A lot of folks believe that there's a secret brotherhood of powerful malefactors who rule the world. To them, George W. and all of his elected brethren are just puppets, useful idiots controlled and manipulated by the puppet masters.
And who are they, these nameless, faceless, immeasurably evil folks who shape our world? If you want to know, ask your friendly neighborhood crackpot. He'll be glad to tell you -- it's the Illuminati, or the Rothschilds, or the Freemasons, or the Council on Foreign Relations, or the Elders of Zion, or Hollywood, or the World Bank, or al Qaeda, or just "Them."
You know "Them." "They" want to: take away our guns, steal the presidential election, hand over our sovereignty to the World Court, avoid paying taxes, legalize drugs and pornography, etc., etc.
Yup, if there's something going on that we don't like, it's irresistibly tempting to blame it upon lawless conspirators. Remember Hillary's "vast right-wing conspiracy" that tried to knock off poor ol' Bill? And just a few days ago, I had the doubtful pleasure of reading Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent to his colleagues' decision striking down state anti-sodomy laws.
In case you hadn't noticed, Scalia chided his brethren for intervening in the "culture wars" noting that, thanks to the Supreme Court, laws forbidding masturbation might be overturned! Didn't know that there were any such laws, but I guess that many of us, unknowingly, were part of a vast onanist conspiracy.
So what's the point? Just this: if you see the world being driven and shaped by conspiracies large and small, you miss the main event.
Let's look at Denver, where Mayor-elect John Hickenlooper just named 73 volunteers to help him put together his new administration. And who are they? The Denver Post calls them "a cross section of Denver's corporate crowd, political establishment, and social elite."
Closer to home, look at the folks who serve on the Colorado Springs City Council, or upon the multiple boards and commissions that Council has created, such as the Planning Commission, the Park Board, the Memorial Hospital Board and the Liquor Board. Almost all of the people who volunteer their time for such positions can be described in one, or all, of the following ways:
They're over 40.
They're comfortably situated in the upper middle class.
They don't have to work.
They've got a dog in their particular fight.
And let's look at the next level, at the folks who contribute substantial dollars to local political campaigns. If you define "substantial" as $500 or above, you can repeat all of the above, and add another descriptor:
They're big players in a growth-related business.
This isn't exactly news. All over the country, in jurisdictions large and small, policy is increasingly shaped by the efforts of unpaid volunteers. Whether they give to political campaigns, or serve on the Library Board, or chair Rummy's Defense Policy Board, they're heard in ways that most of us are not.
And what's wrong with that? After all, if you care enough to get involved, shouldn't your voice be a little more effective than that of your neighbor sittin' on his porch with a six of PBR?
Well, no. Curiously, modern volunteerism, far from strengthening democracy, has become a mechanism for its suppression. Denver Mayor-elect Hickenlooper crowed about the composition of his advisory board: "... true diversity in every sense of the word." Every sense, that is, except the most important one: economic.
Race and/or ethnic origin has become our touchstone of diversity. In Colorado Springs, when the Council replaced Charles Wingate with Darryl Glenn, it traded one conservative African-American man for another. And, just as significantly, Council replaced a person who was struggling economically with a prosperous attorney.
This isn't a conspiracy; this is reality. As governments and elected officials try to save money, they rely increasingly upon volunteer inputs. It may be the planning commissioner who's a developer on the side, or the helpful lobbyist explaining bills to a rookie legislator, or Dick Cheney's ex-buddies at Halliburton offering to rebuild Iraq. And unless you have money, time and contacts, you won't be at the table.
We -- cops, teachers, electricians, plumbers, firefighters, secretaries, salespeople, or anyone who works for a paycheck -- aren't at the table. And we shouldn't be surprised when public policy, at every level, is skewed to benefit the comfortably well off.
We need an Andy Jackson for our time, someone who'll toss out the richies and open the doors of government to the rest of us. And how do we do that?
Start by withdrawing from the vast onanist conspiracy ...