Politics and Prejudices: Farewell to a low, dishonest year 

Well, politically, this has been a fairly disastrous year in terms of democracy in Michigan. This may well be the worst and most undemocratic legislature we've ever had.

And that's saying something. In the final weeks of the session the Republican leadership rammed through bills designed to give their party even more of an unfair advantage in elections. It wasn't enough that they had already rigged and gerrymandered the system to give Republicans majorities even when far more people vote for Democrats.

Led by the two men who are the closest thing to fascists we have in elected office, they not only took away Michigan citizens' right to vote a straight-party ticket, they used a cheap and dirty trick — sticking a token appropriation into the bill to prevent us from having the right to hold a statewide vote to reclaim that right, as voters have twice before.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and his not-as-bright acolyte, Dave Robertson, rammed that through and then maliciously killed a bill to allow more voters access to absentee ballots. They don't want common people to vote, period.

They want long lines and too-few voting machines in inner city precincts. They want poor people to find it hard to vote at all and to forget to cast votes in many of the races.

That's who they are. Not satisfied with that, they passed another truly evil bill, which would make it illegal for governments to educate the public about ballot issues in the two months before the elections. We aren't talking about taking sides. We're talking about just the helpful information fliers that say "If you pass local Proposal 2, it will cost the average family $28 a year and will fix our local streets."

The way they did this was a prime example of the antidemocratic tactics today's GOP leadership use. They attached this to another bill at the last moment, and didn't even tell Democrats till moments before the vote.

That's what they call democracy in Lansing today. Republicans have large majorities and can pass pretty much whatever they wish, but apparently did this either because they didn't want any debate, or just because they enjoy showing total and utter contempt for democracy and the Democrats.

Democrats, meanwhile, whined a bit, but didn't have the guts to take this loudly to the people. Hell, they don't even have the guts to demand their own scumbag, state Sen. Virgil Smith, resign, even though he now always votes with the Republicans when they need him, while he awaits his trial for shooting up his ex-wife's car and other multiple felonies.

Well, the good news is the scorpions have now all gone home till next year, which of course is an election year. I am not an entomologist, and so can add little new about the fine specimens of Republican presidential candidates, who have gotten more than enough attention.

But then there is the much smaller Democratic field. Last week I watched the debate between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley. I tried to suspend all my preconceptions, and imagine how any intelligent, educated observer not committed to any candidate might see it.

There was one thing very inspiring about the event, as Elizabeth, my personal brain trust, put it: This was a mostly civilized debate about issues among adults.

That was quite a contrast between the Republicans, most of whom clearly should be either institutionalized or under a rigorous, court-monitored order to take their meds.

Their televised slugfests routinely feature blatant lies, bigotry and xenophobia, and crazy magical thinking.

The Democrats, on the other hand, were at least talking about things that are real. But here, in a nutshell, is each of their candidates' problems:

Hillary Clinton was by far the most slickly packaged. If Hollywood had been asked to send up someone to play the first woman president, they couldn't have done better. She was exquisitely, if professionally coiffured. Somehow, her face was softer and rounder, as was her outfit. She projected an air of confidence, experience and knowing — and made it perfectly clear that if she were elected, nothing whatsoever would change.

Especially not the massive shift in wealth from the poorest to the richest Americans, something under way since 1981. Challenged by her rivals, both of whom would break up the big banks, or try to, she refused to go along.

Clinton even said she had no problems being Wall Street's candidate. Yes, she did say she thought the rich should pay more, but she thinks that in the same way most of us think we should exercise and save more: Not. Really. Happening.

Bernie Sanders is right on virtually every issue. He, more than all the other candidates put together, knows what's wrong with our country and is willing to say and even do something about it. He even understands we can't be the world's policeman and successfully fight in every Muslim civil war, something which bafflingly seems to escape Clinton.

Trouble is, he came across for the entire debate as everyone's irritable and grumpy old Jewish granduncle.

The problem is not that he is pissed off — we all should be. But we expect our presidents to be our dream father figures too, and he'd be much better advised to be a happy warrior. Franklin D. Roosevelt, for example, could tell the capitalist pigs that he was going to sock it to them with a smile. Three days before he had to face the voters for re-election, he told America:

"We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred."

Political commentators gasped — and three days later, FDR won the biggest landslide in history.

Bernie Sanders is the only major candidate since FDR who one could imagine uttering those words and then doing his best to get it done — something that needs to happen, if this nation has any hope of not becoming a complete neo-fascist oligarchy, which is the direction we're clearly headed.

Unfortunately, throughout the entire last debate, Bernie looked more likely to tell America "Get off my goddamn lawn."

Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland, is not, despite rumors and his ears and hair style, one-fourth Vulcan. He's far better on economic issues than Clinton. His most notable moment in this campaign came last spring when he said that the head of Goldman Sachs "let his employees know he'd just be fine with either Bush or Clinton."

O'Malley indicated he was running for all those who weren't content with a candidate picked by one of the major giants of Wall Street. Interestingly, Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs, may never have really said that, though there's lots of evidence he is, in fact, a Clinton supporter.

The former governor is smart, savvy, has perhaps the most charisma, and at not quite 53, is the only Democratic candidate not apt to need a walker by the end of a second term.

Unfortunately, nobody knows who he is, the money is going to the other two, and O'Malley is stuck at around 3 percent in the polls. What is clear is that any of these candidates in a coma would be preferable to Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.

But common sense is not a very common thing. Happy New Year, y'all. And I suggest you run a little scared.

More by Jack Lessenberry

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