“The political class would have you believe that it is all about ideology – left/right or liberal/conservative – but is it? What if I told you that the political class in both major political parties is only interested in reelection… in a quest for power and control.” – Terri McCormick
There is an ever-increasing divide forming between the American people and “the system” that governs them. It’s not drawn in Red vs Blue, neither liberal nor conservative. No matter what side of that “aisle” you place yourself on, the average American feels like something is fundamentally wrong with the way policy is being formed and implemented on both a national and a global scale. The once silent majority has become much more vocal, empowered by blogs, social media communities and instant messaging, rallying at tea parties and launching money bombs.
Terri McCormick writes What Sex is a Republican? from that perspective and opens with a warning, “Do not be bamboozled into thinking that there is any difference between the elites in one political party and the elites in the other, they are all a part of the same club.”
In her book, she explains what we can and must do to rescue our once-enviable democracy, starting with, “a return to open and honest debate… now possible due to the the technology of the Internet. Today… we have the ability to create the kind of community that our Founding Fathers envisioned – that is a fully engaged citizenry involved in educating itself on the issues, providing private opinion and acting on behalf of the greater good.”
The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll recently revealed that less than 10% of people surveyed have “a lot” of confidence in national banks, corporations, or the federal government.
“The real question,” she asks is, “When did we the people, as citizen leaders, take a backseat to war chests.” According to her research she traces this decline in populist control of elections to the 1960’s, “…when large amounts of monies poured into political campaigns to buy airtime and advertising messages.”
In her case, just following that money trail led her to an ongoing, head-to-head battle with the elite members of her own political party – from Madison all the way to the White House. First as a private citizen fighting for educational reforms and then as an elected official, serving in the WI State Assembly. For 6 years, Terri McCormick continuously matched wits and outmaneuvered many of her own Republican gatekeepers who tried to make her conform to their top-down management style.
She quotes one of her Neenah, Wisconsin constituents, Max Bowen who explains, “Since 2000 the GOP has been run like a street gang. All power is vested in the leaders, and others are to follow with unquestioning loyalty. Talking points are sent from above, and loyal followers are expected to stay on message. Dissent from the ranks is not tolerated.”
Terri McCormick blames elitism as one the fundamental reasons we are losing faith in our elected officials, “…the divide is not between left and right, but between the front row and the back row.”
In the Wisconsin Legislature and in her campaign bid for Congress in 2006, Terri McCormick found herself branded a maverick for not following that top-down model of acquiescence. Reading her book is like taking a long hot shower after more than a decade of being splattered with the dung of greedy pigs wallowing in the money-troughs of Wall Street’s swindlers, beneficent corporate lobbyists and wealthy campaign contributors.
“As you read this book,” Terri explains, “you will begin to understand that the politics of governance is not about political party and ideology as much as it is about obedience to the ‘front row’ – to those party bosses who pay for political elections… the party elites who hold the purse strings and command obedience – if you let them.”
Terri McCormick’s narrative is that of a conservative populist. She sprung from the grassroots rather than via the political machine, thus her loyalties remain first and foremost with her constituents. Sharing that top-rung in the order of importance is a belief and a track record of making ethical choices over adherence to dictates from Party bigwigs… perhaps the reason why many Republicans break rank and vote for Sen. Russ Feingold.
Populism should be a winning platform plank for members of either mainstream political party in any campaign, but populism doesn’t win party support, as fully evidenced by her last campaign for Wisconsin’s 8th CD in which she effectively ran as a Republican against George W. Bush. You may recall Terri McCormick was facing former Assembly Speaker John Gard in the 2006 Republican primary election when blessings were dispensed from the top down – before the voters ever had a chance to make their voices heard in the ballot box.
McCormick explains, ” …the White House’s spokesman cast me in a news article as an ‘irrelevant primary candidate.’ Despite my high polling numbers and popularity, the fact of the matter was that I was not a member of the political class. George W. Bush announced that he would be campaigning for my primary opponent – before the primary.”
Terri devotes only a portion of her book to her disillusioning experiences in the 2006 campaign because it is important to realize from where she springs. What happened to her was also foisted upon Republican primary candidates running in Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont. McCormick spends much more time explaining how she succeeded tactically as a political reformer:
- starting with the emerging charter school movement as a private citizen
- to overcome corporate manipulations in spearheading the defeat of lobbyists and big business seeking approval for the Crandon Mine Ammendment – a potentially devastating assault on the environment of northern Wisconsin.
- and as a legislator pushing for a bill that would save the State of Wisconsin millions of dollars each year in a Competitive Prescription Drugs Purchasing Pool
If and when we return to selecting our leaders and legislators following the McCormick model, as described in her book, we may begin to restore a government “by and for the people.” If you plan to campaign for any elected office, please read this book. Then, make a pledge to follow its principles, because Terri McfCormick lays out the guidelines for rekindling faith in our fundamental democracy based on one simple word… integrity.