Democrats & Liberals Archives

Swimming Against the Current II: The Electorate

Both parties have a problem: They think they know what they’re doing. They’ve gotten away with years of bad behavior because people didn’t know, or didn’t care, and the decisions of their leaders rarely directly affected them. The leaders had their fun, and for years it seemed like it would never end. Then they found out the nasty truth: their decisions really did matter.

America's problem is that the culture war has elevated the priority of playing political game over the professional obligations of good government. quirks in the nature of the campaign finance law make it very easy for politicians to ignore the general interests of the public and focus on the special interests.

Special interests, as we all know (or should know) can be incredibly shortsighted, and the politicians who allow them to write policy without consideration of public interests share in that myopic selfishness. We had plenty of chances to call for strengthened cockpit door, greater scrutiny of passenger bags, and the hiring of professionals to do the screening rather than minimum wage high-school graduate, but those came and went as our officials took the side of their campaign contributors. Ironically, these special interests did themselves harm, the disaster their negligence precipitated unsurprisingly scaring away millions of customers.

This is an example out of a book called Predictable Surprises by Max H. Bazerman and Michael D. Watkins. Needless to say, it's recommended reading. Systems can work for quite a long time with these fatal flaws present, and an overly special interest-oriented approach to governing can ensure they stay in place, ready to create problem when the right combination of events bring the pressure onto these weakness.

The electorate has had to deal with a series of predictable surprises, from the Katrina Aftermath, to the Iraq War and the case made to get us into it, the driving up of the national debt, not to mention the Enron debacle and the economic shockwaves that followed its collapse.

In many of these situations many folks knew there was a problem, and yet nothing was done, as people feared the cost of doing something, as they discounted the future benefits of taking action, and as they continued situations that benefited them personally, even as they made the system ripe for these problems. Now, we are left with the consequences of those actions, and outrage is thick in the air.

If our leaders really knew what they were doing, many of these things wouldn't have happened the way they did. But what they knew wasn't governance, but playing the game. We're not entirely free of repsonsiblity here, because we too played that game. The game became the reason to elect somebody, rather than our perception of their abilities to properly run a government.

But this competition was never meant to exist for its own sake, and this is what all parties must come to understand: it was meant to weed out weak, ineffective, incompetent politicians. The implicit threat of being out of a job, and the explicit threat a contrary vote poses to them should serve as a warning to them to govern their best. In the game, though, you can move past all this if you have the personality and the ability to lie convincingly. As long as this game is the basis of our selection, we endanger our own interests.

The decisions of our leaders matter. 9/11, Enron, Iraq, Katrina, and the Deficit all tell us this. There is no "maybe if we ignore the situation, it will go away." America's wealth temporarily shielded us from the reality, but now it is plain as day: those people are supposed to be up in Washington and in the various government around us to serve the public's interests. Those taxes we pay are supposed to be the price we pay for our civilization, the maintenance of law and order, and the furthering of the public welfare. When both are not applied to that purpose, we as a nation can suffer.

We got to start standing up for ourselves, and making our displeasure known. take whatever action you feel necessary. I would recommend to all that they advocate for campaign finance reform. If your incumbent offends you, then cut him (or her) off like theproverbial right hand. It's better for your party to go to election day maimed and purified than to have it whole and corrupt. If you look at your candidate and see good in them, vote them back in.

The time has come to let go of the apathy and cynicism about politics that have served us so poorly over the last few decades, and do something real about our situation. It's time to send the strongest messages we can to our leaders. Ultimately, they have to listen. Ultimately, they ignore us at their peril.

Just as we ignore them at ours.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at April 12, 2006 10:20 AM
Comments
Comment #140184

Stephen,

Campaign finance reform and term limits are critical to America’s governmental health.
There is the adage that money talks, well, lots and lots of money talks really really loud.
It is a ridiculous concept that someone would spend 10’s of millions of dollars to seek a government office that pays low six figures.

