And a new day dawns…I hope

Kamala Harris Endorsed Joe Biden This Morning – Mother JonesAs I write this, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States.  Hopefully, the day’s proceedings will continue to be completely uneventful and we can start getting things back on a more normal footing.  That said, however, there are some things that need to change…and this is where it gets interesting.  Not everyone is going to want the same changes…or like the changes that eventually do get made…or even agree that we need to change anything at all.

Still, I’d like to take a minute and throw out my own personal list of “Things That Need To Change” as an open letter to our incoming President and Vice President, Speaker of the House Pelosi, Senator Schumer and Senator McConnell, Senator Sanders, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Representative Rashida Tlaib, Representative Ilhan Omar and the rest of Congress.

Current Events

Anyone who participated in the insurrection and attempted coup on January 6th, 2021 should be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  This should include any and all Elected Officials who helped instigate the unrest by attempting to overturn a lawful election.  Any Senators and Representatives involved should be ejected from Congress and put on trial immediately.  And frankly, they should be held to a harsher accounting than the people who actually stormed the Capitol.  Our Elected Officials MUST be held to a higher standard.  They profess to be our “Leaders”.  Time to put up or shut up.

Former President Trump should be impeached and held FULLY accountable for his actions in instigating the Capital assault and for his inaction in trying to halt it – see my previous comments about Elected Officials, Leaders and higher standards.  Furthermore, he should be stripped of any and all benefits that a former President would normally receive and he should be barred from ever holding public office again.  Finally, any protections he might get from Civil or Criminal prosecution should be removed.  If he broke the law, he should be held accountable.

Put simply, we can not…MUST NOT…have one set of rules for Elected Officials and another set for everyone else.  This is America, where “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” and everyone is held equal under the law.

And I don’t want to hear about forgiveness and moving past all this and letting bygones by bygones.  If someone steals a car, they should be charged with stealing a car.  If someone murders another person, they should be charged with murder.  If someone takes up arms against our government, they should face appropriate charges for that, too.  I trust I won’t have to dredge up the old medical maxim about having to cut out the infection before healing can begin.  But the goal here must be equal justice under the law, not revenge.

The Past

I used to be a Republican.  I registered as a Republican when I was 18 so that I could vote and that’s how things remained until a few years ago when I changed the party affiliation on my voter’s registration.  No, I did not register as a Democrat.  I registered as an Independent.  My wife, formerly a Democrat, also changed her affiliation to Independent. 

There were several reasons for this: Democrat Super Delegates who ignored the will of the people and cast their votes for Hillary Clinton, the DNC’s unfair treatment of Senator Sanders in that same election, Republican scare tactics and denial of scientific fact and their absolute refusal to deal at all with anything proposed by President Obama and so much more.  What it all boils down to is partisan politics at the expense of the American people and the United States as a country. 

My wife and I were not the first to do drop our party affiliations…and we most certainly will not be the last.  In fact, we seem to be part of a trend.  The Democrat and Republican Parties are suffering a death of a thousand cuts…and they are doing it to themselves. A weekly Gallup poll running since 2004 spells it out.  Both major parties are losing people.

‘My way or the highway’ politics needs to end.  Extremist politics from either party needs to end.  Self-serving politics at the expense of the American people and the country needs to end.  Moderation, working together, compromise and cooperation, whole-hearted, devoted service to your constituents and your country – this is the only way forward.  Anything else is a National suicide pact.  I would remind you that a synonym for holding elected office is “Public Service”.

The Senate Oath of Office reads, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

The House Oath of Office reads, “I, <name>, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Members of Congress, can you honestly say that you are honoring your oath?  Can you honestly say that you are serving the people you swore to represent?  Can you honestly say that you are putting the welfare of your constituents and your country ahead of your own ego, personal welfare and power?  Honor, integrity, personal accountability and personal responsibility are not just words.  They are the cornerstone of public service and they are principles that helped found and form this country.  If you cannot honestly answer all three of those questions with an unreserved “Yes” then you need to look in the mirror and examine the soul of the person looking back at you.

The Future

This is the important part…where do we go from here?  If we don’t learn from the past and put aside our partisan ways, the only direction we will go is down.  Personally, I would prefer to avoid that.  But there’s no easy path to a better tomorrow.  There are a few things we can do to get started though.

Put an end to partisan politics.  That has done nothing except bring us to the brink of ruin.  We have to work together if we want to get anything done.  We have to be willing to compromise.  We’ve just had four years of “the only way I win is if everyone else loses” and look where that left us.  How about we try a little something I like to call Bipartisanship?  Maybe if the Democrats and the Republicans work together we can get something permanent and positive done. 

