Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Re-defining Exclusive

AudiI get sloppy with meaning sometimes, maybe you as well. Advertising makes me inaccurate and we're drowning in advertising. Exclusive, through over-use by Madison Avenue in defining almost anything they want to sell by that term, has the scent of desire built into it. Cars and perfumes, clothes and even coffees carry that dewy-eyed, full-red-lipped, youthful image of exclusivity.


Google exclusive and you get 444 million pages for that one single word and nearly all are product.


But this present administration, indeed this entire government of both political parties, has come to be exclusive in the most elemental definition of the word. It ain’t pretty.


A casual brush with the dictionary describes the word as “not divided or shared with others,” going on to elaborate, “excluding much or all; especially all but a particular group or minority.” It bugs me when definitions use exclude to define exclusive, but even so, it’s pretty easy to catch the drift that dewy-eyes and red-lips aren’t as close to the mark as being the last chosen when kids make up sides for a game of pickup basketball.


It hurts as a kid to deal with that, but it wrecks representative government.


Excluding in the daily pursuit of the people's business, which is meant to be inclusive, isn't what we're about as a nation. ‘Especially all but a particular minority’ becomes downright scary when the minority is the opposition party within representative government. Exclusive is the business, not of the people, but of dictators.


ExcludeExclusive majority rule brought us a climate of secrecy that hustled the nation off to the wrong war with a deadly underestimation of consequences. Blaming Bush and Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice and Cheney is technically correct, but practically inaccurate. The practical failure was exclusion. Closing themselves off from dissent, listening only to the supportive case, the decision-makers pushed on from a position of almost total isolation.


This administration values credit above credibility, appearance above substance. That’s exactly and overwhelmingly the opposite of Harry Truman’s dictum that “it’s amazing how much you can get accomplished (in a contrary Congress) if you don’t care who gets the credit.”


BillclintonBill Clinton is excoriated today for the supposed sins of inclusion. Possessing a sharp intellect and a fascinating political mind, he actually was what Bush claims to be, ‘a uniter rather than a divider.’ In a political climate gone awry, his own party hated (and hates) him for that willingness to include and Democrats have suffered for that hatred ever since.


A lesson from which they have not yet recovered and, apparently, learned little.


This country thirsts for inclusive government. Republicans have used exclusion as a sledge hammer, manhandling lobbyists and manipulating legislation. Democrats, too weak to wield any kind of hammer, settled on exclusion to sow disunity within their own party.


Outside Washington, the country, both Republicans and Democrats are sick to death of


  • Majority leaders (or anyone in authority) nicknamed ‘The Hammer”

  • Secret White House meetings to determine (and then pass, in a virtual cloak of silence) energy and strategic policy

  • Middle-of-the-night majority meetings in Congress, locked-out to the elected minority

  • Political hack appointments to federal agencies for the sole purpose of enforcing a conservative agenda

  • Exclusionary blacklists (enemies lists) across the broad landscape of government

  • Elective office (Senate and House) made so exclusive to moneyed membership as to be no longer even close to representing  the people

We are not a democracy and never have been, but a republic.


SenatechamberPolitical decisions are made by representatives in a republic, who “take the place of or are parallel or equivalent to” those who have elected them for that purpose. The millionaire’s club they call the United States Senate doesn’t even approximate parallel equivalency to anything but other millionaires. The Senate has always been an elegant (dare I say exclusive?) club, but the entry fee is currently beyond all but the super-rich. Average cost, $4.7 million  for an annual salary just short of 150K


HousechamberThe House side is marginally closer economically to their constituents, but only marginally. At the House level, even exterminators can pee with the big dogs, but they have to be as aggressive as rats. Average election costs $636,000 which will get you a salary of $162,100.


Exclusions for a seat at the Congressional table include


  • Anyone unable to cough up a half to four and a half million bucks

  • Anyone unwilling to ‘attach’ their votes to those fronting the dough in their behalf

  • Anyone unendorsed by the party under whose banner they hope to march

  • Anyone fascinated by government, eager to serve, but without connection

Which is a lot of anyones and makes anyone just about everyone. No more Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, if indeed there ever was a chance for Mr. Smith.


But we need him back. Mr. Smith, where are you? Inclusion's time is ripe, but Smith will have to be very nimble not to be shut out, taking the majority of us along with him, yet again.


Shut out is my own, simplified,  two-word definition for exclusion.
_________________________________________________________


For more comments on Washington at work, see my personal web site.