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Democracy perverted, again

Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, who cast the “mistaken” deciding vote to legalize fracking in North Carolina

For months, tens of thousands of grassroots voters in North Carolina have been working to convince the legislature and the governor that fracking is a bad idea. We apparently succeeded. And yet we woke up this morning to find that fracking is now legal in North Carolina. How did this happen?

Well, they say that Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, hit the wrong button when she voted. They wouldn’t let her change her vote (though you can be sure they’d have let her change her vote if the “accident” had happened the other way around). Carney says she feels just terrible about it. Sure she does.

All over the country, state legislatures have been passing laws to prevent election fraud, even though election fraud by ordinary voters is very rare. Now we have a vote by those who make the laws that stinks to high heaven. If you believe this was an unfortunate mistake, then I’ve got a government in Raleigh I want to sell you. They will get away with this. They’ll say, too bad. Get over it. Move on.

Well, we won’t get over it, and we won’t move on.

I have been active in the county and state campaigns opposed to fracking in North Carolina. I have learned a lot. As a progressive, I’ve also seen how the people of this conservative county (65 percent Republican) have learned a lot. They’ve learned what progressives have been saying for years: that our politicians, our Congress, and our state legislatures have been taken over by corporate money and power — Democrats and Republicans alike. The word “oligarchy” is not just a rhetorical grenade. It’s a word that accurately describes American government at the national level and, increasingly, at the state level. More and more, the United States looks like Russia and corrupt countries in South America.

As a progressive, I’ve also learned how sensible conservatives can be, as long as they’re not just repeating what they’ve heard on the TV.

The conservative people of Stokes County have learned other things, too, that are not so bleak. They’ve learned that local government can still work, because the distance between politicians and the people is much shorter. We can actually pick up the phone and call our county commissioners, or our representative in the state legislature. This local process worked. Our state representative, Bryan Holloway, changed his mind and opposed fracking after he heard from the people. And our all-Republican board of commissioners unanimously passed a resolution opposing fracking after it heard from the people. Holloway’s vote alone would have kept fracking illegal in North Carolina, had there not been a “mistake” in our state House of Representatives. Had the “mistake” not happened in Raleigh, it could have been said that we in Stokes County, by raising our voices in good faith and changing the mind of our elected state House representative, turned the tide on fracking in North Carolina. That is the way the process is supposed to work. We followed the rules, expecting our elected representatives to also follow the rules.

But a law is now on the the books in North Carolina that the people clearly opposed and which our governor and legislature claim to oppose. WTF??

Sometimes it seems the only sensible response is despair and futile anger. How in the world can those of us who care, those of us who bother to be informed, stand up to the hordes who don’t care, to the lazy ignorati whose views are based on mass-media blather? How can we stand up to corrupt politicians, or to politicians like Becky Carney from the ugly, money-grubbing city of Charlotte who is either stupid enough to hit the wrong button or stupid enough to think we’ll believe it was a mistake.

In short, how can honest people who believe in the American system of government take back their own government?

One of my moments of greatest despair came when representatives of the Stokes County “Tea Party” joined the Facebook group set up by county people opposed to fracking. This Tea Party person posted a message in the No Fracking group inviting people to a meeting to talk about fracking at the same public library where the No Fracking people met. The “Tea Party” people, of course, believe the propaganda from the oil and gas industry. They think fracking is marvelous and squeaky clean. We raised no objection to their posting an invitation in the No Fracking group. We believe in free speech, and we believe — or do our best to believe — in the democratic process.

A couple of No Fracking people went to the Tea Party meeting. As expected, the Tea Party people knew nothing and simply recited gas-industry talking points. When the No Fracking people spoke up to challenge this misinformation, they were told that the meeting was a closed, private meeting. The Tea Partiers were so wrongheaded about the way American government works that they don’t understand that you can’t have closed, private meetings at the public library. They think government is their own private stick to use to beat down the people and views that they don’t like.

The people who think you can have closed, private meetings at the public library also got the fracking law they wanted — even though they had only a small following and they changed no minds.

And there you have it. There are people in this country who think that our supposedly democratic institutions are their private club. To disagree with them is tyranny. If the democratic process doesn’t give them what they want, they will simply take what they want. And why not? They always get away with it.

I don’t know what the hell we are going to do about it. But here’s a suggestion for getting started: Go to your local election board right now, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, and change your registration to no party. Let’s ignore the party machines that have betrayed the people and sold out — Democrats and Republicans equally — to big money. Let’s turn off our televisions, talk with our neighbors, think for ourselves, and remind them what democracy is all about.

After this post was written, we learned that Rep. Susi Hamilton, a Democrat from New Hanover County, sold her vote on fracking for a budget amendment that gives $60 million worth of tax breaks to her pet industry, the film industry in Wilmington. As always, corporations get the profits, taxpayers get the bills. In this case taxpayers even paid for a $60 million bribe.

One Comment

  1. comccoy wrote:

    Good idea on registering “No Party”. I think it is sad we have come to this. A primarily 2 party system was not a bad thing in the past but corporate America has deep pockets and has so obviously bought the entire political process that it is failing. Failing The People. Thanks for sharing David!

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

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