Partisan politics gives us a few years of one way followed by a few years of the exact opposite.  Two steps left, two steps right and you end up right back where you started from with no one any better off.  Two steps forward followed by two more steps forward sounds like a much better idea.

Embrace science.  Don’t base policy on internet memes and gut instinct.  Science is a thing.  Science is real.  It works.  It’s proven.  It helped make America great in the first place – you remember…that whole man on the moon, “One small step” thing.  But this means accepting a few truths like: global warming is real, vaccines don’t cause autism, face masks work.  It also means that we need to…

Educate our children.  Raise education standards, never lower them.  Increase funding to public schools so that school systems can hire more teachers, make classrooms smaller, raise salaries and provide teachers with the materials they need to do their jobs. 

Make higher education free to everyone – whether it’s college or trade school.  You don’t have to have a college degree to get a good job.  If we don’t have plumbers, electricians, welders and carpenters, where will the college graduates live and work?  A functional society has to have a strong mix of both blue and white collar jobs.

Cancel student loans.  When I started college in 1978, my first year’s tuition was around $500 or $600 total.  That covered in-state tuition and books.  I was living at home so I didn’t have to pay for housing but friends who did have that extra expense still weren’t going into years of massive debt.  A summer joe-job would take care of most of it. 

My sons both paid somewhere north of $15,000/year for in-state tuition and housing.  This required student loans.  Books and meal plans took the totals even higher.  Both boys worked part-time jobs while they were in school.  Also, my wife and I pitched in with Parent Plus loans – I should have them paid off a couple of years after I retire.  My kids hope they’ll have their loans paid off by the time they retire, too. 

Just a final note about this…it’s kind of hard for a young person just starting out to save up to buy a car and a house and a big screen TV and etc. when they’re paying so much in student loan payments they can barely afford to pay their bills and buy food.  So if you want the economy to work better, this might be a place to start.

Fix taxation.  Right now, there are American companies that have moved their headquarters to other countries to avoid paying US taxes.  And I don’t think that should be against the law…as long as the entire Board of Directors of said company is willing to give up their US citizenship, move to the preferred foreign country and forfeit all their financial holdings in the US to pay for the privilege.  Oh, and I almost forgot…forced corporate divestiture of all US assets at 10% of market value.  There’s an old saying – “You’ve got to pay to play”.  So some other company that is willing to pay their taxes can buy up the assets and make a pile.

Consider putting tax rates from the Eisenhower administration back in effect for personal income tax.  All the dot-com billionairs would still have more money than they could spend in a hundred lifetimes.  But all that money put back into the economy would do the rest of the populace (and the economy) a world of good. 

And while we’re looking at Eisenhower era policies, how about setting the rules back so that companies that plow profits back into the company (instead of into shareholders pockets) don’t have to pay taxes on those profits.  Throw in some verbiage about domestic vs foreign assets and a lot of those jobs lost to overseas sweatshops will come back home which means lower unemployment and higher GDP.  

Fix insurance and health care.  Yes, I mean Socialized Medicine and Universal Healthcare.  No, I don’t mean turning us all into good little communists.  So first off, stop conflating Socialized Medicine with Socialism and Communism.  We already live in a Social Democracy.  We have public libraries, roads, schools, fire departments, colleges, universities, police departments, military, welfare, unemployment and more, all funded by public funds.  Funding Universal Healthcare won’t change who we are as a nation anymore than funding public schools did.

In all honesty, I feel I should point out that a healthy populace where everyone has the health care they need actually will change us.  For one thing, it will save us an estimated $99 Billion dollars each year…and since that estimate is from 2001 I’m going to guess that the number is a bit higher now.  Plus, wouldn’t everyone sleep better if they knew that no one would die because they had to choose between buying food or buying insulin?

Some of the costs for Universal Healthcare could be taken care of with a couple of simple policy changes.  Just as an example, let Medicare/Medicaid negotiate for drug prices.  That’s just sound capitalism.  If the government told private industry that they couldn’t use competitive bidding for their purchases, how long until the entire economy collapsed.  The entire government already uses competitive bidding.  Why can’t Medicare?  And please do not give me an answer that boils down to, “Because big Pharma would lose a buck”.

Most of what I’ve said up to now had been aimed at Congress.  But I don’t want this to be one-sided so I have some suggestions for the President, too. 

