Category Archives: Election

Why Congress never gets anything done.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hi. Ever wonder why Congress never gets anything done, never gets around to solving the really big problems? Well, my muse.. Yes, I have a muse. (What? You don’t?) As you can imagine, she’s very important to me, this particular muse. So I married her, lest she get away and a-muse someone else.

“So what do you think is wrong with Congress, honey?” I asked her recently, expecting a lengthy, intellectually sophisticated response worthy of her considerable intelligence.

“I think they’re all a bunch of yahoos,” she responded, without hesitation, cutting to the quick as muses sometimes do. Needless to say, it’s a belief she shares in common with many Americans.


Political Quote of the Day: “They’re all a bunch of yahoos.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

That honestly profound observation in the headline was made by no more or less an authority than… than my wife. In her own, wonderfully direct way, she has summed up what’s wrong with our government.

It’s not about who we elect. Not really. Maybe it used to be, but not anymore. No. The media, obsessively focused on the politics of it all, may lead us to believe that it’s about ideologies, about inherent differences between Democrats and Republicans and now the Tea Party movement. Those differences are overblown, interesting at most, and pretty much irrelevant as a root cause for the mess we call “Washington.”

There are deeply rooted structural problems with our government which, until they are fully appreciated and corrected, will continue to prevent that government from managing effectively.

We have way too many players constantly running for office, who are, for all meaningful intents and purposes, clueless. What we have, is a simple political tradition which has evolved, which has been perverted to the point of requiring a very different skill set to get elected, than it takes to do what we need our representatives – the President included – to do after they are elected. The result is a superficiality of government which invariably misses the point.

All the pundits, analysts and victory speeches aside, after yesterday’s election, the only thing I know for sure is that I love my wife. If only she had political aspirations.


Race, Ego and the Victory of Barack Obama: Now what?

Tuesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama has won and deserves our heartfelt congratulations for many reasons, not the least of which is a masterfully executed campaign. Nothing about his victory allays my concerns about an Obama Presidency, but I wish him, and us, well. No matter what, it’s hard to believe that he won’t be a substantial improvement over the current occupant of The White House.

The black community, in particular, has every right to be proud. It is a victory which has been a long time coming. Too long by any standard. Senator Obama’s election is a milestone of extraordinary personal and historic proportions. Unfortunately, other than feeling good – the impact of which is not to be underestimated – having an African American man behind the desk in The Oval Office will not likely have any short-term impact on the welfare of his ethnic group. It is, for now, more of a symbolic than substantive accomplishment.

If anything, Senator Obama’s victory poses a problem unique to minorities. All minorities, to an extent, tend to define themselves by the disadvantages of their history and current situations. As President Elect, Barack Obama has now become proof positive that Americans clearly no longer consider our black citizens to have less potential or capability than those of us who may be white or of some other minority. Now what? Now that the ultimate job has been awarded by a majority of their countrymen, is discrimination based on color now off the table as an excuse for the relative lack of economic progress their community has made?

The fact is, while there are no doubt some out there who thought it “cool” to elect a black man President, that’s not why he won. Not even close, nor will his victory have much to do with the disadvantages many black Americans still find in the market place – except to question the extent to which it is a result of other societal factors and not the color of their skin. Where many black Americans go from here has got to have a lot to do with introspection and how they rethink their relationship to the economy.

Self-evaluation is also going to be essential to President Elect Obama himself. Did he win because he’s God’s gift to politics? …because of his extensive experience or proven track record? …because his exceptionally liberal points of view are representative of the majority of Americans who voted for him? Hardly, but the temptation to succumb to that conclusion may be irresistible – and that’s a problem for all of us. No, he won because the sitting President is… is politically repulsive. George Bush has given Republicans and even conservatives in general a bad name, the stink of which may take the next 4 to 8 years to wear off. The Bush Administration has been a disaster for our country domestically, and an embarrassment to us internationally. As if the Bush Presidency weren’t bad enough, the climatic economic events of the past few months would have put almost any Democrat candidate over the top. And the best the Republicans had to offer was an aged politician, a good man whose time has passed and whose campaign clearly wasn’t up to the task.

Senator, now President Elect Obama is special all right, highly intelligent and an obviously very effective speaker – but not that special. More than anything, notwithstanding the huge crowds at his rallies and last night in Chicago, he was a negative choice. If I could give him one piece of advice, it is that he needs to keep that reality in mind. Rhetoric, no matter how eloquent and stirring, cannot solve our problems. There’s real work to be done. Making elective history doesn’t pay the bills, personal or national, or keep us safe. I enjoy a good party as much as the next guy, but idolatry gets old quickly in the cold light of the problems we’ve hired him to fix.

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Misinterpreting the Early Vote

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hi. MSNBC and other anchors are quoting exits polls which indicate that the substantial volume of early votes are going for Obama – fulfilling the prophesy of the polls they’ve been reporting in recent weeks that show double digit advantages for the Democrat candidate. By at least one account, 30% of all Americans who will vote in this election have already voted – but even that conclusion is based on polling.

