Wednesday, June 22, 2016

America's Electoral Blind Spot: Who Is Being Represented?

For months now, there's been talk about how the Republican Party's "status quo" who run everything have been working diligently behind the scenes to knock Donald Trump off his perch as the potential GOP nominee. They've done everything in their power to find some candidate or combination of candidates to bump him off. They even appeared to have worked quietly in partnership with the Democrats as well as the corporate controlled media to make "The Donald" look like a buffoon or "not ready for primetime" candidate. Not only did that failed, but the harder they tried, the better Trump did in the polls and with the turnouts he was getting. With all their efforts failing, the talk turned to defeating Trump at the Republican Convention using the "small print" strategy; that is, using the built-in party platform rules to deny Trump, and the voters, the right to have their selection upheld.

Meanwhile, "somebody" has underwritten efforts to terrorize Trump supporters (a few have admitted that they were paid, and bussed in to cause mischief but had no idea who it was for or against). They've blocked traffic on streets and highways to try and keep people from hearing Trump's message. They started fights. They sneaked in to his speaking engagements and tried to disrupt events there by shouting, heckling, holding signs, throwing items and even trying to storm the stage to attack Trump himself. The corporate media has cherry picked and slanted stories to convince viewers or listeners into thinking that Trump or his supporters are behind all the violence while any rational person can see for themselves who's doing what to whom. Meanwhile absolutely nothing whatsoever is going on at Hillary Clinton's campaign stops. It's all very reminiscent of the Hitler's Brownshirts, Mussolini's Blackshirts or the turn of the century union busters.

As for Bernie Sanders, he has no hope in winning the nomination. At best, he may be able to exert some influence onto the Democratic platform that Hillary will campaign on. Of course, you have to hand it to Bernie, his message of democratic socialism has hit a nerve with the largest demographic bloc of voters, the Millennials, who are largely liberal or even Leftist on most social issues, are disappointed in both Obama and in Clinton. If a younger and more charismatic Sanders type comes along in the near future, I predict that candidate would stand a pretty fair chance of getting elected. In the interim, a lot of Millennials are taking another look at the Green Party's Jill Stein and the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson (in several polls taken of Millennials, there is a slight majority who favor libertarianism while a substantial minority favors democratic socialism, and hence the strong popularity of Ron Paul among the under 30 demographic), which brings me to the topic I want to address in this article.

If you were to listen only to the corporate controlled media, you would think that we, as voters, have only two choices---Democrat or Republican. Only those parties seem to get media coverage, which is by design. The Oligarchy which rules this nation now, and with it, the six---yes six---corporations responsibly for 98% of news we get. They also control both of the major parties and are responsible for the thousands of lobbyists who descend on Capitol Hill like locusts every single day and often late into the night. They are the ones who don't just advise lawmakers, their staff, and the President, they also write much of the legislation which is then chaperoned through the the various committees and onto the House and Senate floor for the final vote. In addition, thanks in large part to Citizens United which decided corporations are "individuals", but with greater rights than you and I, removed the financial cap restricting corporations while retaining it on ordinary voters. It is into this morass that we, as voters, must wade. As most you know by now, we are given the illusion of choice.
These corporate "Frankensteins" have already pre-vetted each of the candidates and are assured of their them not to us. We get to choose from some metaphorical unsweetened blue "Kool-Aid" or a slightly sweetened red "Kool-Aid". Regardless, the aftertaste is equally bitter. However, like me, most voters have put down their cups of flavored hemlock. Most Americans, some 43% of the population and rapidly growing have changed our registration to Independent (including 50% of Millennials). We see both political parties and their one percent Overlords as the root of American's decline. We've accepted the fact the media can be counted on to toe the line with their snippets of news, slanted whichever way they're told. The Democrats have the second highest registration, with just over 30% and the Republicans are a distant third. Perhaps it's because, while most Americans are centrists, slight Left or Right depending on the topic, both major parties have blindly purged their parties of moderates; labeling them "Dinos" or "Rinos", Democrat or Republican in Name Only.

As an aside, of all the billions of dollars we have put into euphemistically named "nation building", not one country has modeled itself on our form of government. Instead, they chose the British proportional representation style. Why? Because under the British system, your party is allotted a specific number of seats based on how well your party did in the election, thus even if your party lost the election, you still have individuals in office to represent you. While in the US "winner-take-all" setup, if your party loses, tough luck. For the next two or four or six years you have no one representing you. They may be of some assistance on individual issues, but they don't represent your interests or values on social, domestic or foreign matters. I guess it could be considered taxation without representation again. Personally, I've always been of the mindset that, under our current system, when you take the oath of office, you publically resign from your political party and openly swear to represent your district and/or nation unfettered by your former party. That is, you cease being partisan and swear to represent everyone equally.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with the likes of Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. It leaves us with the hope of third parties and Independents bringing their ideas...fresh the American People. I think most of us have come to accept the fact that today's government in Washington, or indeed, in our states, do not bare the faintest resemblance to what our Founding Fathers intended. In fact, we are no longer even a democratic republic. We are a defacto Oligarchy with increasingly fascist (or corporatist to use the other proper term) tendencies, complete with a militarized police and surveillance state. I strongly suspect that if the Founders could come back and see us now, they would unanimously agree that they should have paid that damn tea tax and got over it. Now you may be wondering at this point why don't we just sweep the corrupt Republican and Democrat parties to the "dustbin of history" to quote Karl Marx. The answer is quite simple really. The whole damn thing is rigged tighter than a Mafia backed boxing match or horse race.

