Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Will America hit the snooze bar?

From the left and from the right, pundits, politicians, activists, and the grumpy guy down the street are always saying America had better wake up. If you are on the left, you were decrying the pending doom of our planet due to man made global warming, or how we could never win the war in Iraq, if you were on the right, you were predicting a titanic increase in spending, deficits, and government regulation. No matter where you came down on those issues, the refrain from both sides was, "Wake up America!"

The only honest assessment I can give you is this; Americans enjoy their slumber.

Sure, the alarm goes off from time to time, and we are jolted from our dreamworld, at least for a short time. However, in the end, we roll over hit the snooze button. Why do we do this? My short answer is this; paying attention is hard work.

It is much easier to come home from work and turn on your favorite sitcom or drama, sit down in from of your computer, or put in that DVD from Netflix. Who wants to read a piece about a Senate hearing on this, that, or the other? Who wants to read about the city council, or board of supervisor's meeting? Who want's to keep track of just how much of your money was promised to someone else today? Judging from the tremendous amount voter apathy, and the vast numbers of those who don't understand the issues, not many Americans are awake right now.

Every election cycle, we hear one side or the other declaring a mandate from the people. Really? Even in the last election, where we were told about this huge influx of newly active, informed voters, the actual turn out was about 56% of eligible voters. That was only up a few percent from the last election. I'm not sure you can have a true mandate from 52% of the 56% of eligible American voters. This goes for Republicans as well as Democrats. If the GOP makes some headway in the 2010 election cycle, the plaques on the offices in DC will change, but I have to wonder if there will be any real, fundamental change until Americans start showing up, awake, informed, and in larger numbers.

We see a bit of this in the Tea Party movement, and in the last few statewide election in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. But a word of caution, as much passion as there is in these grass roots efforts, I remember the legions of Obama volunteers, meeting in homes, on campuses in 2008. They thought they were going to change the world too. What a difference a year makes.

You may ask, so what do want me to do? I work all day, come home, make dinner, make sure the kid's homework is done, and the laundry gets from the hamper to the washer. Where am I going to find the time to become informed? I don't know, most everyone has these same responsibilities. I would suggest that becoming informed is not that hard a task if you are willing to take a few minutes each day to make it happen.

In some ways, I miss the days of political ignorance. I just went along living my life, hoping some jackass behind a mahogany desk would not screw it up too badly. When I really started looking at the difference between my gross pay and my net pay, that is when I started to ask, who are these people, and what the heck are they doing with my money?

Here is your first assignment; know the players. This is a vital first step, one that many politicians hope you never take. Start locally and go up from there. I don't live in an incorporated city, so I don't have a city councilman or mayor to worry about. Living in Esparto, my first representative is Duane Chamberlain, the 5th district supervisor for Yolo County. From there I go to the State of California, and my local Assembly district, District 2, and Assemblyman Jim Nielsen. Then up to the State Senate, District 5 and State Senator Lois Wolk. The to the Governor.

Okay, get up and stretch for a second, we are almost done, now on to the Feds. My local Congressman in the 2nd District is Wally Herger, then on to our two Senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. From there it goes to the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Who knew there were so many people to complain to?

The first step is knowing who they are, then what they are doing with your money and freedoms. Next comes working to support or working to replace them as your representative.

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