MAGA, a partial explanation

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When I was in my 20s, California, where I lived at the time, offered ballot Proposition 37, providing for a state-wide lottery. Income generated from the California Lottery, it was promised, would go to education to relieve many of the budget bottlenecks attendant to the funding of public and state-sponsored schools. It would provide exciting entertainment for the rest of us. So the message went. Its allure was irresistible. Prop 37 promised to, in effect, make California great again.

I was mostly alone in my opposition to Prop 37 among my colleagues at work. I gave my reasons. I suggested that the state legislature would largely ignore the need for future allocations to education, arguing that it was already taken care of by the Lottery. The Lottery proper would be funded mostly by the poor, seeing it as their only hope to escape penury. Finally, it would cause far more tragedy than fulfilled dreams, creating gambling addictions where previously there were none, redirecting much-needed money away from the basic necessities of life.

And all my worst fears came true. The state legislature used it as an excuse, poor people got poorer, gambling addiction became a major problem, and so on. My sister-in-law, a California school teacher, assures me that today funding for education in the state is as deplorable as ever, despite decades of a lottery system that prospers year upon year.

There was nothing clairvoyant in my opposition to Prop 37. I had merely read an article, written by an educator, explaining why the Lottery was a bad idea. It made sense to me. I voted against it. In any case, the year Reagan won his second term as president, Prop 37 passed like a speeding bullet. My small consolation was I didn’t help pull the trigger.

The reason I mention this brief foray into a small part of California voting history is because, it seems to me, it’s symbolic of a larger picture. We who are privileged, we who have no rent man pounding on our doors, who have food on our tables and roofs over our heads, seldom include the desperately needy in our calculus of day-to-day existence. In the course of any social change, the lower echelons of society are almost always the first to suffer, if any suffering is ever to be done. It’s easy to forget that grim truth when wrapped in the muscle and fat of relative economic ease.

I’m as big an offender as anyone else. Is it any wonder that the poor sometimes turn to the lies and bigotries of Republicans, to the MAGA claims of Donald Trump, for answers?

But wait, you say, Democrats are the champions and protectors of Social Security, of trade unions, of raising the minimum wage, of lowering the costs of prescription medicines. We are alone in our outrage at the corporate greed that cynically converts inflation into record-breaking financial quarters. What’s all this?

To understand my point you must first understand the point of view of many in the underprivileged classes. From their point of view, little has changed. The minimum wage remains the same. Healthcare is only a dream. Their cries go largely unheeded. Promises don’t pay the rent. We have become to them, in effect, a distinction without a difference.

To them, Donald Trump is the Lottery. Sure he’s telling lies, we all know that, but from the point of view of the economically disadvantaged, he is the only one that speaks directly to them, because he addresses himself, however dishonestly and hypocritically, directly to their needs. He promises radical change instead of the same old same old. He promises to punish the bastards that kept them down. They already had the same old. They need a revolution, even if that revolution means an insurrection. So they close their eyes, pay their dollar and hope. And dream.

I come neither to praise MAGA nor to bury it. I come instead to explain some of it. As long as we remain essentially ineffectual to their nuts and bolts needs and issues that beg to be addressed, problems that beg to be solved, MAGA will continue to grow and thrive. In short, as long as the Democratic Party remains answerable to money and the interests of big business, our promises will remain largely empty.

If you have ever wondered why it now takes millions to get elected to Congress and billions to get elected to the presidency, wonder no more. It takes that money because corporations insist on it. As long as money remains the relevant power in elective office, big business funding of super PACs will guarantee they continue to own our politicians, and those politicians will remain beholden to them.

It’s no accident that no one on either side of the aisle complains about this. Democrats are just as answerable to their paymasters as Republicans.

There is only one solution, it seems to me. Money must be entirely eradicated from the electoral system. This can be achieved by radical legislation or an amendment to the Constitution. It must become a serious federal crime to contribute to a political campaign. All political platforms, travel expenses and advertising must be funded by the federal government in equal measure to all parties, Republican, Democratic and independent. Lobbying must become a thing of the past by becoming a federal crime.

Once that’s achieved, the minimum wage will increase to modern requirements, because there will exist no mechanism through which corporations can resist it. Healthcare will become affordable, because there will exist no mechanism through which corporations can resist it. Equality under the law will become a reality, because there will exist no mechanism through which corporations can resist it. Politicians will become more honest, because millionaires will no longer be created by a run for political office.

Democrats will be seen as the good guys they have been all along. Republicans will have to soften their messages and change their policies if they expect to remain even partly relevant. A more contented population will become harder to corrupt with bigotry, hatred and religion. Money is the problem. The love of money may or may not be the root of all evil, but it sure as hell explains a lot of it.

MAGA was created and sustained because of our political system’s fatal relationship with money. Once that relationship is demolished, the political power of money will disappear and our concern for the economically disadvantaged will acquire the teeth of efficacy.

We will remain complicit in the creation of MAGA and the problems it creates as long as money remains king. Removing money from politics is the best way to solve many of our most urgent issues. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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