- As a life-long Democrat, I should be excited as the 2008
race for President of the United States begins. I should be excited
to talk with friends and family about how the Democrats are poised to take
the White House back. I should be gleeful at how helpful it has been that
George Bush has made such a mess of things that any Republican candidate
is going to be painted with the same Iraq war brush. At this
point my only problem should be, who will I put my energy behind, Clinton,
Obama, Edwards, or Kucinich?
- But that is not happening. I am already working to elect
Republican Ron Paul for president in 2008. How on earth did an active Democrat
make a whip-lash, 180-degree turn to support a congressman from Texas,
who says he's a "Constitutionalist?"
- Let me explain. As with a lot of things political, it
starts right at home. I started noticing contradictions. I had held beliefs
that were increasingly contradicted by my own observations in my day-to-day
life. For instance, a few years ago, our daughter got into some trouble
with her credit cards. She was taking out student loans to pay for her
college education, and working in her spare time, but she succumbed to
the temptation to sign up for credit cards, to help make ends meet. Whenever
her card balances got too high, there was another credit card offer telling
her that she could transfer her balances and pay no interest for a year,
or other "too good to pass up" offers. She graduated from college,
visited Europe and came home to find a job. However, jobs in
her chosen city were hard to come by. The city, being a cool place to live,
was flooded with young middle-class college graduates. They all cycled
in and out of jobs at Starbucks, restaurants, temp agencies, tried their
hand at being nannies, and waiting for their break. She waited and waited.
Her credit card bills mounted with sizable penalties inflicted for late
payments, or over-limit fees. Finally she landed a job through a friend,
at a gourmet bakery and sandwich shop. The wage seemed to be not bad, the
food was very good. Now she could quit worrying, relax and pay down her
debts. Of course, to make this little sad story short, she became one of
the thousands and thousands of young people victimized by the predatory
practices of the credit card industry, and their own naiveté and
- As we sorted out the mess our daughter had gotten herself
into, I got educated on the credit card industry, and of course was shocked
that our Congress would allow an industry to run amok like that. I could
understand the Republicans voting to separate a kid from his money, but
why had the Democrats not stopped this? This was an utter contradiction.
I was at the time, a "naïve do-gooder," even a "proud
bleeding heart liberal." How could Democrats have let this credit
card situation get so flagrantly out of hand! Why hadn't they done one
of those filibuster things to stop this legislation, or introduced some
bill to make the credit card industry be a good citizen, like it used to
be, when I was a kid. I vaguely could remember an interview on NPR with
some legislator who had for years been trying to get legislation passed
to do just this, but no other congressmen and women would support
it, Democrat or Republican. Why hadn't I noticed back then? Why hadn't
I become outraged, politically active, started writing letters to my representatives?
I always wanted to be a person who wrote to their representatives, but
somehow, I never got around to it. Why was that?
- I think the answer was, over the years I had become a
lazy thinker. I gravitated to simple answers to complex questions en lieu
of paying close attention and doing my own thinking. Doing one's own thinking
takes a lot more concentration, and you might not like what you findlike
contradictions. By the time we had a child in college, I had come to believe
utterly that the Democrats were on regular people's side and "Did
Good," and the Republicans were mean-spirited and tight with their
precious money, and were off on the golf course loafing (that was before
golf became democratized), while their lawyers made them even more money.
To say that I had become "closed-minded" would be correct. Into
this rigid belief system marched the credit card industry debacle. The
first crack appeared in my granite wall of self-inflicted ignorance, the
first big contradiction.
- Later, more education was hand-delivered to me. This
time the same adult child, now completely grown and on her own, was having
much trouble making ends meet. We asked her the regular questions: are
you on drugs? Do you have a parasitic boyfriend? Have you adopted a dog?
