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Entries in elections (4)


No matter who wins, the voters lose

And the loss is self-inflicted.

Already conversations are underway about presidential race for year 2016. More often than not, voters who complain and write off the political process will not engage with other voters in the effort required to draft a candidate to run for office.

Instead, most voters will wait around over the next four years, looking in from the outside as party leaders, loaded campaign contributors and political operatives decide what candidates will be "viable"--worthy of their support, primarily; then there is that secondary consideration--will voters support them?

For once can't we, the people, do the foot work for a presidential candidate that makes the exploratory committee and party machinery obsolete? Voters have the numbers to make this a reality; lacking only the coordination and political will.

How goes the cliche? If you don't vote you have no right to complain. And complaining never drew any voter closer to the decision making process that nominates and ultimately elects a candidate president.


Electoral sabotage--by default

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. --quote attributed to Plato

The results of a USA Today/Suffolk University voter participation survey reveals no surprising details about the state of today's eligible voters; except that two thirds confirm they are currently registered.

Judging from a few of their primary reasons for not showing up at the polls on election day, apathetic voters illustrate how deeply uninformed they are about the inner workings of Washington, DC. They cannot fathom the degree by which lobbyists are organized, connected and relentless in the effort to influence elected representives.

For an example of the initiative that drives lobbyists, consider the 'day-in-the-life-of-a-lobbyist' guide offered by the California chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. It encourages the effort to persuade elected office holders, by stating, "You have to be persistent... [which] means continuing to press your issue and recognizing that 'no' is only for now. There is no last vote. There's always going to be a next vote."

Now have a look at three of the various excuses eligible voters give in the survey for not going to the polls on election day:

"They aren't excited about either candidate."

"Their vote doesn't really matter."

"[N]othing ever gets done, anyway."

Is it little wonder that the lobbyist industry--which numbers only in the tens of thousands--out-maneuvers tens of millions of voters day-in and day-out in matters of public policy?

Call it electoral sabotage, by default--on the part of vote-eligible citizens too apathetic to participate. 

To remedy this state of affairs would require an immense messaging effort by elected representatives and participating voters. The message to non-participating voters should spell out what the cost is for not being politically engaged, for refusing to pay attention. An incumbent running for re-election must remind voters how much time is spent on fundraising when it could be devoted to legislating and problem solving--all because a plurality of voters haven't tuned in.

Given that wide margin of unengaged citizens, it means a candidate running for public office must raise mounds of cash for the cost of media buys that reach voters who aren't paying attention.  Money doesn't grow on trees, but it certainly finds its way from the wallets of the  wealthy elite and into the coffers of a political campaign.

This defines the influence gap between voters and high dollar campaign contributors, who always come out on top over matters of public policy.

So, who can deny that we the people no longer call the shots? And who among us is ready to accept responsibility for that reality?


Voters promise no ballots for CEO-funded campaigns

It's how the headline should have read. Instead the CNN article heading rolled out this way: 100+ CEOs promise no campaign donations.

How encouraging it is to hear from the likes of Warren Buffet and Eric Schultz about taxes and the distorting influence of wealth upon our political system. A couple of ultra-wealthy business types speak out on behalf of the rest of us. Will elected officials take heed how the middle- and working classes are getting the shaft? It is doubtful as voters have yet to speak a language that candidates for public office can understand.

Unemployment stands at anywhere from 15 to 25 million. If a class of (eligible) voters who previously had no reason to pay attention to government decision making, perhaps unemployment and the great economic setback of our lifetime will have to worsen before they rouse from indifference.

This is the very demographic at whom the multi-million dollar TV campaign ads are aimed; those manipulative talking points and absurd slogans. Who pays for these ads? This crucial question leads the discussion to the moneyed interests who enjoy purchasing their place at the table while the 98% remainder of voters are left scratching their heads, 'Hey i thought i voted for change,' and they most certainly expected change. But they did not notice their candidate accepting boatloads of bundled contributions from the top 2%.

What will it take to remind voters of their own responsibilities as citizens in our democratic republic: to stay informed; to continually engage elected officials as well as one another? Understanding the influence gap between voters and their representatives may impress upon Americans how their votes succumb to the force of large check writers pulling strings behind the scenes. The language candidates for election would undrstand require a significant consensus of voters willing to enforce the following terms: to vote only for candidates who refuse any donation greater than $200 per individual per year. As of yet, that determination by voters has to be self-realized.


An American shadow: citizen projection and government dereliction


(Article first published as An American Shadow: Citizen Projection and Government Dereliction on Blogcritics.)

Speaking to representatives of Future Farmers of America in July 1988, President Ronald Reagan took a moment to remind his listeners of the ten most dangerous words in the English language: "Hi, I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help."

Decades earlier near the beginning of his political career Reagan recorded a speech on a vinyl LP excoriating socialized medicine for what he claimed as the gradualist aim of controlling citizens' lives. He went so far as to predict that the government would end up coercing doctors as to where they could or couldn't practice medicine. Even though Reagan called it "one of the traditional methods of imposing statism," he does not mention a single example when a government eventually trampled upon the freedoms of its citizens.

Like other Cold War red-baiting alarmists, Reagan fueled the hysteria of the U.S. succumbing to Stalinist repression; also doing his share to popularize the projection of inhuman, monolithic qualities onto government--an impulse that's wildly popular till today. Perhaps because of these uncertain times people are apt to carry heaps of anxiety and need somewhere or something to unload upon. Given the jobs crisis, crumbling infrastructure and America's loss of prestige world-wide--these days our government is a fish-in-a-barrel shot.

Capitalizing on the anti-government appeal, a significant number of Republicans running for office will season their campaigns with "small government" or "limited government" slogans. Apart from promises about lower taxes, stripping the social safety net or uncaging the "free market", there aren't many specifics about how less government would improve the quality of life for the whole republic.

Regarding the whole republic, the problems we face have little or nothing to do with big government or small government. What afflicts our politics is an influence gap that continually thwarts the will of voters. The gap owes much to the 40% of eligible voters who don't vote in each election as well as a general unwillingness of voters to build a consensus to solve our most pressing problems. Into said gap, moneyed interests (petrolium, financial services and defense industry to name a few) have driven their Hummer-sized policy agendas (war and industry deregulation); an effort that has looted not only the federal budget but also skimmed off the value of middle class labor--all in service to the endless gain of share holders, industry captains and their direct reports.

And all the while their right wing water carriers work to spread antipathy and mistrust between voters and government. They have employed all manner of fear mongering slogans about tyranny and threats to the so-called free market. Conjuring a despotic straw man, they urge that he stands at the threshold of seizing your rifles and relocating you to FEMA-operated death camps. Such apocalyptic talk has had the effect of eroding the bond of accountability between the government and citizens; what should have prevented much of the public- and private sector malfeasance we've seen over the last 30 years.

What voters too often forget or fail to understand is the influence they wield when working in concert. If the 2008 economic meltdown has anything to teach us, it must be how interlinked or mutually dependent our occupational and financial destinies are. Why not accept and utilize that interdependence toward its greatest electoral advantage? As the group granting the "consent of the governed" we insult the purpose of our republic to continue rolling over in deference to wealthy interests.