by the way, that is hot to curtail lawsuits with Little Guy victims).

Truthfully, I saw Kerry as the Democrat side of the Bush coin, having no illusions that in a Kerry administration, life wouldn't still be safe for lobbyists and special interests. If I was wrong, then John Kerry did a poor job of delivering his message or perhaps, I am simply over-cynical about recycled Washington pols.

Now, as we ponder 2008, the media is already happily placing their bets in the presidential horse race and it is the same old, same old. Hillary versus John McCain. I actually like Hillary Clinton but I don't want her to run for president mainly because, if she does, for the last 28 years a Clinton or a Bush would have been on every presidential ticket. Please. In a country as large as this one, there must be someone we can turn to to lead us besides a Bush or a Clinton. I've really had it with political dynasties.

As for McCain, I used to like him too but no more. George Bush savaged him in the 2004 primaries, particularly in South Carolina. I've been involved in politics myself often enough to know that sometimes your enemies become your allies but McCain has taken that to a sickening new level, hugging or kissing the president at every opportunity to try to endear himself to the Republican base. The straight-talker has become the butt-kisser as far as I'm concerned and it isn't a pretty picture.

My ideal candidate in 2004 was General Wesley Clark, mainly because I yearn for a leader with integrity, someone highly intelligent, someone from outside the usual Washington world of partisan politics and corrupt lobbyists. I hope he runs again and I'll support him if he does but in any case, I'm going to watch closely to see who is strongest on Little Guy issues. America's largest employer used to be G.M.; now it is Walmart, and that sums up in a nutshell, the plight of the American worker (and by extension, the American family) in the early years of the 21st century.