Episode 15

Rebecca Organizes the American Resolutionary Party

 During the 2016 presidential campaign, Rebecca is interviewed frequently. A typical interview goes like this.

    “What would you do about illegal immigration?”

   “I’d gather the leading employers of immigrants, the leaders of immigrant organizations, the leaders of anti-immigration organizations, immigration officials, border vigilante groups, representatives of governments of Mexico and other countries in Central and South America, and anyone else who wants to join the discussion, including immigrants and individuals who don’t want immigrants coming in. We would announce the beginning of a process to faciliate a joint decision about how to solve this problem. I would assign several first-rate mediators to handle this case, and they would begin interviewing the stakeholders and working to come up with a solution everyone can live with.”

    “What if you can’t come to agreement?”

   “That will only happen if someone is actively obstructing an agreement. If that happens, the whole country will know because the entire process will be televised, or at least will be available on our website. Everyone will see who is saying what, which means that everyone will know who is sincerely engaged and who is not. The public pressure will keep everyone on their best behavior. Besides, in my experience, the vast majority of people actually do want to solve problems. When they believe that all the stakeholders are engaged and trying, they become remarkably constructive. I really don’t think immigration will be all that difficult.”

   “What do you think will be the most difficult?”

   “The treatment of migrant labor will be much more difficult than immigration itself. This will tie in to policies related to GMO crops and the price of food, especially important to the big chains like McDonalds and Wendy’s. And, of course, the military budget, carbon policy, tax policy, and foreign policy. These will all be difficult because they involve money, lots of money now controlled by stakeholders at the top of the economic hierarchy. Those with the most to lose will fight hardest to maintain the status quo.”

   “So you will be trying to reduce the military budget, establish a carbon tax, and get more money for migrant labor?”

   “Neither I nor anyone in my party will be seeking any outcome other than an agreement that satisfies all the stakeholders. You asked for a prediction, and based on my experience in Anytown, I can say with certainty that stakeholders previously locked out of the decision making process will come into intense conflict with those who have been dominating the process and profiting as a result. Our process treats all stakeholders equally, so the direction of change is somewhat predictable. Still, the outcome is not my business. My business is how we get there.”

   “But what if the military, for example, refuses to participate in the process?”

   “It won’t be the military. They have taken vows to serve and obey. As president, I will be their commander-in-chief. They will do what I tell them to do, unless they are ready for a coup d’état. The real problems will be the super-rich oligarchs, the CIA and the CEOs of companies that make their money from defense contracts. The power elite will be extremely reluctant to share power with other stakeholders. In addition, we have communities all over the country that depend on defense contracts. If, for the sake of argument, the decision is made to reduce the military budget, the dependent communities will need to see an alternative way of making a living, which could be fairly difficult to provide in the short term. The US economy is so dependent on military spending that the transition to other sources of income will be one of the most difficult problems we face. Another will be fossil fuels, of course.

   So let’s say we run into serious obstruction. If I’m president, and especially if the Congress is dominated by the ARP, we will use the power of government to ensure good-faith participation in the decision-making process. I could, for example, get the Justice Department to begin an investigation. I could also suggest that the IRS take a close look at certain parties. Ultimately, we can shut the government down. We can make it clear that no one will get any money at all unless and until agreement is reached on the budget.”

   “You would really shut down the government?”

“Sure, if that’s the only way to get everyone to the table and negotiating in good faith. And we’ll televise the proceedings, so the public will know exactly what the issues are and who is demanding what. I found in Anytown that when people understand that they actually do have to cooperate to avoid complete chaos and bad publicity, they tend to become quite creative.”

“So let’s say you start a process to address the issues related to migrant labor. The migrants say they’re paid too little, that they’re sexually harassed and abused, that the company steals their wages and keeps some of them in virtual slavery. On the other hand, many of them are in the country illegally, so they have no recourse to the law. And the employers say they’re paying a fair wage already, that there may be a few bad apples, but most companies are fair, and migrant laborers are happy to have jobs, which is why they come into the US to work. Where would you start with this mess?” 

“I can fairly easily find out who the main employers are. I can also find out who the migrant leaders are. So let’s start there. Now, let’s say the issue of wage theft arises. The migrant leaders say that such and such a company or supervisor is stealing wages. The company denies it. At that point, our priority becomes discovering the truth. So we appoint a team of investigators to do interviews, to look at pay stubs, to look at bank records, and do whatever needs to be done to find the truth. In addition, the investigation itself is on television or available online. 

   This real-time transparency is important because the public is not dumb. If they have the chance to see the housing provided, the looks on people’s faces as they present their case, the actual bank records of workers and employers, or a comparison of what the employer tells the workers versus what the employer tells the buyers regarding quantity, eventually, the truth will come out. This process will be extremely difficult, time-consuming, and painful at first, but gradually, as all the stakeholders come to understand that honesty is the best policy, the process becomes easier and, best of all, life actually gets better for everyone involved, including the people who feel at first like they’re losing something. In Anytown, we’ve learned that collective health, happiness and honesty makes life less stressful, more comfortable and more enjoyable for everyone, from top to bottom. When people see each other as collaborators rather than enemies, even their conflicts become more civilized and easier to resolve. I’m sure we can learn this at the national level as well.”

“Just to be the Devil’s advocate, you and I both know that people, including politicians, corporate executives, and workers, will lie, cheat, steal and kill to protect themselves and what they perceive to be their interests. What makes you think the powers that be will allow you to come in and change the game so radically?” 

“You’re raising a very real, crucial problem. I can answer in two ways. First, the need to radically change the game is precisely why I’m running for president. We’ll need the power of the government to make this change. We’ll need the Justice Department, the police, and maybe even the military to get us from where we are today to where we need to go. It won’t be easy. It’ll take some time. And, I might be killed along the way. That’s always a possibility. But if I get to be president, it’ll be because, and only because, the majority of the American people are ready for this change. 

  My second answer is that the change I’m talking about is not just a good idea. It’s necessary. If we continue with our adversarial approach to government and our competitive approach to life and community, we’re doomed. Seriously, we’ll destroy ourselves. The meaning of nuclear weapons is decision by dialogue. The meaning of environmental degradation is collective effort. You know what I’m saying, don’t you? Most people do. Most people get that we’re in a desperate situation. Mother Nature has a knife at our collective throat, and she’s saying, ‘Stop your fighting, people. Get together. Learn to cooperate. Learn to help each other. Learn to love, cause if you don’t, I am pulling the plug.’

 By running for president, I’m offering the human family its one and only way out of the hole we’ve dug and are still digging for ourselves. A vote for me is a vote for your children and grandchildren. A vote for me is a vote for survival. Yes, it’ll be hard for billionaires to give up some of their money. It’ll be hard for dictators to give up some of their power. But billionaires and dictators are human. They want to survive. They want their children and grandchildren to survive and be happy, most of them. All we really have to do is show them the path. Once they get on it, they’ll like it as much as the rest of us. They’ll join the ARP and be our biggest supporters. In the long run, they’ll benefit as much as anyone.”

“Thank you very much, Mayor Whyte. Good luck with your campaign, and I mean that.”

 Typically after interviews like this, the ARP phones and website are flooded with folks signing up. Membership is growing at an astonishing rate. Rebecca begins to think she might actually be able to win in 2020. But she doesn’t want to win alone.

 

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