Also, I don’t belive that the founders saw government service as a lifetime job, and these guys and gals should do their terms in office and get out and get a life.

Posted by: Rocky at April 12, 2006 11:39 AM
Comment #140187

It’s a lot easier to say disasters were predictable after they already happenned. Before they happen, there is always opposition. Global warming is a perfect example of a disaster that is predicted by many but nothing is being done.

Posted by: Schwamp at April 12, 2006 12:26 PM
Comment #140188

Schwamp,

Perhaps we could have an Ultimate Fighter match between the scientists that disagree on global warming.
Put it on pay-per-view, winner take all, and the reciepts could go to pay for the next looming disaster.

Posted by: Rocky at April 12, 2006 12:37 PM
Comment #140189

The following would be some nice steps to take (in order) to let the people take back our government:
1. Elimination of the campaign “war chest”. No candidate should be allowed to keep campaign-purposed funds after the election is decided. This is a no-brainer.
2. Elimination of party funding. Parties should be united by values, goals, priorities, etc, not by campaign funding.
3. Elimination of any form of corporate campaign contributions. Why would corporations get a dollar vote? The people who work for coroporations already get both a dollar vote and an actual ballot vote.
4. Elimination of any form of campaign contributions other than individual contributions. And limit those to $1000.
5. Finally, elimination of any form of private (individual or otherwise) campaign contributions. Candidates should run on their own ideas and records, not how well they can fund spamming the public with their “message”. Two way communication might actually occur. Stumping might mean something again. Town hall meetings for candidates might actually involve intelligent speech again.

Baby steps, baby steps.

Now I trot back to my giant hooka pipe and start musing on nuclear fusion. Yes, so nice.

Posted by: T. Jefferson at April 12, 2006 12:41 PM
Comment #140190

I have a solution to the poor performing politician problem that dominates almost every thread on Watchblog.

It is unrealistic and outrageous. But it would probably save the world.

Everyone thinks voters are manipulated by media or interests from one side or the other right? So before anyone votes, they take a test from a non-partisan question bank designed to rank the voters ability for critical thinking and their knowledge of factual political and issues. They receive a score between 20 and 80 and their vote is weighted accordingly.

Desperate situations call for desperate measures. You heard it here first.

Posted by: Schwamp at April 12, 2006 12:42 PM
Comment #140193

Stephen,

If our leaders really knew what they were doing, many of these things wouldn’t have happened the way they did.


I believe our leaders knew (and still know) EXACTLY what they are doing. They are doing what you say in other paragraphs, “ignore(ing) the general interests of the public and focus(ing) on the special interests.”


We’re not entirely free of repsonsiblity here, because we too played that game.

Brother, you said a mouthful there!!! It is indeed ALL of our own faults! I say all, because “We, the people” are a collective entity. Even though some of us have spent the last 6 years desperately trying to tread water as we sank deeper and deeper into the quagmire of bureaucracy, national debt, loss of life and liberty and the massive disunion of our citizens, WE THE PEOPLE have turned a blind eye toward the corruption that is in DC.

Those elected (and I use that term Veerryy lightly) officials in DC have made a mockery of our great union while we were too busy bickering about incidental issues like Terri Shiavo instead of demanding transparancy and accountability of our leaders. We have forgotten the one thing that allowed America to become a strong, great nation in the first place; OUR UNITY!! Without it we would all be singing “god save the queen.”

I am with you come election time Stephen!! All incumbents out!!!!

sassyliberal

Posted by: sassyliberal at April 12, 2006 12:59 PM
Comment #140195
The following would be some nice steps to take (in order) to let the people take back our government

Why not make the airwaves free to campaigns? The radio spectrum is owned by the American people anyway, we only lease the airwaves to broadcasters. This would reduce one of the biggest budget items of a campaign.

