We the People!
With Barack Obama’s much anticipated moving date less than a week away, George W. Bush declared a state of emergency for the upcoming inauguration. This is the first time a state of emergency has been declared for a ‘non-disaster’ and will provide additional state funding. Additionally, executives from various companies have been donating profuse amounts of money to help fund what will most likely be the most expensive inauguration ever. Public Citizen, a watchdog organization that keeps track of campaign financing, has a very difficult task. This is in part because of the sweeping number of donors and is compounded by their increasing use of the Internet. Furthermore, the donations as suggested by a Public Citizen representative, are from “big money well-connected people…that get a chance to influence policy or get government contracts or earmarks.” This past election demonstrated a reverse trend in American democracy, a meteoric boom in civic participation. Historical comparative sociologist Theda Skocpol argues that participation in civic life, even incipiently, might not have declined, rather it has transformed. This shift is, the shift from voluntary associations to professionally run advocacy groups. Advocacy groups, with the availability of new technology to administer massive mailings and phone calls, have created new associations hinging on a large membership of check senders. These types of associations have an ability to lobby, effect policy and are often elite-run. As a result, the power is taken out of the hands of everyday citizens. Without a broad-based active citizenry, government responds to the deepest pockets and can find itself isolated from the realities of its citizens. Americans must not sit idly by and expect ‘change’ to occur. The impetus of this historic moment that has galvanized the public and fostered participation cannot be allowed to be subjugated by corporations and lobbyists. The current élan must become the reverse alchemy that turns executives’ gold into genuine democracy.
Reverse alchemy is a great image for this re-emergence of civic life and democracy!