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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Politics 101

Last night, I went to a fundraiser for the Nashville Women's Political Caucus. It was a great event, and they invited me to participate in their future leaders program next week. So, I'm pretty geeked about that.

For those of you who may be new, I have a degree in political science. I always thought I'd be some big-time political operative, or, at the very least, live out of my rusted out Chevy Lumina while working for the next Harry Truman or something.

Then, real life, with all its student loans and total craziness happened upon me. I went back to Detroit, dove into a new world with the car guys, and gave up the dream of full-time politics.

That's not to say that I didn't get in with the auto unions -- the real car guys -- and spend my weekends and evenings eating finger foods with Debbie Stabenow or going door-to-door for John Dingell. Because I did. A lot. I love people and want to do whatever I can to help all humans, but my real Democratic roots come from being the daughter of a second-generation American auto worker.

Well, that and my commitment to Catholic social teaching. Which, somedays, it seems like the church isn't committed to.

But I digress. This is not supposed a political rant. Just some political guidance from your favorite armchair quarterback.

I want to give everyone one little piece of advice for this election. I know that people are pissed off with America and fed up with the way things are in this country. We all feel that way. But, remember what your grandma said about throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Despite what you're hearing on TV ads, voting the old guys out of Washington isn't going to fix the problem. Yeah, some of the people in Washington are despicable, but so are some of the people running against them. But most of the people are there are just hard-working, everyday men and women just like you and me, who are trying to make a difference. They don't deserve to be voted out because you're pissed off at the President.

Or more likely, you're pissed off at the former president, because Obama hasn't really had time to screw things up like if he'd been given free rein on the executive orders and eight years like some other people. You can be pissed off at "Obamacare," if you want. I know I am, but only because it doesn't do enough, like tell the insurance companies to go fuck themselves because America isn't going to be the only nation with for-profit healthcare anymore.

This is probably why I don't get to be president. Well, that and the fact that I am not 35. Or a man.

This all brings me to today's point (see, I almost always have one). Special interests are the problems with American politics today.

It's not the Kennedys or the McCains or even Sarah Palin. It's the big money, special interest lobbies that run this country that are the problems. Just like health care reform. We didn't really get anything done (contrary to what Rush Limbaugh might want you to believe) because Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Kaiser, who have big ass, shining skyscraper offices in DC, gave tons of money to all the candidates to make sure that they protected their bottom lines.

Even my beloved car companies squash public transit bills and fuel economy standards because it affects their profits.

When you're picking a candidate this fall, don't look at the Ds and the Rs. Don't say "Fuck you, old guy, I'm voting for this random person no one's ever heard of!" Don't pay attention to the ads you see on TV. Instead, I want you to actually do your homework and see where the money is coming from. For example, 91% of all the money given to the Tea Party is from a handful of billionaires. Who's in the pocket of big oil? Who's in the pocket of the health insurance companies? Even who's in the pocket of the UAW and the car companies?

Try to find the guy who is truly for you and me. It will be hard and it will require some work and reseach. It's a lot harder than voting for whomever is blowing up Glen Beck's skirt this week. Or even Rachel Maddow's. Turn off the TV and look on non-partisan watchdog groups' websites. Find out where the money is coming from. Find out who is truly and honestly most aligned with your values and who will truly and honestly go to Washington to represent you.

It takes a lot of money to get elected, and everyone takes money from someone. But I'd feel better about someone who took money from a teacher's union than someone who took money from SarahPAC. And, look at the amounts, too. For example, Blue Cross gives just about everyone 500 bucks. It's when they give your guy 5000 bucks or 50,000 or start running ads for him that you need to start to worry.

Get involved in the process. Regardless of who wins, let your elected officials know how you feel on issues. Visit their local offices or stop by if you happen to be in DC. Call them and talk to his aides. If you support him, attend a fundraiser and get to know him better. I can guarantee if you put a little effort into it, it will pay off in the long run.

We need to stop letting government happen to us. We need to stand up to the people who don't care about anything but making money.

After all, as one of my great heroes, Tip O'Neill, said: All politics is local.

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