The answers were all, "No." What is the problem then, the poor
girl is working three jobs ("Uniquely American isn't it?"-George
Bush, 2004). We naively thought two jobs would have definitely covered
her expensesbut three didn't? What was she doing wrong? I
ranted and railed against the "skin-flint landlords." How a crummy
room in a group-house could cost $350 a month! I seethed that every few
months her fifteen-year-old Honda needed a couple hundred dollars worth
of work just to get her to and from her three jobs. I sighed when she told
me she liked her bakery job because she can eat most of her meals there
for free. I cried when she said that she was getting her sinus infection
treated at the Free Clinic, because she had absolutely no money. The
Free Clinic! But that was forreal poor people, people who live in
their car, people with "issues" --not my beautiful, educated,
funny, smart daughter. How did this happen? How can a person juggle three
jobs, have no vices, and still come up short?
- My husband of course heard me ranting about how much
everything costs and how young people seem to be having it harder these
days, and me demanding, "Who is at fault? Why did the Democrats let
this happen, this is not 'Good!'" He quietly mentioned how the dollar
is really only worth about four cents now. Huh? He said, "The dollar
has lost 96% of its value since 1913, due to numerous nefarious schemes,
which almost no one is aware of, or understands." What? Are you sure?
He continued, "Once the Federal Reserve was created, a new unconstitutional
system was created, that allowed the government to spend money it does
not have, quite easily! What a wonder of modern society--no more of the
constraints that have bothered previous generations. However doing this
for almost a hundred years has caused a few problems: currently our government
is borrowing roughly two billion dollars a day from foreigners to fund
our spending spree." How did that happen? I asked, wailed, really.
So we borrow all this money--to fund a lifestyle, the wars and the military
presence in 130 countries--which is way beyond our actual means,
and our children and grandchildren will be paying for this, all
their lives. But here and now, one of the side-effects of this system is
that the buying power of a dollar has gone down and down, as they borrow
and print dollars. So now it takes our daughter $350 to rent the room in
the house that I would have paid about $40 for when I was her age. I said
to my husband, "It still isn't making sense, she earns three times
as much money as I did back then, it seems like her wages should be enough!"
He showed me a government website where you can plug in a wage and the
year, and the website will compute what your wage would be in another year.
He put in a wage he had in 1973, at $4.25. The website calculated that
in 2007 he would be earning $19.00 an hour after adjusting for inflation!
That solved the mystery of why our daughter is struggling, with her "decent
wage" of $10.00 per hour. Yet our government announces that, "Inflation
is at acceptable levels," regularly on the news.
- But again, how did this happen? Why didn't my righteous
Democrats fix this problem early on, before we got to this point of owing
9 trillion dollars, and counting? Wasn't this the Democrat's strongest
promise, that they would work for, and protect the "little guy?"
How do they explain this contradiction that they allow out-of-control spending
knowing full well that this is relegating our children and grandchildren
to utter servitude to our national debt? And if we owe monumental debt
to foreign governments, how can we retain our sovereignty as a separate
nation? It seems that both Republican and Democrat politicians are aware
of what they are doing, yet they both fib about it, obfuscate, and change
the subject. They remind us of our "great nation" and its riches,
which by now have been transformed into a military machine and a massive
pile of entitlements, for a whole generation of people who just simply
expect that their government will be taking care of themI know, I did.
But it is by borrowing, from one generation onto the backs of the next.
We are delusional!
- Now, our daughter is learning the hard facts of life,
about budgeting, going without, of pulling her own weight, paying off her
debts, living within her means. This is excellent! Soon she will be a fine
and trustworthy citizen. But our government does not have to live within its means?
Not even close? Something seems very wrong with this system. Both parties
perpetrate this scam. The whole debate about who is more able to lead this
country--Democrat or Republican-- seems to be a false dichotomy, a smoke
screen which hides the fact that there is very little difference between
the two parties now.
- This smoke screen disappeared once and for all one morning
recently, after seeing the Democrats go to a lot of trouble to demand that
Bush begin to get out of Iraq. Lots of news-time was devoted to the
fiery speeches, it almost looked like something was actually happening.
But their demand was non-bindingit was purely rhetorical. It was as if
they didn't really mean it. The contradiction became even clearer a few
weeks later when the Democratic presidential hopefuls lined up on a stage
and stated that they "would not take any means off the table"
to force Iran to stop supplying Iraqi insurgents. "Any means off the
table" is a code phrase for using nuclear weapon strikes. Nuclear
weapons! The leading Democratic candidates all said they would use nuclear
weapons against Iran! What has become of our beautiful, strong, confident
country, that we now threaten third-rate powers with nukes if they won't
do what we say? And why exactly are we in the Middle East, anyway?
