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Wes Holden

Wes Holden

We have just completed a very significant exercise in civic responsibility, the election of our president and members of Congress, as well as state and local officials.

Those who are upset that their candidate did not win should remember that the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution assert that the consent of the governed is the only foundation of legitimate government, and there is no credible evidence of widespread fraud. Both parties are satisfied with some results and unsatisfied other results.

Voting is a matter of choices, and the reality is that there never is a perfect choice.

We vote not only to elect individuals to represent us, but to determine the actual policies we feel will be beneficial. Although all candidates claim they will represent our best interests, the proof is in the pudding, and we have seen a widening disparity in the wealth of this country over the past several decades. This is due to plutocratic populism, a political strategy aimed at retaining the loyalty of an unwitting political base while it promotes economic policies that only benefit the top 1%.

Political leaders have manipulated their supporters with false claims. We must be vigilant and examine the evidence behind any claims with a critical eye toward the reliability of such evidence.

During the past 40 years, we have seen the purchasing power of the working class dwindle away under both political parties. Salaries have gone stagnant and free trade has allowed our jobs to be shipped overseas. Our well-trained labor force cannot compete with cheap overseas labor. Wall Street has incentivized employees, heedless of the effects to local communities. The voice of labor has been diminished, despite its history in promoting the common good of the working class.

In our nation’s history, we once again find ourselves faced with unprecedented problems. Our democracy requires that we the people must apply bottom-up pressure, instead of top-down acceptance, so that our elected leaders respond more to average voters than entrenched interests.

We must no longer accept the majority governing bodies getting away with obstructing appointments and legislation because they can. We need our legislators to work together for the common good, rather than for political misfeasance.

The United States, and West Virginia in particular, are in dire need of transformative change, the kind of change brought about by the New Deal when President Franklin Roosevelt led our nation.

According to the Khan Academy, “the New Deal is often summed up by the Three R’s: Relief (for the unemployed), Recovery (of the economy through federal spending and job creation), and Reform (of capitalism by means of regulatory legislation and creation of new social welfare programs).”

The First Amendment’s bedrock notion is that everyone is entitled to redress grievances and to have the ear of Congress, not just those funding the campaigns of politicians who choose appointees who don’t even believe in the labor laws they have been sworn to uphold. Lobbyists, our all-too-powerful unelected branch of government, should no longer be allowed to interpret laws and promote legislation that will benefit the corporations they represent at the expense of the general public.

Tensions were high in this country during 1860, and especially in Washington, D.C., when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. When he gave his inaugural address, he knew our country was at a breaking point. Lincoln understood that he was facing the terrible prospect of secession by the Southern states and of a bloody war.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy said, “Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us and our government, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local must be as a city upon a hill, constructed and inhabited by men aware of their grave and great responsibilities.”

The challenges we face today are many and complex. Today, our democracy is arguably being challenged from within even more so than from without. Let us look to the examples of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy in facing the challenges of their times and inform ourselves to the best of our ability to do our part to work together for the common good of our nation.

Wes Holden is a retired federal employee living in Sissonville.