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Tiptoeing on the Perimeters

One week we’re told of the horrors of living in Donald Trump’s America. The next week we’re told why we should be scared to death of Joe Biden’s America.

What we’re not being told is how we can and must tackle national emergencies—and there are at least four of them—in your America, my America.

There are vague references to plans that will cure what ails our country. But scant details are offered. We’re only reassured there are “plans” that will fix everything. To the extent any specifics are provided, these plans tiptoe on the perimeters of the problems.

One national emergency is health insecurity. The pandemic obviously is one cause of the crisis. COVID-19 has infected millions in our nation, killed close to 200,000 and sickened many more. Another culprit is a fatally flawed health care system that leaves tens of millions of Americans without medical insurance and tens of millions more with insurance that is effectively useless because the deductibles and co-pays are so high that the insured end up having to pay for all their care out of pocket anyway. If their pockets are empty, they can’t get medical attention when they need it.

Poll after poll shows most Americans are ready for Medicare for All. But Medicare for All is not featured in either Donald Trump’s America or Joe Biden’s.

Another national emergency is economic inequality. Even before the pandemic struck, the poor in our country were getting poorer, the rich were getting richer and the middle class was gradually disappearing. COVID made a serious crisis far worse. Just since March when the pandemic hit our country will full force, the nation’s billionaires got billions of dollars richer while working class families lost jobs and in many cases their homes and life savings as well.

One week we’re told we’ll build back better and the next we’re told the pre-pandemic economy was the greatest of all time and will be again very soon. What we’re not told is that there will be an all-out war on economic suffering in the form of a modern-day equivalent of Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration or a national Basic Income Guarantee. We’re not even told that unearned income like capital gains will be taxed as much as earned wages in your America, my America.

A third national emergency is racial and social injustice. With mass protests throughout the land—sparked by George Floyd’s murder and more recently seven shots fired into Jacob Blake’s back and fueled by accumulated grievance over countless other atrocities—we’re told in no uncertain terms the police will not be defunded. We’re not told how policing could be reimagined or at least demilitarized.

The fourth national emergency we face is environmental insanity. As an unusually powerful hurricane pounds the southern border, wildfires rage on the west coast. There are hundred-year floods every year in one part of the country or another, and scorching droughts in other parts. Violent storms command attention, habitat loss doesn’t, but it’s another unmistakable sign of the climate crisis. We’re told a Green New Deal is just not feasible. We’re not told with any degree of specificity what would be.

The kind of politics needed to bring these four national emergencies under control has yet to show itself in your America, my America. The can keeps getting kicked down the road.

Mike McCabe

August 28, 2020

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We Need Answers

UPDATE AT 1:45 P.M.
Suspect Charged With Murder After 2 Shot Dead At Kenosha Protest
Suspect Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was reportedly arrested in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, 20 miles from Kenosha where the shootings occurred.

ORIGINAL POST

Last night in Kenosha, an armed militia member shot three people protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake, killing two and seriously injuring a third. This happened in a location where several Our Wisconsin Revolution board members and staff were protesting just the night before. We have many questions about these events, and we need answers. 

First, where was the National Guard? Were they not called in to keep the peace? There are dozens of videos from the scene last night, with no National Guard anywhere to be seen.

Second, why has the shooting suspect not been taken into custody? The name of the suspect is all over social media, and as of this morning his Facebook page was still up. There is graphic video of him shooting people, and video of him identifying himself. Why was he not taken into custody last night? If social media can identify him, why can’t police find him?

Third, video shows Kenosha police being friendly with militia members before these murders took place. In one video, the suspected gunman walks up to police. There are reports that the police drove protesters into an area where they knew armed militia men were waiting. What exactly is the relationship between Kenosha police and white supremacist groups? 

There are so many questions surrounding the murders and attempted murder of protesters in Kenosha last night, but one thing is for certain: People have the right to protest injustice — our country was founded on the right to protest. What was the Boston Tea Party if not a protest? 

