Democrats & Liberals Archives

Our Government Can Be Nonpartisan

Our elected leaders from both parties finally unite to take a stance together. Not the publicity stunt that is “Port Gate.” Our ports are important but the indignation most politicians have shown has been more for their 06 campaigns than a real desire to reign in the President’s unending power and back-door deals. They’re taking a stance on an issue that matters just as much as our port safety, but this is an issue that is near and dear to them, regardless of party affiliation. They have finally come together on the issue of ethics.

The United States government no longer belongs to the people of this country. Our government consists of individuals who are good at convincing people they’re a concerned “regular” guy or gal who wants to make changes to the Status Quo, when in fact they are liaisons for large corporations and the super-wealthy 18% of Americans who hold 85% of America’s resources. They’re essentially an outside sales representative for the groups who buy them.


When was the last time you felt like you were being represented?
One of the difficulties in reforming our government is that we are not going up against law-makers. We are going up against the largest and most powerful companies in the United States. We are not going up against policy makers who cringe at their approval ratings and public opinion polls, they don’t work for us. We can no longer hold them accountable conventionally. We must vote all of them out of office and reform campaign finance practices. Presently if the corporations who own that particular official and the wealthiest 5% of their state’s constituency are happy, they are doing their job. They will be handsomely rewarded and reap benefits that far outweigh their credibility or reputations in their brief political careers.

From the New York Times:

“It is time to end the lip service and outright evasion that Congress has been devoting to its most flagrant scandal -- the money-soaked symbiosis of lawmakers and Washington's runaway lobbying industry. Taxpayers are near furious at such routine outrages as incumbents' paying a token commercial ticket price for the unlimited borrowing of corporate jets for political sorties that come replete with in-cabin lobbyists. No less offensive is the lawmakers' abject reliance on lobbyists to solicit and bundle large amounts of campaign cash from corporate clients intent on buying backroom clout.”

From the Boston Globe:
“POLITICAL MONEY is at the heart of the ethical scandals in Washington. Most members of Congress have not been chastened enough by the tawdry performance of their peers to support the one true answer to the problem -- public financing of campaigns -- but many have suggested smaller fixes.
Some would place limitations on the ways lobbyists and other special interests can influence legislators, such as banning all gifts above a nominal amount to members -- including trips to causes they are associated with. Others would change common procedures, such as earmarking bills to approve local projects, that make it easy for members to reward their contributors. Still other proposals concentrate on improved disclosure.
None of these will work effectively without enforcement. The proof of this is evident in the current situation: The groups most responsible for policing the ethical behavior of Congress, the ethics committees in the Senate and House and the Federal Election Commission, are watchdogs with teeth like worms'. In particular, the House Ethics Committee has been completely missing in action during the past year, as scandal after scandal has beset the House. The FEC has betrayed its mission even longer thanks to a succession of appointments, by presidents of both parties, who seemed determined to keep the system as lubricated as possible with special-interest money.”

The problem is quite clear. We’ve heard the many scandals that have rocked our government and most of all our faith in our system. We’ve read article after article regarding the rampant corruption, waste and back-door dealings. We want an answer to the problem.
Our government has responded. They have sent a message loud and clear to the American people. They have taken their stance on this issue without the usual partisan bickering. They finally stand united on an issue.

From MSNBC:
“A Senate committee yesterday rejected a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent office to oversee the enforcement of congressional ethics and lobbying laws, signaling the reluctance in Congress to beef up the enforcement of its rules on lobbying.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted 11 to 5 to defeat a proposal by its chairman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), that would have created an office of public integrity to toughen enforcement and combat the loss of reputation Congress has suffered after the guilty plea in January of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Democrats joined Republicans in killing the measure."

If we want equal representation we will have to take it. These are people who are entrenched in the Washington culture of corruption. They are entrenched in the pockets of the lobbying community and the wealth that control them.
Do we really want the pharmaceutical companies dictating drug policy and prices?
Do we really want Casino owners deciding whether your community needs a Casino?
Should the Oil and Energy companies dictate how we regulate environmental protection?
Should the Insurance industry police insurance rates?
Should military contractors dictate our foreign policy?