Posted by: Grant at April 12, 2006 1:05 PM
Comment #140199

The source of the bad governance chickens that are now coming home to roost is the system that has developed over the years producing the career politician. It was set up to reward greed and it does that very well.
The solution is to eliminate the career politician and the only way to do that is to abolish pensions for elective office. As it is now, once a congressman or senator is sworn in and serves 180 days he gets a pension for life that is much more than most people who work will ever hope to make. This pension is his even if he leaves office in disgrace.
By eliminating pensions we will force politicians to serve the country for a time and then return to the real world and live under the laws they just enacted. Without a pension few people will want to hold office for more than 1 or 2 terms. We will see the return of the citizen legislator.
Other proposals like forbidding individual campaign contributions or the abominable McCain-Feingold incubent protection law place restrictions on the people’s right of political speech. It’s the politicians, not the people, who need to be shackled by the law.
We the people are also guilty of letting them get away with it. Politicians should be held to a very high standard of conduct with graft one of the most severely punished offenses.

Posted by: traveller at April 12, 2006 1:30 PM
Comment #140200

Traveller:

Great idea!! I wonder how much it would help the budget to eliminate all those pensions?

Let them serve, then have to go back to the real world and earn a living and their pension.

Super idea! Will it ever happen? Naw.

Posted by: womanmarine at April 12, 2006 1:33 PM
Comment #140201

In fact, I think it should be a vote by the people when it involves pay, benefits, etc. for the politicians. They shouldn’t be able to decide their own perks. After all, they work for us.

Posted by: womanmarine at April 12, 2006 1:34 PM
Comment #140204

excellent idea womanmarine

Posted by: Grant at April 12, 2006 1:46 PM
Comment #140220

Stephen:

Yes, it’s a game that Big Business plays against the average Joe. The way the game is currently set up, Big Business wins most of the time. Why? Very simple, they have more money.

The ONLY way to level the playing field is to remove the influence of money. This means government financing of campaigns.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at April 12, 2006 2:30 PM
Comment #140228

Excellent article, Stephen, and good ideas T. Jefferson, Schwamp, Grant, womanmarine.

Rocky: “Also, I don’t belive that the founders saw government service as a lifetime job, and these guys and gals should do their terms in office and get out and get a life.”

I agree 100%, and I think they probably would in a hurry if some of these ideas were actually implemented.

Posted by: Adrienne at April 12, 2006 2:56 PM
Comment #140231

To expand on my proposal-
Forbid all political contributions by any organization-no exceptions.
Permit individual contributions, limited to $500 per person. Donors must be registered voters of the district the candidate is running in. No other contributions from any source allowed.
Repeal the 17th Amendment allowing the popular election of senators. Before the 17th Amendment the state legislatures elected senators. The Senate is supposed to represent the states, the House represents the people. This would restore the layer of checks and balances between the people and the federal gov’t that the 17th Amendment removed.
Yes, I know this is all wishful thinking (right now) but if people will start discussing innovative ways to change the system the cycle of corruption can be broken.

Posted by: traveller at April 12, 2006 3:09 PM
Comment #140233

FYI…
The “traveller” who posted above is not the usual one.

Good article and good posts all around.

Posted by: TheTraveler at April 12, 2006 3:19 PM
Comment #140235

Paul Siegel-
The game corporations play has its limits. We have two things going for us. First, they may have more money in one place, but they typically have to get it from us. Second, we can put pressure on our elected officials to regulate them. If we don’t choose to exercise those prerogatives, there’s always the courts, if the GOP doesn’t strangle jurisprudence in the meantime.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 12, 2006 3:25 PM
Comment #140240

The Traveler,
When I chose my screen name I didn’t know there was someone called “The Traveler”. There should be enough difference in the names that people won’t get us confused, though.

