Eternal vigilance

As a terrific article in Vanity Fair points out, eight years ago –

On the day of the inauguration the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, declares a moratorium on the Clinton administration’s last-minute regulations on the environment, food safety, and health. This action is followed in the coming months by disengagement from the International Criminal Court and other international efforts.

And as the Bush administration slinks away in shame –

As the administration prepares to leave office, it promulgates a raft of “midnight” orders to weaken environmental, health-care, and product-safety regulations. The unemployment rate is nearly 7 percent and rising. Income inequality is at the highest level since the 1920s. As of a week before the election, the stock market had lost a third of its value over a period of six months.

This is the circle of political life – a constant battle between opposing forces that is fought with human and environmental chess pieces. The Nation has a reprint of an article from March 8, 1933 which is eerily prescient of this battle. The article is called “A Farewell to Republicans.”

For twelve years the Republican Party has been in power. During ten of those years it controlled the executive and legislative branches of the government. When, a few years hence, an attempt is made to minimize the disaster of this last quadrennium, and to point to a preceding eight year period of material development and growth, let it be noted that in a purely material sense the American people are much worse off today than they were twelve years ago. Far more than was gained has been swept away. Savings have been dissipated, lives have been blasted, families disintegrated.

Misery and insecurity exist to a degree unprecedented in our national life. And spiritually the American people have been debauched by the materialism which made dollar-chasing the accepted way of life and accumulation of riches the goal of earthly existence. The record of Republicanism must be judged as a whole, although, in fairness, the consequences of the World War and the major responsibility of the Democrats for putting the United States into it must not be forgotten. The Republicans were as eager to make war—and both parties continued, until well after the crash, to be proud of their attitude in 1917. Moreover, economic disaster has been only a part of this sterile decade’s legacy, the burdens of which will descend to unborn generations. Our worthiest traditions have been impaired; vital tenets of American life have been destroyed.

On his first day in office, President Barack Obama will face a challenge much like the one FDR did 75 years ago. His first few acts will be to swiftly unravel the executive orders of the previous administration that embarrassed a once-glorious nation and endangered the world. He will put in motion orders to close Guantanamo, end the Iraqi occupation, restore environmental protections and sanctions and reintroduce regulations that check corporate greed and malfeasance. Maybe the valiant efforts of his administration can pull America out of the abyss it is in right now.

So can we expect that eight years from now,  the American public will once again succumb to the honeyed promises of the Republican Party as they, in their selective amnesia, fault the Obama administration for massive government spending and increased government interference in business? I can just visualize a scenario where the country, once again on a even keel, will be ripe for a message of fiscal conservatism and lower taxes from the same bunch of crooks that brought us to our knees today.

History is proof that we never learn our lessons. With a 278 billion dollar surplus in 2000, we chose not to continue with the administration that kept America safe and strong, getting distracted like children by the three-ring circus of the Clinton impeachment trials. Be sure that these distractions will continue to be manufactured, because that’s all the Republican Party in its current shape is capable of.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what Ken Blackwell, RNC Chairman candidate and former Ohio Secretary of State argued in his opposition to the reinvestment and recovery stimulus plan promoted by President-elect Obama.

…most federal employees, that are not political appointees, vote Democrat. Since Washington, DC is the seat of government, whenever new federal bureaucrats are created many live in Maryland and Virginia. In 2008, Virginia went Democrat for the first time since 1964, and Mr. Obama won it by 130,000 votes. Creating 600,000 new jobs might help cement Virginia in the Democrat column, making it harder for Republicans to retake the White House.

The only way we can stop history from repeating itself is vigilance. The interest and activism we brought to the this election cannot die down as American corrects course. While there is a strong temptation to put the Bush years behind us as a bad dream from which we are slowly awakening, we must never, never forget. And we must stay engaged in the business of governance, in our communities and in the politics of this re-emerging phoenix.

Take the first step today. Log in to to find a community event near you that you can participate in, however briefly. I plan to take my kids to a book drop-off event in Palo Alto – an event that benefits one of the poorer schools in the community. If you have more time, you could participate in a clean up of local parks or volunteer at a shelter. Take that first step.

1 thought on “Eternal vigilance

  1. Geeta Padmanabhan

    Creating government jobs, paying public servants exorbitant bonuses and raising recruitment and salaries of teachers for no reason at all are accepted practises in India. They are undeniable vote banks. Economist Swaminathan Iyer has publicly spoken about it. Teachers are paid even if they don’t come to schools because they are the polling officers and do poll duty. Have you heard of a single teacher in government schools being pulled up for acts of omission and commission? This is an open secret.



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