This is our government bought and paid for.
We can tell ourselves that we live in a true Democracy. We can tell ourselves we are an integral part of the electoral process…..but would it be true?

Posted by Andre M. Hernandez at March 3, 2006 10:47 AM
Comments
Comment #131069

Andre,

All politics becomes corrupted, the last few years are just exceptional for the magnitude of that corruption.

There was recent study (link unknown) that confirmed the notion that men enjoy seeing people, whom they believe are guilty of some wrongdoing, punished.

I want to see the GOP punished.
During their parole period they can speak.
If they succeed in their parole, then they can participate again.
Until then the Dems are on their parole. These last five years of political humiliation and castration were their punishment.

If either side fails in their parole, they should be disbanded and made to start over.

Posted by: Dave at March 3, 2006 11:48 AM
Comment #131072

If you think this bunch of idiots up in DC are going to start being ethical I’ve got Atlantic Ocean front property in Arizona I’ll sell you real cheap.
This is just another smoke screen to cloud the vision of the voters. Remember ALL of the House and 1/3 of the Senate are trying to keep their ca$hy cu$hy jobs. And they aint above anything to do it.

Posted by: Ron Brown at March 3, 2006 11:54 AM
Comment #131076

As many of us have been saying, in order to get responsible, accountable, and transparent government that works for us and our nation’s future, and not the wealthy donors and special interests pet profit motives, we must Vote Out Incumbents to restore our Democracy of, by, and for the all the people of this nation.

Good article, Andre. Democrats in office are not the answer any more than Republicans in office. They must be FORCED away from their corrupt ways by the only power capable of it, the voters. As long as incumbents enjoy 94% reelection rate, they have nothing to fear from the voters, and will continue to act against our interests and for their own. We must kick some incumbent ass out of office, and then, and only then, will freshman and remaining incumbents alike realize they are next to get the boot if they don’t make the reforms we the people demand.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 3, 2006 11:57 AM
Comment #131077

what we have is an illusion of democracy - the number one priority of all elected officials - from the moment they get elected - is to get reelelected - and those that help them most in that goal are those whose interests they pay the closest attention too - the extraordinary expense of a campaign today insures that ordinary folk will not be significant contributors to the enterprise and therefore the vacuum is filled by big money who will buy access for their causes that the common man can not afford - there may be exceptions but not many - even the “good guys” bemoan the necessity of all the fund raising but have to do it and eventually enjoy the view from inside the contributors pocket

Posted by: terlen at March 3, 2006 12:00 PM
Comment #131083

This goes much deeper than red or blue. I agree with Andre’s post.

The main problem is that the folks on the red side and those on the blue side refuse to vote against the red or blue candidate in fear that the other party will gain control. Most folks feel that “bought and paid for” politicians are acceptable as long as they are a member of the “correct” party. With this type of attitude I see no change in the near future.

The right feel that this exact type of voting is what put their mortal enemy, Bill Clinton, in office due to the Perot votes. The left blame Ralph Nader for putting GW in office when he ran against Gore. Third parties will not be accepted by the majority of American people (even though I would, personally, love to see third and even fourth parties). The only way to vote out these folks is for the left and the right to decide to vote out an incumbent in their own party and replace them with “new blood”. This, most feel, is also a risky maneuver because the “new blood” may not stand up to the general electction. Even if “new blood” were elected to represent a party, the person would have to have connections with one of the major parties to simply get recognized….and financed.

Then, of course, there is gerrymandering. Don’t even get me started on this topic.

It will certainly take a united and eager America to make these type of bold political changes. Maybe one day a political “revolution” will occur; I would welcome it. But….I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

When you boil things down there really isn’t that much difference between the two parties anyway. Oh, they would like you to believe there is but look deep into things and I think most will see there really isn’t that much difference. I’m not talking about plaforms….there is a big difference there. I’m talking about how government is run when one or the other party has power………there just ain’t that much difference.

Just my thoughts,

Posted by: Tom L at March 3, 2006 12:08 PM
Comment #131091

Tom L, bingo! You hit the nail on the head. Voters must vote out their party’s incumbents if they want to end the corruption.