Posted by: traveller at April 12, 2006 3:37 PM
Comment #140246

Schwamp:

You posted:
So before anyone votes, they take a test from a non-partisan question bank designed to rank the voters ability for critical thinking and their knowledge of factual political and issues. They receive a score between 20 and 80 and their vote is weighted accordingly …


I’ve heard this argument before from a friend, but I think it’s unworkable because most people don’t think that there is only one right answer to political questions. Look at how much controversy is generated by testing basic math and english skills which are fairly objective. After spending time at Watchblog discussing subjective topics with a diverse group of people, I don’t think you could develop a test that would satisfy the concerned factions.

Aside from that, the fact that the poor are often less informed on the topics and candidates would result in their underrepresentation in final results. Politically this would be a popular as literacy tests and Jim Crow laws. I’m afraid that the ignorant are secure in their voting rights.
You posted:

Posted by: goodkingned at April 12, 2006 4:01 PM
Comment #140263

Steven, T. Jefferson, womanmarine,traveller
I never thought I’d see the day when almost all the blogs agreed !! Including me.

Schwamp, I don’t think that a test is a good idea, mainly because of all problems that came from the past when people tryed to make others take a test in order to register to vote. It’s already been misused, and I suspect it would be again. Besides there is enough trouble trying to count votes (ie. Fla.) without adding percents to the situation. Many people don’t seem to be able to count to one.

Grant,
I’d be afraid to turn on my radio if they had free broadcast thime. The whole time I’d hear candidates running down other candiadate!!!

Posted by: Linda H. at April 12, 2006 5:21 PM
Comment #140265

Here is one disgustingly corrupt politician we Dems need to vote out: Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA)
Since we’re not apologizers or mindless lock-steppers like too many are on the right, we should have no qualms at all about giving people like this the axe.

Posted by: Adrienne at April 12, 2006 5:23 PM
Comment #140266
I’d be afraid to turn on my radio if they had free broadcast thime. The whole time I’d hear candidates running down other candiadate!!!

I see what you mean, but I stated the idea in brief without much detail. I presume certain restrictions would be included as far as how much air time each candidate gets, candidate qualifications, etc…

Posted by: Grant at April 12, 2006 5:29 PM
Comment #140273
It’s time to send the strongest messages we can to our leaders. Ultimately, they have to listen. Ultimately, they ignore us at their peril.
Posted by: d.a.n at April 12, 2006 6:27 PM
Comment #140275

Stephen Daugherty,
How about a series called:


Swimming Upstream with an Anvil Hung Around Our Neck: Part I - Slumbering Voters Drown

Posted by: d.a.n at April 12, 2006 6:44 PM
Comment #140312

dan-
Nah, doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I want folks to note that I’m not talking about just wiping the slate clean of incumbents. To me, that seems both an excessive response and an insufficient one. It’s excessive because there are a few good politicians out there, or folks who could be redeemed. It’s insufficient because without campaign finance reform, a change in the way we keep track of our politicians, and a willingness to make sacrifices of our own interests for the rest of the country’s sake, we’re doing little to solve the problem by just changing out the politicians. with those systemic issues still in place, it would only be a matter of time before the old corruption resurfaced, and the voters would not have the stamina to do this across the board year in and year out.

That said, kicking out individual incumbents, according to their deeds and misdeeds, strikes me as a good idea. That’s democracy.

Democracy is an emergent system. Real change is therefore often a complex affair, especially if you don’t want just as bad or worse an outcome in the current situation’s place. I think Americans want a government more worthy of them, and that will take more than simple rejection.

I don’t think I’ve every really said this in so many words, but I think part of the problem of an across the board slate-cleaning of incumbents is that one can remain uninvolved in dealing with the issues and matters at hand, and feel satisfied about having done something. That to me is dangerous, because it’s one easily reversible step away from uninvolvement.

That’s why I want to make the challenges an individual affair. There should be a real, not abstract principle behind our assault on these politician’s incumbency. We should know to some degree what we want out of our representatives, and what we will not stand for. The alternative is that we will simply take the sheep’s route and follow whatever shepherd we are given. I think we got more potential than that, and should act like it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 12, 2006 10:15 PM
Comment #140332
dan- Nah, doesn’t have the same ring to it. I want folks to note that I’m not talking about just wiping the slate clean of incumbents. To me, that seems both an excessive response and an insufficient one. It’s excessive because there are a few good politicians out there, or folks who could be redeemed.

