The Cost of a Vote in 2012

people-politico-five-dollar-billsNone of us like to think that the millions of dollars spent by presidential campaigns are trying to buy your vote. However, that is in fact the case. So I thought I would take a minute to look into what a vote costs in America today. I was shocked, and I think you will be too, so I’ll try and ease you into this a bit. Politics have changed dramatically in the time after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United basically removed all caps on contributions from corporations and unions to political campaigns. It has been widely accepted through our history that money influences politics, corrupts democracy, and takes the power from the people and puts it in the hands of those with money. The Supreme Court’s decision put democracy more firmly into the hands of the corporations by allowing unlimited spending on elections.

Spending on elections was out of control before this decision, and now it’s incomprehensible, it’s a joke, and we the people are the punch line.

There are a few things we need to know about making a rough guess about the amounts of money being spent to win your vote. In most cases they can’t actually trade money directly for your vote, so instead they use advertising, media, new outlets,, pundits, the internet, you name it, to get their message and their brand out to you. Unfortunately there is very little regulation regarding the insane and often false things they say to sway you one way or another. When there is regulation, they will get around it by using a 501c/PAC combination to absolve any involvement and responsibility. If you think this is a joke, watch this series masterfully done by Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report. He actually creates his own PAC, then turns it into a Super PAC, and ends up with a million dollars donated. Really.

How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It

How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It

PACs have to disclose who gives them money. However, a 501c is a tax-exempt organization that does NOT have to disclose donors. All a person or corporation need do to circumvent the disclosure rules is contribute money to the 501c. The 501c then gives to the PAC and the PAC does what it wants with the money. It’s money laundering on a breathtaking scale. A candidate could pour money into the 501c and get it right back through the PAC. Sickening and totally legal.

So now that we know how it’s done, let’s see how much money it takes to buy a vote.  That’s what all the money is ultimately there to do. I’ve rounded the numbers for ease of understanding. A few thousand here or even a few million there will not make much of a difference in our completely broken election system where billions of dollars are involved.

In 2010, it is estimated that there were about 236,000,000 registered voters. According to this data, we can estimate that the registered voters will increase to 240,000,000 in 2012. Going by prior voter turnout numbers, we can expect 50% or so to turn out to vote in the upcoming Presidential Election. This gives us the first part of our equation: 120,000,000 votes.

How much money is going into getting those 120 million votes? This number is difficult, because campaigns want to keep this number as quiet as possible.  So first we’ll look at how much the politicians are raising themselves. This is required to be publically disclosed and it is the number most often reported. Over the last year we can see that a total of almost $380,000,000 was raised by politicians.  We can assume that over the next 6 months the money will flow in faster than in the last year. It is probably conservative to say that this total will reach $800,000,000 by November. Many analysts are saying that campaign spending will easily break a billion dollars. But we’ll use $800 million for our calculations.

Next we need to try to determine the contributions to PACs and Super PACs. They are required by law to disclose their finances, but with over 7,500 listed in the Federal Election Committee’s database, there are bound to be errors.  To make it easy, we’ll use this information. You can find the information here:  http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/srssea.shtml. Adding it all up gets us $1.7 billion from 2010 to 2011. For ease of calculation, we’ll round that number down to $1.5 billion to use for 2011-2012. This gives us $3.2 billion for these two years of PAC and Super PAC fundraising.

With no cap on how much money can be contributed to an election, candidates are looking at three to four times the amount of money they had to spend in the past.  They can spend the majority of it on    sleazy ads, misinformation campaigns, robo calls, spamming, and whatever else it takes. And the best part is, the candidates are “completely separated” from the PACs and Super PACs. If someone gets offended or if an ad backfires, the candidate can throw up their hands and claim plausible deniability.

Math Time!

  • $800,000,000 (candidate money) + $3,200,000,000 (PAC money) = $4,000,000,00 or a cool 4 billion dollars. Easy to remember.
  • 120,000,000 voters.

Now all we need to do is take the money spent on elections and divide that by those who vote. Gravy!

  • $4,000,000,000 (Money) ÷ 120,000,000 (Votes) = $33 and change.

 

Well that doesn’t sound too bad, you have 33 bucks don’t you? So to put in your equivalent support as a citizen of the United States you should toss $33 to who you support.

The problem is that it doesn’t work out that way. Our democracy is supposed to form and control our government on a 1 to 1 basis, but now with these new rules we are getting further and further away from the 1 to 1 vote working.

Rich Joe used to be capped at a $2,500 donation. But now he can give his $2,500 personally to the campaign and can also funnel in $1,000,000 or more  from his company, trust fund, dividends or whatever.

Money equals influence in our government, and the increased flow of money from corporations and unions magnifies their influence.

Influence of Donations Before Citizens United

Poor Joe throws in $33 to support his one vote. Rich Joe throws in his $2,500 to support his vote. Rich Joe’s influence on his candidate is 75 times more than Poor Joe’s. That in itself shows the system was sad, broken, not working as intended.

