Jan 6th, Freedom and Self-Government
Self-government is the key to regaining control over our own lives.
As we watch the hearings about the events surrounding the insurrection of January 6th, we have to talk about what democracy and the peaceful transfer of power are really about: what makes the United States a free country is the right of the American people to govern ourselves.
Freedom is not about being excused from the consequences of your actions; it’s about having some control over the direction of your life.
How did we get to Jan. 6th?
Here is the very core of the problem we are facing in the United States today.
Some people do not want government to work, because government is the only tool that people have to stand up to power, especially concentrated economic power and religious fanaticism.
For fifty years, those people have railed against government with the doctrine of free-market fundamentalism, which combined with right-wing christian fundamentalism, argued that it was immoral to use the government to infringe, in any way, on the right of individuals to accumulate wealth by any means necessary.
That doctrine has largely failed, due to the inability of the “free-market” to actually provide for the needs of many people, its tendency to bubble and collapse in ways that require bail outs from the American people, and the fact that its core tenet, trickle down theory, has proven to be complete B.S.
In a desperate attempt to keep people from turning to government, some people have lined up behind increasingly deranged theories about the American Left, from socialism to QAnon. Their story is that people who want government to do anything (with the exception of enforcing right-wing christian moral codes) are a tyrannical threat to the freedom of the American people.
In their derangement, the threat of tyranny from the very mainstream and moderate Left is serious enough to merit physical violence and the overthrow of democratically elected leadership.
That is how we got to Jan. 6th. So – what do we do now?
We have to help people understand that government - healthy, democratic self-government - is actually the key to being free in every aspect of our lives.
There are people who will tell you that changing how people feel about government will be an impossible task, one that could take decades. They would be wrong. Right now, large majorities of people still want government, specifically the federal government, to play a significant role in solving a wide range of the problems facing our country.
FRAMING NOTE: Public opinion and the public debate are not the same thing.
Time and time again, we have opinions that are shared by the majority of the American people, yet those same opinions are considered unspeakable in the public debate. When we have the courage to say things out loud like, “Gee, maybe the extremely wealthy ought to pay their share of taxes” the public debate goes berserk, yet the American people say, “Yeah, I’m good with that.”
The public debate and the mainstream media are still dominated by the assumptions of the free-market ideology that have dominated since the Reagan era. Public opinion has already moved on.
If we make the overt case for government, Republicans will scream bloody murder, but they already are calling us socialist groomers, so what’s the difference? The press will freak out, but their attention will only help us deliver our message to the public, so that’s okay.
All we have to do is stand our ground. Not try to defend ourselves from Republican claims, because that is how we end up making stupid gaffes that get us in trouble.
We have to speak boldly in support of what we believe and what we will deliver for the American people if they, the voters, deliver us the power to do so.
Freedom and Self-Government
Government is not some abstract thing that tells us what to do. Government is us. Government is the mechanism that we use to cooperate, to make group decisions about how we want to manage our society, protect each other, invest in our shared prosperity and prepare for our future.
The only way a society can be free is through self-government. You can’t “choose between” freedom and democracy. There is no freedom without democracy. The only other options are tyranny of the minority and tyranny of the violent and/or wealthy, also known as anarchy.
Self-government requires determining the will of the people through free and fair elections, in which everybody who is eligible to vote is able to cast their vote and have it counted. Whoever gets the most votes wins, and whoever doesn’t get the most votes accepts the results.
I will not go into detail about the many ways the right-wing conservative movement is violating these principles. They are pretty much violating every part of the process, in every way conceivable.
It’s about political self-determination.
Every act, every suppressed vote, every election denial, every filibuster, every act of violence, is an offense, not just to the specific people involved, but to the freedom of all Americans.
All of the their actions are in the service of one goal: to deprive us all of our most fundamental freedom, the right to live under a government of our own choosing, one that was legitimately elected and does what the majority of the American people want it to do.
What the American People Want
People feel powerless because they need their government to carry out the will of the majority and stand up for them against the many ways their freedom and autonomy are being restricted in their daily lives.
We need to use our government to stand up to the gun lobby, to protect our freedom to send our kids to school, to go to church or go shopping, or go anywhere without the threat of random gun violence.
We need to use our government to stand up to religious fundamentalists, to protect our fundamental freedom to exercise sovereignty over our own bodies and also our right to determine the course of their lives with regard to parenting, mental health and financial stability.
We need to use our government to stand up to concentrated economic wealth, to protect the American Dream, the freedom to determine the course of our own lives that we get from earning economic security.
It was supposed to be that if work harder you can earn more money, which allows you to have more control over what happens in your life. Now, global consolidation allows those who set prices to squeeze us for every cent we have. Even when the economy is at its best and wages are going up, we still end up further and further behind, and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do about it.
Note: There will be a future column on the concentration of wealth and how the inability of the private sector to moderate its greed is breaking the social contract of our economic system. It will include prices, food, energy, housing, education, the environment and so on. Capitalism can’t continue to function unless everybody stands to gain.
You can’t use an AR-15 to lower gas prices. But you can lower gas prices by putting more Democrats in government.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
We, the American people, are struggling because every day, we lose more of the little control we have over our own lives.
There are people who are trying to take away our political freedom, by denying us our right to live under the government of our own choosing, one that represents us and does what we want it to do.
They are doing this because they represent powerful private interests who don’t want us using our collective power to stand up to them, like the gun lobby, religious extremists and people who have too much power over our daily lives because they have accumulated obscene levels of wealth.
Democrats want to do things that are supported by the majority of the American people, from protecting our bodily autonomy, to gun safety, taxing the rich, funding public education, taking action on the climate crisis and more.
We need to elect more Democrats so we can overcome these forces of obstruction and take back control over our government and control over our lives.
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And thank you all for your patience! I have been traveling and I hope to be able to get these out to you will a little more frequency in the future.
There will be an “Office Hours” on Monday, June 20th, in which I will answer your questions and discuss the issues of your choice, with George Greene of Connections Lab. Please join us!
5-6pm Pacific/Arizona, 6-7pm Mountain, 7-8pm Central, 8-9pm Eastern
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