I couldn’t agree more.
Who are they ?
Know any good politicians ?

Posted by: d.a.n at April 12, 2006 11:33 PM
Comment #140334
… I think part of the problem of an across the board slate-cleaning of incumbents is that one can remain uninvolved in dealing with the issues and matters at hand, and feel satisfied about having done something. That to me is dangerous, because it’s one easily reversible step away from uninvolvement.
I couldn’t agree more. Involvement is needed. We don’t have nearly enough now (practically zero).

But, that may be because people never see things change, and there is insufficient transparency to see what is going on (e.g. 10,000 page pork-laden BILLs full of graft, waste, bribes, corporate welfare, etc.).

I am not for across the board, “Vote Out All Oncumbents”.

I am simply for “Vote Out All Irresponsible Incumbents”.

Unfortunately, I believe most are irresponsible, and it is all to easy to prove.

Studies of hundreds of congress persons shows how widespread the problem is(including my own, who will not get my votes because they refuse to vote for campaign finance reform, refuse to limit gifts and donations, and refuse to pass several common-sense, no-brainer reforms that may possible reduce their power, opportunities for self-gain, or reduce the security of their incumbency) .

If only more voters looked at the politicians voting records (issues2000.org), and Citizens Against Government Waste (cagw.org). Based on their voting records, actions, inaction, crimes, and lies, most need to be voted out. Some of the things they do (not recorded in their voting records) are down right disgusting. The rampant abuse of power is staggering.

These things are not said in malice.
They need to be known so that we can stop shooting oursevles in the foot.

Posted by: d.a.n at April 12, 2006 11:54 PM
Comment #140357

Adrienne:

About Jefferson, I lived down the street from him in uptown New Orleans. I saw the FBI when they raided his house and found piles of cash in his freezer. Did you know that his daughter was elected to the LA state legislature last time around?

Posted by: goodkingned at April 13, 2006 1:41 AM
Comment #140367

One point I’d like to make about campaign contributions after reading the post from T. Jefferson. Isn’t a corporation technically seen as a single person, as far as the Supreme Court has ruled, so shouldn’t the maximum contribution of an individual also be applied to a corporation?

Also, I’ve seen several posts by dan urging people to vote out all incumbants, and part of me feels like this is just a ploy to get Democrats to vote against their party while he remains loyal to the Republicans. The idea that voting out all incumbants will send a message to them to straighten up is naive. Whoever takes over will eventually, if not already, become corrupted, so long as the laws regarding campaign financing remain unchanged.

However, I am of the opinion that no matter what regulations are implemented there will always be corruption on both sides. Therefore my vote will go to the party whose fundamental principles are in the best interest of the most Americans, which as it stands today would be the Democrats.

It is a shame that millions of people are duped into voting against their own best interests by supporting the Republicans. The joint venture between the fundamentalist christian churches and the Republican party over a quarter century ago was designed to divide this country into the “god-fearing patriots” versus the “atheistic socialists” (which most of them believe is the definition of a liberal). Looking around today, I’d have to say they succeeded. They preach to the people of the south and the mid-west, and rural areas of the north, that abortions and gay marriage is the cause of all the problems with this country, and not the huge tax breaks primarily for the wealthy, or the adherance to a corporate philosophy which amounts to a “cut and run” with the American manufacturing and service industies (which most of these under-educated citizens rely on for work), or the privatization of critical services like Healthcare, and if they ever get their way, Social Security. The neocons tightly hold to the Economics 101 dogma that free markets are the answer for everything. Tell that to the millions living without health insurance.

