Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Which I Finally Meet My First Reviewer, David Swanson!

Last night, I attended a local event for David Swanson, who is currently touring with his new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, sponsored by Winograd for Congress 2010, Progressive Democrats of America, Code Pink, Westside Progressives & Ilene Proctor's Great Mind Series. Lila Garrett from KPFK's "Connect the Dots" and Marcy Winograd moderated, and it was a very illuminating and interesting evening. Swanson is one of the most informed, informative, thoughtful and active progressives I know, and his book reflects his years of work both inside and outside the Beltway, giving him a unique and valuable perspective.

His talk, while it touched on the major themes of his book, was not really about the book itself, but about what the book was written to address: namely, the necessity of finding a way to make the voice of the people more powerful through a re-examination and reorganization of our current broken system of government representation. The supposed 'three branches of government' which are meant to be a system of checks and balances, where each branch is held in check by the other two and no one branch is more powerful than the others, are badly askew. The executive branch, which was intended not to make law, but to execute law made by Congress, has morphed into a law unto itself, having taken for itself the right to write law through 'signing statements' changing laws written by Congress, or by simply making up its own laws by issuing 'executive orders'. We saw this happen most egregiously under the Bush Administration, but the larger problem that many of us saw coming has come to pass also - that this 'unitary executive' power would extend to subsequent Presidents, who would have no incentive to let go of that power. We are already seeing evidence of this in the Obama Administration.

Along with the enhanced power of the executive, we also have a Congress which is unable to really represent the people, due to the way that the House and the Senate are currently set up. The allotment of members of the House of Representatives for each state has not been changed in many years, even though the population of these states has ballooned far beyond any one House member's ability to truly represent the people of their district. For example, CA-36 currently has about 700,000 constituents with one person to represent them. It is unrealistic, given the increase in population from when the districts were drawn up and Representatives allotted, to expect one Congressperson to be able to properly advocate for that many citizens. Swanson suggests increasing the House and doing away with the Senate altogether, and perhaps having a large citizen-based advocacy group in each state. I don't know enough about the mechanics of that to argue for or against that idea, but Swanson, with his hands-on experience and knowledge of the inner workings of our government, has taken on the big solutions, and I applaud him for that.

It was a remarkable evening, and I was so glad to get to meet David Swanson in person at last, as well as seeing Marcy Winograd - who is forging ahead with a strong progressive campaign to unseat Jane Harman in 2010 - my hero Vincent Bugliosi, and my friend Bree Walker, who will soon be back on the airwaves with her powerful progressive voice.

"We the People" need to speak out more than ever. Our work is only starting, and David Swanson made the point that I have been talking about for a while now - that we may not see the change we want in our own lifetimes, but most important social change is like that. The abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights movement, womens' suffrage, workers' rights and the union movement, and American independence itself, came about through several generations of work with no guarantee of success, and we must work as hard as that for our progressive values.


PhysioProf said...

Cool-ass hat, Alicia!

Alicia Morgan said...

Thank you, Professor - you have superb taste. You are looking at the Mighty Hat of Love™, which my husband bought for me many years ago.