Don’t govern by fiat Executive Order.  Yes, I know that they’ve been around since George Washington and yes, I know that sometimes they’re necessary.  But Executive Orders are NOT laws.  They’re not permanent.  We’ve just had four years of Trump reversing Executive Orders enacted by Obama.  And you’ve already said that you’re going to reverse some (all?) of Trump’s.  Just remember that whoever comes after you is likely to reverse yours.

Instead, why not work for bipartisan solutions that will have backing from both parties to put permanent changes into effect.  Since Vice President Harris is the swing vote in Congress, this should be easier for you than it was for President Obama.  Of course, this will require bipartisan cooperation from Congress so it’s not all on you.

Install Department and Agency Heads that actually know how to do the job.  And avoid anyone with industry ties that will lead them to make policy benefiting business at the expense of the citizens.  I’ll point out the recent heads of Education and Communications as the type of candidate to avoid.

And don’t skip a good candidate just because they are from the opposing party.  If the best candidate for a given post is Republican, show some of that bipartisanship I mentioned earlier and give them the job.

Continue to diversify the government.  Your choice of Vice President Harris as your running mate is an encouraging first step.  And your choices for some of your cabinet would indicate that this is your policy and not just paying lip service. Keep up the good work.  But try to get more young people involved in your administration.  Frankly, I’m sick and tired of seeing nothing but a bunch of old white guys in government…and I’m an old white guy.

Final thoughts

Who am I kidding.  These aren’t my final thoughts on this subject.  I’ve had four long years to think about this plus I can armchair quarterback our government as well as any American.  So I’ll  probably circle back around to this at some point.  That’s for later, though.  For now, I’ve rambled enough.  But I will be watching and hoping…and expecting our President, Vice President and Congress to do everything they can to live up to their oaths.  They have a responsibility to US…and to the U.S.  And we have a responsibility to make sure they do their jobs.

Is Your News Feed Killing America?

Quick question…what’s in your news feed? Maybe you use Google News, maybe you use Flipboard. Maybe you still have a landing page in your browser that has news feeds in it. But what news feeds are they?

I’m not asking if you’re Liberal or Conservative. And I’m not going to get into which news feeds cater to Liberals or which ones cater to Conservatives. What I want to know is, do any of those news feeds disagree with your stance on politics? I’m betting the answer to that question is, “No”.

The age of personalization

This is a wonderful time we’re living in. Think about it. You can buy fresh fruit from the other side of the globe. You can order doodads and thing-a-ma-bobs from all over the planet and have them delivered to your door in just a couple of days. You can stream music or TV or movies to your phone pretty much anywhere you go. You can subscribe to blogs, podcasts and websites for any interest you may have. And you can have a personalized newspaper available to you every minute of every day.

Every bit of it can be customized to your specific tastes. Want to listen to nothing but pre-White Album Beatles? No problem. Want to see the latest episode of your favorite sitcom? Just stream it. Want to read up on all the latest trends in hair care, craft brewing, microbiology or whatever your particular interest is? There’s a blog or website or podcast out there just for you. Want to read the news without all that annoying stuff from the other party that you just don’t want to wade through? A custom news feed is just a click away. But that custom news feed may be a problem.

You are what you read

When I was a kid, every night at 6:00 my Dad would tune the TV to the CBS Evening News. Walter Cronkite would be there to tell us what was happening in the world. Maybe other families watched David Brinkley…or maybe just their local news. There weren’t as many choices back then so you could be pretty sure that anybody watching the Evening News was watching either CBS, ABC, NBC or the local channel. And maybe you liked it, maybe you didn’t…but you trusted that it was the truth.

I’m not saying that the news was completely unbiased. One network might lean a little more toward the Democratic side of things while their competition might tend to be more Republican oriented. But regardless, the news was reported in a reasonably unbiased manner. If you watched Cronkite and you were talking about the news the next day to a co-worker who watched Brinkley, you’d have both heard pretty much the same news, reported in very similar fashion.

If Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley both looked at the same dog, both would report on the dog. One might comment more on how big the dog was while the other might focus more on the length and color of it’s coat but there’d be no doubt that they were reporting on the same dog. Your water cooler conversation may be about the relative merits of Black Labradors vs Beagles (Black Labs win that one, BTW) but regardless, you’d be talking about dogs because dogs were what every network was reporting on.

Compare that with today where, if MSNBC and Fox both looked at the same dog, MSNBC would tell you about a fish and Fox would tell you about a bird. If you’re more a fish person, you’re going to be all-in on MSNBC. But if you’re think that fish drool and birds rule, Fox is where you’re going to go for your news fix. The only problem with that is that we complete lose track of the fact that we’re actually talking about dogs.

