Last week on the show we talked about what we think about when we think about political parties. Tonight, we take it a step further: Let's talk about how we would WANT the parties to be.
If we think ahead to, say 2020, what would things look like? What would we want them to look like? And what are the qualities of a political party that can really represent us rather than corporations and special interests?
Presented by Coffee Party USA, "The Middle Ground" covers a variety of topics with a transpartisan approach with an eye to finding the place where the two major political parties share that 'middle ground.' Co-hosted by award-winning filmmaker Eric Byler (center-left perspective) and political author Michael Charney (center-right perspective), the show airs every Tuesday 8 to 9:30 pm ET.
In our survey, we recently asked the question, “Should Coffee Party focus on Money-in-Politics?” For us, the askers, Money-in-Politics seems to be the root cause of most dysfunction in our system. Yes or No...and if no, what is the most important issue to you?
Well over 1200 people responded to our survey, and of those, almost 300 left thoughtful and insightful statements.
86% responded YES - Focus on Money-in-Politics.
14% responded NO.
23% left comments, many having responded YES.
While I want to say that issues like stagnant wages, the environment, education, privacy etc. are most important to me I grow increasingly worried that a handful of monied idealogues and the lobbyists for major corporations are gaining such control that our government can't do anything to make things better. ~ A.L.
Yes there are many worthy issues, but sometimes a 'single issue' group is most able to make change. In our current situation money = corruption and it is at every level and in every branch of our government. Until we solve that we won't be able to move forward on much else. ~ M.G.
A regular citizen can't possibly compete with financial power of a corporation and therefore shouldn't have to in order to make his or her voice heard. The interests of corporations and citizens are not the same and are often conflicting, unless money gets taken out of politics, the whole country is going to belong to corporations instead of to people. ~ A.S.
When I joined Coffee Party, it was not an issues based group. It existed to promote civil conversation in a nation where hostile speech was preventing functional political conversation at all levels of government and within communities. This should remain Coffee Party's focus. However, it is clear that money is compromising democratic government and is canceling the influence of civil, political speech. Efforts to reign in the influence of money should be a focus of Coffee Party's agenda, but in the context of preserving the speech of citizens. ~ D.M.
To me, the Coffee Party has a broader mandate than the issue of money in politics. The Coffee Party was formed as a rational alternative to [another group], and I have thought of it as primarily an advocate of sensible public policy that promotes the general welfare, in contradistinction to the hysteria, racism, sexism and homophobia that characterize the knee-jerk motivation of right-wing politics. It is true that the hysteria is whipped up by politicians in thrall to moneyed interests, and is used to further those interests, which may have nothing to do with racism, sexism and homophobia, and therefore limiting the sway of money in politics is a legitimate interest of the Coffee Party; but I would prefer to see the Coffee Party inject rationality into political discourse on a broad spectrum of issues, and particularly in small communities nationwide, rather than pursue the white whale of moneyed interests. ~ D.A.
Another source of data was comments on the JOIN THE COFFEE PARTY MOVEMENT Facebook page, and a few other pages that had the survey shared to page followers. Hundreds of comments were included in our review.
One insightful comment from the page: DC - I think this is one of the most critical threats to our system of democracy. We have allowed a few wealthy people to buy control of our government, and our freedoms, culture, and economy are in serious danger of being lost for good. Push this issue, and push it hard. Please.
We noticed a trend to see MONEY-IN-POLITICS (MIP) as something that would replace CIVILITY. To our thinking, MIP is a focus for action, while Civility defines how we do everything we do. The Board of Directors had a long discussion about this at last night’s meeting. I’ll share our thoughts during the show.
Stereotypes are tough to overcome, partly because they have a certain value. If we asked our poor brains to assess every detail of every situation before we ever came to a conclusion, the result would probably paralyze us—that is, if we’d even exist. You see, back in the early days we learned to stereotype, for example, predators vs. prey, and poisonous plants vs. luscious berries. This ability to form a conclusion based on limited data is, it turns out, is both hard-wired and quite useful.
Only not so much in politics. The stereotypes that we carry around with us about the “other” side can be strong, mean, and uncivil. In a recent survey we ran (unscientific, we admit), of 277 self-named Democrats, 47% used amazingly nasty language when describing Republicans, words like: bigot, racist, stupid, brain-dead, vile, selfish, mean, uneducated, and arrogant—to name just a few.
Tonight, on THE MIDDLE GROUND we’re going to talk about these stereotypes. Co-host Michael Charney thinks there are unwritten manifestos for both parties, and we’ll want to talk about that, too.
And, by the way… if you want to know what the Republicans said about the Democrats in this survey, you’ll have to tune in!
