Democratic Underground  

Don't Follow the Leader
June 15, 2002
By Bob Volpitto

In 1956 I was a 26 year old Republican. In fact I was a Republican in 1952, too. I voted for Eisenhower in both those presidential elections. I recall my stepfather and an uncle by marriage urging me to vote for Ike with this admonition: "You are voting for Ike, aren't you? Stevenson is a Jew and you wouldn't want a Jew for president, would you?" Smear tactics employed by the GOP haven't changed in nearly a half-century.

Before 1952 I was a Democrat. I vividly remember a billboard adorned with an Alf Landon advertisement outside Fire Station #3 in my hometown. Passersby had a hard time reading that billboard - it was badly smeared with gobs of mud tossed on it by partisan Democrats. Of course you remember the year, it was 1936. FDR won his second term, carrying every state except Maine and Vermont and swept huge Democratic majorities into both the House and Senate with him.

But, back to 1956.

Ike won his bid for re-election for the second time over the "Jew" Stevenson, but the party of FDR held onto majorities in Congress. I held onto my Republican registration card with the reverence that one would an icon of the faith, blessed by the Pope. In 1962 my good wife and I bought a fledgling weekly newspaper in in a small town south of the Mason/Dixon Line. There, for more than 10 years, we witnessed poverty, ignorance, bigotry and inequality first hand. We tried, in many subtle ways, to right injustice, enlighten those who lived in ignorance and breach the walls of de facto segregation. We stood against the tide of intolerance and endured and suffered the consequences. Alas, we earned the hated title of "Liberal" in a "Conservative" world. For the first time in my voting life I returned to my true family roots and cast my lot with the Democrats.

The point of this lengthy introduction is that if you live with those with whom you can identify, if you experience hunger, wants and needs and all those many experiences of common folk you can never vote Republican no matter who heads the ticket. Dwight Eisenhower was a great American. His goals for his country were lofty and sincere, but he carried with him into the White House the baggage of Sherman Adams, Bill Knowland, a pair of legislators named Hallack and Dirkson, a cabinet known as eight millionaires and a plumber and a host of Right Wing corporate moguls whose agenda was not for the benefit of the common man and woman living on Main Street, or on the country's farms, or who own and operate the struggling mom 'n pop businesses. It was a different world then, but is mirrored in the current administration, the same agenda persists - "I got mine, now you get yours and it doesn't much matter how you get it!"

Greed, arrogance, avarice, hypocrisy, you name it, all fit the description of the present Bush administration led by a confused, illiterate, befuddled and an unprincipled poor excuse for a president who rivals the dullard Millard Fillmore in attitude and accomplishment, or, worse, the ineffective, incompetence of the indecisive James Buchanan. Mr. Bush's main goal, I should say his only goal, is to become a two-term president. His handlers, and he has many, are determined to break the pattern Bush the elder forged during his lack luster four years in Washington. His detractors, and I am proudly one of them, have seen through the transparency of this ignorant, artless creature who poses before television cameras almost daily in a variety of cities and towns at the behest of his manipulators.

On each occasion he proposes policies (voicing them in a flat, uninspiring, cultivated Southern drawl that belies his Connecticut heritage and background) of which he hasn't, in my opinion, the slightest comprehension nor of their effect on the future of this nation and it's people. He confers with world leaders and agrees with them only when he hears the word "oil", eager to please, especially the wealthy, influential Saudis, but with no understanding of their problems or how to solve them. He negates world treaties, using Hitler's flippant attitude that they are mere "scraps of paper" to be tossed into history's trash dumps.

Also, like the infamous Nazi, Bush swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of this nation. He and his attorney general, through legal means, like the Nazis, are slashing away at our liberties and those inalienable rights generations fought and shed blood for. Ask the flag flappers "blinded by the right" if they have any conception of why they support an administration that undermines the Bill of Rights. "Just because it's the right thing to do," they'll probably answer. My flag flew for a week last September and has been furled but once ever since.

