Barack Obama spent the Dr. King holiday doing service. Donald Trump, let's just say, did not. While the one fed the homeless, the other attacked civil rights leader, Congressman John Lewis. The contrast between the two men could keep us entertained, or aghast, for weeks. But the longer we stay focused on the individuals, the later we'll focus on what's really going on. Namely, a long time incoming crisis in our institutions of government.
Who governs is important, but what we really need to be talking about is government itself. Let's remember that least discussed statistic, 49% of eligible voters, some 117 million Americans, didn't even cast a vote in a country where registering is pretty darn difficult. That level of nonparticipation reflects an alienation that should be setting off alarm bells. What is happening to our democracy? Take some distance from the every four or six-year cycle that keeps our money media so obsessed and so well-funded, and we're looking at a historic crisis playing out on our watch. Let's remember, the only reason people of property ever agreed to share power in the first place was because they feared what would happen if they didn't. Parties of property extended the franchise to the landless and workers as a way to keep their system ticking over, and because they were forced to do it. Government persuaded the owners of corporations and capital to agree to share some goods and services with the public to even out a fairly uneven system. That was all well and good, while those owners were into sharing and the public was well-organized and united enough to keep them worried about disturbance.
For years now though, the owners of private capital and Wall Street have been hoarding, not sharing, and buying influence over our government. With Trump's election, energy company CEOs, bankers, and people who have become billionaires off things that used to be public services like education are literally taking over government. They're going into office. The compromised cobble together between private capital and the people is broken. Private capital, cruel and crude, without a conscience, has won. Trump is draining the swamp all right, of every last drop of public service juice. That's the downside. The upside is we get to reimagine government. Let's face it, the system I've just described was never meant for most of us. That's why strategies to resist oppression need to be coupled with those we talk about here to expand participation and community governance. Projects like the Southern Assemblies Movement, which grew out of the failed federal response to Hurricane Katrina; Participatory budgeting, which is spreading across the country; or community development and investment projects, like the Ujima Project in Boston. You can watch my interview with Aaron Tanaka about Ujima this week on the Laura Flanders Show on KCET, Link TV, Free Speech TV, and our own YouTube channel.
Listening to our podcast? Read and review on iTunes!