I don’t use the term “take my country back” anymore. When I said it, I meant “take back control for the people”, but current events shows me that it means “take the country back to the bad old days”. I do not agree!
In North Carolina, a group that claims to represent the moral majority has been fighting legislation aimed at creating barriers to voter participation, even though the data on voter fraud seems anecdotal and not based on official numbers.
Texas is the most recent case study in backwards movement in women’s health. The most outrageous example is the law that makes all facilities that provide abortion services have to meet the standards of an Ambulatory Surgical Center, so they are thrilled. This is not medically necessary. This is an expensive ploy. So, the Mexican abortion services providers are also thrilled. The law hangs a Scarlet A around the neck of all women.
NSA Surveillance is another area where we the people have lost control. Yesterday, the House voted 217 - 205 to continue bulk surveillance of all phone records, regardless. "The public was not just kept in the dark about the Patriot Act and other secret authorities," Senator Wyden of Oregon said. "The public was actively misled.
Are you ready to go back? Is there something you would LIKE to go back to? Are there other things that look like a giant step backwards, and not for the better? Share your thoughts with me and Debilyn Molineaux today:
Eric Byler remains in North Carolina and is trying to avoid arrest. Michael Charney raises pen to paper to try to understand why people try so hard not to understand. In the meantime the world spins and it seems that every story (with the possible exception of Kate’s blue-blooded baby) has real ramifications for real people.
There are so many stories that we’ve barely had a chance to think about (let alone talk about) that it feels like we need to just get our heads above water.
So tonight, on THE MIDDLE GROUND, that’s exactly what we plan to do: it’s the ANYTHING GOES THIS TUESDAY edition of the show, where we will talk about whatever you want to talk about. Texas politics got your goat? Let us know why. Wondering why John McCain suddenly seems rational? Ask the question. Curious as to how the Liz Cheney story has become so rabid so fast? Let’s chat.
Some might call it a free-for-all, but that’s okay (because it really is). So just call. For an hour we’ll talk about whatever you want. Hopefully we’ll catch up on a bunch of topics so that we can take a deep breath and start planning for next week!
Sincerely, Michael and Eric
Currently under water co-hosts of THE MIDDLE GROUND
Elizabeth Warren went on CNBC and was so knowledgeable that her interview went viral. She has one of the most impressive resumes in financial politics. She's a wonk. She knows her facts. And her hosts aren't used to having people like her challenging them.
Annabel Park and the Coffee Party first became a fans of Elizabeth Warren in 2011, when we created this Facebook page to demand her confirmation by the US Senate as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, of which she was the principle architect. When the banking industry and their vast campaign donation/bribes blocked her path, she found a way to have an even greater influence on the ability of the American people to achieve self-governance, even when it comes to our relationship to the banking sector.
Soon after we created the page, Blake Mitchell, a young, African American graphic artist from New Jersey, created the image below, depicting Warren as a Jedi Knight. When I watched the Senator completely dismantle the arguments of CNBC's banking lobbyists/television hosts, I was reminded of Obi-Wan Kenobi's admonition to Darth Vader: "You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
The CNBC video embedded at the top of this blog is set to begin about half way in. See the whole video here.
Posted by Eric Byler · July 16, 2013 7:10 PM
· 1 reaction
A jury has spoken, yes. But when it comes to the socio-historical impact of this case, it is insufficient to limit one's mental scope to this alone.
When a person with a firearm decides to detain you, it's more than an inconvenience — it takes up your time, it abuses your civil rights, AND, it puts you in jeopardy of something going terribly, terribly wrong. Those who delight in the fact that this happens frequently to people of color are clinging to a false sense of superiority that belongs to another century. If you love America, love its people, all of them. If you love America, love its ideals, including equal justice under law. Racial profiling denies our fellow Americans of equal justice under law.
However well the lawyers argued the case, however fairly the media dramatized and advertised it, we must come to terms with the simple fact that a child is dead because of how he was misperceived. Can the trial, and its verdict, help America learn to change our perceptions of African American men? Can it change what we see? For how many generations will African American families need to explain to their children what this man contemplates explaining to his nephew?
Our society was founded on these self-evident truths as much as any other. Words with much meaning. Recently we have seen actions by our government that challenge this constitutional model. Starting with the recent era of money-in-politics and corporate personhood, we have seen a long list of behaviors by our elected officials that certainly does not feel right. Recent legislative events in Texas and North Carolina shine a light on this disconnect as much as anything else going on.
Democrats and Republicans
Where does it say in the Constitution that we must accept these two parties as our choices to govern? Where does it say in our election laws that these two parties get to decide who is allowed to be part of the debate process during the election? Where in the Constitution does it say that private corporations get to decide who participates in the election debates? Nowhere. Could this be part of the problem behind the current uncomfortable relationship between citizen and elected?