Influence of Donations After Citizens United

Today Poor Joe throws in his $33 again to support his candidate. Rich Joe throws in his $2,500 and also donates $1,000,000 dollars from his company. Again, Rich Joe’s influence is obviously more, but by how much? His influence is now a staggering 30,378 times more than Joe’s! This one person/entity now has tens of thousands of times more influence than Poor Joe in the elections.

I don’t even know what to think about this. I am disgusted. I am appalled. I am horrified that we allowed this to happen to our country.

Checkbook Democracy: How Money Corrupts Political Campaigns

Checkbook Democracy: How Money Corrupts Political Campaigns

With these billions of dollars intended to influence us, and with the mountains of lies about their opponents, and false promises about themselves, it is no wonder our government and our country is screeching to a halt.

We have allowed democracy to be taken away from us. We have literally sold it. We have allowed a plutocracy to take its place.

When the wealthy control the country they do whatever they can to not only increase their wealth but consolidate it. That is exactly what we are seeing now.

With the caps lifted, they can literally spend whatever it takes to convince us they are not doing exactly what they are doing. The facts are in front of us. I have presented many here and you can look for yourself all over the place. We are swimming in the evidence of the fall of our democracy but so many would rather drown than to think about this.

This cannot endure or our country will not. We have already fallen behind because of our broken and crippled system. We are being surpassed by many other countries in almost every sector you can think of. The power has been taken from the common people. We are simply being outbid.

It’s time you did your part along with those around you to stand up, speak out and shout out that you want your vote back and demand it can’t be outbid anymore.

Sources

Contraception is About Women’s Health Not Politics

women-concerned-about-health-careWe have all heard the arguments recently and they are getting louder and louder. The most recent attempt at hamstringing women’s health care came at the hands of a horribly conceived and widely misconstrued bill known as the Blunt Bill. Even though it was narrowly defeated (51 for to 48 against), I think it is important to take a moment to talk about what this bill and other legislation like it would really do. In many ways it is amazing to even see birth control and contraception even being an issue. This argument was out in politics a quarter century ago. It not only seemed to be settled but we also have seen decades of benefit from birth control being widely available and accessible. As this proves our memories are short and our reason can be clouded. Let’s take a loot at a few of the main political arguments.

Contraception is Used For Much More Than Prevention of Conception

Different kinds of contraception are used for more than just birth control by millions of women. The Pill is used to alleviate a range of women’s medical conditions. To assume contraception is strictly used to stop conception would be to exclude nearly half of all women who use it.

Depending on what study you look at (or which side of the argument you are on), upwards of 15-20% of women taking contraception do so for purely non birth control related reasons. This number is impossible to narrow down since every study has minor variations in what and who meets their criteria. Regardless of this though, the fact remains that millions of American women use contraception for other reasons than birth control.

There is a reason contraception has been touted as one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Impacts go far past the simple impact of stopping conception. Attempting to legislate contraception from a standpoint of birth control misses the real crux of the issue and therefore misses the real consequences or benefits.

Stop Legislating Religion

Religious beliefs should not be put into legislation. In fact legislation based of belief or faith should be cleared completely off the table. In a time of technology, information and the ability to process huge amounts of information, we should be legislating from facts and data:

  • It would cost an estimated 18 billion dollars a year in unintended births that would need to be covered by families, insurance companies, or the government.
  • There is no quantifiable data whatsoever to suggest that having access to contraception turns women into mindless rampant fornicators. In fact, if this was the case, perhaps contraception would have to be covered by insurance companies just as Viagra is.
  • If women can no longer afford to treat medical conditions prevented by this medicine, larger health care expenses would loom in these women’s futures.
  • And what of the quality of life for unwanted children, especially those that end up with severe psychological damage because their parents cannot care for them. What is the cost of foster care for 18 years of a child’s life?
  • Can we discount the responsibility of the great many Americans that know they cannot afford or otherwise give a child what is necessary and need to have a good childhood and family experience? What about the majority of Americans, who understand they can only afford one or two children. More children than they can afford means less opportunity for everyone in the family.
  • Republicans should certainly understand that what this legislation entails is a corporation, contracting with another corporation (the insurance company), and having the ability to tell the second corporation how to run its business, while possibly interfering with state legislation requiring insurance companies to cover this prescription in the same way it covers other prescriptions.

And if you are just not the “show me the facts” kind of person and want to go from the gut, go with your belief. Pope Benedict XVI has told you what your belief should be by saying that healthcare is an “Inalienable Right” and said it’s the moral responsibility of all nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens.” I doubt the Pope meant only those that can afford it, should get it.

When Advocating Freedom Don’t Legislate Against It

Another big side of this argument that continues to astound me is that the same groups that shout so loudly about freedom are the ones pushing so hard to eliminate freedoms for anyone that might have a different opinion.

Freedom : Noun ~ Ability to act freely – a state in which somebody is able to act and live as he or she chooses, without being subject to any undue restraints or restriction.

Freedom talks about an individual’s right to choose what is best for them, not the right of a corporation or religion to dictate what is best for that individual person.

