Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Ruminations On 2014 In Appalachia And America
For a variety of reasons, I have not written anything of consequence in the last several months but I have maintained my usually close observation of a variety of issues both in Appalachia and America at large. I have to admit that I was caught up in political observation for most of the past year or so and I have been generally disappointed by the results of the elections I have watched. The Republican Party has managed to gain control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1928 and we all know what the outcome of that was. John Boehner has been re-elected as the Apeaker of the House and Mitch McConnell of KY has been elected Senate Majority Leader. I had strongly supported the election of Alison Lundergan Grimes to the senate from KY and was sorely disappointed by her loss to McConnell. The one bright side to that is that she has lost none of her appeal in KY and could still be senator or governor. Along with the re-election of most of the Republicans in both houses of congress, they gained several seats in both houses and their new members in the lower body particularly are of a Right Wing Radical persuasion which is terrifying. They have also appointed Rep. Scalise from Louisiana as the House Republican Whip despite clear evidence of his connections to several white supremacist organizations including one headed by former Grand Dragon of the KKK David Duke. In response to some rather vociferous reactions to the appointment of Scalise, Duke has threatened to out every member of congress to whom he has connections and he claims to have many. My personal response to that is to say "Let her rip, David!" In the event that he did release a list of names, it would give liberal and middle of the road Americans a clear group of elected officials with whom to be displeased and to resist in future elections. I doubt that he will release the list of names since he knows that could trigger more than one defeat in the future and weaken whatever connections he still has to Washington power.
In my own KY, Senator Rand Paul is making more and more noise that he intends to run for President and is actually being perceived by a certain segment of the electorate as a legitimate candidate. That assessment of the man could not be further from the truth. He is a true Right Wing Radical Republican with ties to the Tea Party and generally does not represent the views of most of Kentuckians or Americans. He also has more than one distasteful, illegal, immoral, or disqualifying incident or expressed belief in his past. As an eye doctor in Western KY he has been sued for malpractice at least twice and created his own accreditation body when he was unable to qualify for accreditation. There is also the prior allegation of his involvement in an alleged sexual assault while in college. But the alleged victim in that incident suddenly dropped off the media radar after making serious allegations. However, she never withdrew those allegations and that seems to raise two possibilities for her silence. Either she was actually lying or she was either coerced or bribed to get her to shut up. Senator Paul is also planning to try to run for both President and Senator in a violation of the KY constitution which blocks anyone from running for more than one public office at the same time. Alison Lundergan Grimes, the KY Secretary of State, is responsible for overseeing the election process in the state and has said she will sue Paul in federal court if he attempts to register for both offices. In the event that this issue does arise in the coming months, Secretary Grimes deserves the support of every rational voter in the state in her efforts to stop Senator Paul. I hope to write further on the possibility of Rand Paul as a Presidential candidate in the future but I need to do more research on one particular aspect of that idea, his close ideological resemblance to former Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, the godfather of the Anti-Communist crusades in the 1950s which literally destroyed the lives of thousands of good, decent Americans who were not remotely communists and done absolutely nothing wrong.
And, in that vein, I have personally never been more fearful about the state of American Democracy than I am today. Even in the 1960's & 1970's with Richard Nixon in power and great crimes being committed against personal liberties, I was not as fearful of potential outcomes as I am today after this most recent election. In the Viet Nam Era, both houses of Congress were still occupied by a group of honest, decent, law abiding citizens of both political parties such as Senator Sam Irvine, Senator Barry Goldwater, Senator Everett Dirkson and others who would not have joined an illegal conspiracy in order to gain their political ends. Today, with the current congress, I cannot make that statement. Senator Paul himself has been heard to say that he believes that lying is a legitimate means to gain political ends. West Virginia has elected Senator Shirley Moore Capito whose father served prison time due to political corruption as Governor of West Virginia. Whip Scalise has connections to the KKK. And the list goes on.
Additionally, the Citizens United decision from the U. S. Supreme Court cleared the way for a great deal of what happened in this most recent election. The entire idea that a corporation can make unlimited contributions to political races and be viewed by the courts as a "person" is a giant step toward the destruction of the concept of "one citizen one vote". This problem was further exacerbated by the fact that less than 40% of eligible voters actually went to the polls in 2014, I have recently begun to repeat a mantra whose source I have been unable to clearly identify that "bad politicians are elected by good people who don't vote". Corporations and the super rich will always speak up and spend money to protect their vested interests. Single anonymous citizens, especially if they are poor, will frequently if not generally, fail to speak up for their rights and needs due to the need to find daily subsistence. Poverty makes us involuntarily prioritize our actions in ways that do not support our own best interests. And many of the already stated goals of the Republican majorities in congress are geared to increase the ever expanding wealth gap among Americans by privatizing Social Security; destroying Medicare, Medicaid, and Obama Care; continuing high interest rates and instituting higher qualifications for student loans; continuing to refuse to tax corporations and the rich at rates equal to those imposed on the working class; decreasing VA loans and other VA benefits; eliminating funding for National Public Radio; and a thousand other unstated programs in government are in danger from this congress.
To repeat myself, I have never felt that American Democracy was more endangered than it is today.