And make no mistake — the police shooting of Jacob Blake seven times in the back was an injustice. It is a miracle that Blake survived, but he will likely never walk again. This is just one more in an interminable line of police shootings and murders of unarmed black citizens. Our communities of color — and Kenosha is one of the Blackest cities in Wisconsin — are overpoliced and underserved.

We must correct that injustice if we are to move forward as a society. 

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Why We Marched on the DNC

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Members of Our Wisconsin Revolution march on the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee on August 20, 2020. Photo by Laura Valderrama.

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Members of Our Wisconsin Revolution march on the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee on August 20, 2020. Photo by Charlie Ryan.

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Members of Our Wisconsin Revolution march on the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee on August 20, 2020. Photo by Charlie Ryan.

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Members of Our Wisconsin Revolution march on the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee on August 20, 2020. Photo by Laura Valderrama.

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Members of Our Wisconsin Revolution march on the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee on August 20, 2020. Photo by Charlie Ryan.
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Make Life’s Necessities a Human Right

Free money.

That dismissive phrase sums up the reaction of people whose minds are closed to the idea of creating a Universal Basic Income (UBI) program in our country to give vulnerable workers some economic security.

The “free money” put down is downright insensitive and even cruel in light of the widespread suffering caused by the economic collapse brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. An income guarantee throws a lifeline to those frantically trying to keep their heads above water. But even after the public health crisis subsides and the economy rebounds, UBI not only would provide financial stability for people watching their jobs exported overseas or automated out of existence, it would stimulate the economy by freeing would-be entrepreneurs to leave dead-end jobs and take the risk of starting a business. And it can create an opportunity to replace old welfare programs with a new approach that rewards work.

Think about it. In the 1800s our nation’s economy was mostly agricultural. Then came the Industrial Revolution. People left the land and migrated to cities to work in factories and offices. The transition caused immense economic and social upheaval. Trade unions were formed to give workers a collective voice and unemployment insurance, workers compensation for workplace injuries, child labor laws and Social Security for the elderly all were established to provide shelter from the storm.

A new economic revolution is now upon us. Robots are replacing more factory workers with each passing day. One day soon robots also will be delivering packages, laying bricks, hanging drywall, pouring cement, installing carpet, flipping burgers. Driverless vehicles are coming. When they arrive, all the truck drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, the millions of Americans who drive for a living will have to find another line of work or go on welfare.

Think about it. Those old welfare programs were constructed generations ago in response to the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars on them every year. The way they were set up, recipients have to be poor to get help and have to stay poor to keep it. With the income eligibility thresholds, when you work you eventually reach the point where earning one more dollar causes you to lose the welfare benefits. You come out ahead by cutting back on your hours to stay eligible for the public assistance.

Those whose minds are closed to new possibilities say people will stop working if there is an income guarantee of, say, $1,000 a month. That’s nonsense. Unlike the old welfare programs, with UBI the more you work the better off you are. You can climb the ladder and keep right on climbing. You can’t live on $1,000 a month in any case, you’ll still need to work. But if low-wage employment is all you can find, the security of the basic income payment makes it possible to work for low wages and not be doomed to living in poverty. And if you’ve had a lifelong dream of starting your own business but are stuck living paycheck to paycheck, UBI makes it feasible to climb out on a limb and reach for that dream.

Those with closed minds belittle UBI as free money. It’s actually about freeing people to make a better life for themselves and a more prosperous economy for everyone.

In a single day during the pandemic, America’s richest man got $13 billion richer. Working families lost more than $71 billion in one day of the pandemic. UBI would tip the scales back, especially if it’s paid for by restoring taxation based on ability to pay and requiring the filthiest of the filthy rich to pay taxes at a rate at least as high as during the Eisenhower administration. Another way to fund it is a severance tax on extraction of fossil fuels with proceeds distributed to households as UBI, giving workers peace of mind and a rightful share of this earthly treasure while incentivizing the necessary transition to renewable energy.