You read what you are

Today we have news sources that is decidedly biased one way or the other. We also have technology that makes it insanely easy to tailor a news feed that caters to our individual biases and opinions. On the face of it, it sounds like a fine idea. I can read/watch/listen to news that is oriented to my interests. If my interest is business news, I can see that without having to wade through sports news or personal interest stories. Great! Fantastic!

But what happens when we check political news? Suddenly, you’re not seeing only political news without having to wade through business news or sports. You’re seeing only political news that conforms with your own biases and beliefs without having to wade through different opinions. If you’re a Liberal, the majority of the news stories you’ll see in your personalized feed will be Liberal stories from Liberal sources. By the same token, if you’re a Conservative, the majority of the news stories you’ll see in your personalized feed will be Conservative stories from Conservative sources.

OK, so what’s wrong with that?

Again, on the face of it, it sounds fine. “I don’t have to listen to those idiots over there. They’re wrong anyway so why waste my valuable time on them? I’ve got better things to do besides listening to their sheep-like bleating.”

Except that listening to nothing but what you already think closes your mind to everything else. If you never see or hear a different opinion you’ll never have a new idea. You’ll be doomed to live the same political day over and over and over again without any hope of it ending. It’s Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day but without the learning and growing and, most importantly, without the redemption in the end. Nobody gets the girl. Nobody lives happily ever after. Everybody just wakes up tomorrow and it’s exactly like today. Forever.

When I was a kid, politicians were Democrats or Republicans but they thought more for themselves. They at least made a pretense of supporting their constituency. They would ‘cross the aisle’ and vote for a bill from the other party because the bill was good or necessary. They didn’t do it all the time but it happened often enough that it wasn’t worth more than a casual mention on the news, if that.

These days, Democrats and Republicans are scared to do anything not officially blessed by their Party. Crossing the aisle is a major thing and could cost you re-election. With everyone only seeing their own opinions and never seeing anything else, we’ve become an Us vs. Them country. If you agree with me, you’re on the side of the angels. If you don’t agree with me, you’re more evil that Satan.

And it’s getting worse every day. The news sources for all those personalized feeds have to keep one-upping every story. And the networks with their polarizing spins do the same thing. If they don’t, they lose readers or viewers. A story that was a 5 alarm fire last month wouldn’t be worth mentioning this month because “HAVE YOU SEEN THE LATEST THING THAT THOSE EVIL BASTARDS OVER THERE HAVE DONE TODAY?!?!?!?”

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So what’s the solution?

Frankly, I doubt that there is one single solution. But, in the interest of proposing solutions to problems and not just complaining about them, I’ll lay out three options: what I want to see happen, what I hope happens and what I do myself.

What I want to see happen is for News reporting to go back to a time when reporters only reported the news. They didn’t try to make it. They didn’t spin every sentence to try to make it sound like their side was nothing but Good Guys and the other side was nothing but Bad Guys. I’d like them to report the news without actively, blatantly, aggressively having a side. I’d like to see more factual reporting and less opinion. I don’t see this happening anytime soon. Maybe one day that pendulum will swing back the other way but I’m not going to hold my breathe.

What I hope happens has nothing to do with the news sources and has everything to do with computer programmers. Let me explain. You have a personalized news feed because of computer programmers. They wrote programs that looked at what news sources you read most often, how long you spend reading their content, how quickly you click away from other content, etc. Then they took that information and gave you a news feed based on where you clicked the most and what news you spent the most time on. It’s pretty much the same thing that Spotify does with your music feed and Netflix does with your movies.

But when it comes to politics, I’d like the programmers to program in some equal time. For every three Conservative stories in your feed, they throw in a Liberal one. And vice-versa, or course. This won’t do anything for the Luddites who don’t get on the Internet and only watch whichever TV news channel feeds their biases. It would however, make sure that just about anyone under the age of 40 would be exposed to ideas different from their own. Maybe if that happened, the next generation would be more open and accepting … assuming we survive that long.

What I do myself – or try to do at any rate – is look at a bunch of different news sources of all stripes from HuffPost to Fox. I listen to Liberal and Conservative pundits ( sorry, I’m having a hard time calling them “Reporters” ). I read foreign press including the BBC and Al Jazeera. Then I think about what I’ve read and heard. I talk to other people about it – specifically including people who vote differently than me. I do some research and try to double-check the alleged facts that have been “reported”. And finally, I try to make up my own mind.