The fact is, most new politicians want to do the right thing, but, to achieve the power to do those things, they first must prove to ranking incumbents that they can play the corruption game and be loyal to the leadership ranking members of Congress. By the time they have reached positions on Committees to do some good, they have already been corrupted by the incumbent system, or, they have voluntarily elected not to run for office again, a relatively new but, growing phenomena, by politicians who won’t tolerate the corruption but, our powerless to change it from the inside.

That is why, as you say, it is up to Dems and Reps to vote out their own incumbents replacing them with freshman of their own party. Only then will the remaining incumbents and leadership begin to see the wisdom of reform in order to retain their incumbency.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 3, 2006 12:21 PM
Comment #131093

All of these posts are good, and make good points. I still maintain that one of our greatest stumbling blocks is APATHY. I’ve volunteered for several years during elections at all levels and when making phone calls ( to registered Dems so as not to piss off the other side)…I heard time and time again, that people have just given up. Oh sure, it’s discouraging to lose something, but even more so when it is stolen from us. Now I’m pretty sure this will wake up those on the incumbent side and the rocks will start to fly. I can empathise with the feeling of apathy, too…it not only hurts and angers to see not one, but TWO elections stolen from us, and leaves us with the need to make right a terrible wrong. I don’t remember seeing anything done with any kind of determination to make sure it never happens again. Sure there have been things published about the Diebold machines, and some tech whizzes have identified just how the alterations happened, but then all go quiet.
I don’t think this is negativity, but reality, and I’m not doing this to bash anyone, but to ask how “we” are going to reach out to all of those voters who have literally given up and won’t vote because it “doesn’t do any good.”

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at March 3, 2006 12:24 PM
Comment #131097

Andre,

We can tell ourselves that we live in a true Democracy. We can tell ourselves we are an integral part of the electoral process…..but would it be true?

I am forced to agree with you on this subject, Andre. I just got an email from the Dems today…from Harry Reid.

Here’s part of it:

Date: Friday, March 3, 2006

CONTACT: Jim Manley/ Rebecca Kirszner (202) 224-2939

REID: AMERICANS DESERVE A STEM CELL BILL, NOT MORE DELAY

Washington, DC—Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following floor remarks on the need to move forward on stem cell legislation. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has repeatedly said he will bring bipartisan stem cell legislation to the floor for debate, and has repeatedly failed to follow through on his pledge. Democrats believe the millions of Americans whose lives stem cell research could improve deserve better than inaction and delay.

The remarks, as prepared, follow below.

Speech of Senator Harry Reid on Stem Cell Research

March 3, 2005

Over nine months ago, the House of Representatives passed H.R .810, The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.

The passage of this bill was a rare victory for bipartisanship.

The rest of the speech was yada, yada, yada partisan crap and not even worthy of reprinting here.

But Harry Reid was right. It was one of three bipartisan efforts (in recent months) to pass Congress.

1.) Stem Cell research in the House.

2.) The Patriot Act in the Senate (yesterday).

and,

3.) Ham, Spam and Pork in the budget.


Posted by: Jim T at March 3, 2006 12:30 PM
Comment #131109

(for real this time)
Despite our penchant for blaming the political parties we truely need to start looking at the 7 Y’s. (You ask up to 7 “whys” to understand the issue)
It might go something like this:
1: Why do we need chage?
1A: Because politicians are beholden to special interests
2: Why are politicians beholden to special interests?
2A: Because they need the money to get re-elected.
3: Why do they need the money to get re-elected?
3A: Our system has a three branch balance of power concept with relatively rapid election cycles. This forces “strength in numbers” to remain in office.
4: If the system has worked for so long, why are we now in need of change?
4A: This system has developed into two opposing parties with an attrition approach to campaigning. The opposition can now focus on each other rather than issues since there are only two important parties.
5: Why are there only two important parties?
5A: Consistent with marketing theory, there is room for only 2 or 3 main players and the remaining are inconsequential. These were made more inconsequential with the results of the last few elections being swayed because of an otherwise evenly split populace, scaring away all but the hard core independents or fringe. Now, since two legs or the power-balance are of the same party, there is no longer balance.