We don’t have to jump right in the deep end. We can test the waters first. We could make Wisconsin the first state in the nation to do a small-scale experiment with UBI. Start with 1,000 participants receiving $1,000 a month while being ineligible for any welfare payments. See if any of them stop working, see if they end up better off than the rest of the population. The cost would be $24 million over two years, a minuscule 0.03% of the two-year state budget that’s over $80 billion.

Think about the dividends that tiny down payment could eventually yield.

Mike McCabe

August 6, 2020

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Andre Walton Interviews Bernie Delegate Will Walter

Our Wisconsin Revolution Southeast Regional Organizer Andre Walton sat down with William Walter, Bernie delegate from Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District, to talk about progressive issues, the generational divide, and politics leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. It’s a great conversation you won’t want to miss. Catch it below.

If you like this interview, you’ll want to subscribe to our OWR Organizers channel on YouTube.

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Coal Costs Us Week of Action: August 3-7

Coal costs us. It costs us our health, our economy, our climate and our environment.

Our Wisconsin Revolution is joining together with other grassroots groups in the Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin during the first week of August to call on utilities to close dirty, expensive, oppressive, coal-fueled power plants.

Six coal plants in the state have yet to be announced for retirement. We don’t have to wait for the utility companies to think it’s a good idea – we can make sure they hear loud and clear that we demand an end to burning toxic coal – for our health, the economy, our planet, and justice.

Register for the week of action here

Here’s the schedule of events:

Monday, August 3 – Learn: Join us for an online screening of the documentary We Neighbors, the story of Wisconsinites living next to the Oak Creek/Elm Road coal plants, which are majority-owned by We Energies. After the documentary, we will have a panel discussion featuring healthcare professionals, neighbors to the coal plant, and clean energy advocates. Register here

Tuesday, August 4 – Share: Share your story and amplify others’ stories. Tune into a podcast about coal in Wisconsin, watch personal stories on Facebook Live, and share a story of your own.

Wednesday, August 5 – Speak up for clean energy: Testify or submit written comments in support for clean energy! There will be a public hearing and written comment opportunities on this day.

Thursday, August 6 – Call: Call your utility and ask for a coal-free future.

Friday, August 7 – Create: Spread the word about the need for clean energy with art, chalked messages, posters, yard signs, and more!

Check our social media, emails, and website during the week of August 3-7 for more information!

Questions? Contact Jess Haven at jess.haven@sierraclub.org or Cassie Steiner at cassandra.steiner@sierraclub.org

 

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DNC Platform Vote Against Medicare for All Shows Party’s Disregard for Human Life

This week, in a landslide vote (Yes 36 – No 125 – Abstain 3), members of the Democratic National Convention Platform Committee showed us who they really are by voting against an amendment to add Medicare for All to the party platform.

Let us say that again: Democratic party officials feel so strongly that the most vulnerable among us do not deserve even the most basic medical care — during a global pandemic in the country with the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, where Black, Brown, and poor people are dying at much higher rates than everyone else — that they decided to make it official: To solemnly swear that they are, indeed, up to no good.

In stark contrast, members of Our Wisconsin Revolution and the people of Wisconsin have made it abundantly clear what we want and what we are fighting for. As coronavirus cases continue to spike across Wisconsin, with millions of people losing health care as they are laid off from their jobs, 13 progressive candidates took a pledge to support single-payer, publicly funded health care on the federal, state, and local levels at the Our Wisconsin Revolution Forum on Health Care Policy held July 18. Days before the forum, the La Crosse County Board made history by passing a resolution in support of Medicare for All.

The Democratic Party once claimed to be the party of the working class — but there isn’t a shred of evidence that this is still the case. In fact, the members of the 2020 Platform Committee appointed by DNC Chair Tom Perez are the antithesis of working class representation. As Thomas Neuberger explains in CommonDreams:

“It certainly appears possible that the primary goal of the DNC is to guarantee the continuous flow of corporate dollars to DNC coffers and approved consultants and lobbyists. In that sense, the whole organization seems focused first on insider jobs and wealth security.”