This is why the government, corporations, and religious organizations should not interfere with the insurance companies they partner with in covering contraception. The individual person can make a choice based on their own beliefs, ideals, health conditions, lifestyle choices, or any other reason whether or not they will use contraception.

It is not the employer’s business what a person’s life is outside of their job. It’s not the church’s right to have intimate details on its employee’s health. Our health care system is such that the majority of Americans receive health insurance through their employers. Your employer should not determine what will be covered by a third party healthcare plan.  It is up to the government to make sure we have access to the best health care and the personal freedom to choose what is best for us.

Further Reading About The Benefits of Birth Control

Voter Suppression in Politics

voter-infoMore voter suppression arguments are out there this year and if you ignore the indignity of the voter fraud and just look at the numbers involved, it would be very easy to solve this issue. Especially when you look at the very low numbers involved in actual voter fraud versus legitimate votes getting mixed up, tallied wrong, lost or the myriad of other things. The bottom line is we need to work on getting people out to vote, not stopping those that do vote.

Getting People to Vote

We need to get every single American and dual citizen of voting age to vote every single time. We need to ingrain in our children, in our people, the importance and significance of voting. The quality and functionality of our democracy is directly related to how many of its people are involved, educated, informed and acting on their democratic duty.

I would go as far to say that we should PAY people to vote. Invariably people will pay at least some attention and most have some idea of who and what they want out of life in this country. If you were to offer a $500 tax credit for voting in the general elections, it would greatly increase turn out. Just getting people excited and involved would go a long way to make this a better country.

Personally I find it appalling when the reporters exclaim that we have recently had record-setting voter turnout, and the record-setting number is in the 40% range. That is embarrassing, pure and simple. As the “world leader” in advocating and pushing freedom and democracy, we simply have to do better than that.

So I propose this to you: Make it your mission, as a responsible voter, American, and patriot, to get one person you know to register and vote this year. Let’s make those days of seeing 40% of voter turnout something of the past as we tag on 10-20% more.

A Political Fix to a Non-Partisan Problem

The Politics of Disenfranchisement: Why Is It So Hard to Vote in America?

Why Is It So Hard to Vote in America?

With the next wave of voter registration and polling legislation comes another slew of outcries to voter suppression. I understand the basic idea behind the argument; however, the proposed solution is no solution at all.

These pieces of new legislation are meant to tackle the estimated .0002%-5.000% voter fraud that has been reported recently. These numbers vary greatly depending on who, what and where you are looking but with the dozen or so articles, websites and other sources I investigated, the highest was floating around 5% with some as low as .0002%. Part of the reason for this is that we are addressing specifically voter fraud. We are not talking about mistakes in registration, people who have moved from their old addresses, people with the same names, addresses, lost ballots, miscounts, and the myriad of OTHER things that causes inaccurate vote count.

Much of the current legislation that is pending this year revolves around forcing all those that are voting to show valid and up to date photo IDs at the time of voting. This may address the lower end of the vote tally and fraud issues but would leave most of the other horrendous holes and problems with our system in place.

However, legislation to force presenting photo IDs in order to vote is estimated to affect at least 10% of the population that currently votes now, legally and without problems. Many of these voters without photo IDs tend to have lower incomes and are much more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.

This could also affect a much greater number of people that vote from abroad or by mail. Many places have been voting strictly by mail, especially for the smaller elections. If everyone now has to go back to a polling place to vote, won’t that decimate the numbers of people who can vote?

Make Voting Easier Not Harder

There is such a small portion of the population that votes fraudulently it has almost no effect on our current system. The numbers show the problem is nearly nonexistent. 80 fraudulent votes in a general election are not going to make much of a difference when we are talking about millions of people voting.

Instead of further limiting a minority group to vote, and making more difficult what should be an easy process and every citizen’s duty, we should be empowering all Americans to register and vote.

I’m not so proud to be an American when I find out more people vote for American Idol then in a general election. That is unacceptable and shameful.

What we should be doing is passing legislation to move our voting system from the 19th century into the 21st century. We have an archaic system to pick our representatives and run our country.  We should be embracing the newest, best, and most efficient ways to insure our democracy is protected.

Just think about it: we currently trust so many facets of our lives right now to the technology around us.  Why not support improvements in voting technology as well?

It’s easy to say that voting systems can be hacked, of course they can. However, many more people are currently skewing election results with lost ballots, miscounting by hand, going to the wrong polling place, voting as a dead person, you name it. This Pew Research document points out some of the huge flaws we have. Those are the issues that need to be addressed, the problems that need to be fixed.

I know it’s not perfect, no system is. However we have the technology, the know how to do it, we just need the will. Change can be scary but using technology and the computer power of America could and would streamline our voting process in ways we can’t fully appreciate.

We need to get 10-20% more voters voting. Not reduce the number of valid voters by 10% or more.