I don’t do all that so I can say that I’m better than anyone else. I do it so that I know what I think is as close to the truth as I can find. I do it so that I am forced to consider opinions and idea that are sometimes wildly different from what I might normally consider. I do it so that my ideas and opinions are truly my own and not just what some talking head told me to believe. Because if I don’t question my ideas…if I don’t hold my opinions up for comparison to differing opinions, how can I know whether any of them are worth a damn?

I’ll ask again…what’s in your news feed? Are you reading and listening to news that challenges your opinions and that forces you to consider other ideas besides your own? Or are you only reading and listening to news that feeds your own biases? Are you trying to save America? Or are you trying to kill it?

My Constitutional Amendment Wish List

It’s the Christmas season and there’s a certain wish list I’ve had for years now – a couple of decades really – that I hope to see passed as law in this land someday.   I don’t really expect to get any of them – especially since they would all require Constitutional Amendments – but I still hold out hope.  Let me share it with you.

Congressional Term Limitations

The 22nd Amendment states, “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.”  It was proposed and ratified at least partially in response to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election to a third and then a fourth term as President.

The idea behind it was that if any one person spent too much time in office, their power would grow too great.  If he had lived, FDR would have served sixteen years as President of the United States.  Meanwhile, according to this list, there have been over 100 Senators and Representatives who have served over thirty years in office.  Robert Byrd of West Virginia served for over 57 years and John Dingell of Michigan served for over 59!  How come it’s dangerous for a President to serve more than eight years but not for a Congressman?

A Presidential Line Item Veto

My reason for wishing for this can be summed up in one word.  Riders.  In case you want to skip the Wikipedia definition, a rider is a bad bill that gets tacked onto a good bill because the good bill has a better chance of passing.

There are two reasons for this.  The first is that it’s an easy way to get an unpopular bill passed since it’s riding on the coattails of a popular bill.  The other reason is to kill the popular bill by tacking poison pill riders onto it until it dies. If enough crap gets tacked on, the best bill in the world won’t pass.

Either way, a line item veto would clear all the dead wood off of those ‘good’ bills and stop a lot of bad legislation from becoming law.  It wouldn’t stop the poison pill riders from stopping a bill but it would help clear up a lot of the cruft that gets attached to other bills.

A Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution

On the surface this sounds pretty straight-forward – don’t spend more money than you have.  After all, I can’t so why should the Government be able to.  Except that I can spend more money than I have.  Yes, you and I indulge in deficit spending just like Uncle Sam.  We do it whenever we buy a car or a house or buy something with a credit card.

I don’t know about you but I don’t have $20,000.00 or more just lying around so I can buy a car for cash.  I have to get a car loan…or a mortgage if I want to buy a house.  The thing is, there are rules on how much I can borrow.  If my income doesn’t leave me enough room to make the car payments, the bank won’t give me the loan.  And if we do get the loan, we have to pay it back on time with interest if we want to preserve our credit rating and be able to get more loans in the future.

Uncle Sam doesn’t have to meet those same criteria.  He can pretty much say, “I want to borrow eleventy-seven gozillion dollars.  I’m good for it.  I’ll pay it back someday.”  and he gets the money.

Yes, I’m simplifying this a LOT.  And no, we couldn’t just say, “Starting tomorrow, we’re balancing the budget.”  That’s just not workable.  We would have to have a mandatory yearly reduction in deficit spending phased in gradually over 10 or 20 years until we get to the point where the budget is balanced.  That would give us time to adjust.  And it would keep our grandchildren from having to pay for our decisions…literally.

While we’re on the subject…

…there are a few other items I’d like to add to the list.

Congressional salaries (and raises) should be based off of an established, public economic indicator such as the Gross Domestic Product index or something similar.  If the GDP goes up, Congress gets a raise.  If the GDP goes down, Congress takes a pay cut.

A more extreme suggestion I’ve heard on this subject include putting every financial asset owned by a Congressman and Spouse into a blind trust keyed to the GDP.  When they leave office, they’re cashed out and they make or lose money based on the economy.  “Sorry about your vacation home and your kids college, Senator.  Maybe you should have voted FOR that Jobs Bill.”

Another wrinkle is to make it illegal for any sitting Federal elected official to have any overseas financial assets or investments.  This might make them a little more interested in the health and stability of the US economy.

How about we just roll all of these into the Term Limitations Amendment to keep it nice and simple?

Congressional Pensions.  The rules for Congressional pensions are complicated but one rule is that if a Congressman is 62 years old and has served at least 5 years, they can receive a full pension.  In 2002, the average pension payment ranged from $41,000 to $55,000. I wish I could get that kind of deal in my job.