We are aware that the platform vote on Medicare for All was non-binding, but to vote against this amendment was unconscionable and utterly indefensible. We often talk about how Trump’s brazen remarks embolden some people in his party to be more overtly racist/xenophobic/sexist/classist/homophobic — but the effect of an “emboldened” culture is not partisan.

Biden has stated, on more than one occasion, that he would veto a Medicare for All bill should it arrive on his desk. At a minimum, during the primary election season, candidates whose former statements and records did not align with a Medicare for All platform at least made the effort to adopt the rhetoric to some degree, because they know how exceedingly popular Medicare for All is among their constituents.

But the mask is off now — we don’t even get the courtesy of lip service anymore, and the contempt that party elites have for the people is on full display. Biden is the current de facto party leader, and because he has no problem writing off our lives as expendable, there is nothing stopping party officials from following suit.

Even though 88% of Democrats and 68% of Independents support a Medicare for All system, the message delivered by DNC and DNC-affiliated members at the Platform Committee meeting Monday was clear: They do not believe health care is a human right. Frankly, they do not care whether we live or die. If they did, they would not have voted down the addition of the most widely supported universal health care plan in existence to their official party platform.

The Democratic Party performatively attaches #BlackLivesMatter and/or #BrownLivesMatter to all of its messaging while simultaneously disavowing a bill that, if written into law, would literally save the lives of tens of thousands of the roughly 15 million people of color whom the Affordable Care Act fails to protect — a disproportionate impact, given that the total number of people not covered by the ACA is roughly 30 million.

Those who have the ability but not the will to legislatively support Medicare for All are effectively signing death warrants for tens of thousands of people each year. This is because the current for-profit “health care” system is one that criminalizes poverty, the punishment for which is chronic sickness and even death. Our so-called justice system lets murderers and war criminals off easier than that, so where is the justice for the tens of thousands of poor, Black, and Brown folks who die each year due to lack of health care?

The reality is that if #BlackLivesMatter or #BrownLivesMatter to the powers that be, they would not hesitate to shout from the rooftops their support of Medicare for All. They would not say “now is not the time,” because while the elite are deciding who gets to live and who gets to die, real people are actually dying — and they don’t have time to wait.

If you scold people for seeing Medicare for All as a litmus test to earn their support, take a moment to think about the privilege you have that allows you to say things like “maybe later” or just a flat-out “no.”

We are tired of having our most basic human needs be referred to as litmus tests or ponies or anything that implies what we are asking for is not essential for sustaining human life. We do not have another 10 years for the powers that be to run out the clock with distractions and intentional misinformation, waiting for our fire to burn out.

Our litmus test is pretty simple: Tens of thousands of people not dying each year from preventable causes, including, but not limited to, medical bills, climate change disasters, police brutality, homelessness, poverty, etc. If any party refuses to support a bill that makes health care an absolute right, or rejects a candidate who support such policies, then that party is complicit in the pain and suffering of our most marginalized populations.

In closing, we have a message for the powers that be:

We’ve had enough of the platitudes, so to those of you who have built your careers on platitudes without substance — we see you. Do not underestimate us, because we will never let you rest as long as there are fatal consequences to your glaring indifference. We will fight until our last breath so that others may continue to draw theirs. Our clocks are ticking — but your days in office are numbered, should you continue to prioritize your donors over human lives. Either make a concerted effort to lift up our nation’s most vulnerable — or step aside and get out of the way.

If you refuse to do your job, we’ll find people who will.

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Federal Stormtroopers Coming to Milwaukee – Whether We Want Them or Not

Watching events unfold in Portland for the past few weeks has been surreal. Protesters in bike helmets and goggles, carrying umbrellas and homemade shields, battle it out nightly with federal forces in full camouflage riot gear, sweeping the streets with batons, crowd-control ammunition, and copious amounts of tear gas and pepper spray.

Federal agents arrived in Portland after President Trump signed an executive order mandating protection of federal monuments and buildings. Most protests have revolved around the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse downtown.

During two months of protests federal forces have

The Portland protests have inspired the iconic yellow-clad Wall of Moms, a Wall of Dads with leaf blowers to blow tear gas back toward police, and, in the latest development, a Wall of Vets.