Summary:
We need change because our system of laws forces us into two opposing parties with a unique balance of a powerful executive. When 2 branches are in controlling power, there is no balance. The President formerly provided that balance by acting in a relativly non-partisan manner. (Many executives made decisions detrimental to there carrer. Most notably and recently Ford’s pardon of Nixon.) BushII and the rest of the neo-repub cabal are effecting a coup-d’etat by “loading” the supreme and lower courts and changing the rules within the congress and abusing the legal system by “doublespeak” manipulations. They are the first ones to go so far away from national interests in pursuit of their own. But even if we get rid of them, the system will still eventually result in the same circumstance.
What to do: My choices in order of ease and preference:
Ban interstate funds transfer of campaign contributions (reduces national party influence).

Requires same standards of truth for political advertising as for commercial advertising. Make swiftboating illegal and criminaly punishable.

Limitations on periods of political advertising, say from 6 to 2 months before elections. (Allows truth and results to sway the vote, not manipulations and last minute spending)

Simpler recall processes of undesirable winners (easier for a states populace to recall a sen/rep, but that seat would remain vacant until the next cycle)

Single sequential term limits with greater durations (i.e. have to wait one cycle before re-election in all federal posts)

Posted by: Dave at March 3, 2006 1:10 PM
Comment #131112

McCain’s letter to Obama on the ethics issue was interesting. Obama backing out of bi-partisan efforts to fix the ethics problems so it could look like more of a democratic partisan fix was shameful. Yes, Obama wanted to take his ball and go home. Thankfully McCain called him on it and shamed him right back to the bi-partisan table with Obama left standing there saying, in paraphrase, “Well of course we can play bi-partisan ball fixing our ethics issues! Who me? Nawww, I was just meandering over there for a sandwich … I wasn’t going anywhere.”

Yes, even when we’re trying to fix ethics problems, we have ethics problems.

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 3, 2006 1:18 PM
Comment #131115

Dave,

Excellent ideas.
How do we force our government to enact them?

Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at March 3, 2006 1:25 PM
Comment #131135

Andre,

Your post reminded me of a recent Larry King Live interview with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Here’s a cut-n-paste of a quote by Woodward:

“And there’s a system, and this is one of the complaints, I think, people have, and rightly so, where lobbyists, people who can hire lobbyists put their fingers on the scale all the time.

And a number of years ago I was thinking of doing a book called “The Empty Chair.” And that is when things come to the Congress, when major decisions are made in Washington, everyone’s sitting around the table who has a monetary interest or a political interest in that the empty chair is the public interest.

No one really is sitting there permanently saying, well, how does the public benefit from this? And so you have got a system. I mean, look at the budget now. It is truly out of control.”

I thought Woodward really hit the nail on the head. WE are the “empty chair”.

The entire transcript is here:
http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0602/17/lkl.01.html

KansasDem


Posted by: KansasDem at March 3, 2006 2:29 PM
Comment #131136

Translator
A third party would be great, but few people are financially in a position to enter politics let alone do so outside the main stream. I sure would love it, especially if it were a viable option. The two we have now are virtually indistinguishable with regards to their pandering to the people who foot the bills for their campaigns. The sad thing is that it seems the people footing the largest part of the bill are doing so for both parties.
I expect the only way the people are ever going to be relevant in this government will have to involve campaign financing reforms and strict term limits. Maybe even an initiative process could help. It is only reasonable to expect that by the time Rep. Nosepicker has been around for a third term they owe so much to so few that as a representative of the people they are worthless.


Posted by: richard at March 1, 2006 06:22 PM

The truth doesn’t change, there is no reason why we can’t throw out the trash. As a people we must force term limits. One 6 year term in any position of government is enough. If they choose to be in the house of reps. Ok, next they can run for senate or pres or state office. But the constant reinstallation of congressional lackies we cause the problems we lament. There is no excuse for allowing these people to keep reaming us with their pay raises and great retirement perks. They certainly don’t deserve either based on their performance.