Here are some links to some more info and some of the specifics in voting issues around America:

 

Rush Should be Tossed out of the Republican Party

sad-political-stateWell he is at it again. Rush Limbaugh must have had some sagging ratings as he went off on another one of his ignorance-inducing, hate filled rants. His target this time was a female Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, who testified before Congress about contraception. This was after House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) prevented her, or any woman, from testifying about a contraception regulation. After several congresswomen expressed outrage, she was invited to testify before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.

Limbaugh offered an apology on Saturday for his ridiculous and rude comments, but it was difficult to find any sincerity in it. Besides, he had already received the headlines and ratings he wanted. He does this about once a year, so it isn’t a slip up. It isn’t a mistake. It is calculated. His action is intentional and it is appalling. Look at his track record and see the regularity with which these things happen, and you will see what I mean.

This kind of behavior should be appalling to everyone, no matter your party affiliation.  But the problem is, this type of behavior is encouraged, rewarded, and in many cases seems to be the goal of political pundits. It’s a sad day when someone that is so openly hostile, disrespectful, and downright mean is still defended, praised, and cheered for being some kind of champion of “truth”. This isn’t a champion of anything other than ignorance, hate, anger, and fear.

If Sandra Fluke was your daughter, sister, or friend, would you be proud of her for standing up for what she believes in? What would you think if someone called someone you love a slut because she had the guts to state her opinion about women’s health care? Regardless of your stance in the matter, Limbaugh’s comments didn’t address the actual content of her testimony. He was lewd and childish. Limbaugh’s apologists say he’s an entertainer, and he says shocking things because he is an entertainer.  But this kind of response to an honest testimony is just plain mean.

He is not a champion of truth, or a bringer of justice, or righteously moral. There is no reason, EVER, to act like this. He is once again degrading our system of government to schoolyard name calling, when what we really need is for people to actually LISTEN to the testimony of each side, not try to find the most salacious interpretation.

Unfortunately the Right has perfected this behavior. Unfortunately the public actually seems to support this strange verbal blood sport. And worse, other parties, including the Left are trying to “catch up” to this appalling, horrible, ignorant, and sub human behavior.

What we see on TV, read in the papers, and watch on the internet has a nasty habit of making its way into our home. It’s important to keep our homes civil and moral. I’m not just talking about your house; I’m talking about Our Country, America, our home.

GOP Political Showdown on Super Tuesday

sw_fake_ballot_sa03045Super Tuesday is upon us. Super Tuesday usually refers to the Tuesday in February or March before a presidential election when the greatest number of states hold primary elections to select presidential candidates to run for each party.

This year Super Tuesday is on March 6th and is much anticipated by the GOP. It’s surprising how little excitement really revolves around all of the front running candidates. Most agree that it will either be Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich. My hats off to Ron Paul though, for a good showing in the race. Even after Super Tuesday, he may very well continue running as an independent candidate.

As usual the candidates are going at each other’s throats and spewing as much vitriol at each other as possible. Most also agree that this may be one of the most nasty, underhanded, and venomous bids of the presidential nomination by any party in recent history. One of the biggest contributors to this ugly campaigning are the hundreds of Super PACs contributing millions of dollars to smear and slam their opponents. The beauty (or horror if you like) of this new system is the candidates have to remain 100% “unaffiliated” from these Super PACs. This excuse is used to try to say they have no influence in these despicable campaigns. However, I digress… I’ll discuss the Super PACs and their detrimental effect on democracy in later articles. We’ll see just how nasty they can become for the General Election.

Anyway, after a nice even twenty Republican debates, everyone should have a good gauge of what each of the candidates stands for and what they say they will do with our country should you entrust it to them.

What is even more surprising than the cat fighting going on between a bunch of grown men is how indifferent the entire GOP seems to be about any of their candidates. The mixed messages, the confusion in what they stand for, and the hypocrisy about a great many issues, seems to have weakened and disorganized the party. The Republican party is plagued by flip-flops and missteps. The Affordable Care Act, deemed Obamacare by opponents, is similar to Senator John McCain’s health care proposal from the 1990’s and Mitt Romney’s health care reform plan for Massachusetts. Apparently health care reform is completely taboo now that a Democratic White House has decided to take their ideas seriously. And the mysterious debt ceiling debacle? It should have been obvious that putting the entire nation’s economic future in jeopardy just to oppose President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party was a severe misstep.

However, through all of the GOP’s hardships on their journey of self-discovery, and trying to figure out which candidate best represents their conflicting and confusing ideals, they still all agree that once Super Tuesday is over they will all rally behind the victor. They look to each other and their interviewers in the media with surprise and disgust when asked if they will “fall in line” to support the “other guy” in the General election. They act as if questioning their personal integrity should be a crime. Their responses all fall along the same line, the importance of holding America and its People above petty differences between its politicians is first and foremost. “I will honor the election and refuse to betray my people, no matter what the outcome of Super Tuesday.” If these candidates purport to have so much respect for the candidate the voting public chooses, why has the Republican party had so little regard for the current sitting president, duly elected by the American people?