While some of the federal forces are from agencies such as the U.S. Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Protective Service, there’s also evidence that many are private contractors – in effect, mercenary soldiers paid by our tax dollars to wage war on our civilian population.

There is such a strong resemblance to the stormtroopers of Star Wars that protesters are blasting the Imperial March over loudspeakers as federal forces deploy tear gas, pepper spray, and flash bangs.

It is terrifying enough that all this is happening on American soil – we are used to seeing things like this in other countries, such as the 2014 Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong to protest democracy crackdowns by China.

But even worse: It’s coming to Wisconsin, just in time for the Democratic National Convention.

Last week President Trump announced that federal forces would be expanded to several more cities “run by liberal Democrats,” including Chicago, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee.

This time, federal agents from the U.S. Marshals, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are being sent under the auspices of Operation Legend, a Justice Department initiative in which the feds are supposed to help local law enforcement fight a spike in violent crime.

In reality, no one in Wisconsin wants them. Gov. Tony Evers wrote a letter to Trump stating, “this type of unilateral intervention has not been requested … and is not welcome in Wisconsin.” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said, “Federal agents are not welcome here.” Even the Milwaukee Police Department said it “respectfully declines the deployment of federal agents.”

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm  told members of the Milwaukee Common Council on Monday that he will prosecute federal agents who violate the law.

“Kidnapping, false imprisonment, unlawful assault — those are simply crimes,” Chisholm said. “Those are crimes no matter who commits them, whether it’s a federal agent or a citizen. You can’t do that, not in the United States, and it won’t be tolerated here.”

It makes no sense to deploy federal forces to Milwaukee for this year’s Democratic National Convention, a highly scaled-down event with only a few hundred participants, not the thousands that normally attend. State delegates were told they should stay home and would not be credentialed or allowed into the meeting site if they show up in Milwaukee.

The wishes of local leaders are unlikely to sway the Trump administration, however. Political leaders in Portland and Oregon didn’t want federal forces there either. The administration’s response?

“I don’t need invitations by the state, state mayors or state governors to do our job. We’re going to do that, whether they like us there or not,” said Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, in an interview on Fox News.

We don’t know why Trump is doing this. It could be as an election year ploy to shore up his “law and order” base. It could be a way to divert attention from the ever worsening coronavirus pandemic. It could be as an act of political revenge, or simply to push presidential powers to the breaking point.

But when Trump’s stormtroopers arrive, we call on local and state officials to stand by their pledges not to allow fascism to take root in Milwaukee. This time it’s not just our state’s democracy at risk. It’s whatever pieces of democracy we have left from the local level on up.

Image credit: Nathan Howard / Getty Images

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13 Wisconsin Candidates Pledge to Support Health Care Overhaul

As coronavirus cases continue to spike across Wisconsin, with millions of people losing health care as they are laid off from their jobs, 13 progressive candidates took a pledge to support single-payer, publicly funded health care on the federal, state, and local levels at the Our Wisconsin Revolution Forum on Health Care Policy held July 18.

The forum, hosted by Dr. Richard McGowan, member of OWR’s steering committee for Dane County, and Andre Walton, OWR southeast regional organizer, featured progressive candidates running for U.S. Congress, state senate, and state assembly in Wisconsin.

The candidates discussed how single-payer health care, also known as Medicare for All, would cover the health-care needs of Wisconsin residents, especially during a pandemic. They also provided an analysis of the state and federal response to the coronavirus crisis and discussed disparities in care among low income and communities of color in our state.

Specifically, all 13 candidates pledged yes to the following questions:

  • Will you support single-payer, publicly funded, privately delivered health care on a federal level such as the Medicare for All Bill 2019?
  • Short of enacting a federal single-payer health care system would you support universal health care at the state level, including expanding BadgerCare to cover everyone without insurance?
  • Would you be willing to put forward a resolution in your city or county backing single-payer health care to move our state’s leadership’s position on this issue?

