Saturday, September 4, 2010

A People Gets the Government It Deserves

"A people gets the government it deserves."  The former president of the United Auto Workers Union, Doug Fraser, said that to me while riding in a taxi cab downtown from Columbia University.  The year was circa 1990.  I was a doctoral student and Fraser was a visiting scholar at the Business School.

Although I disagreed with Fraser politically he made an excellent point.  Earlier that week I showed him an article about him in the newspaper of the Socialist Workers' Party, the Militant, that was being sold right outside the Columbia main gate.  I bought a copy as a goof and there was an article about the guy whose lecture I was about to hear.  The Militant didn't like Fraser, nor did Michael Moore, whose film 1988 Roger and Me criticizes the UAW leadership as being too friendly to management.  Fraser had stepped down in 1983 (he passed away in 2008).

What kind of government does America deserve?  Most of the Republicans I know are unhappy with the way things are going, but are eager to vote for establishment candidates who aim to continue the course.  Most of the Americans I know suspect that things have not gone well but do not trouble themselves to question the economic policies of the politicians for whom they vote, returning the same politicians to office who created the policies that caused thing to go the way they are going.

In my town, Olive, NY, a large percentage of Republicans, more than half, refused to sign nominating petitions. Many complained that they did not know anything about the candidates.  When I suggested that they attend Town Committee meetings they refused. 

Most Americans accept the opinions espoused on television and in their local newspapers, not questioning whether the government that has resulted from those opinions is functioning fairly, competently or liberally. Or, they complain about the way things are but do not trouble themselves to learn about why things are going that way. 

When confronted with alternatives, such individuals prefer the tried and true path, true to the trend of a reduction in their standard of living and their freedom.  The worst among them are the party activists who assume that the same slop that the GOP has served for the past two decades is just delicious and they definitely intend to serve it again even though it is warmed over for the twentieth time.

A people get the government they deserve.  To quote Alfred E. Neumann as my response to Doug Fraser, "What--me worry?"

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