I never got clear on that point.
- The day I woke up and saw my Democrats as war-mongers
and fools was the day the contradictions became too much. My protective
wall of intentional ignorance collapsed into rubble. It was depressing,
I felt like staying in bed all day-all week. But in a few days, the depression
turned to anger. I was angry! I felt tricked, hoodwinked! I had spent my
adult life voting for these people, repeating the stock phrases, and now
I find out the Democrats are indiscernible from the opposition! Maybe it
had always been that way. I began ranting again, this time not about our
daughter's situation but about politicshow both parties are alike, borrowing
money, enslaving our future grandchildren....which if my daughter ever
manages to quit working three jobs, she might get the time to find a guy
and fall in love, and have some!
- My husband heard my ranting again of course, and he said,
"Well, actually, there is one congressman who understands all this,
and he always votes against these shenanigans. His name is Ron Paul. He
is a 'constitutionalist.' That means he won't vote for anything unless
the Constitution allows it." I said, "Huh? Aren't all of our
representatives following the Constitution? I mean, don't they swear to
uphold and protect it or something? I thought it was the basis for all
our laws, how we do government" He looked at me like I had just fallen
off that old turnip truck.
- So, this Ron Paul does not vote for anything that the
Constitution does not allow. I had no idea what was actually in our Constitution,
so I went to buy a copy at my local used-book store. I found one, a book
dating from the Reagan administration, that looked like it had never even
been opened. I turned the pages, only 64 total, and skimmed over the words.
"So this is it," I said to myself. "This is what all the
fuss was about." A sensation of awe came over me. Wow, these guys
had some good ideas, this is powerful stuff. It looks so simplecute even
people might toss it off as a relic of the past. But look! Here are the
protections for every single one of us, that I had mistakenly projected
onto a mere political party. There's the right to free speech, the freedom
to assemble, the freedom to petition your government. There's the Writ
of Habeas Corpus, in Article 1, Section 9-- the right to not be jailed
without being charged. And look at the wisdom of keeping the presidency
weak. We could use some of that right about now! Look at how the three
branches of government were supposed to counter-balance each other--if
one gets too high-minded the other two can stop it. Look at the wisdom
of them making our nation a republic, not a direct democracy, thereby protecting
the weak from "the tyranny of the majority." How wise. How precious.
I remembered someone saying, "the envy of oppressed peoples around
- After reading the Constitution, I felt awake and energized.
I wasn't sure about what all of it meant, but I could see that it was a
clear and firm structure, a set of rules. We, as a people, were to use
these rules, and no other rules, unless by way of an amendment. In their
wisdom, they had even made a way to tweak the rules, if all the states
agreed to it. I said to myself, now this is something that is
worth my energy, not political parties that whip around in the winds of
the latest fashion so much you can't even tell them apart.
- Later, my husband said, "Did you know that Ron Paul
is running for president? He's a long shot, but at least you could feel
good about voting this time. I could show you some clips of his speeches
on You Tube." I began watching the short videos of Ron Paul, reading
articles about the Constitution, reading about monetary policies. At first
it was all a slurry of new ideas, new terms to learn, but slowly the ideas
started to settle down and take shape. I began to see that we can come
out of our deep sleep and begin to act like our political process has real
meaning. We can get our civil liberties back, it is not too late. We the
People will get back to following the Constitution of the United States
of America. We will get back to the Thomas Jefferson ideal that the United
States can have peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations,
and entangling alliances with none. We will regain hope for our United
- I believe these things, and I am working to make this
reality. I am working to elect Ron Paul as our next president, and if he
doesn't make it, I will work even harder to get the next Constitutionalist
elected. We will not go away again.
- Martha Newhouse, Democrat-Expatriate, lives and writes
in Washington State. She divides her time between gardening,
walking her dogs, and reading and writing.