Candidates attending the forum included:

  • Dr. Mark Neumann, Candidate for U.S. Congress, Wisconsin District 3
  • Michael Beardsley, Candidate for U.S. Congress, Wisconsin District 6
  • Emily Voight, Candidate for Wisconsin State Assembly District 3
  • Sarah Yacoub, Candidate for Wisconsin State Assembly District 30
  • Mason Becker, Candidate for Wisconsin State Assembly District 33
  • Dan Schierl, Candidate for Wisconsin State Assembly District 55
  • Ali Maresh, Candidate for Wisconsin State Assembly District 76
  • Rob Slamka, Candidate for Wisconsin State Assembly District 78
  • Ed Vocke, Candidate for Wisconsin State Senate District 12
  • Joni Anderson, Candidate for Wisconsin State Senate District 14
  • Brian Benford, Candidate for Wisconsin State Senate District 26
  • Aisha Moe, Candidate for Wisconsin State Senate District 26
  • Jayne Swiggum, Candidate for Wisconsin State Senate District 32

You can find out more about the Our Wisconsin Revolution Forum on Health Care Policy on the Facebook event page.

Wisconsin residents will cast their vote in this year’s primary election Tuesday, August 11. Our Wisconsin Revolution’s Forum on Health Care Policy provides critical facts and analysis that voters need to make informed decisions about which candidates would represent them best. Watch it here:

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Penthouse Immunity

COVID-19 doesn’t care if your state is red or blue. The virus hits black and brown hardest. Green appears to be immune.

Those with a lot of green have flourished since the pandemic struck our country. Just since March 18, America’s billionaires have become more than a half-trillion dollars richer. Since that same day, well over 40 million workers in the U.S. have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment compensation. Millions have lost the health insurance that was tied to their employment at the worst possible time, in the midst of a public health emergency.

The coronavirus causing the disease called COVID-19 is wickedly infectious, spreads easily, is hard to treat, has no known cure, and is far more deadly than the seasonal flu. It respects no borders. In those afflicted, there is no set pattern to how the disease plays out. Some get horribly sick, some die, others show no symptoms at all.

More is learned every day about this virus, but there is a great deal that remains a mystery. One thing is for sure, the virus has a powerful will to survive and needs to infect living cells in order to do so. It tirelessly and relentlessly hunts for those cells to invade. It has no use for anything that’s not alive. And that actually has big implications for democracy and the 2020 elections.

The virus has significantly disrupted what people can do. But it has no effect whatsoever on what money can do. Grassroots campaigning has been largely stopped in its tracks. Town hall meetings and neighborhood get-togethers have been postponed or cancelled. So have farmers markets, parades, community festivals, fairs, church picnics and so many other gatherings where we’d normally see those running for office mingling with voters. Shaking hands and kissing babies are risky behaviors during a pandemic.

Money’s influence over our elections, on the other hand, isn’t disrupted or even inconvenienced. Going from house to house and knocking on doors is frowned upon during a pandemic, but the messages of those with money and a lot of it can still be brought right into our living rooms. The virus does nothing to inhibit lavish spending by those who’ve gotten richer during the pandemic to deliver political advertising to us on TV, over the radio, in the newspaper, in our mailboxes.

The more economically unequal we are, the more politically unequal we become as those with great wealth gain greater influence over our government. As political inequality intensifies, more and more policies are put in place that further enrich the most privileged in our society. The virus is powerless to break this vicious cycle. Money has been allowed to grow more powerful than people in politics, corrupting our system and making it less of a democracy and more of an oligarchy. It’s quite possible and perhaps even likely that the pandemic will aggravate this condition.

We the people are going to have to get creative to counter the forces conspiring against us. Young people in particular are tech savvy and know how to communicate with each other at low or no cost using digital tools and a dizzying array of social media. That know-how can come to democracy’s rescue, filling in for all those festivals, fairs, parades, picnics and door knocking.

It’s either that or democracy could be added to the long and growing list of COVID-19 casualties.

Mike McCabe

July 13, 2020