Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Parlor "Patriocracy": How to fix our polarized, partisan political system; recalling the debt ceiling debacle


Parlor diplomacy, anyone?  Parlor dictatorship? (or “Timocracy”?)  We might as well settled for that given the partisan, self-stalemating behavior of Congress.  We all started seeing this during the debt ceiling debate of the summer of 2011, and that history forms a backdrop for Brian Malone’s 2011 documentary, “Patriocracy”.  And maybe it stays in the parlor, like in a Clue game.

The film starts out with barren winter shots of Barack Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009. Obama may have said “Yes we can”, but pretty soon it was apparent he had taken over a country more divided and polarized than ever.

Instead of the “greatest generation”, we have the greediest, the most need in need of immediate gratification.  It’s also becoming much more tribal than we think.

Politicians of both parties tend to hear from the ideologues on both sides, rather than “average Joe” Americans in the real world.

The film goes into the we get our news, as much from blogs, social media and forums as from traditional news sources.  No longer is fact-checking or journalistic objectivity required to post news online. Therefore, people with “agendas” can grab attention, sometimes by spreading rumors. (Remember how in the movie “Chicken Little”, the little boy gets in trouble by attracting attention on the Internet.)  I even was guilty of this recently, believing that the Alternative Minimum Tax for 2012 would have a discontinuity, when in fact it will not, even without change.

Here's a great quote: “The media has become a buffet restaurant”.  It’s easy to select “opinions” from the “all you can eat” palette.

It’s easy to pontificate online (as if “Allegro pontificato” were a musical tempo), but it is very hard to run for office.  You have to have enough social power to get people to give you money, and you have to be loyal to every fringe group that gives you money. Yet people (especially Log Cabin Republicans) ask me, why don’t I pay my dues and run for office rather than just muckrake?

There’s also the legal doctrine (from the Supreme Court on “Citizens United”) that equates corporations to people and lets corporations contribute without restraint to campaigns.

The movie discusses the “American Action Network” as a political clearinghouse for right-wing commercials;  “Move On” does the same on the Left.

The film shows a clip from the media coverage of the wounding of Representative Gabrielle Giffords by Jared Loughner in Arizona, and then notes that she had been a voice for compromise and moderation in the House.  But then some people accused the “radicals” in the media for inspiring psychopaths like Loughner.
The film then moves to quick coverage of the debt ceiling debacle. It went down to the wire on the last day. Gifford s returns to Congress on the day of the vote, bringing the House down in applause.  It then covers the nation’s credit rating downgrade by Standard and Poors because of political dysfunction.

The film says that “money equals free speech” and this makes compromise impossible.

Mickey Edwards (R-OK) wrote an Atlantic article about reforms.  He says citizens need to participate more directly, and inform themselves and look at a variety of sources (besides Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh).  He thinks only individuals should be able to make campaign contributions.  He argues for transparency and open primaries.

The film then covers the efforts of “No Labels” (link), and then “Americans for Campaign Reform”, “Ruckus”.

Another reform would be “pay for performance” for Congress. And reform the filibuster rules in the Senate.

The official site  (Cinema Libre, Rhino and Fast Forward Films), is here


Alan Simpson called people like Limbaugh “just entertainers”.  Conservatives have a way of being the more entertaining.  Here’s another saying: “Don’t rise to the bait”. Americans will get the quality of governance that they demand – and deserve.

Did anyone in Congress negotiating the Fiscal Cliff deal see this film?  If not, some of us could get stiffed. 

As for the title of my post, see my "drama" blog, Aug. 24, 2011, for an explanation of the "parlor" part of this. It refers to a satirical piece of piano music (classical).  

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