First it was mau-mauing The Man. Then it was working for Eugene McCarthy to oust LBJ. Then supporting George McGovern to end The War. Now it was 2012 and I was campaigning to get Richard Nixon re-elected as President.
Yes, I worked on the Eugene McCarthy campaign that convinced LBJ not to run for a full second term, and LBJ had been responsible for the Great Society social programs. And I worked to get expat Americans in Australia to vote for George McGovern in the failed attempt to defeat Richard Nixon and end the Vietnam War. Now here I was helping Nixon, I mean Barack Obama, win a second term as President.
No, I'm not crazy. America has moved so far to the right since the 1960s that Nixon was in many ways to the political left of Obama. Nixon supported a health insurance mandate for employers that makes Obamacare look mild. He supported a guaranteed minimum income for the poor, and a required minimum tax on the wealthy--none of the 14% tax rate Romney paid. During the Nixon administration, there was no talk of reducing Social Security benefits. They were increased. Under Nixon, the EPA and OSHA were formed, and the Clean Air Act was passed and signed into law. Sure Nixon was an egomaniac, and had Watergate, an enemies list, lied about having a plan to end the Vietnam War, and emphasized Law-and-Order over civil rights. But today we can have a presidential election and not even mention the poor, the Afghanistan War, or climate change. Obama can talk about the possibility of increasing taxes on the wealthy by a few percent, and at the same time agree to discuss cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. For the first time since the World War II internment camps, American citizens can be held for indefinite detention without trial.
Much of the problem isn't Obama's fault. He is a centrist President supported by a center-right Senate, and opposed by a far-right House of Representatives. If the Senate and House had been as progressive as Obama wanted to be, by now we would have single-payer health insurance, a national clean energy program, and have ended all our wars. Well, maybe not that last one.
Perhaps Obama would have been center-left if the legislative bodies would have been, but Congress, especially the House, is never going to let him. The House will be controlled by the right-wing of the Republican party for the next eight years. Yes, eight more years at a minimum. The disaster that was the 2010 election let the right-wingers set the boundaries of the House districts at the state level. It is called gerrymandering.
Named for Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts who, in 1812, approved the geographic boundaries of the state senate election districts to benefit his political party. When one of the districts around Boston resembled a salamander, the local newspaper coined the term gerrymander.
Now, since the Republicans got to draw the federal district maps in many critical states, they drew them to best benefit their party. In the 2012 election, millions more Americans voted for the Democratic candidates for the 435 members of the House of Representatives, yet the Republicans have over 30 more members of the House than the Democrats have. All due to the process of gerrymandering the House districts. The worst example in the country is my own state, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In the 18 House districts in Pennsylvania, the Democratic candidates received more votes than the Republicans. Yet in the 2012 election, 13 of the districts were won by Republicans and only 5 by Democrats. So having a majority of the votes will get 27% of the elected representatives. What happened to American representative democracy?
This is now locked in until the next time the states are permitted to reset the district maps, and that will not occur until the year 2021 after the next federal census in 2020. Until then we are screwed. Our government cannot change for eight more years. The conflicts that we have had to endure for the past few years will continue. Don't expect significant compromises. Expect increased conflict. Face it folks. Change cannot happen from our elected officials. The only possible source of change in our society in the near future can come from the one unelected branch of government--the Supreme Court.
Now that's a scary thought, isn't it?