The last six years have caused me to become increasingly pessimistic about the future of my country. I’ll continue to vote for what I believe to be in the best interest of America, but it probably won’t matter. The Republicans are in charge and will continue to stay in charge so long as millions vote against their best interests. And even if the people wake up and vote out the bastards in charge the elections will probably be rigged to prevent it.

Sorry for the rant everybody, it’s just that I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

Posted by: bushflipflops at April 13, 2006 3:14 AM
Comment #140394

d.a.n.-
I’m foggy on who I could suggest who would be a good politician, but that may be more because I don’t follow the individual members of Congress all that much. Besides, I don’t think we necessarily need good politicians in the classic sense of the term.

We’re not mind readers out here. A politician may harbor corrupt impulses or power hungry tendencies, and yet hide that behind a plain or even attractive image. It may be a vain thing to try and purge the government of all greedy and ambitious men and women.

Is there no hope? Well, you see, if this wasn’t a Democracy, we would have an unsolveable problem. But this is a Democracy, and what we can do is make the environment a lot less comfortable for those who betray our interests. What good bloggers of all political persuasions can do is keep track of their local representatives and their actions.

My feeling is, part of the reason these people remain in power is our attitude towards power, and our tendency to wait for white knights to come along and save us. That makes us vulnerable to charismatic fakers. We should judge the tree by the fruit it bears, as well as the personality demonstrated. In that fashion, even if we follow someone untrustworthy, they are at least an untrustworthy person who knows folks are watching, and knows who he’s got to do well by.

bushflipflops-
They can rig our elections, if they are, but we can make it to where that does them little good in the end. Folks can’t keep that sort of corruption going on forever without slipping up, and once somebody slips up, it will only be a matter of time before the outrage makes it difficult for those people to keep their activities going.

We have to realize that cynicism and apathy only help those who want the freedom to be corrupt, because then nobody expects better, and nobody watches close enough to catch them being worthless SOBs. We have to believe and act like this government is ours, or otherwise all we have is an elected aristocracy.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 13, 2006 9:07 AM
Comment #140404
Stephen Daugherty wrote: My feeling is, part of the reason these people remain in power is our attitude towards power, and our tendency to wait for white knights to come along and save us. That makes us vulnerable to charismatic fakers. We should judge the tree by the fruit it bears, as well as the personality demonstrated.

Yes. Good observation.

It really is very, very simple:

  • It all starts here: Most people seek security and prosperity with the least effort and pain, because of laziness. Laziness is a natural human tendency, but it is immoral to surrender to it completely.

  • Therefore, some people will cheat to obtain that security and prosperity. Cheaters are parasites that use other people for self-gain (to varying degrees).

  • People must understand how to account for this natural human desire for security and prosperity with the least effort and pain, and how some people parasitically cheat to acquire it. That is not said in malice. It is simply a fact that is perilous to ignore. Understanding it and dealing with that human factor is an essential prerequisite to any healthy society, government, or organization. When people understand that, and learn how to recognize cheaters and their clever, parasitic tactics to use others for self-gain, to more capable we will be to minimize the harm they do.

  • Work-a-day Voters don’t take the time to analyze it, too preoccupied with their own microscopic concerns, and do not take the time to “think it through” because of laziness. Seems like a vicious circle, but there is a way out of it.

  • Voters need education and understanding to account for that natural human tendency. We must account for the human factor.

  • Voters, however, will never be receptive to education until (a)Voters feel significant pain, or (b)clearly see pain is eminent, or (c)see self-gain, (d) or make a huge leap to the next level of human intelligence.

  • Voters keep shooting themselves in the foot, but don’t know what to do, because of their own ignorance, resulting from laziness, and it fuels corruption, and the ranks of the cheaters grow.

  • Voters are victims of their own laziness, lack of education, and resulting ignorance that allows parasitic cheaters to feed on voters’ ignorance. Cheaters confuse, use and abuse the Voters, cleverly divide, and distract them from substantive issues, and trick the voters to continue to empower (re-elect) the very Cheaters that use and abuse the Voters. The Cheaters are confident that the divided, disorganized, distracted voters can never form a majority to oust the incumbent Cheaters.