I am proud to be working with Christina Tobin, tonight's guest. She is the Founder and Chair of the Free & Equal Elections Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, organization dedicated to creating open and transparent elections that give power back to the individual voter.
Christina and Free and Equal are continuing the work of breaking up the two party duopoly we are now living with. The United We Stand Fest on October 12 in Los Angeles will kick off the Free and Equal campaign for change.
Tobin started her career as a non-partisan ballot access coordinator. An expert in defending signatures and coordinating petition drives, Tobin helped gather and defend over 1 million signatures for the Green Party, Constitution Party, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Libertarian Party, Socialist Equality Party and independents.
In 2008, Tobin served as Ralph Nader’s national ballot access coordinator helping to collect more than 500,000 signatures to put Ralph Nader on the District of Columbia and 45 state ballots, more than any other third party or independent candidate.
Tobin’s recent activities have emphasized electoral reform and bringing visibility to alternative candidates. In 2008, she organized debates for the presidential and vice presidential candidates, and in 2010; Tobin organized a series of debates for the Illinois gubernatorial candidates. Tobin also ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for California Secretary of State in 2010. Most recently, Tobin co-moderated the 2012 Presidential debate with media personality Larry King on October 23. The debate provided a venue for four U.S. presidential candidates from the Constitution, Green, Justice, and Libertarian parties to address topics that the mainstream debates censored, drawing worldwide attention to our two-party-dominated electoral system.
Where the heck is main stream media? There are huge demonstrations in Texas and North Carolina, but listening to NPR this morning, there was NOTHING mentioned about the pending legislation in Texas and North Carolina, as our rights are being skillfully dismantled by new legislators that have been sponsored by wealthy special interests with specific agendas. You may be asking, what are you talking about?
In North Carolina, where the GOP won a super majority and the governorship in 2012: “In the last year, Republicans have eliminated the “racial justice” appeal to the death penalty, cut unemployment benefits, opted out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, repealed the state’s earned income tax credit and put a same-sex marriage ban on the state ballot. Just last week, abortion restrictions were added to the litany, when the Senate unexpectedly passed new rules for abortion clinics. The GOP also has pushed to expand charter schools and taken steps to allow hydraulic fracturing.” Source
In Texas, a courageous filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis, will be for naught this week. Davis has admitted that the anti-abortion bill, reintroduced in another special session called by Governor Rick Perry, will likely pass and become law. This will force the closure of most women’s clinics, leaving 5 locations where abortions may be performed in the entire state. This is NOT in the interests of women’s health. It IS in the interests of both parties building their war chests and ground games for the 2014 and 2016 elections. Regardless of your position on abortion, the process of how this legislation has come to be must be examined.
Make no mistake: Coffee Party is speaking to the political process we are witnessing, and the root causes of this drastic, regressive legislation. We are a stand for civil liberties and for transparent due process. But what we are seeing these days is what Jeanene calls “smarty pants political gaming” where the elected become marionettes and big campaign donors have become the puppeteers, emboldened by gerrymandering and control of the media.
This country is submerged in legislation that does not reflect the will of the people. We always follow the money, and in this case it tracks back to crony capitalism and the eventual privatization of women’s reproductive care, going the way of education, military and prisons. Our elected have become cash puppets, and we need to save them: #FreeTheElected.
Coffee Party has member boots on the ground in Austin and Raleigh, documenting the citizen response to the surge of bills aimed at dismantling and privatizing government services in those states and across America. Eric Byler and Egberto Willies will share their experience with you.
Also joining us is Linda Young, President of National Women’s Political Caucus, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice women. Linda is based in Austin, TX, at the center of the Texas melee.
Tonight, the Middle Ground welcomes back co-host Michael Charney for a discussion on Democracy Inaction—and, no, that’s not a typo…
Both Michael and Eric have been wondering lately about what’s happened to our democracy. It seems that some wish to use it as bludgeon in order to force their beliefs on others. In North Carolina, for example, the state legislature has taken a stance that can only be thought of as oppressive. Meanwhile, across the globe, Americans respond with fitful stares as democracy suffers birth pains and false starts in places long unused to voting booths and freedoms. Those responses aren’t always without agenda, either, as too many choose to redefine democracy to mean just what they want it to mean…
Michael’s written on the topic here and, as you can see, is both puzzled and anguished at what he sees.
Tonight, on the Middle Ground, we invite you to Call In and tell us what you think. Is Democracy working? If so, where? And does it even mean what we want it to mean anymore?
Join co-hosts Eric Byler and Michael Charney for an hour of civil conversation on the topic: How do we go from Democracy Inaction to Democracy, In Action?