Politics of Regulations – Product Safety

congress3I recently found myself standing in the body lotion aisle at the store recently, realizing that my search for a paraben-free lotion was going to be more difficult than I originally thought. Parabens are preservatives that are widely used in personal care products such as makeup, moisturizers, hair care, and shaving. There has been some speculation that these preservatives’ estrogenic activity may be linked to an increased cancer risk. Until more studies have been completed, I decided a “better safe than sorry” approach was warranted. Our family lives in a dry climate and we use a lot of hand and body lotion. We use it so quickly that shelf life isn’t really an issue.

While researching the issue online, I came across EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics database. If you really want to become depressed about the chemicals we put onto our bodies, enter your favorite products into the database and see what they may be doing to your health! And keep in mind; women aren’t the only consumers of these products. Anyone who uses hand lotion, soap, shampoo, etc., can look their favorite products up on the database.  I, like most Americans, have been lulled into complacency, thinking there was some governmental agency that regulated the ingredients in anything that goes into our bodies. However, the FDA’s own website verifies that the Food and Drug Administration isn’t authorized to approve cosmetic ingredients. The FDA also cannot require companies to test their products for safety, and manufacturers are not even required to report problems to the FDA.

I started reading the ingredients on the products in my bathroom: shaving cream, lotion, hair gel, shampoo, conditioner, etc. I realized that without some sort of advanced chemistry degree, I was in way over my head.  How was I supposed to make an informed decision on the safety of these items based on the ingredient list? Especially since companies are not required to list all of their ingredients on the package. And a search of the internet didn’t help me with a list of safe products from an unbiased source.

I understand the call for less governmental intrusion, but do the American people understand that corporations are the ones deciding what I put into and onto my body? Some of these chemicals make their way into body tissues; some are inadvertently ingested or inhaled (lipstick, face powder, hairspray…).  Corporations exist to make money. If they can make a product cheaply, and no one knows that a certain ingredient (or combination of ingredients) is harmful, what incentive do they have to replace that ingredient with something safer?

Without some sort of oversight, corporations will do what is in the best interest of their stockholders. The best interest of the stockholders is profit.

Do the politicians calling for more deregulation realize that they themselves and their loved ones are all putting themselves at the mercy of companies for whom greed is their main purpose? Regulation serves a very real and very important purpose: the protection of the American people.

 

 More Reading on Regulation and Product Safety

President Obama’s State of the Union Address 2012

people-politico-president-barack-obama-debatingThe President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, gave his 2012 State of the Union Address. Whether you love or hate President Obama, there is no denying that he knows how to give a great speech. President Obama is a very charismatic speaker using a great amount of intelligence and elegance when he speaks. Whether you agree or disagree with what he said last night does not change the fact that he is great at addressing America.

Watch the web enhanced video of the 2012 State of the Union Address


It’s always interesting to see how the fact checkers rate these addresses. Not just the State of the Union Address but the many other speeches, policies, rallies and other promises that are made by politicians. They are so easily lost in the tumult that is politics that no regular person, like you and I, can keep track of it all. So I like to wait at least a day for all of the fact checking places to do their due diligence. Then I peruse through them to see what was real and was smoke. I urge everyone to take a few extra minutes and check several different sources yourself, especially about the political issues you care most about.

It turns out that on the scale of what was true and what is reality President Obama’s State of the Union Address turns out to be mostly true! This is great news and a refreshing change of pace from the last administration. I always hate when we hear great promises or “facts” about what they have done or not done only to find out it was a thinly veiled attempt to earn favor, and far from the truth. Unfortunately, our first impressions are often the strongest. This means it is much harder for us to “unlearn” the lies we hear first instead of being able to believe the truth we learn later. Unfortunately this is widely known and is an often used tactic in politics. Know they use it, so you can guard yourself from it.

President Obama definitely covered the full gamut of issues that America is facing. There is a lot to talk about for sure and it will be interesting to see what, if any, action is actually taken. President Obama took a tougher stand last night during the State of the Union Address than we have seen before. We can only expect this “toughness” to increase over the course of the election year. I do appreciate that even though President Obama was talking tougher, he was still addressing everyone with respect and dignity. This is something that is unfortunately becoming more and more rare.

Formation of Committee to Investigate Misconduct of Big Oil and Wall Street

I think this was one of the biggest, most important announcements from the State of the Union Address, the formation of a Committee to formally investigate big corporations. If this actually happens, and actually gets to a place that they can actually do their job, it has the possibility to illuminate the insanity that our financial system and its corporations that puts on the people of American and the rest of the world. This decision alone could reach deep into the workings of our government and economy to expose the massive issues and broken systems that have brought the world economy to its knees. It amazes me how fast people have already forgotten how close we were to a calamity of massive proportions. Hopefully this will help to expose these issues and help us move forward to a solution in the future.

I know these are high hopes, look at how crippled some of the others have been. Tied up in the bureaucracy but more importantly the lobbyists pushing their congressman to fight against these common sense steps to a better America.

Combine the Citizen’s United, political partisanship, election year politics and it will honestly be a miracle if anything gets done at all this year. However, I am still hopeful that something will be, or at least could be, accomplished. We have to keep on trying and keep on pushing forward. Contact your representative and urge them to action!