  • We are all shooting ourselves in the foot, because some day, it can only end badly. But, for the majority of the time, the Voters suffer the most for their own laziness, resulting in their own negligence, ignorance, and manipulation by the Cheaters that use and abuse them.

  • Voters’ , therefore, preoccupied with their own microscopic concerns, always see the truth too late, despite the fact that they are always the very one’s that suffer most from it.

  • So, it seems a lack of common sense is the problem, but it is really, once again, plain old laziness, which leads to a lack of education, which leads to a lack of understanding, which leads to their own pain and misery.

  • Laziness works for Cheaters, but works against voters. Irresponsible incumbent politicians’ laziness works for them, since they also have power and opportunities for self-gain, and unfair advantages to ensure their incumbency. Voters’ laziness works against them, because they have to work to understand the issues, and then get out and vote responsibly, instead of pulling the party lever. Voters must take off their partisan blinders, and start voting out (or recalling) the irresponsible Cheaters.

  • The irony of the Voters’ microscopic self-interest is that it sabotages the Voters’ macroscopic goals. Voters fail to see the very thing that is right under their nose to responsibly and peacefully force government to be responsible and accountable too. Education is the key, first step.

Then, hopefully, someday, we will understand why and how we keep shooting ourselves in the foot, and how to stop doing that. It’s really that simple, but parasitic Cheaters have tricked us into thinking it is all very complex and complicated, which are really just clever excuses for their failure to address our pressing problems that steadily grow in number and severity. There will eventually be consequences, and when it occurs, the Voters will be those that suffer the most pain and misery for their own laziness and ignorance. And, perhaps that is as is should be, if we are to ever learn from our mistakes. Until then, we all deserve each other.
_________________________________________
Stop Repeat Offenders.
Don’t Re-Elect Them !
_________________________________________

Posted by: d.a.n at April 13, 2006 10:41 AM
Comment #140413

I would like to point out that as much as I would like to vote my encumbant out of office, the Texas redistricting gerrymandering has made my encumbant-removing vote rather useless. I think that in addition to term limits, there should be a nationwide effort to make gerrymandering based on party affiliation illegal. Instead every state should have a non-party aligned commision who’s job it is to make each and every district competitive for both parties. That way every election would become competitive and lawmakers would again be forced to represent their constituancy rather than special interests.

John G
Texas

Posted by: John G at April 13, 2006 11:14 AM
Comment #140429

John G,

Gerrymandering is a serious problem.

It is exemplifies how corrupt incumbent politicisns (which is most of them) over-complciate, confuse, and pervert all the rules and procedures to make them ripe for abuse, to create opportunites for self-gain, and further secure their cu%hy incumbency.

But, we (voters) can’t focus on one thing, such as Gerrymandering, or campaign-finance, or ONE-PURPOSE-PER-BILL, etc.

We’ve got to get to basics, if we are going to ever resolve these problems.

The basics start with Education, as most things always do.

Posted by: d.a.n at April 13, 2006 12:44 PM
Comment #140430

John G,

I agree that something needs to be done about gerrymandering. Rather than having a commission try to use some political calculus to make each district competitive (this is a variation of how we got gerrymandering in the first place) I would try a simpler tactic.
Make each district the same size, based on population, and as close to square as geography will allow.
This would take all political machinations out of the process. We would still have some uncompetitive districts but the buying and selling of votes would be much more difficult.

Posted by: traveller at April 13, 2006 12:51 PM
Comment #140470

The biggest roadblocks to progress are that:

1) a corporation is treated as a “person”

2) money has been declared “free speech”.