The thing is, a Senate term is 6 years.  That means that I can run for the Senate at age 57, get elected and serve out my term sitting on my butt.  Then, when I get voted out of office I can still collect a full pension.  Hmmm…I’m gonna have to think about this one.  A Common Man for Senate, 2018.  Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Outlaw Super PACs.  There are precious few restrictions on where Super PACs can get their money from or how they can spend it.  There’s just too much room for private interests to play fast and loose with things here.  Which means that the rich and powerful (both people and corporations) can assert undue influence over our political system.

Outlaw Paid Lobbyists.  Please note that I specified “Paid Lobbyists”.  If someone wants to volunteer their time to push a political agenda, they have every right to do so.  In fact, the Bill of Rights makes that Right unassailable.  But Paid Lobbyists are beholden to no one and nothing except whoever is paying them.  That might be The Boys Scouts of America.  Or it might be Big Business.  Or it might be a foreign Government.  Regardless, there is too much room for abuse.  Limit it to volunteers and carefully controlled and regulated non-profits.

That’s it…at least for now.  Let me know what you think.  Did I miss anything?  Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments.

Election 2016! And the Winner is…

As I write this, it’s been a couple of weeks since the Presidential Election – or if you prefer, the Pestilential Election since the ads probably qualified as a Biblical plague.  Anyway, Hillary lost and Trump won.  Or did he?  And no, I’m not talking about the Popular Vote vs. the Electoral Vote.  Take a look at this graph.

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The numbers have been rounded off a bit but what you’re seeing that right.  48% of the Eligible Voters in the US did NOT vote for either Clinton or Trump.  And since neither Gary Johnson nor Jill Stein is the President Elect, the vast majority of that 48% didn’t vote for them either.  So the “Landslide Victory” for Trump and the “Significant Popular Vote Win” for Clinton simply didn’t happen.  Trump won with about 26% of the eligible voters.  Oddly enough, Clinton lost with about 26% of the eligible voters.  And if you figure in the people that didn’t vote FOR Trump so much as they voted AGAINST Clinton…and vice versa…the true percentages for either candidate are even smaller.  Trump’s “Landslide Victory” was the result of Electoral distribution and nothing else.

So what really happened?

What really happened is almost half the eligible voters in this country didn’t vote!  It’s not that they didn’t vote for Clinton or Trump or Johnson or Stein.  They didn’t vote at all!  Of course, that begs the question of “Why?”.

There’s a whole raft of reasons.  Some of the ones I’ve heard are:

  • I don’t trust the system.
  • Neither party/candidate really represents me.
  • I never registered.
  • There’s no real difference between the candidates.
  • It doesn’t really matter anyway.

What all these reasons and a bunch of others boil down to is that a whole lot of people feel so disenfranchised that they can’t be bothered to vote.  That also begs the question of “Why?”.  Asking a few further questions  points to one possible reason.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. – Groucho Marx

Both parties have their entire identities tied up in political ideologies that only appeal to themselves.  To put it more simply, they’re preaching to the faithful.  And the sermon is based around one simple idea – you’re either with us or against us.  Both parties do it.  Take a look at the political ads and listen to the speeches.  It all boils down to us versus them…and “them” is evil.

The modern version of this bit of political brilliance goes  back to the 1960’s with the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy.  The basic idea is to make a lot of noise about what scares a bunch of people and then blame the scary shit on the other party.  Sound familiar?  The Republicans and the Democrats both have been beating that drum this entire election.  The only difference is which side of the drum they’re pounding on.

It’s an effective idea as far as it goes but it ignores a basic reality of life.  No one agrees with everything.  I’m a Republican.  There are proposed policies of the Republican platform that I agree with.  But there are a lot that I don’t agree with.  By the same token, there are proposed policies of the Democratic party that I agree with and others that I don’t.  My wife, a Democrat, will say pretty much the same thing.  This means that neither party really represents me…or her.  And apparently almost 48% of eligible voters feel the same way only more so…more so enough that they didn’t bother to vote.

If you find a good solution and become attached to it, the solution may become your next problem. – Robert Anthony

So how do the parties fix this problem.  They fix it by making a concerted effort to talk to those disenfranchised voters, to listen to their problems and to work with them for solutions that more people can live with.  The only problem is, I don’t think either the Republicans or the Democrats are up to the challenge.

