(@ noon – promoted by NLinStPaul)
Over the last few days, the blogosphere has been abuzz with the idea that we should be asking the Obama administration to reflect the progressive wishes of his supporters (or conversely, letting us know that those were all used up at the ball, and it is back to pumpkins and mice). As a cynical outlier on the queer edge of queer and the socialist edge of left, my wishes might as well be for glass slippers and don't seem worth stating except as a general plea for solidarity and recognition from other lefty types (waving frantically with big grin). My wish is for a commons, for a shared floor for society, for social justice in the positive sense; and for a society which does not disintegrate around me, in the negative.
I did start thinking that there are some smaller things we could fight for. Levers of modest size which because of their length or tensile strength, would bring greater change. Here's my list…
1. Abolish felony disenfranchisement in political and civil life. The idea here is that if someone has “paid their debt to society” they should be able to participate in that society. People who have been on the short end of the stick understand things about our society and about powerlessness that we need to have reflected into our laws and government. The only way we will ever get this is as a law on the federal level, pushed outside of statehouses and the local fray where public executions for shoplifting would probably help re-election. It should not matter if a convicted felon owes the state or their victims money, if they are on parole, or if they hunted kittens. When their time in The Big House is over, a person should be restored — as a matter of federal law — to the franchise.
Similar protections should be considered for job applications, in some circumstances.
2. Credit reform. As more and more people go into debt, and find themselves unable to pay that back, we are effectively creating an entire class of people who will be unable to obtain housing or jobs. A way in which our society is quickly splitting into “them” and “us”. I don't think we can sell the virtue of the poor to the electorate. What I think we can sell is the idea that every human being who can pay for it deserves a place to live, and if you can do a job, you deserve a chance. We need a federal law to require landlords to rent to individuals who can provide first, last and deposit, and to bar consideration of credit history. Such a law could include the ability to evict people in that second month, if they can't pay. A similar protection is needed for job applications, where the job does not require directly handling funds.
3. Universal ID as voter registration. “What kind of shitty liberal are you, jessical?” Well, it's like this: if a society is going to think of itself as a group, and extend both protection and control of its members, it has to know who belongs to that group with a high degree of certainty. If you know who your citizens are, you know — with real solidity — what it costs to help them or to punish them. Along with the abolition of felony disenfranchisement, this would go a long way to eliminating the current electoral scheme, where a moderate centrist has a spirited fight with a bonafide fascist every four years.
4. 10 year residence, regardless of legality, vests citizenship. Like France, before Sarkozy 🙂 A society which is busy rounding up, abusing and deporting members who have lived here all their lives — but who do not have the proper papers — is a society which rests on fear.
5. An end to federal mandatory minimum sentences, and replacement with Federal recommended maximums. Let's take “sentencing chicken” out of the vocabulary of state and federal government, and restore — if not justice — at least, at the very least, a system which looks more like law than the organized destruction of human beings.
Hah hah. I know. Snowballs in hell. But these are all things could be passed as individual laws, or as part of a single act to restore social justice and “just give people a chance”. Not one requires actual fairness in government or revolutionary change. Together, these laws just might give us a shot at a society which does not crumble, bitter and friable, below us.