I’ve had some time to ponder this question since the landslide win last week, and I have some serious suggestions, and the reasons for each.
Fix the economic ship, but do so for the average American, and in an intelligent way, that will have long-lasting effect, not just a quick fix. . Sure we need to bail out the economy on some level, but we have to do so in a way that will allow people to keep their homes, and that will create and keep jobs. Bail out the auto industry, but create conditions, and make them use the money to retool their plants to make vehicles people want to buy. You could even take the money we now use to subsidize the oil companies to accomplish that. Earmark billions for public works projects all over the country; it will create jobs, and repair an infrastructure that has been falling apart for decades. You can take money from the defense budget that is now being used for weapons systems we don't need and will never use.
Fix the electoral system. By most reasonable "conservative" estimates, at least 6 million votes were lost this election, and it's a dead cinch that most of those lost votes were Democrats. Does anyone really think that, in a year when the Republican Party was in complete disarray, in which everyone pretty much blamed them for ruining the country, in which the standard bearer for their party has a 75% disapproval rating, the lamest Republican candidate in a generation actually received 46% of the vote?
In a democratic system, the vote is the key to absolutely everything, and it should be absolutely impossible to deny anyone their vote, without due process, at the very least. Yet, we hear story after story of state officials (usually Republican) "purging" voter rolls of people with odd names or who live in "certain parts of town," participating in illegal caging exercises, etc., in addition to the constant fiascos involving voting machines.
Some states forbid the vote to convicted felons. Some also have strict rules with regard to registration. Fine. But just as you can't convict that felon without advising him of the charges and putting him on trial, because to do so would be a denial of his rights, neither should you be able to simply and effectively take away someone's right to vote, without advising them of that, and offering them a process by which to fight it. Under the Constitution, it's not a citizen's duty to prove that he's eligible to vote; it's the state's duty to prove they he isn't.
Now, the federal government is limited with regard to voting; the process is a state issue. But as they did with the Voting Rights Act, the feds should be able to step in, and put forth some minimum standards for voting. First off, there should be no purging of any voter less than 90 days before an election, and never without the registrar or Secretary of State making a good faith effort to advise said voter of their pending removal, and giving them a reasonable time to respond. Second, the voting process should be more open; it should be impossible for the manufacturer of a voting machine to deny local officials access to software code, in order to certify each machine. If manufacturers don't want to reveal their code, they don't want to be providing public voting machines. Third, and most importantly, all elections must have a mechanism in place for a manual vote recount, should it become necessary. That probably means paper. There must be a verifiable paper trail for every vote.
Restore Habeas Corpus. In fact, since this could probably be done within an hour after the inaugural, Congress should prepare a bill to restore Habeas Corpus the first day they take office, and dare Bush to veto it a couple of times, before they hand it to Obama to actually sign.
This is a no-brainer, folks. This is the cornerstone upon which our entire justice system rests. Without habeas corpus, the government can come into your home without a warrant, take you or someone else in your home away, and place them in a jail cell forever, without due process. How does that sound? Doesn't that make us sound a lot like the old Soviet Union, where they grabbed people and put them in "mental hospitals," if they felt someone was a little too inconvenient to have around. Well, we're pretty close to that. With the Military Commissions Act of 2006, all someone in an Administration (including an Obama Administration, wingnuts!) has to do is label someone an "unlawful enemy combatant," and Habeas Corpus is hereby suspended for that person.
So, what's wrong with that, you ask, Wingnuts? Well, without Habeas Corpus, you have no standing to fight the label of "unlawful enemy combatant." In other words, if they label you that, you have no standing to prove that they're wrong. In fact, they don't even have to tell anyone they're holding you. They can go in, in the middle of the night, chloroform you, throw you in the back of a truck, and throw you in a prison of their choice, and no one in your family has to be told you're there? Are you comfortable with the "most liberal Senator in the world" and a "commie pinko" having that kind of power? Yeah, I didn't think so. Lucky for you, he seems to be the type who values the Constitution more than the Bushies.
The writ of Habeas Corpus is literally the one thing that keeps government tyranny at bay, and it doesn't even make sense why Republicans have been so eager to give it away. Therefore, the Democrats should pass a bill immediately, and Obama should figure out a way to incorporate it into his Inauguration speech. How about this:
"Before I begin, I want to sign this bill, restoring Habeas Corpus to our legal framework, and thus signal an end to the tyranny that marked the last eight years."
Works for me…
Just as important as this, is to restore us to the time when it was possible to keep us safe, without turning into a totalitarian state. The state of airline "security" is absurd; if anyone is ever found with a bomb up his ass, we're all in deep trouble. And what is this directive regarding the TSA being able to confiscate laptops and download the contents, and perhaps give it back later, when they're finished? What ever happened to "probable cause" and "due process."
And while I'm at it, may I recommend a swift change in government attitude, and may I recommend codifying it immediately? The time to find out if a policy is constitutional is BEFORE it becomes a policy. We've spent the last eight years being forced to live with rules and policies that everyone knew were wrong, but which had to be followed, until such time as a judge could rule they were wrong. I know such a thing probably won't happen under President Obama, but he won't be president forever.
