November 01, 2004

Liberty or Death

OK, so one of the many fringe benefits of participating in the Dean campaign is that I have a much better understanding of the landscape of modern political discourse. The New Republic likes to think that it's the venerable, old guard standard bearer of modern liberal thought. But, considering that they endorsed "Joe-mentum" Lieberman as the Democratic nominee, I think it's pretty safe to say that they're out of touch with the Democratic electorate.

But once I figured that out that they were really, if I may paraphrase my favorite retired ghetto superhero Al Sharpton, "elephants in donkey jackets", I started casting about for some more progressive publications. Which lead me to The American Prospect.. Admittedly, I think I've only just scratched the surface of what they do, but the punditry seems to be right on the money.

Case in point: this little blurb they put together on the potential legacy of Dean for America. I'm particularly interested in Garance Franke-Ruta's article on the way Dean has re-invigorated American democracy. One of the standard critiques of DFA has been that, given the spotlight, they concentrated on the political process (i.e. meetups, fundraising, grassroots interactions like letterwriting, etc.). But, and I quote:

"How we govern ourselves -- who has power and who can use government power to improve their lives -- may be a process question. But it's also the one this country was founded on. Americans did not fight against the British for universal health care, gay rights, and a 50-cent increase in the minimum wage. They fought for the freedom to be self-governing.

Which raises an interesting point to me.

Have we, as a country, simply forgotten what democracy is?

After decades of special treatment for the wealthy and enormous corporate donors and lobbyists at the expense of the average taxpayer, has the notion of "government of the people, for the people, by the people" simply been beaten out of us?

A democratic government is intended to be a an agent that gathers the collective resources of a group of people to act in their interests as they determine it in ways that they, as individuals cannot. And yet so many of us look at the government as irrrelevant at best, antagonistic at worst.

Dean for America was a real microcosm of what a national, American democracy could look like in the 21st century. More importantly, it reacquainted over a half million people with the idea of self-rule.

This is all a thought in progress. Stay tuned......