The year 2020 has been interesting in America. We have a nasty virus, civil unrest, anti-racist activism on a scale not seen in decades, and generally divisive politics. We cannot blame the virus on politics and politicians, but most of the rest of it can be laid at their doorstep.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, politicians were elected by people who chose them to represent them, and the politicians, in general, did at least try to do so. Currently we have politicians in many cases who represent whoever gives them the most money and they vote on issues according to who gives them the most money or promises to give them the most money.
Many issues that the majority of Americans want dealt with, from gun control laws to voting rights to taxes are ignored or voted down because of lobbyists for various agencies, organizations, corporations, and special interest groups spread money around to influence (reads: buy) the votes of legislators. That means the interests of these lobbyists often trumps the interests of American citizens.
It has helped develop us into a society where money is more important than morals, humanitarianism, charity, kindness, and care for our fellow citizens. We have extrapolated the purchasing of politicians to include the purchasing of traditional American values.
More and more in America it does not matter if you are ethical, kind, caring, and/or honest. It matters what you have, how much money you have accumulated. It does not matter how you accumulated it, it does not matter what you do with the money you have accumulated. It only matters that you have more than other people have. That makes you admirable.
There is an old saying that society, like a fish, rots from the head down. Politicians are supposed to be leaders, but they are also supposed to be guardians of the quality of life of the American people. They are supposed to be role models with ethics and standards, and they are supposed to vote on legislation that will do the most for the common good. That is not the situation we find ourselves in currently.
If you think American divisiveness just evolved out of differences of opinion I have some fine seafront land in Wilberforce I can let you have cheap. Our differences keep us arguing with each other while our supposed representatives feather their own nests and accumulate wealth that enables them to distance themselves more and more from the little people and their interests.
We must do three things to regain integrity in politics and politicians. Outlaw, or at least severely limit the amount of and sources of money politicians in office can receive. Impose term limits. People camped out in legislative bodies develop cliques and vote in those cliques however the highest bidder wants them to vote. Finally get rid of gerrymandering where politicians can pick who votes for them.
We must get back to truly representative government. I also highly recommend re-instituting civics classes in schools as well as beefing up government classes to include more information about modern and current politics, how it works, and who drives it and why, and less about dead politicians and founding fathers trivia. Let them teach that in history class.
If we want to get to a place where most of us peasants are not just scrabbling over bones while calling each other names we must make government responsible to the citizens, the American people, not to the highest bidder. Otherwise the American Dream is going to devolve into a nightmare.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and columnist.