Both parties have existed long enough now that they’re almost completely devoted to the singular goal of simply continuing to exist.  “We exist so we must continue to exist because we have to exist if we want to continue to exist.”  They don’t really care about the American People anymore…except where those people vote and help the parties continue to exist.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against the Two Party System.  I think it’s a fine idea.  It works – maybe not all that smoothly but I consider that a safety feature to keep either party from gaining complete control.  My problem is with the current two parties.  I think they’ve both outlived their useful lives.  It’s time for them to be replaced.

And now for something completely different

Half the problem the current leading parties have is that they’ve become so polarized that they only appeal to their own brand of True Believers.  There’s this big group of people in the middle that don’t feel they’re really represented by either party.  Take a look at this chart…

politicalspectrum

Now consider the 48% of the eligible voters that DIDN’T vote.  That’s roughly equivalent to all the independents and about half of both the Center Left and Center Right.  Think about all the Hillary and Bernie-philes you know.  They probably fit over on the left edge of that curve.  And all the Trump-philes fit in on the right end.  Who represents the people in the middle of the curve?

Over the last several elections, the political polarization has gotten worse and worse.  This is what Pew Research has found over the last twenty-plus years.

political-polarizationIf this trend continues, by 2020 or 2024 we’ll have two parties that represent nothing but extremist liberals and extremist conservatives with everybody else left unrepresented in the middle kinda like this…

election2020

Or maybe more accurately like this…

threeparties

Think about the last 8 years.  When President Obama was first elected, Mitch McConnell stated that Republican’s top priority was to deny Obama a second term.  Not to work with the President, not to work for the people, not to support their constituents.  No, their job was to make sure that the next President was Republican.  In other words, “Screw what’s good for the country and the voters!  We want to make sure we remain in power!”

The Democrats did similarly heinous things by stacking the Super Delegates in the Primary so that Hillary Clinton was the chosen Candidate instead of risking the possibility that Bernie Sanders might win.  Again, “Screw what’s good for the country and what the voters want!  We want to make sure we remain in power!”

If the two major parties are willing to do that to their own constituents, what are they willing to do to the other party’s constituents?  And what are they willing to do to the unrepresented 48%?  They’re certainly not trying to win them as voters.  If they were they’d be willing to at least discuss less extreme responses to the issues.

A Modest Proposal

Here’s a quick question for you…what could happen if we were to have a strong Moderate 3rd Party?  Just think about it.  A Moderate Party would be able to find common ground with both Democrats and Republicans on certain issues.  A lot of the Partisan Politics that aggravate so many of us would get cut down to a minimum.  And most importantly, the large, moderate middle of the US political spectrum would finally have representation.

We need a Moderate Party.  Call it what you will – Centrist, Moderate, Average Joe’s Party, whatever – but the majority of eligible voters simply don’t have anyone looking out for their interests and that needs to change.  The status has been quo for far too long.  Instead of more and more extreme candidates and policies we need moderation.  We need Congressmen who will work with the other parties.  We need a President  who is willing to work for compromise solutions for the common good.  We need politicians who work for us, their constituents instead of for themselves and who work for our interests instead of the interests of their political party.

Late Breaking Edit…

The final vote count is in…I hope.  An updated version of my opening chart is in order to reflect the final numbers.

newelectiongraphThe unrepresented percentage changes from 48% to 45% but that doesn’t change my argument one bit.  Nearly half of the US population is not represented by either the Democrats or the Republicans in any meaningful way.  They…WE…need and deserve people who represent our interests.  Not people who are only interested in keeping their party alive to the detriment of the United States.

Hail to the Chief

The National Election is only a couple of days away.  Normally that’s a time for hope, renewal and OK, a little bit of mud slinging.  This year is different.  The Election so far has been filled with back-stabbing, vitriol, wild accusations and some of the dirtiest partisan politics I’ve ever seen…and that’s just the news broadcasts.  The Candidates have been even worse.

Image result for mudslinging

Even so, I still hold out hope that we’ll get a President who will strengthen the economy, keep us strong and safe and not take away any more of our Civil Liberties.  Mind you, I don’t expect to get it but I do hold out hope.

To tell you the truth, for the first time in my life, I’m scared by the possible outcomes of this election.  I have voted in every Presidential election since I was 18.  There have been times when I’ve had a hard time making up my mind who to vote for but there was never a time when I was scared by my choices.  Until now.

Let’s look at the Major Candidates

Jill Stein – Green Party

My strongest objection to Jill Stein isn’t her Party or her Platform.  It’s her background…or more precisely, her lack of it.  She has only held one elected office and that was Town Meeting Representative for Lexington, Massachusetts.

She’s run for Governor, State House of Representatives and Secretary of the Commonwealth in Massachusetts but she’s only ever been elected as Town Meeting Representative.  She doesn’t have any experience in any Executive office…not even Mayor of a small town.

