Monday, November 06, 2006

It's a Scary U.S.

Pre-Rant Rant: Do not depend on the kindness of strangers tomorrow! Vote and vote for the good guys.

We often deceive ourselves and are lulled by Massachusetts' apparent liberalism. Do we not send overwhelmingly Democratic legislators to 24 Beacon Street? Do we not have a similar Congressional delegation? Do we not vote for the left-leaning Presidential candidate? So there.

But of course, it's not so there at all. We have our strong streaks of fiscal and social conservatism and a huge percentage of DINOs at every level of government as well as among the electorate. Many Europeans giggle at our deferential society and its politically regressive quirks.

Note too that as the nation may have its first woman ever as Speaker of the House. Here from Colonial times, we have never elected a woman or a Black politician of either gender as governor. Those say much unfortunate about both the local and national attitudes.

Yet, in contrast to much of the nation, we are out there -- leftish. The looming election makes this scarily clear. Setting to one side the Congressional and gubernatorial ideology war, some of the initiatives and other ballot questions tell far too much about what's going on West of the Hudson and South of Long Island Sound.

Don't Need No Stinkin' Judges

We really have too little a sense of the fear and disdain of checks and balances that much of the nation seems to exhibit. Here, local fundies and right-wing outliers love to say "judicial activism" and "legislating from the bench" whenever the appellate courts do their job of countering out-of-whack legislation or executive orders.

Elsewhere, some states are voting this time on actually eliminating the centuries old principle of an independent judiciary. The Boston Globe's lead editorial Sunday did a nice job highlighting the trend and issue. Consider:
  • Colorado has a ballot proposal for retroactive 10-year terms for appellate judges. Some would be tossed immediately.
  • Oregon wants to minimize liberal big-city influence by electing judges by district instead of statewide.
  • North Dakotans will vote on limiting judges' power in custody cases.
  • South Dakota's voters have a Jail4Judges amendment to institute a special new grand jury to threaten jurists with extreme penalties arising from citizen complaints.
It might be easy to dismiss the last one as just crackpot, which indeed it is. Yet, the folk behind it want this to become a movement and hope to alter the fundamental checks and balances of government, starting from the state level.

The irony is inescapable. Legislators and executives, all the way through our President, have to be egregious law violators and villains to lose office. Yet, some of them and many self-identified conservatives want only the judges accountable, and for doing their jobs. If their decisions are inconvenient or against the lowest common denominator of public opinion, toss 'em!

Freedom? For me, yes

Of course, the same-sex-marriage wailing and lying continues tomorrow. In Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin, DOMA amendments to state constitutions are up for vote. The terrifying monster of loving couples and parents in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey claws as their doors.

So this egalitarian and free nation that idealize is less than ideal. We have swung back to a regressive, anti-liberty state and federal government in the main.

The majority (although a scant majority in some places) does not want to share its freedom. While on the face of it, that is both anti-democratic and anti-Christian, those voters and politicians do not seem to see it that way. Instead, they claim to be protecting their stated values.

How peculiar that the ways they want to do that involves undermining the basic principles of the nation.

Yet, when we look at those principles, what we see is a retarded, a late-developing nation. We founded the nation on our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. Even there, we did not enfranchise women and recognized slavery. So much for egalitarianism.

Then as the decades and centuries pass, we get there. Other nations skip past us in outlawing slavery and capital punishment. They elect women as heads of state. They permit same-sex marriage and forbid discrimination against homosexuals.

We drag on and bring up the rear wagon of the democracy train. We do get there, but why so slow and why must be have these regressions?

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