Posted by: sndyrmony at March 3, 2006 2:33 PM
Comment #131148

Andre,

I don’t think we can force the existing powers-that-be to change the rules to their detriment. Instead I think we have to start with a two prong approach.
First, at any state and local level initiate legislation and litigation which enforces those ideas. I’m not a lawyer so I couldn’t say which laws could be modified, who could be sued, or what type of referendum could pass muster, but I’ve started this discussion with an influential attorney. I’ll get back to you on that.
Second, with our vote and dollar. Both parties have groups developing who aren’t happy with “the way things are” We have to pick one cause or one candidate, be active, put our money where our mouths are…simply put we have to “just do it”

Posted by: Dave at March 3, 2006 3:05 PM
Comment #131149

Apathy may be part of the problem. Cyncism is certainly part of the problem and there’s plenty of that to go around.

But I wonder if non-partisan politics in a republic like ours is a pipedream. The whole system of voting presupposes some form of bi-partisanship. We can live in places where voting is/was not a right and you have/had one party. The former Soviet Union is a good example of that. So is Nazi Germany. Nothing bipartisan going on in those places. If there was you either ended up in a concentration camp or a gulag or dead.

So we need to learn how to live with the system we have chosen. However, I am a little suspicious of non-partisan rhetoric because it seems to come primarily (but not always) from the Democrats. I am wondering if “non-partisan” is a euphemism for “uni-partisan.” If we take a close look at the history of the Democratic Party, they have always wanted to be THE only party.

Posted by: ILIndCon at March 3, 2006 3:08 PM
Comment #131155

Great article Andre, it echoes many of the same sentiments advanced by the folks at http://voidnow.org/

Posted by: steve smith at March 3, 2006 4:10 PM
Comment #131213

Andre,

I agree. We can and should ignore party boundaries, and simply do the one simple, common-sense, responsible thing we were supposed to be doing all along: vote out irresponsible incumbents, always.

Education is badly needed.

We can learn from history and our mistakes, or repeat history, and learn the hard way again.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 3, 2006 11:30 PM
Comment #131359

Just wondering, are we still on the kick that GWB didvided the country so drastically? … because I remember a VERY divided election back in 2000. The only thing GWB up to that point was be in charge of Texas.

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 5, 2006 12:43 AM
Comment #131367

>>Just wondering, are we still on the kick that GWB didvided the country so drastically? … because I remember a VERY divided election back in 2000. The only thing GWB up to that point was be in charge of Texas.

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 5, 2006 12:43 AM

Ken,

Wasn’t one of his pledges to UNITE the country? Has that occured?

The beginning of the divide was the stupidity of the Clinton investigations that ran on forever because Repugs wanted to get him so desparatly they became obsessed (Some of Jacks famous hysteria?). Much of America knew a witch hunt when they saw it. It is a shame Cheney/Bush forgot the his pledge after the election. Now the divide has become an abyss.

Posted by: Marysdude at March 5, 2006 2:17 AM
Comment #131447

“Wasn’t one of his pledges to UNITE the country? Has that occured?”

He’s getting there. Nearly all of us Democrats were opposed to him and now he’s working on the Republicans. By the time he’s “run out of DC on a rail” there’ll be Democrats holding up one end of the rail and Republicans holding up the other.

I wonder who’ll get stuck with the bill for the tar-n-feathers?

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at March 5, 2006 6:45 PM
Comment #131759

I am a little suspicious of non-partisan rhetoric because it seems to come primarily (but not always) from the Democrats. I am wondering if “non-partisan” is a euphemism for “uni-partisan.” If we take a close look at the history of the Democratic Party, they have always wanted to be THE only party.

Was that Contract with America stunt some grand effort to further the principles of true bipartisanship? How about the gerrymandering of congressional districts in my home state of Texas engineered by none other than Tom Delay? Or perhaps a little episode you may have heard of called Watergate?

Unfortunately, your point could be made for Republicans as well. The painful, naked truth is that while the nature of public service and what’s right for the country was supposed to be the guiding force behind each party’s goals, they have both somehow morphed into forces unto themselves, yet also codependent.

Fact is, there is really little difference between the two with all the bloody money involved. Get private money out of public elections and you’ll see independents flourish in this country.