Just as importantly, there has to be a full commitment to full civil rights for absolutely everyone. It doesn't matter if you "approve" of gay marriage; that is not the issue. The government cannot be allowed to give rights to some and deny them to others, based on arbitrary criteria, such as the sex of one of the participants. The decision regarding whether or not a woman should stay pregnant is between her and a doctor, and not subject to government fiat. It's not that hard; it's called the Fourteenth Amendment.
If we learned anything from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we should have learned that all of the neatest, coolest weapons systems in the world cannot protect you from the smallest bad elements in the world. Strutting around like we own the world is no way to make friends, and make no mistake; we have fewer friends than we once had. People want to love us, because our principles are the greatest in the world. But if even we don't live up to them, how long with they still respect us?
Either we have principles, or we don't. Either we believe in the basic concepts of our Constitution, or we don't. You can't say you believe in the concept of "innocent until proven guilty," and then deny folks a trial and torture them for information. You can't claim a belief in "freedom of religion, and then target people of several faiths, and spy on them to a greater degree than anyone else. You can't claim to believe in the right to personal freedom, and then deny folks their rights, based on a suspicion, or just because you want to. You cannot believe in personal freedom, but then put people in a prison cell, simply because someone in power has labeled them a certain way.
We need an absolute commitment to human rights for everyone. Period.
In addition, we should also make a full-fledged commitment to solar and wind power, as well as geothermal and tidal power. The government has to make a financial commitment to these, even if it makes it more difficult to balance the federal budget for an extra decade or so. Look; in the last eight years, we've added $5 trillion to the debt, with nothing to show for it; it we have to spend another trillion or so to jump-start, or even create, industries we will need going forward, that sure as hell has to be worth more than borrowing money to toss down the black hole that is the Iraq occupation.
The money should go toward propping up alternative energy, but also the development of technologies that do more with less power. No matter how much oil we manage to replace with electricity, we still have to learn to use less. The population will continue growing, vehicles will continue to proliferate, and we will continue to need more energy, unless we figure out a way to conserve, and learn to go 100 miles, using less energy than we now use to go 25 miles. We have to figure out a way to use fewer kilowatt hours in each home, and we have to shift the system, so as to generate more power, on a much more local level. There is no choice; it has to be done.
Uncover all of the secrets of the last administration. Yeah, I do long for a day when Bush and Cheney are put into chains and frog-marched into the Hague to stand trial for war crimes, but let's be real; such a thing is just plain fantasy, kind of like seeing one of the stars of Leave It To Beaver getting a piece in the Louvre, you know?
But this suggestion is not about that. I don't imagine President Obama is interested in exacting political revenge on his predecessors. Okay, he might, but he would keep it to himself, in any case. No, what I'm interested in, is finding out what they actually did during the last eight years, and crafting laws and rules that would prevent such a thing from happening again. If our government is to work for us, there has to be transparency on all but "national security," and that term should have a very narrow meaning, and even that should not be without oversight.
It's time we made clear that our government works for us, not the other way around. And that it works for all of us, and not just the few people capable of giving them a good bribe.
But someone needs to explain to me how lobbying became such a system of bribery over the years. One of the most amazing things to me has to be Ethics Rules, which limit the value of gifts to lawmakers. Limit GIFTS? Why should a lawmaker EVER get a gift from a lobbyist? I understand that a casino owner might want to bring a few lawmakers out to his casino to discuss an issue, but why should the lawmaker receive anything but an airline ticket, room and perhaps a small per diem for meals? And why would these things be given to a lawmaker, without a record being made of exactly what was received, and without an authoritative body approving the entire junket? And shouldn't that body also look at what the casino owner is lobbying for, and determine in advance whether a trip is even necessary? Video and photo technology is awfully good these days, and if it's possible for company executives to all teleconference from various continents at the same time, perhaps it's time we stopped allowing junkets and started sending video crews, at the lobbyists' expense?
In other words, it's time for severe lobbying reform
If you want to know what the bulk of our judicial system believes, go check out The Federalist Society, a group of right wing extremist lawyers, who have been running the nomination process since Reagan, and who have been trying to use the courts to reverse every bit of progress this country has made in the last century or so.
So now, it's our turn. Democrats should table all of Bush's nominees immediately, and approve a whole bunch of moderates, who believe in the constitution as written, in the letter of the law, and especially, in the concept of stare decisis, which means "let the decision stand." Basically, it means, if there is no compelling reason to overturn a previous decision, you don't.
Here's a little secret you should know about; you know how the far right are always talking about "judicial activism" and deriding it as a bad thing? Well, to my knowledge, they're the only ones who practice it. It's time to being balance to the court system.
Well, that's a small sampling of the first things President Obama needs to address when he takes office. Like I said, they are in no particular order, because they're all important., Which is most important depends on your point of view, I guess. And there are probably many I forgot, so feel free to comment, and remind me of some I may have left out.
I'm very excited; we again have adults running the show. Good for America.