Mr. Bush's appointments reveal his intentions. Named to cabinet posts, departments and regulatory agencies are people who use the very laws and regulations that created and sustained those segments of government to subvert them. Go down the list: EPA, Education, Defense, Justice, Energy, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Transportation, Border Patrol, FCC, INS, FAA, SEC, FEMA, FDA, HUD, FBI, IRS, CIA and more. These agencies are woefully understaffed by under-paid people who are in many cases incompetent, and turf protecting, self-serving "order takers." While Bush touts aggressive reform and expansion in many agencies of government, especially Homeland Security, his proposed budget slashes needed funds for not only their operations but also their very existence. Read, study, learn what this administration is doing, or rather not doing, to serve the people who pay the taxes and deserve the benefits.

Waiting impatiently in the wings of this administration are numerous hell-bent-for-leather conservative law school graduates who expect to be appointed to federal benches at all levels of the judiciary. If the tenure of their appointments were anything but life most would agree to let Bush have his way. Sadly, though, term limits do not apply to these appointed judges nor do they stand for review by the electorate. Impeachment is the only means to remove them, and this rarely occurs. With the Senate, the legislative body that must pass on these appointments, narrowly in Democratic hands, the likes of Judge Pickering may someday wield a gavel in a federal court of consequence.

Bush's disregard for the environment, human rights here and abroad, needs of the working man and woman, a secure economic future for everyone, universal health care, freedom of expression, world prosperity through education, health and an equitable share of the planet's wealth is evident. Bush's inability to focus beyond his black/white, on/off, yes/no perspective seriously limits his ability to govern. He is a puppet, manipulated by strings held by Rumsfield, Powell, Rice, Cheney, Rove and a host of others, Little wonder Hughes quit and went back to Texas. She obviously saw that someday, someday soon, the ones who pull the strings of this martinet will tangle them into an impossible to solve mass and the dummy on the end of them will crumple to the floor of his stage, becoming a hopeless and helpless inert creature.

If nothing else, vote your pocketbook. While the average Joe and Jean taxpayer shells out 15% to 30% of his and her wages by the way of payroll deductions for income taxes the average giant corporation pays only 6%. Self employed entrepreneurs pay around 15% of their profits to maintain their Social Security account plus an income tax on those same profits - a pure case of double taxation. Corporations and wealthy individuals hide their profits and income in off shore bank accounts, safe from their prying eyes of the IRS. If they, by chance, do get caught in an audit their slick, expensive tax lawyers and equally slippery accountants sit down in conference with the IRS and strike a deal that allows these tax evaders to pay only a percentage of what's due.

While corporate executives earn millions of dollars, their employees on the production lines bring home only a tiny fraction of their boss's compensation. While fringe benefits for executives were trimmed recently because of falling corporate profits nearly nine million ordinary workers and middle managers lost more than fringe benefits - they lost their jobs. While corporate executives keep up their company paid memberships at expensive country clubs middle class Joe and Jane taxpayer sold their clubs at the neighborhood flea market and don't even go the movies any more. If you contend this is class warfare, it is because of what has happened to Joe's and Jane's retirement, their college fund for the kids and their accustomed lifestyle that can't be maintained on $300 a week unemployment compensation check - it just ain't fair, Magee!

Ask the simple question, "Are you better off than you were two years ago?" The answer in the vast majority of cases will be an equally simple answer, "Hell, no!"

I plead with you, America, return to your roots. Regain your integrity as individuals as I did and deny these "follow the leader" syndrome worshipers further opportunity to destroy us as a world leader and bring true compassion and patriotism, love of country, pride in our ability to show the world greatness, truth and beauty of which we are capable if only we have a bona fide leader with a firm hand at the tiller of our ship of state. Bring back the words of Longfellow who wrote in another era: "Sail on, O ship of state; Sail on, O union strong and great; Humanity with all its fears, with all its hopes for future years, hangs breathless on thy fate".

It's behooves you, my fellow Americans, to wrest the power to legislate from those who would destroy what this great nation has stood for over 200 years. It is up to you, the electorate, to bring back the image, the leadership, the integrity, the justice and moral courage sorely needed to make the hard decisions that only a competent president of this super power can. It is up to you. Take back the Congress in November 2002 and the White House in 2004 - before it's too late.

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