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martes, julio 26, 2011

Today's Exercise In Participatory Democracy

Last night after the President’s speech, I thought I would send a cheerful email to my Republican Congressman. The idea was simple: I want the debt ceiling raised without any preconditions so we won’t have a massive economic debacle. I’d ask him just to put the budget/debt/spending/taxation/deficit debate on hold to avoid a market and jobs and worldwide economic meltdown. It’s simple. Even the President didn’t ask for it though. So what. So I went to the trusty laptop, found Chris Gibson’s web site for Congress (and the ones that are still up from his November, 2010 election campaign) and tried to send an email. No can do. I get a message that says, “Server Too Busy.” No email page. Fine, I think. Millions of Americans are at this very moment trying to express themselves. I don’t care what they’re saying; it’s democracy at work. I’ll try again in the morning. I will be heard, I think. I will persevere.

It is now 8:30 am. First, because I have not had enough coffee, I mistakenly send an email to Chris Gibson at his site to be elected to Congress. After I send it I think, “That was great. And easy. On to today’s activities.” Then I realize what I did. I’m sure that was an utter waste of time and that nobody will retrieve, let alone read this email. I regroup. I again find his Congressional web page to send an email,, and guess what? I wait. And I wait. And it doesn’t load. And I wait. And I wait some more. And finally after about 19 minutes I get the idea that it’s just not going to load. Ever. I’m just not going to be able to send this guy an email with my views about the impending default. The page will not load. Damn it, I say. I’m not going to let this obstacle prevent me from saying what I have to say. I’ve got too much invested in this project already. I’m going to have to use antiquated technology, the telephone, to call my Congressman’s local office.

Meanwhile, while I’m wondering how the United States Congress can have such crummy servers and whether that is in fact a metaphor for the entire US infrastructure, if not the alienation of the voters, I get a disquieting, automated response from the Chris Gibson Campaign which ended in November, 2010. It says:

Our campaign is dedicated to restoring a free, prosperous and safe America. We believe that by reducing taxes, spending and borrowing, we can unleash the private sector‚s ability to create jobs and provide economic security for local families.

Ut oh. It doesn’t sound like Congressman Chris Gibson is in favor of just raising the debt ceiling to avoid an economic meltdown. Sounds like he might have some other agenda, one that sounds all Tea Partyish. Is he an acolyte of the Orange Guy? Of the T-publicans? I shrug. I’m will not be deterred. I don’t care what he said when he ran. We all know that most of that campaign, just like very other campaign, was complete nonsense, just political garbage, no matter who the candidate was. Just look, for example, at President Obama. Yes, I say, just look. That turns out to be a very depressing, disillusioning idea to pursue. I stop thinking about it and tell myself to get back on task.

Undeterred, I try to shake off the bipartisan gloom and find the Congressman’s local phone number. Great idea. His web site still will not load the office information so I cannot get a phone number for the Hudson office from the web. I wait. Meanwhile, I wonder whether Obama is ever going to close Gitmo, or tax the fat cats, or do any of the other great Hope and Change mambo I enjoyed so much. I start to muse about Universal Health Care. Impeachment of Cheney I’m getting very depressed. After about ten minutes of totally dispiriting self talk, and trying figure out how to get a number, the website loads, and I find a number in Kinderhook, (518) 610-8133. Ah. The day will not be a complete waste, I think.

I dial. To my surprise, the number is answered. Immediately. I tell the woman on the other end that I’m a constituent, that the nation and I cannot afford a default, and that I want the Congressman to do whatever has to be done, including caving in completely to the President, hoisting the white flag of surrender, to avoid a default. The debate on taxes, debt, spending, the deficit, all of that stuff, can wait for another day. Just prevent a default. Just avert the economic disaster. Do whatever has to be done to prevent a worldwide economic collapse. She says she’ll tell the Congressman. I think her, give her my contact information, and hang up.

Thank goodness. I was beginning to think it was going to take all day to unburden myself and get this modest message through to my representative. I was beginning to reconcile myself to wasting hours to accomplish just that. This only took 45 minutes. Great. But now I’m thinking that what happened is that they have a score sheet at the Congressman’s office with two columns on it: Column 1 says, “Boehner,” Column 2, “Obama.” It took me 45 minutes to be a line, like “/”, in the “Obama” column. Yes, they’ll tell the Congressman all right. They’ll tell him at the end of the morning, 106 for this and 102 for that. Then he’ll do whatever the people who wrote their opinion on the back of a $1000 check told him to do.

This thought leads to frowning. Where, I wonder, where is all of the Hope. And the Change. And that strong safety net. And our caring about the people who most need assistance. I have no idea. And why, I wonder, isn’t the President on board with, “Give me a clean bill, one that avoids the default until 2013, and we can debate all the rest of this afterwards. This is an emergency.” Why indeed. Why is everything I want always, yes, always “off the table” before the discussions begin. How sad. It feels like electoral politics business as usual.

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