Something is coming, and it has already started, and it never really ended, you see. A grand circus is coming to everyone’s town, the tent pegs and stakes are already in the ground, and they’ve been there for a very long time, too. There will be signs on front lawns, in vacant lots, along the turns of main highways; there will be pages flying from power poles; we shall see throngs of people running rampant in rented small offices on Main Street. Bumper stickers, tee-shirts with slogans and photos of him and her all will say “vote for .” Rhetoric will increase, speeches will abound, attack ads will cause even the most placid to wince with wonder from whence the hatred erupted, and partisanship will increase exponentially.
The 2012 elections are right around the corner. How grand!
We are told in the simplest of terms to vote for him or her via the dunning of radio and TV and signage and mailers and odd phone calls just as the first bite of dinner hits the palate.
I don’t care if my reader is left or right-oriented, Democrat, Republican, Tea-Party, or any other affiliation. The affronts of election years are something many voters dread, and we all seem to breathe a sigh of relief once the election is done. And for whom did we all vote?
We voted for the popular candidate. It is a game of familiarity, style, spin, polish, and marketing: It’s a statistical jungle of pollsters and a fracas of media blitzes which claim “I’m right, they’re wrong, I did it, and I didn’t do it.” Huge sums of money come from all sides to get someone into the right office to do what is most important for, well, someone, or something.
The horrible Giffords tragedy, the rampant US debt ramp-up, the fear of job losses or slow job growth, the cost of energy, the cost of health, and fear for our security are signs of a problem. The contentions of the Unionists and non-Unionists in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) are signs of a problem. And with all problems, the greatest problem always seems to be defining the real problems. We see apparent problems, we see signs and symptoms, yet we’ve no idea where to start.
May I suggest we begin by examining ourselves and how we have come to choose the candidates who are now in-power. It is precisely this which will allow us to contemplate how we might put the more correct person in office next time, and it is precisely this which will cause us to examine our methods for electing in the first place.
Follow the money: soft money, or money directed to a party, is ultimately funneled to candidates in some indirect form, while hard money is a donation directly to a designated person. In a vote to protect “free speech,” the Supreme Court recently struck-down certain campaign contribution laws and allowed corporate donations to re-enter the campaign market, un-doing part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. Many fear that in the case of campaign donations, some quietly implied “quid-pro-quo” arrangement might be struck, something which will take-away our liberties-or-give preferential treatment to some group or class of people or to some corporate interests. The simple term is “bribery.”
How might one eliminate this fear? The fail-safe way to ensure constitutionality of any law on campaign reform is to introduce a constitutional amendment. Such a route is difficult to follow because constitutional amendments can occur in but two ways:
1—A two-thirds majority vote in both houses and ratification by three-quarters of all US states, typically with a seven year ratification period.
2—A constitutional convention, which has never been held.
Lawmakers have yet to gather momentum to re-visit the McCain-Feingold concepts, but with grass-root efforts, emails, and phone calls, policy makers might be guided to move in this direction.
There are several possibilities for campaign finance reform, and all involve eliminating or limiting contributions in some way or shape. Here are some concepts:
All or Nothing at All: Let us consider the extreme: the ultimate elimination of all contributions has yet to be considered, but certainly such a concept would almost completely eliminate the fear of “quid-pro-quo” arrangements from campaign donations. However, could our political decision machine run without donations of any kind? Such a change, so vast, would doubtlessly revert-back to a constitutional amendment, and it would change the way we do everything. Such a change might be worth considering, but not before we identify the impact and requirements of such a change.
Muzzle the Attack Dogs: Attack ads, bumper stickers, and signage do not give us intelligence on candidates’ voting records, personal abilities, failures or successes. Channel surfing on TV or radio becomes common sport when the negative advertisements start. We simply cannot bear them.
Many opinions and articles discuss the impact of negative political advertisements. Internet searches and Yahoo! Answers (use the search term “stop the attack ad”) provide clear, consistent responses: attack ads are not apparently enjoyed by anyone. One person likened them to kids calling each other names on a playground.