Posted by: Lynne at April 13, 2006 3:39 PM
Comment #140553

Redistricting does need to be relaxed, both to make things more competitive, and also to create a more accurate, community based electoral market, if you will. Making them as square as possible doesn’t necessarily work, as communities can often be fractal in their structure

Lynne-
On the contrary. If a corporation wants to be treated as a person is, then we do what we do with people-

We tax them, throw their boards and executive in jail when they commit crimes, fine and imprison them for polluting the environment, allow them to be sued, etc, etc.

The biggest roadblock isn’t the corporation defined as a person, it’s the corporation defined as a person with special privileges. After all, the 14th Amendment is about equality under the law.

Dan-
Voters aren’t stupid, typically. More like misinformed, limited in their professional understanding, and things like that. We do ourselves absolutely no good looking at voters as if they’re dumbasses, especially when the truth may simply be that we are bad at making our points and supplying and interpreting the evidence.

In truth, I think it’s impossible to remove these factors from politics. They are the chronic problems of human perception and understanding, and that will naturally extend to politics. If we’re supposed to be the smart ones, we got to be good intellectual and philosophical leaders.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 13, 2006 10:17 PM
Comment #140599

Stephen Daugherty,
Sorry. You’re right. Bad habit.
Voters are not stupid.
Just misinformed and uneducated.
I used to be one of them.
OK. Not stupid. Just ignorant.

Posted by: d.a.n at April 14, 2006 2:57 AM
Comment #140600

What about that one, fundamental, human trait?
Our systems must be designed to account for the human factor.
That’s why Education is important, which will lead to an understanding of the importance and necessity for Transparency, which will provide visibility, create outrage, and lead to Accountability (consequences), which will yield Responsibility.

Responsibility = Power + Education + Transparency + Accountability
Corruption = Power - Education - Transparency - Accountability

Posted by: d.a.n at April 14, 2006 3:03 AM
Comment #140800

Look, we have term limits, every 4,6, and 2 years. However, what do you say about a polity that is too busy to vote. The polity says it’s too inconvenient, so the majority of it doesn’t vote. But by not casting a vote, one still casts a vote; doesn’t one? In this information age, we want the news delivered in a nice and neat capsule. If it an issue is too gray, the polity says it’s “too negative, can’t cope, too taxing”. The candidate that provides simplicity: Wins. So what if that simplicity is derived by the use of smoke and mirrors. Read, who’s got time to read. So we truly do get the leaders and system we deserve. We were given a system, and we allowed it to be hijacked. “Our” slothful political participation is just what the elites count on! We allow our base emotions to be manipulated and are so afraid and lazy to put in play, the adverb: Why.

Posted by: Eisai at April 15, 2006 12:21 AM
Comment #140856

The problem is laziness

If we never adequately design our systems to account for the human factor, they will always deteriorate. Some people through the centuries have understood this very well, and tried to build in checks-and-balances. But, the voters have neglected to maintain sufficient levels of Education, Transparency, and Accountability required to prevent the Cheaters that are always striving to circumvent or pervert the rules and laws for self-gain and legal plunder.

Education is needed to understand how the root problem (laziness):

  • works for irresponsible incumbents (Cheaters),

  • works against voters.
  • Politicians have Power by virtue of their office. Power coupled with laziness yields Corruption, because Cheaters can simply create more opportunities for self-gain by simply do nothing, or breeding chaos. Cheaters also get paid hand$omely while doing it on the job, giving themselves more unfair advantages, and making their incumbency more secure and cu$hy.

    The voters’ laziness works against them, because their lack of motivation to observe and monitor politicians, and go vote out irresponsible incumbents (always) takes time and effort for the voters, and voters don’t get paid for their time or effort. Also, it requires time and effort for the voters to maintain sufficient levels of Education, Transparency, and Accountability.

    Therefore, corrupt incumbent politicians have many unfair advantages.

    But, if voters want it enough, voters can restore a balance of power between government and the people, by simply doing the one simple thing voters were supposed to be doing all along.

    Posted by: d.a.n at April 15, 2006 12:54 PM
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