It’s an election year, which means once again, god help us, our elected representatives will pay attention to us for a few months. I’ve already begun to receive chatty newsletters, advertisements, and questionnaires from local, state, and national politicians, and even a school board candidate from a different district. None of this mail impresses me very much, the questionnaires least of all. Has anyone else noticed that these “polls” seem carefully constructed to yield answers fitting the politicians’ preconceived agendas? I don’t believe I’m expressing only my own experience when I say it seems the questionnaires consistently leave off sensible and democratic alternatives in exchange for those serving corporate America.
This limiting of discourse, this pseudodebate, is of course familiar to anyone who has read 1984, and is a primary way our particular pseudodemocracy–where we regularly “choose” between two candidates, both of whom represent big business–perpetuates itself. In the interest of expanding the debate I’ve created a poll that doesn’t ignore those issues that many students, independent farmers and loggers, environmentalists, and others I know hold dear to our hearts. If citizens regularly received questionnaires such as this from our so-called representatives, I believe political apathy and cynicism would diminish instantly.
1) What’s the most important problem currently facing this country? Rank according to importance:
2. Violent juvenile crime is becoming a serious problem in this country. Would you support legislation exploring:
3. Sixty-two percent of America’s transnational corporations pay no U.S. income tax. The combined sales of these corporations total $1.5 trillion; at a tax rate of 33 percent, revenues would amount to $500 billion, significantly more than the current deficit. Simultaneously, taxes place an undue burden on many people. Should we:
4. This nation’s welfare programs have clear problems, including the creation of dependency and a cult of helplessness, massive expenditure of tight tax moneys, and contributions to economic crisis. What should we do about this nation’s admittedly excessive welfare programs?
5. Industrial Civilization is causing the greatest mass extinction in the history of the planet, changing the climate, and depleting the ozone layer. The forests of this continent have been killed and the landbases of our communities depleted. Recently, huge corporations have attempted to implement “takings” bills in several states, under which citizen taxpayers would be forced to pay these corporations not to further degrade their landbases. Webster’s dictionary defines extortion as the “practice of wresting money, etc, from a person by force, threats, misuse of authority, or by any undue exercise of power.” Citizens consistenly oppose these bills, as in Washington state where they voted down “Referendum 48.” Now, ignoring the interests and will of those they purport to represent, state legislators are attempting to enact similar legislation. What should be done?
6. Politicians are commonly seen as puppets of big business, and the level of cooperation between government and big business makes a mockery of democracy. Answer yes or no to each:
It’s a sad commentary on our “democracy” that none of the alternatives presented here (except the last) will in all likelihood ever be mentioned in what passes for political discourse. If I received a questionnaire like this, I would vote for the sender in a heartbeat. My faith in democracy would be reawakened.
I’m not holding my breath. I doubt I’ll receive a questionnaire that manifests life-affirming, democratic views. The possibility does exist, though, and so every day until November I’ll anxiously go to my mailbox to see if politicians have decided to represent citizens instead of big business. But you can bet that as I take the long walk to the mailbox, in my pocket and in my heart I’ll carry the words of Emma Goldman, the Wobblies, Malcolm X, and the Zapatistas.
Originally published in “The Pacific Northwest Inlander”Filed in Essays