The Perfect World: When we vote, we ideologically seek independent, trustworthy sources, and failing on that scheme, we watch any debates to see how the candidate performs under pressure.
“Just the Facts, Ma’am:” The voting public needs facts, not attacks. We need the best possible information on each candidate, on each bond measure, on each new proposition, and it must be presented simply and logically and in unbiased fashion. Where can we start? Online:
Key-in the search term “information on political candidates,” and look at the results. We have a treasure of information for those able to do some searching and reading. Below are three national interest sites, but many state interest sites exist.
1…The Candidates: http://www.votesmart.org/
2…Issues and the Candidates: http://www.ontheissues.org/default.htm
3…League of Woman Voters: http://www.lwv.org//AM/Template.cfm?Section=&WebsiteKey=
The Fine Art of Pot-stirring: In order to fashion change, we must want change. We must not avoid our own personal choices, be they “left” or “right,” Democrat or Republican, Pro or Anti “whatever.” Rather, we must use our preferences, our opinions, and our time to fashion grass-root change, if we wish to see the landscape of our nation’s future change (and that, we hope, would be for the positive). We must, as Steven Covey writes in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” value the differences in our opinions, use these differences to create a new, synergy-based solution set which is greater than what we have imagined before, and then move-forward in goal-oriented fashion to forge the future.
“I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only one:” John Lennon sang it well in his song “Imagine.” Is this whole concept a Utopia, or is it achievable? In our case, in the United States, we have an ability to create laws from the people. We are a republic, a nation represented by officials who are elected to protect our best interests and vote in-accordance with our wishes, in general. The point is, we can effect change if we can only imagine it and then pursue it.
We start by some suggestions, and they strike at the heart of corruption:
Provide simple summaries of each candidate or each proposition or each bond measure, independently created, readable, and unbiased, based on geographical location and political affiliation. Facts are critical, and a single page-per-person/issue will give us enough ammunition to listen and learn more. These are provided by public funding, available in public places, and they are pamphlet-based (of course, they are internet-based, too). They are targeted by political affiliation and they are geographic in nature, so we see only the candidates we must see.
Eliminate all independently-funded or party-funded campaign ads, no matter what they may be. Rather, schedule free air time on radio and TV and internet to allow candidates to debate issues and to make clear statements about their own belief sets and principles. Signage, bumper stickers, phone calls, mailers, media blitzes, TV, and radio ads all fall silent. We can decide based on logic and research, rather than someone else’s “instructions.”
Eliminate all campaign contributions in the form of soft and hard money. Rather, the public may contribute to a common pool for the use in offsetting costs of the election, including production of the pamphlets of Item (1) and for any debate or transportation cost reimbursements.
Consider term limits. One idea is to keep a House or Senate seat to “four terms.” Debate on this is critical!
To make this work, we have a rather great obstacle: people must take the time to read and educate themselves. There are sufficient internet-based resources to accomplish this learning curve. However, with simplified pamphlets and good debates as a guide, we might possibly quickly spot a good candidate from a mediocre one.
My fellow citizens, let me ask all to consider what may be, rather than what exists now. Improvement must be a continuous process. Our leaders must reflect our collective beliefs and principles, and we can always do better at electing the right persons. Here are some additional resources to review:
Litigation to stop attack ads: http://www.gazettextra.com/news/2010/oct/16/going-court-stop-political-attack-ads/
Positive Campaign comment: http://articles.mcall.com/2010-10-18/opinion/mc-letter-scull-november-election-20101018_1_channel-surfing-positive-political-ads-federal-deficit
What is “soft money?:” http://www.thisnation.com/question/004.html
Supreme Court reversal of some of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform package: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2010/0121/Supreme-Court-Campaign-finance-limits-violate-free-speech
Opinion on Conservatism vs. Liberalism (They are Us?): http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20110127/cm_csm/358141