Wednesday, November 6, 2002

In Which We Revel in Our Citizenship

Brace yourselves, kiddies, she's going to talk about party politics now...

I haven't really been watching the news today, because the Republicans have taken over the world and I am a little bit afraid. Republicans tend to not be gracious winners... and Democrats are almost never gracious losers. Between the right-wing gloating and the left-wing whining, augmented by the media's bizarre fascination with the Winona Ryder shoplifting trial, I decided that MTV was the only safe channel this morning, so I watched Missy Elliot grabbing her crotch instead (I wish I knew what the hell she was saying in "Work It," but nevertheless it's got a nice beat and you can dance to it).

Here is why I think the Republican Party is in the ascendant right now: because they make concrete statements, they build a platform and stick to it, and they come off as good-old-boys, just like the guys at your barber shop or your church or your Rotary club. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, seems to take no stands at all, shilly-shallying all over the place and compromising previous platforms by trying to sucker in new voters, and by throwing people to the top who are really rather unpleasant and reprehensible. I mean, when Bill Clinton called my house (via recorded message, which I think is rude) to urge my Democratic vote, I hung up as soon as he pronounced his name. Bill Clinton is the most embarrassing president we've had in my lifetime, and being more of an embarrassment than Reagan or the flop-eared moron currently in office is pretty hard to do.

Why is it that the Democratic Party suffers from third-party candidates, but the Republicans don't? It's because the Democratic Party has lost its spine. It stands for nothing but business-as-usual fence-riding political sliminess. The Republican Party has grown over the years as age-old Democrats fall for the Republican Party's polemic stances, and others abandon the party for third parties. My Grandmother, who voted straight Democrat tickets at every election between Roosevelt and Reagan, has taken to voting almost entirely Republican. I myself voted mostly a Natural Law ticket, and am registered to vote as a "decline to state" party member.

But I do feel this quandary, that if we (the liberal-type voters) continue letting the Republicans have their way just because they have the more efficacious political machine, we defeat ourselves no matter what... with the merest consolation of having voted our consciences instead of suckling blindly at the Democrat teat. But what I hope will happen is that these third-parties will force the Democrats to actually get to work on platforms and issues, to develop a character and a spine and a side of the fence. I mean, you can only go so far on a platform of "at least we're not Republicans." The most unforgiveable stance in election politics, as far as I can tell, is arrogance. And the Democrats have become arrogant. I think the main lesson of Ralph Nader's candidacy in the last Presidential election (which the Democrats cite as the main reason Gore didn't win, drawing off Democrat voters rather than Republicans) is that the Democratic Party needs to take itself a little more seriously and not assume that they will win just because they aren't Republicans.

On the other hand, we have to remember that, in a democracy, there is no such things as a High Speed Solution. Everything moves very slowly, sometimes taking an entire generation or more to effect change. It is unfortunate timing that the country's voters just stuffed Washington with Republicans when we have a Republican president bent on war... but then, since he wasn't being seriously opposed by the Democrats in Congress anyway (many of whom are still riding the fence on the war issue), it doesn't seem that it will make much difference.

In the meantime, I have become very interested in the Natural Law party. I visted their website yesterday when I was investigating the persons I was thinking about voting for as Governor, and discovered that I agreed with many points of their platform. They don't fall into liberal and conservative sandtraps that descend almost automatically into demagoguery, but rather base everything on a reasonable and thoughtful approach to solving societal and economic problems. They're overly-idealistic, certainly, but they have a cohesive approach that focuses on education and economic stimulation instead of silly legislations that do nothing constructive. Since it has long been my opinion that you cannot legislate morality or stop anything at all by passing laws against it, and since one of the keystones of the Natural Law party is a reduction of ineffective or moralistic legislation, I felt myself in accord with their stances. And so I voted Natural Law in most candidacies, except where I voted for a Democrat or Independent I already knew and admired.

So, anyway, Grandmother and I found ourselves agreeing on most of the county and municipal issues that came up this year. There were a number of them in our city and county, most interestingly Measure EE, which is designed to prevent landlords from evicting tenants without reasonable cause (as happened so often during the late DotCom Boom, when many of my friends were evicted from their apartments and houses so their landlords could raise the rents). The lobbies working against this measure were trying very hard to convince everyone that it would prevent landlords from evicting subletters, thereby allowing Hell's Angels and pit-bull breeders to rent in any neighborhood we, the voters, happen to occupy. Of course, most leases prohibit subletting, and lease violation was one of the allowed reasonable causes for eviction, so this was nothing but hot air. I don't know if the measure passed or not (PS - according to the League of Women Voters, it did pass)... but then, it wouldn't matter to us, anyway, since we own a house in a neighborhood where everyone owns (and those who rent pay such high prices that they might as well own). I just voted for it because it seemed the fairest solution to a problem.

Both of us routinely vote against bond issues, and many of the bonds that were on this year's ballot were amazingly frivolous. Unfortunately, a large number of them passed. People don't seem to realize that bond issues just put the city or county or school district further and further into debt. People seem to think that bonds are just free money — but a bond is a loan, and those loans are guaranteed by property taxes, which will in most likelihood have to be raised (without voter input) when the bonds come due. Then, they also don't seem to realize that, in California, school bond money cannot be used for salaries or equipment, only for material improvements to structures and facilities. So our schools get new buildings and new swimming pools and new trees and new vanity projects whose only real purpose is to give the District or City a lot of contracts that they can bid out in exchange for political support... but the kids still have the same underpaid teachers and inadequate materials to work with.

Well, this is all very interesting, but my discussion of it is going nowhere... I keep losing my train of thought. I have been felled once again by a niggling little cold, which I seem to have caught from my Boss-Lady and/or Boss-Lady's foster-baby. My chest is congested and my throat is raw and I feel very weak and my joints ache. No fever yet, and I am not dizzy or too tired to sit up, so I came in to work anyway (cautioning coworker JB to keep her distance and to spray Lysol everywhere). But I do feel a little stupid, and my train of thought keeps wandering away into different places. Like wondering why I remembered to choose and wear a bracelet on my right wrist but forgot to put on my watch on the left. Or trying to remember the really interesting dream I had last night, which was narrative in nature like a made-for-TV movie. Or wondering what it would be like to live in Victoria, British Colombia, instead of here. Is constitutional monarchy better than two-party democracy? One wonders.

Well, God Bless America, anyway. It needs all the blessing it can get.

(PPS: I have just been made aware of the beautifully-written obituary of actor Jonathan "Dr. Smith" Harris, with the most wonderful descriptor of a character I've ever heard: "Flamboyantly fussy." I think I may just have a new Blog title)

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