Political Primaries Need an Overhaul

voter-infoAs the political circus of the last year kicks into full gear, we all sit back and wonder…when will the madness be over!?!

That’s right; I’m talking about the ridiculous, wasteful, and in many ways corrupt primary system of this country. I don‘t know why we (meaning we the people, the American citizens) allow the primary elections to last weeks and weeks. Shouldn’t elections last one day? Think of the madness and insane consequences we would have if the presidential election was held over a period of weeks? It would be chaos. It would be totally misleading. It would be a gigantic political farce.

I think the primaries are out of control for several reasons: First, millions of dollars are offered for states to hold the first primary in a place that heavily favors candidate X. Then, everyone disregards all of the “rules” that nobody actually follows and any recourse or penalty is in name only and never really penalizes anyone except the candidates not favored in this micro region. Political candidate X might have some totally radical ideas that go over well in this small region regardless how the entire country thinks. Even though this one state’s primary involves only a small fraction of the country, the media takes the story and runs with it, acting as if this one state speaks for the nation.

Since almost all political candidates at the national level are also public servants who are currently in office, primaries and elections take candidates away from their responsibilities as elected officials. This contributes to the slowdown and breakdown of our already dysfunctional government. If they happen to lose, they may only waste a year of their public office. However, if they stay in the race or even win a nomination, they will spend up to two years of their time in public office campaigning instead of governing. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking it is NOT OK to spend 25%-50% of your time in a job neglecting your actual job duties to look for another job. That kind of dereliction of duty should define someone as unacceptable to hold that position. But the candidates don’t have a choice if they want a shot at the nomination.

To get our political system moving back in the right direction, we need an overhaul of the political primaries. Here are some ideas to move this along:

Reverse Citizens United

First and foremost, corporate money needs to be taken out of politics. This has much more far reaching impacts but this unlimited, anonymous money that flows to the most cooperative politicians has to stop. This ruling above all else is fundamentally undermining our entire democracy.

Institute an Attendance Policy

I would like to see active politicians have a mandated requirement for the amount of time they must spend actually doing the job they were elected for in the first place. We did not elect them to campaign. We elected them to help run our country.

Regulate Campaigning Time

This can be a bit tricky, but I believe regulating the time ALL politicians can spend campaigning could be the key to successful governing. If campaign time was restricted by law or rules of elections it may have a huge impact on the time spent and wasted during the months and years of campaigning.

This could also have the benefit of forcing politicians to tackle the real issues in quick and concise ways. If they had 2 months to let the nation know where they stood on the issues versus two years, they would have to be clearer. And if they weren’t, they would appear to be unable to handle the monumental tasks involved in governing, and we would not vote for them.

Primary Elections Held at the Same Time

If the primary elections for these politicians were held at the same time on the same day like regular elections, we would avoid so much of our current troubles. The final national elections would reflect more accurately the will of the people, if the parties nominated their candidate on the same day. As it stands now, the many different primary elections all act like micro-elections with their own media circus and media analysis.

Something Has to Change Politically

Our current system is a joke. It wastes time and money. It doesn’t give us a clear picture of any political candidate nor does it reflect what the country actually wants.

If all the states’ primaries were the second Tuesday of February, it would all be done at once.

Pull the corporate money out of the equation so politicians can actually focus on doing what’s best for the American people, instead of the corporations that buy them.

Limit wasted time. Politicians were elected to govern!

You may see some problems with these proposed ideas. You might think of a loophole or two. You may be right, but is our current system any better?

We KNOW the current process is severely flawed. We might only guess that something proposed here won’t work politically. But until we try new things, or impose new rules and regulations until things DO work better and our government DOES work for us. We are the ones at fault because we as a people are not pushing hard enough for real, true, and helpful change.

Political Resolutions for the New Year

people-politico-windy-eagleWith the end of the year comes the end of the politco circus for this year. It’s been a hilariously depressing year of posturing, antagonizing, and defaming. The really fun part is watching them try to out lie one another. It’s nice to hope that we have hit the lowest of the low in our political environment but it’s hard to say. I’d like to think we can only get better from here, but to make this dream a reality, each one of us can take a few moments and forge our own Political New Year’s Resolutions.

With any luck, we all can pick a few which fit ourselves and our views in order to make us better people, better citizens, and better equipped to deal with our poisoned political environment.

Treat Each Other with Respect

It may seem simple, but it may be the hardest resolution.  We all have our own political opinions and we want to share them. We also have our issues with other political views and tend to look down on people who don’t agree.

The unfortunate truth is that we are not smarter than those who disagree with us, nor are we morally better than those that hold different opinions.

You don’t have to agree with other people’s political views, but if you accept that their opinion is just as valid as yours, you may have a chance to intelligently debate and discuss both sides. Perhaps we as constituents might be able to do what our representatives cannot: either agree to respectfully disagree, compromise, or even come to a solution that suits both sides.