We hear of, sparsely to be sure, the Libertarian and Green parties only because they've been around awhile and have been successful in building up their membership over the years, and with it, their coffers (there are other third party organizations out there such as the Constitution Party). Money is the life blood of politics. Both parties are usually successful in getting out the message for their two top candidates while down ballot candidates get little or any support, especially financial. Also, ever since Ross Perot's history making race on the Reform Party ticket, both major parties, in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation, agreed not to include any third party or Independent in any debate, or to ever share the stage with them (including appearing on TV or radio). When the non-partisan League of Women Voters, which had been hosting the presidential debates, starting in 1976, refused to go along with this arrangement (13 changes in all), they were booted off and the two parties created their own organization, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which is headed jointly by the former chairmen of the Democratic and Republican national committees. The CPD then sells the rights to host the debates to the highest bidder, as well as commercial air time. You just have to admire the deviousness of it all.

In addition, Independents and third parties often struggle to get enough money to mount a serious campaign since most corporate donors invest in either of the two major parties, and who can blame them? They know what they're buying with them and odds are pretty strong that the Indies and/or third party candidates are interested in real election and political reforms, and that can't be allowed. Then there is ballot access, which in many states is patently unfair if not outright illegal (but, once again, it takes lots of money and time to challenge these laws, and while Indies and third parties may have the time, it's money that's in short supply).

In most states, simply filling to run for office won't work. You see, to run as a Democrat or Republican, you have to get the signature of between approximately two and five hundred individuals who are all members of your party and live in your district, county, or state, depending on what you're running for (this, of course, varies from state to state), plus pay a filing fee which can run from a few dollars to over a thousand dollars. However, if you're an Independent or third party candidate, all that goes out the window in most cases. Some states, like Maryland, require 10,000 signatures on a petition if you're running as an Independent or a third party candidate with less than 1% registration. In North Dakota, it's 1000 signatures for statewide races or 300 signatures for a legislative office for an Independent candidate . Texas requires a registered political party to have either 5% of the vote statewide or signatures of 1% of the total number of votes from the previous election for governor while an Independent must have 1% of the total vote from the last election for governor. Kentucky, like most states, also use a percentage to determine eligibility. If a party's candidate for president is less than 2% in the state, it's considered a "political group" whereas if it received between 2% and 20%, it's a "political organization", and if they received greater than 20%, they are a "political party". Thus, if you're a political organization or party, you need only two signatures while political groups or Independents will need between 25 and 5000 signatures, depending on the office. Everyone has to pay the same filing fee.

Obviously, all of this can be quite confusing and easily disqualify or discourage anyone from running who isn't aligned with one of the two main parties. What's more, is how Independents, who are the largest voting bloc, are penalized and discouraged from running along with third parties. So, what to do? First, let's make the requirements for everyone who is running the same. If candidates from the two main parities are required to have only two signatures from individuals who are of their party and in their district for instance, then so should any third party candidate (Independents would be allowed the signature of anyone who is registered). Any filing fees required would be the same regardless. All registered candidates should be allowed to participate in any and all debates as well as receive equal radio, TV and print coverage. Lastly, until such time as there is serious campaign finance reform, there needs to be term limits imposed of twelve years regardless of office. If a politician can't get what they want accomplished by then, they don't need to be in office.
Twelve years is also enough time to build seniority (especially since everyone else will be operating from the same playbook) and obtain ample experience while, at the same time, it's short enough to not encourage the level of corruption and arrogance many of these politicians exhibit. We should also demand that corporations (including unions) not be allow to donate, either directly as they do now or indirectly as they previously have done, money or in-kind gifts to any candidate or party. In fact, I think that only individuals---flesh and blood people---should be allowed to donate to any political campaign, though I would raise or remove the cap to help offset the loss of corporate dollars. Meanwhile, if corporations or unions want to donate, then allow them to donate to a general fund to cover the costs of the election process itself. This could even be used to reduce the overall costs of campaigns by being used to cover media costs during the last 30 days of the general election.

I think we should end taxpayer based coverage of the primary. That's right, taxpayers pay for the primaries of both parties. Taxpayers pick up the tab for both the Republican and Democrat primaries. That has to end. Let both parties be responsible for their own bill, not the taxpayers. Lastly, we should ensure that the law apply equally all those elected, up to and including insurance coverage. We should end lifetime payment of the salaries, benefits, plus terminate taxpayer paid security after four years. We need to restrict the "revolving door" arrangement between government and private industry, including consulting or lobbying, by requiring a ten year wait period in order to reduce any possible "friendship deals". While some or all of this may sound harsh, it's this kind of toughness that we need if we are ever going to regain control of the government which is now in the hands of the 1%, and we know that power is never ever given up willingly. But if we are serious in wanting to restore our democratic republic from the Oligarchs who rule this country, then this is what we must do. Otherwise, we will continue to see our freedoms and opportunities vanish.

Ballot Access

The Liberal Millennial Revolution

Millennials Political Views Don't Make Any Sense

Self-described "liberal" Millennials are Actually Libertarian

Pew Research: Political Trends

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