Thursday, February 11, 2016

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT AMERICA'S POLITICAL SYSTEM, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE? (play Emperor of America for a few minutes and tell me what you'd fix)

           Yesterday, out of boredom, I asked friends and neighbors on Facebook to name the three things they'd change about America's current political system if they had the power to enact any of their own ideas into law.  I quickly found out my own three changes weren't exactly from my "A" game, and had to revise my own list.

           Here were my original three changes, in no particular order:

Number 1:   I'd do away with two term presidencies.  I'd have a president elected to serve ONE six year term, after which he would be required to move his/her shit out of the White House and get on with painting watercolors of his feet in the bathtub, or building houses for Habitat for Humanity.  This change would do two things: it would eliminate the endless fundraising and campaigning that takes up most of the last half of every president's first term in office, and it would encourage them to get off their asses and push for the changes they campaigned on in the first damn place.  No more putting off the hard shit until the second term was ensured.  You get six years, make the most of 'em.  

Number 2:  I would reverse the Citizen's United decision and get the dark money out of our political process.  (more on that silly shit suggestion later, because this is the one that gets ousted by something even more important).

Number 3:  I'd do away with the Electoral College and elect presidents strictly by a majority of the popular vote.  Here's why that would fundamentally change things... Right now a person registered as a Democrat in Texas might as well flush his presidential ballot down a toilet. His state's delegates are going to the GOP's candidate, whether he votes or not. Why bother?  If you're a Republican in Massachusetts, it's doubtful your vote will carry any weight at all in a national election, because your state is going Democratic.  If we elected by popular vote, every person casting a ballot would know that their vote matters.  No longer would elections be called hours before the polls close on the west coast. Those votes would matter, and the pundits would just have to put on more coffee and fucking wait, like the rest of us.

              I thought I had put down some pretty good suggestions. Then someone pointed out that automatic voter registration for anyone over 18 would be handy, and I realized that idea would go a long way toward eliminating voter suppression tactics that are so popular in red states these days.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized THAT idea was way better than my Citizen's United thing, because we're NEVER going to eliminate dark money from our political process, no matter what we do. Billionaires are going to buy the process like they always have, and like they certainly did before Citizen's United came along to make it all legal.

               Someone else suggested term limits for all elected officials, but that's a bridge too far for me. The most effective legislators don't find their way around the Capitol for a few years, and I'm not sure we want an entire Congress of neophytes in D.C. trying to learn parliamentary procedure on the job.  Of course, it couldn't possibly work any worse than our current Congress, so maybe it would help if they didn't know what they were doing.

               Would it help things if election day was a national holiday?

               Would you be in favor of a prohibition of statewide "wedge" issue referendums during presidential elections? (you know the ones, like referendums on gay marriage, legalized pot, open carry gun laws, abortion bans, prayer in schools... the things that are tossed onto the ballot solely to drive up the attendance of certain types of voters?)


               How about it?  For this little hypothetical, you're God and you get to fix this country's problems.

               What would you do?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER (the 2016 nominating process slogs on...)

             Confusion must be exciting.

             Want an extreme example of confusion?  I saw multiple interviews with New Hampshire primary voters who were torn between casting a ballot for billionaire Donald Trump and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders.  It was a tossup for so many of them.  What to do?

             I don't know what planet these people came to us from, but obviously they missed some of the tutorials on the ride over.  If you're not certain whether the leader of the free world should be a pompous, arrogant reality television phenomenon who was handed hundreds of millions of dollars at birth, or a guy who's railed against billionaires and their undo influence on our public policy, you probably shouldn't bother voting.

             It's easy to write off these people as uninformed, trend-driven neophytes.  But if you consider the underlying source of their confusion, it's also easy to understand why they're so addled.

             Quite simply, people are sick to fucking death with things the way they are.  The middle way no longer appeals to them.  They feel left out of the process, ignored by their national, state, and local leaders, and want to lash out with a vote against the political establishment. Trump and Sanders are anything but "status quo" politicians.  They're arriving on the national political scene at a unique time in our nation's history, and are benefiting from a current of unease we haven't seen since the '60s.  

               After a long, hot summer of racial upheaval, the last months of the second term of America's first black president might very well sound a clarion call for a radical departure from business as usual in Washington.  

                The establishment candidates are being ignored, or worse, ridiculed. Hillary supporters are apoplectic at the prospect that their chosen candidate might once again be deprived of her coronation. Eight years ago she was the chosen one, vetted by grace under fire as First Lady.  And yet, an upstart first term junior Senator from Illinois caught the fancy of the nation, and she was shunted aside by Barack Obama's tidal wave of support. So she played the part of the good soldier, served as her rival's Secretary of State, and has earned her spot at the top of the ticket.  And yet, it seems to be happening again... Her supporters, once so confident, are now lashing out at anyone voicing support for Bernie Sanders, because he's this election cycle's Obama... getting all the small donations, getting all the youth vote, getting all the attention. And Hillary's shrill panic is beginning to replace the confident sound of an inevitable nominee.

              Jeb Bush and his billionaire backers can't even get people to clap at their poorly composed applause lines.  The rest of the GOP field is beginning to realize that this election cycle is up for grabs, but none of them can get a toehold because of the Trump tsunami.  He doesn't have to beg for donations, and gloats over the fact that most of them have already called him for support in previous elections.  So centrist candidates like John Kasich of Ohio suddenly look like the only alternative for sane Republicans... and unfortunately for the GOP, sane Republicans are definitely a minority in their Party base these days.  They've spent so much time fomenting the Tea Party lunatic fringe (in order to rail against every progressive suggestion) that they now have no idea how to control the beast of their own creation.  In short, the GOP has nailed down the flaps of its Big Tent, and has suddenly come to realize that only angry, white bigots managed to get inside before the doors closed.  Their anger and antics play well on their cable mouthpiece, but no amount of Faux Noise Channel propaganda can save them now.

                Ironically, they've salted their own garden.

                So the circus moves on the South Carolina... a state where Rebel flag controversies and racial tension are still fresh on the national radar.  What happens after that is anyone's guess, with Nevada and Super Tuesday looming.

                This may all shake out the way the establishment honchos intend, with Hillary and Kasich meeting up next November.  But don't bet your lungs on it.

                 Conventional political wisdom is about as valuable as a degree in art, these days.