The future of American democracy

I’m married to a pessimist.  He’s been reading Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and is convinced we are now well into the decline.  While I’m not quite so pessimistic, I admit I have my own moments of despair.  Sometimes it feels as though we have no control over the future.  Almost certainly, the Republican party has already caved in.  But events like the recent election in Alabama and the  generic polling that consistently shows a preference for electing Democrats to Congress this year give me a ray of hope.  If Virginia can almost completely flip the state legislature, why can’t we do the same for Congress?

I can think of at least three roadblocks:  Money (think the Koch’s), voter suppression (gerrymandered districts and new voter rules), and, last but not least, the age of the Democratic leadership.

A lot has been written about the first two roadblocks on my list but not so much about the third.  I love the members of the Vermont delegation but, let’s face it, the youngest is Representative Peter Welch who is exactly my age – 70.  I’m pretty sure that I am will vote for his reelection – and for Bernie’s – but there are a number of younger folks who will be ready to take their places next time around.  For right now, we need their seniority.

Moving from Vermont to national politics we have Nancy Pelosi (77) and Chuck Schumer (67).  If the Democrats retake the House, and even if they don’t, it is time for Nancy to retire gracefully.  She has served us well as both majority and minority leader, but it is time for the next generation.

Howard Dean, another Vermont politician I supported for President, is one of the few of my generation speaking out about this.  In a recent NPR interview with Rachel Martin, Dean said

The most important age group for us is people under 35. They elected Barack Obama in 2008. But now it’s time to let them take over. And they’re going to have to take over on their own terms. We have tons of talent in our party. We do not need to rely on my generation anymore. And these kids think differently. They’re more respectful of each other. They’re willing to listen to each other’s ideas and work things out. They’re entrepreneurial. They’re more conservative than we are economically than the left wing of the Democratic Party. They’re mostly libertarian.

I just think this is the future of America. They are diverse. They value immigration. They value different kinds of people. They believe that gay rights is the civil rights issue of their time. They care deeply about the environment. We need a real change in this country and the only way to do it is for us to get out.

Dean goes on to say that the party has to change because the world is changing and is no longer so dependent on institutions.  There are all sorts of interesting people running for Congress this year filed as Democrats.  I believe I read that most of the House seats in red districts have a Democratic challenger.  At this point, I think the most important role the Democratic Party as an institution can play is to help raise money as the elections will be won by grassroots workers who will not necessarily be Democrats.

So what about 2020.  The word here is that Bernie is gearing up for another run.  Yes, I know that Bernie’s base was young people in 2016, but by 2020 he and they will be four years older.  And even though there is likely nothing there, the Jane Sanders financial stuff is going to haunt any campaign.

My pessimistic husband sees no one who can run, but remember in 2007 no one thought that Barak Obama known only to Democratic activists for his speech at the 2004 Convention, could run, much less win. So let’s look at some new faces:  Seth Moulton (age 40, ex-Marine Congressman from Massachusetts); Cory Booker (Senator from New Jersey, age 49); Kamala Harris (Senator from California, age 55); Kirsten Gillibrand (Senator from New York, age 55); Amy Klobuchar (Senator from Minnesota, age 58); and Chris Murphy (Senator from Connecticut, age 45).  Look them up.  And I’m sure that there are some Mayors out there who would be interesting candidates.

I still think our democracy can be saved, but we each have to play the proper role and for Democrats of my generation, that means following Howard Dean’s example and moving ourselves to a supporting role.


The joys of aging

Having been retired now for almost 18 months, I can say  after the getting through adjustments of the first few months – getting into a new routine, figuring out which of the many projects I had always said I would do when I retired, and adjusting to living with another retired person – that retirement has been a joy.  As people before me have said, “I wonder how I ever had time to work.”  But the last few months have reminded me that getting older is not all fun.

This is my first post since mid-November when I was diagnosed with tendonitis in one of my wrists.  I pretty much stayed away from the computer for a couple of weeks and have cautiously approached email.  I am trying very hard to limit my time at the keyboard to 15-20 minute stretches which means I haven’t really been on Facebook or Twitter both of which can be super addictive and could lead me to pass my time limit without knowing it.

And now I have another challenge.  Cataract surgery.  I think cataracts may be genetic on my mother’s side of the family, at least the relatively early need for surgery  has been the rule for my mother, my sister (who is 5 years younger) and me.  I’ve known the day would come sooner rather than later for several years as my doctor and I waited until they got bad enough to warrant surgery.  So a week ago, I had the operation on my right eye.  Very little pain, just a little discomfort.   Which brings us to the challenging phase.  That is what my sister labeled the period between the two surgeries.  Your old glasses don’t work too well because the prescription is very wrong for the implanted lens.  So your choices are to live with really blurry vision in that eye and mostly use the other eye and to periodically take off your glasses when you are looking far away (I had a distance lens implanted.) or, as my doctor suggested, take out the right lens.

I had an old pair of glasses with a prescription that wasn’t too bad for the left eye.  My husband took the right lens out after we went on the internet to learn how.  I did that for a couple of days, but it got tiresome not being able to really see well out of either eye.  Since I knew that none of my glasses were ever going to work for me again, we took the right lens out of my most recent glasses  last night.  That works well, as long as you make adjustments for whether you are looking away or reading.  Middle distance is still a challenge which involves moving my head around until I find a decent focus.  I think this works for people who can adjust to having each eye see differently.  Depth perception is almost non-existent for me at this point although it is better than it was two days ago.  And the right eye is still healing and adjusting so sometimes I think my vision is changing by the minute!

English: A pair of reading glasses with LaCost...

English: A pair of reading glasses with LaCoste frames. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomorrow is the day I can fully resume all normal activities (like bending over and taking a shower and washing my hair without worrying about getting water in my eye) but the challenging phase will remain until I have the cataract removed from the left eye in early January.  Then I’ll have the new challenge of reading glasses for a month or so while both eyes heal and I can get proper glasses.  But even now I can wake up and see more clearly without glasses than I have since I was in my teens.  It will be wonderful to not have to reach  for my glasses the minute I open my eyes!