We are less than 2 months from the 2012 US (I have an international audience. Shout out to Iceland and Greenland! I want to come visit) Presidential election. Every day, we are inundated with election news: ridiculous super PAC spending, candidates with foot in mouth disease, polls that check the American voter more often than an obsessed dieter weighs him/herself (which can be hourly. That’s when someone gently suggests a good therapist and a prescription). I listen to people around me complaining about all the flyers from parties and candidates stuffing their mailboxes, complaints about robo-calls that disrupt life. And the relentless political ads on TV and radio (and the negative ones seem to hire the same two or three voices every election cycle. I can picture the resumes of the voice actors and actress. Yes, actress singular).
I listen to the complaints because, as a registered independent voter, I don’t get the robo-calls and mailbox crap. I’m under the radar. It’s peaceful there.
Remember Todd Akin? (A woman who is “legitimately” raped can just shut down conception? Right! THAT asshat. I hope his wife punches him in the junk while he sleeps.) Among the chorus of voices telling him to step aside, some of the Republicans said he should step aside “for the good of the Party.”
Tom DeLay, former House Majority Leader and more recent convict and failed “Dancing With The Stars” contestant (People of America? If they’re going to put Tom DeLay and Bristol Palin on, DON’T FUCKING WATCH THE SHOW. Have some discretion here!) worked with convicted lobbyist and influence buyer Jack Abramoff to build “a permanent Republican majority” in the House and Senate. This should have made any American who had stayed awake in high school civics class REALLY uncomfortable. See: one party systems are totalitarian systems (Communists in China, Baath Party in Iraq, the Kim family in North Korea). That’s not democracy.
I am sure there are examples on the Democratic side as well, but these are the two that come to my addled mind, so we’ll work from there.
Any time a group of people form an entity (political party, union or corporation as examples) to achieve a goal, a shift takes place. At first, the entity works for the benefit of the members. Gradually, the entity takes on a life of its own and it’s slow enough that the rank and file members don’t see it happen, the members of the organization start to work for ITS benefit rather than the other way around. Usually, this shift comes about when there’s money involved. A lot of money and a few people at the top of the organization want to control it, so the agenda begins to be about benefitting the organization.
Our two main political parties have reached this evolutionary point: they have become bloated monsters that are served by their members for the benefit of a few at the top rather than the party serving the members. Think of a televangelist with a Rolex and a website that takes credit cards. Who’s serving whom?
I’d like to propose a bold two-part experiment in democracy.
Part 1: Campaign contributions are limited to $xxx (pick a number) from REGISTERED VOTERS in the if district the candidate wants to represent and that’s it. Someone running for city council can only accept donations from registered voters in that ward, statewide candidates only money from the state, etc. If you the registered voter want to donate to Robbie Republican, Donna Democrat, Lonny the Libertararian and that New York guy with “The Rent Is Too Damned High” party (he was real),
God bless, have at it and deduct away. You can only give x amount to each candidate, but you can give to as many people who want to represent you as you want.
This will eliminate the PACs and Super PACs, “soft money”, which was part of the problem in the Nixon White House (have we solved that problem? Hell, no). Without the conveyor belt pouring money into campaigns, the candidates will be forced to actually get to know their potential constituents, won’t be able to afford the negative ads, the flyers, the robo-calls, the bumper stickers and the ads, ads, ads. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but working within limits like these will surely spark creativity. And anyone whining about not being able to buy TV time? There’s this thing called the “Internet” and it’s FREE. With Facebook, Twitter, etc., the message gets out. Look at the Arab Spring? That was Twitter.
Lincoln didn’t use robo-calls. Nuff said.
The only exceptions to the $xxx from registered voters rule would be bake sales and car washes performed by the candidates themselves. I’d love to see Paul Ryan shirtless and Simonizing a Prius with an “I’m Pro Choice and I Vote” bumper sticker. And no selling brownies for $50,000 a pop, either (Karl Rove).
The second part of the bold experiment is much simpler, more personal and requires a small leap of faith:
Re-register as an independent voter. No official party affiliation. Don’t get me wrong: you are free to vote a straight party ticket if you want, write in Bullwinkle J. Moose for Attorney General, you can vote any way you want. However, your name isn’t on a mailing list, so you aren’t buried in campaign flyers every time you open the mailbox. You don’t get robo-calls (and if you’re on the Do Not Call list, you can report those mothers).
What would the American political process look like if no voters declared a party preference?
1. For starters, our reps in Washington would become damned nervous. To them, this would be a rebellion, essentially being told to take their partisan politics and stick ‘em where the sun don’t shine.
2. We’d see an end to the abstract art form that is Congressional redistricting. Every 10 years, whatever party is in power in the state legislature tries to redraw the lines to favor itself (people working for the benefit of parties, not the other way around. Evolution: it’s a platypus. Maybe that should be the symbol for the independent voters). Take a look at a Congressional district map sometime.
Constituents not registered to a political party? We’re talking a grid system.
3. Between the limited contributions and the lack of party affiliation, candidates would actually have to get to know their constituents. (By the way, the third part of the plan will be to severely limit their expense accounts, cut their pay and pensions. We have to get through 1 and 2 first). You know those photos and TV ads you see of national candidates sitting with someone on a porch looking concerned? That should become the reality. Instead of big corporate donors getting the ear of your Congressman, he’s going to have to answer to you: what is the biggest priority we have now? Do you have ideas to achieve a particular goal? Does this area have a pressing need?
The Preamble to the Constitution starts with “We the People of the United States,” not “We the Bundlers of Big Donations.” Lincoln, in the Gettysburg Address, spoke of government “Of the people, by the people, for the people.” We’re getting ass-raped on that deal (Fuck you, Todd Akin). We the people, the actual voters, are pretty much ignored until the Powers That Want to Be want our votes. We the people should stop enabling this playground level partisan brawling that has rendered our Federal legislature (That’s the US House of Representatives and Senate) vapor-locked, frozen like they’d seen Medusa (Greek mythology reference) and about as useful as a screen door in a submarine. Let’s take away their money and their smug sense of security. Let’s make them work FOR US, not for the parties.