Posted by: macsonix at March 6, 2006 11:17 PM
Comment #131848

mac,

I think only private money should be allowed. By private I mean individuals. No PACs, no lobbyists, no companies. Only American Citizens using their own uncompensated money limited to, let’s say for the moment, $10,000 per person.

Posted by: Dave at March 7, 2006 9:49 AM
Comment #131887

I understand the logic of that argument but I feel that like the use of 503c’s and other attempts at finance reform, this is a plan tailor-made for those who would subvert the system.

Say you were a - I dunno - Big tobacco company. You can figure out a way to get millions paid to one candidate or party in ten grand increments through private individuals. Or say you’re just a filthy-rich fundamentalist who perhaps wants to reelect the current Governor of South Dakota because you’re pleased as punch that he signed the bill to outlaw abortion. Can you find hundreds of other like-minded people to make $10,000 contributions of YOUR money?

Of course you can.

That’s why the only fair way to do it, the only incorruptible way - is to completely level the playing field by funding it all publically and forcing the damn networks to run the ads for free. Like those hosebags don’t make enough for their precious airtime anyway.

Posted by: macsonix at March 7, 2006 12:05 PM
Comment #131896

mac,

Only American Citizens using their own uncompensated money
Posted by: Dave at March 7, 2006 09:49 AM
I actually agree philosphically with your “public funding” option but that approachs seems to fall apart in the practical world. Who would deserve the funding and at what fraction of distribution? Equal funding for all perhaps; including the National Socialist and Left-Wingnut parties? I feel corruption could just as easily come via the distribution approach but since distribution would be influenced by those in power, it would be harder to prosecute than a “use your own money” rule.

Posted by: Dave at March 7, 2006 12:37 PM
Comment #131920

I disagree. I read your post correctly, but I simply don’t trust that any system will guarantee those with lots to donate haven’t covertly compensated others who are supposedly donating on their own.

And yes, as horrible as it sounds, to borrow from the toolkit of another on these threads, I know you’re shocked, SHOCKED to hear that I am for equal funding of all candidates. Even Lyndon LaRouche. Even Larry Flint. Keep it simple and keep it fair. No huge budgets needed. No big airplanes to shuttle these jackasses around to fifteen cities in a dozen days. Just campaigning the way it used to be, only with televised debates carried by all three major networks, or you can put them on PBS if you want. Plenty of REAL debate with all candidates involved will quickly filter out the pretenders from contenders. And who cares if Nader or Perot gets a million votes or so? Eliminate the ridiculous antimodern Electoral College and it’s a moot point.

And distribution doesn’t have to be influenced by those in power. It certainly couldn’t be any more corruptible than our present system, what with the taste of Diebold, Florida, and Ohio fresh in my esophagus.

Look, I realize I don’t have all the answers here, but if I wasn’t at work, I might be able to form a better vision of what would be acceptably transparent but at the same time fair and secure. All I know is that the more money you involve with this process, the worse off we all are. So I would listen to an option similar to your suggestion, but the cap would have to be around ONE thousand to make it more difficult to circumvent with foul play.

But my gut still tells me public funding is the way to go. MAKE the damn apathetic millions wake the hell up and take part in all of this. Maybe then we’d all be a little more motivated to explore, question, educate and act.

Does anyone with some time on their hands know about the history of campaign financing? I believe it was not always such a bloody circus of dirty money. Were we ever in a position that enabled pretty much anyone with the guts, brains, and time to run?

Posted by: macsonix at March 7, 2006 2:10 PM
Comment #131933

Mac,

I’m not surprised when you want equal funding and
most of the objections (to the UAE deal) were not recorded in the proceedings of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS),
Your idea is not unreasonable, but I can’t see a resolution to the problems with it. What defines a party or a candidate? How would you hold a debate with 300 people? I think those questions are inanswerable and the concept of distribution to is far more suseptible to abuse than something with money from trails involved.
Maybe $10k per year with $5000 per party or candidate (e.g. $1k to GOP leaves no money for (R) candidates. Or, let’s just make it $1k, no limits.

As for the electoral college, I used to be for popular vote but given the current vote abuse, I think we need status quo until things calm down on that front.

Posted by: Dave at March 7, 2006 3:23 PM
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