That lack of experience takes her out of the running for me.  She might be an absolute genius of a President God’s  and Gift to both Foreign and Domestic policy but with her current resume I don’t see how we can take that leap of faith.

Gary Johnson – Libertarian Party

Gary Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld are both two-term Governors.  They both have the experience of holding Executive office…and they both did it in States where the majority of voters were not from their party which at the time was Republican.

Johnson finished his terms with reduced taxes and a budget surplus.  Weld did similar good things during his tenure.  Neither has had political or other scandals.  Both men are strong supporters of Civil Liberties, Religious Freedom, Internet Freedom, Abortion Rights and the Environment.

The problem is, the only way Johnson can win the Presidency is to get enough Electoral votes to keep either of the front runners from getting 270 Electoral votes.  If that happens, according to the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, the House of Representatives votes for President.  That actually happened in 1825 when the House elected John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson.

The other problem – at least for me – is that I don’t agree with a lot of what Johnson wants to do…or at least how he wants to do it.  For instance, he wants smaller government but wants to achieve it by closing entire departments like the Department of Education.  He wants to change the tax laws but he wants to change it to a Fair Tax system – nice on the surface but it could allow for easy tax evasion.  He wants to cut Federal spending but he wants to do it by cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Essentially, he’s a somewhat scary long shot.

Hillary Clinton – Democratic Party

Former First Lady, former Senator, former Secretary of State – she’s been in and around the White House for years.  She’s shown that she has what it takes to do difficult jobs.  She’s known and respected by world leaders.  And she’s a party politician just like every other one we’ve been dealing with for the last 50 plus years.

That’s really the thing that bothers me the most about her.  Yes, I know about the emails and about Bengazi and about all the other stuff, too.  And guess what?  She’s no worse (and a damn sight better) than a lot of other Presidential Candidates…and Presidents.  Look up how many emails were lost and how many US Diplomats were killed during George W. Bush’s time in office.  Look at all the scandals that occurred while Ronald Reagan was in office.  Now, can we move on, please?

My main issue with Clinton is that she’s just like every politician before her.  She’s a Party wheel horse.  She’ll push the Democratic line, get continually attacked and stone-walled by the Republicans and WOW, haven’t already had enough of that?  Let’s move on.

Donald Trump – Republican Party

I could write a tome on why I don’t like Donald Trump.  From his misogyny to his racism to his flip-flopping on issues to his out-and-out lies on what he’s said and not said.  If he wasn’t running for President, that last one would be funny.  I mean, COME ON!!!  He’ll say something in public and on tape.  It’ll make the news and be talked about all over the planet.  Then, two weeks later he’ll say he never said it.  It’s scary…because I actually think he believes it when he said he didn’t say it.

What’s scarier still is that his followers definitely believe it.  Some of them I can actually have a conversation with and they’ll defend their decision to vote Trump over Hillary with calm deliberation.  Then there are the ones that don’t bother with anything approaching rational thought and just keep repeating, “Trump will make America great again!” like it’s a Buddhist mantra and they’re seeking enlightenment.

Either way though, they all seem to gloss over the fact that he has lied repeatedly.  They step around the fact that he has encouraged his followers to commit violence.  They excuse the fact that he hasn’t released his tax returns like everyone else has.  And they flat out ignore the fact that he has repeatedly made statements about all the wonderful things he’s going to do when elected…but he hasn’t given hardly a single detail about HOW he’s going to do them.

Add in the accusations of sexual misconduct and assault, the thin skin that makes him attack anyone who takes a stand against him, his seeming inability to understand that nukes are bad and we don’t want everyone to have them and we don’t want to use them and you have someone who is, in my opinion, quite possibly the single worst candidate for President in the history of the United States.

So you see my dilemma…

Who do I vote for?  I have four candidates, none of whom I can really get behind.  One is too inexperienced.  One wants to make changes that I don’t agree with.  One is the same old thing we’ve always had.  And one is…too many bad things for me to list.

Eight years and this is the best that the major parties have to offer the American people.  I don’t know whether to call it pathetic or scary.  Regardless, America needs better choices and there are none on the ballot.

My advice is to go out and vote.  Vote your conscience.  Vote for who you think is the best of a bad lot.  Vote against the candidate you don’t want.  But whatever you do, VOTE!!!  It’s your responsibility as a citizen.  It’s your duty to your country.  Plus, you don’t get to bitch for the next for years if you don’t.

Oh, and one final bit of advice.  Vote Out The Incumbents!