Being one of unbending principles and ideas is NOT respectful. Without the ability to change, adapt and grow, political ideas grow stagnant, time and money is wasted, and the problems that face us as Americans do not get solved.

Stay Politically Informed

This resolution has several facets but I find this to be an important issue which undermines one’s own ideas and opinions on all manner of political topics.

It’s easy to say we don’t have time to keep up with politics. It’s true we are very busy and the current political environment is incredibly complicated, and even politicians can’t keep up with everything. Career politicians have advisors to tell them their opinions daily. They also have lobbyists to try and push their agendas. If politicians cannot stay fully informed, and cannot always get both sides of the story, how does the average American person stay informed?

First, determine the top 6 issues that affect you directly or you are truly passionate about. Ignore the other issues that hold little interest to you or have no impact on your life. I know you may care about more political issues, but you can’t stay fully informed, so focus only on your top political topics. If you want to add a couple more or take a few off the list that is up to you. The point is to focus on what is most important to you. To not be distracted from issues you are passionate about, to those you aren’t. Limiting your focus accomplishes two things: 1.) Makes sure you are knowledgeable about what is most important to you. 2.) Allows you to vote knowledgeably on the issues that are most important to you.

So you have narrowed down your topics, but you can’t add more hours to your day to research these things. We can’t add hours to the day, but we can squeeze in a little more education or substitute our time with some knowledge. If you usually listen to music on your commute to work or school, try listening to the news instead. Get informed for the day and discuss current events with co-workers. You can also install a few apps on your phone to browse news stories while you are waiting in line, on break, or at lunch.

It’s important to get you news and information from a variety of sources. If you watch two hours of news a night but it is always the same channel or the same website you are doing yourself a disservice. Free media in this country is nearly extinct, and all the remaining news sources are corporately or privately driven. This means they inject their own political bias onto their stories. Though frustrating, it’s reality. So pick a few different news sources and rotate between them. More variety in your news sources will greatly improve your real knowledge of politics and world events. The very same news story will be presented differently depending on who is telling it. Do yourself a favor, and work to filter the bias out yourself by attaining your knowledge from many different sources.

Be Politically Open Minded

It’s difficult to know that sometimes we are wrong. The current political environment is so unforgiving that people cannot admit to being wrong. It’s refreshing when someone actually says they had the wrong idea. We can only grow as people and a society by acknowledging our mistakes and growing, evolving, and progressing, because of our mistakes, not in spite of them.

It’s good to keep this concept in the back of your mind when discussing politics. Unlike math, political ideas, laws, and legislation are not absolute. They affect different people in different ways at different times. Our opinions can be right one day and wrong the next. That is OK!

The most important thing is to have an open mind. Be open to different ideas, perspectives, and ways of thinking. An open mind enhances political discourse and will ultimately drive us all towards political solutions that are the most advantageous for all of us. But we will never get there unless each and every one of us has an open mind to new ideas and ways of achieving more for us as a country politically.

Allow Others Their Time

We all have our own political ideas and beliefs. Some want the world to know their ideas and some are afraid to share. Those who are afraid to share may fear persecution or intolerance. They may simply not want to risk a friendship by stating their political ideas or beliefs. It’s possible the quiet, shy person who is afraid to open up or is constantly interrupted has a startling idea for change.

It can be hard to let someone express their ideas or thoughts on politics. We often are so busy thinking of what we want to say next that we don’t actually listen to the other person. Sometimes we can’t contain our thoughts and we interrupt. These interruptions can derail the point or even burst into counter points and arguments. Soon the person who wanted to share their fabulous idea is lost in the discourse and ricocheting of these kinds of conversations. This kind of behavior gains us nothing.

It’s hard to wait your turn, as silly as that sounds. But it’s vitally important to allow the time and attention required to fully listen to and absorb an idea. Keep any counter points you have to yourself and save them for your turn to speak when the time comes.

This is one New Year’s Resolution I am going to work very hard on this year. We all deserve respect and attention when we are presenting our ideas. I would hope others would offer this to me and I will work hard this year to offer it to them.

Should you find yourself involved in conversations where this is impossible or realize the discussion is on the verge of breaking down, step in and offer some more solid rules to the discussion. It might sound silly, but if some ground rules are followed, people of vastly different opinions and ideas can discuss their sides fairly. When laying out the rules, the first one should be no interrupting.  You might want to decide on a procedure, such as a round robin, where one person can speak their piece for a set amount of time and then it’s the next person’s turn. This frees up the listeners to really pay attention to what they are hearing versus trying to find a point to jump in and dispute. Another important rule would be to always respectfully disagree.

Contact your Representative

Do you agree or disagree with a certain bill? Contact your representative and give your opinion.  Backing up your opinion with a story that tugs at heartstrings is a bonus. They may even use your story on the campaign trail! You are a constituent. If you want representation, you need to express yourself. If you want your representative to compromise to get a problem solved, tell them so.

Get Involved

By Popular Demand

By Popular Demand tackles two important issues--increasing political participation and restoring trust in government--that are critical to the future of American democracy.

