Friday, November 10, 2000 Volume 66, Issue 59



Election leaves future unclear

Jonathan Robinson

Clinton came to power in a decisive victory over George Bush in 1992 in what Clinton called a "mandate for fundamental change."

However, the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Fairness Act, vetoing a few of the most disastrous of the Republican Congress bills and deftly spinning the truth to avoid impeachment, hardly qualified as fundamental reforms of the government. 

So what can we expect of a president who wins with the slimmest margin of votes possible and has both the House and Senate at almost perfect parity?

Well, considering the amount of money raised in this election -- the most of any yet -- if there is fundamental change, it is most likely the consolidation of power into fewer and fewer hands of the already powerful big businesses and big government coalition.

In secret meetings, wealthy executives are literally buying your elected representatives' future votes with legal campaign contributions.

So what do corporations know that we don't? Well, why do you think they spend so much money, energy and time in supporting their favorite candidates and often supporting both sides of the campaigns?

Because they can expect to get something in return.

We must learn from the corporate agenda how to manipulate our own government, keeping in mind that this is the right thing to do (assuming that a democracy should diffuse power out among the people and not a tyranny of the privileged few). 

Now that this election is over, it is time to ensure that money counts for less and that the views of the people count for more.

Perhaps, like corporations, we should take our right to influence government policies very seriously. Your role as citizen is as important as your commitment to your church group, family, education or career. 

To be a whole person, one must realize that there are opportunities to act in improving the community. Participating more fully in political action is one of them.

Real civic involvement can be as challenging as one wishes. As one gains in experience, the level of commitment can also increase. Nothing less than a Jeffersonian revolution is in order to check the ongoing consolidation of corporate and governmental entrenchment.

It is easier to stay informed today as to how each representative is voting in Congress. People should stay informed by reading the newspaper, not relying too heavily on one source or simply watching the television news. 

Corporations and the wealthy form groups to pursue their combined interests. We should not miss an opportunity to team up in order to make our voices heard in government. If you peruse the yellow pages under "Social Serv Organizations," you will find at least 200 organizations that need civically-minded volunteers. Also one could devote time to one of the four major parties that are active in Harris County.

This tool was meant to help voters perform an end run around bureaucratic gridlock. Citizens are able to gather the required number of petition signatures to put policy issues on the ballot to be directly voted into law. This potentially valuable tool has had disappointing results this time around because corporate cooption.

However, this was only possible because we have abdicated responsibility in this area.

We should limit the time of the campaigns to three months, publicly finance the candidates and give equal air time to candidates who have a well-organized campaign. Term limits such as those imposed on the president should also be imposed on Congress, although they don't have to be set at two terms like the presidency.

If 2 million people volunteered 100 hours and gathered $100 a year for political action, that would amount to 800 million man hours and $800 million that could be used toward increasing our influence on our own government.

This is the most likely way that we can affect our democracy, not by electing a president and then going home feeling that our obligations as citizens have been fulfilled for the next four years.

Robinson, a senior philosophy major, 
can be reached at

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