If you have some time, local campaigns could use you. If you have some money, donate to candidates or to causes you care about. They hire lobbyists to do the sweet talking for them. Get involved in some way.  Whatever skills you have can probably be used.

Make Next a Better Year

The solution to our country’s problems is not in average Americans giving up and dismissing these hard conversations and decisions. The solution comes from more of us being more involved than we are now. It is truly sad when the “flagship” of worldwide democracy celebrates that we had a record setting turnout of 40% of registered voters. It does work to the advantage of those politicians that want to disenfranchise the American people from their own country. Then they can give themselves raises, months of vacation, free health care, and earmark bill after bill awarding millions in contracts to their friends and lobbyists.

Resolve to do some of these, all of these, or anything else you can think of. Let’s bring American politics back to a level of decency and functionality we once enjoyed. Politics in America can be worse, and they can be a lot better. You and I can make sure that politics in America will be better this coming year, one American patriot at a time.

Presidential Candidates: We Are ALL Americans

sw_fake_ballot_sa03045If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that the contributors share a disdain for the current political climate, especially the lack of respect that politicians, pundits, and others have shown in their conversations.

What is really disturbing is the lack of respect and outright mockery that some of the men and women vying for the Republican Presidential nomination have been directing toward voters.

This behavior is perplexing to me…why alienate so many people in the country? Don’t you need their votes?

Herman Cain said stupid people are ruining the country, and “the objective of the liberals is to destroy this country”. I’m pretty sure the 72 million people who are registered Democrats in this country would find this insulting.

Newt Gingrich enjoyed his brief surge in the polls with comments about the Democrats’ agenda, comments which were out of step with his prior reputation as a bipartisan. His actions were often contradictory during the Clinton administration. In 1994 he put together a helpful list of words to use with Republicans: “Moral”, “Family”, “Freedom”. And an accompanying list to use with Democrats: “Failure”, “Traitor”, and “Waste”. Gingrich himself is often held to blame for the extreme partisanship evidenced in politics today, after bringing ethics complaints against Speaker of the House Jim Wright.

However, in the late 90’s, he worked with President Bill Clinton on big projects, including welfare reform and working toward a balanced budget. As recently as 2008, he expressed his support for action on climate change, in an ad in which he appeared with Nancy Pelosi, who was Speaker of the House at the time. However, when asked about the ad in November of this year, he said it had been a mistake.

For some reason, it’s now gauche for politicians to be seen working together for the common good, so Mitt Romney called the ad an example of Newt Gingrich being “an unreliable conservative and an unreliable leader”. Gingrich didn’t attempt to defend the ad, which to me is unfortunate, because I view the ad as a shining example of how it IS possible for Democrats and Republicans to work together on an urgent topic. It is constantly perplexing to me that the environment is a Democratic issue. After all, the consensus in the scientific community is that global warming is occurring and that human action is contributory. We all live on the same planet, so it seems like a global issue to me.

By now Rick Perry has enough bizarre YouTube videos to hopefully put him out of the running as an actual contender for the Republican nomination. His debate gaffes occurred after his comments about doubting the science behind climate change. In November, he signed a pledge to uphold the legal definition of marriage between one man and one woman, and appoint “faithful constitutionalists” to the federal bench. Michele Bachmann also signed this pledge. In December, he released what has been dubbed his “anti-gay” ad. This kind of stance doesn’t sit well with 53% of Americans, who according to a new poll, think the government should give legal recognition to marriages between couples of the same sex. A candidate who vows to deny anyone’s basic rights is shocking to me, as is a candidate who will not consider a potential judge’s merits if that nominee doesn’t fit neatly into a pre-specified category.

I hesitate to consider Michele Bachmann an actual candidate for the Republican nomination, but since she has been involved in the debates and is as much a candidate as Rick Perry, I can definitely include her comments. She has said that Barack Obama and the “people he associates with” are Anti-American. Most of her other noteworthy comments are not specifically aimed at Democrats, but she is very good at alienating very large chunks of America. She has stated that she is for eliminating minimum wage, being a submissive wife, and introducing legislation to ban same-sex marriage. She is apparently against a vaccine against cancer (!) and all 11 million illegal aliens living in the United States.

Until recently, Mitt Romney seemed to be the only major Republican candidate whose aim wasn’t to alienate half his future constituents. Indeed, the main attacks from the right and left focus on how his comments on the issues tend to change. I’m not against a candidate changing his or her mind with a little more knowledge, but not being able to pin down the views of a possible future President make it difficult to decide if you want that person representing you. It’s nice of him not to call me anti-American, but I’m afraid his indecisiveness may be leading him down the road the way the other candidates came: He said recently he’d back a ban on same-sex marriage. In October he said the Supreme Court should reverse Roe v. Wade, a clear indication of his opposition to reproductive rights. However, he refused to sign the limiting pledge that Bachmann and Perry both signed.

Whomever the Republican nominee for President should turn out to be, I hope they understand the need for flexibility, bipartisanship, compromise, and that they will not only be governing the red states, but the entire United States of America.

 Political Information Sources

 

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