It’s certainly true that these exit and other polls may be accurate, but then maybe they’re not. Polling is far from an exact science – exit polling, in particular. More to the point, the logic of these anchors and the political experts they are forever interviewing is lacking, to put it politely.

Just because the early vote is favoring one candidate – if that is, in fact, the case – doesn’t mean that it’s representative of the votes most of us will cast tomorrow. In fact, it could be that the early vote is being cast primarily by Obama supporters, especially black and younger voters, who, in their enthusiasm for their candidate, want record their preferences as soon as possible. The composition of tomorrow’s vote could be entirely different. The early vote, in other words, tells us nothing for sure about the outcome of the total vote.

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Voting in More Than One State

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Good or bad, the way the Electoral College system works, a few votes in a single contested state can determine who becomes President – regardless of how dominate one candidate might have been in the popular vote nationwide.

A friend of mind, an already published and up and coming writer – recently discovered that she can vote in two states, legally and without the least effort on her part to defraud the system. It’s a huge discovery, particularly in light of the extraordinary numbers of college students and other newly registered voters who are expected to participate in this year’s election. Here, in an op/ed she’s just written, is her story.

One Person, Two Votes
by A. C. Friss

I may not be a politician, government official, or member of the media, but I know a messed up system when I see one. I’m a 28 year old woman living in a tiny Manhattan apartment with my husband and am a registered voter here in New York. Well, apparently, I’m also a registered voter in Maryland.

I found this out a few days ago, when I was visiting my parents and saw that I had received a sample ballot from the local Board of Elections. At first I thought, of course I can’t actually be allowed to vote in two different states. There must be some catch. Perhaps I would be asked to show my license and would be turned away on the grounds that my New York license had my New York address. Or perhaps they would see my maiden name on my sample ballot, my married name on my driver’s license and reject me on the grounds that they didn’t match. Unfortunately, the helpful woman who answered the phone at the Howard County, Maryland Board of Elections, proudly told me that there was no need to bring any identification to my polling place. All I needed was to bring my sample ballot and I would be allowed to vote.

This will be my fifth time voting in New York and I’ve never had to show any identification here either. You just sign your name and presumably the volunteer behind the table is checking to make sure the signatures match. I suppose this prevents someone who isn’t me from voting in my place, but what if I’m actually registered to vote in two states? It’s still my signature. Next Tuesday morning, I could wake up, vote in New York and then drive the 3.5 hour trip down to Maryland and vote again there. That’s just wrong. I shouldn’t be allowed to vote twice. Nobody should. And of course, I won’t. But I could. Not to mention that I could’ve already applied for, filled out and mailed in an absentee ballot for Maryland, all before I actually vote here in New York on Election Day.

Why can’t we get our act together? Why can’t there be a national voter registration system? How is it possible that Maryland doesn’t know that I’m registered to vote in New York and vice versa? I realize that some people are against the idea of nationalizing certain programs and systems, like health care or the banking system, but if nothing else, shouldn’t a national election be nationalized?

It’s alarming to me that something as important as voting for the next President of the United States is apparently so disorganized that I’m allowed to vote twice. I can’t be the only one. It’s sad and frustrating to think that this simple lack of organization could lead to something as major as voting fraud and manipulation of a national vote to elect the President.

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Confessions of a used-to-be liberal: Why I’ve decided, reluctantly, to vote for John McCain.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Secret ballots be damned. It’s time for me to fess up. You’re nice enough to stop by, read my stuff, leave a comment now and then. You deserve to know.

Mind you, my reasons for voting for Senator McCain, as you are about to find out, are more negative than positive. They are reasons why I believe he would be better as President, better for our country than Senator Obama, even though I don’t like either of them for the job. I am, in other words, making a negative choice, a process which, unfortunately, has become a tradition. (For the record, if Hillary Clinton were the Democratic nominee, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.)

In case you’re wondering, in my entire life I have only once voted for a Republican candidate for President. That was for the first George Bush when he ran against Michael Dukakis. It was one of those negative choices. “None of the Above” wasn’t on the ballot.

Here goes, in no particular order. Be prepared. Life is short. I’m going to be blunt.

Experience… Barack Obama has none. Zip. He’s a professional candidate. Very bright. Exceptionally well spoken, but otherwise completely unqualified to manage our government, domestic or international. Senator McCain is a far less attractive candidate, but is experienced and unquestionably better prepared to be President.

Choice of Vice President… To say that Joe Biden is more qualified to be President than Sarah Palin is a joke based on the naïve assumption that being President does not require management skills or experience. The fact that our current President has no management (or other discernable) skills does not set the standard for his position. Bill Clinton, former Governor of Arkansas, is a better example of what I have in mind.

Naiveté… This is different than “experience.” What I’m talking about here is whether or not either candidate’s stated philosophy of governing is realistic. Senator Obama believes in governing by consensus and compromise. Give me a break. “Change” doesn’t happen by getting divergent interests in Congress to agree on a course of action. I want, and we desperately need real leadership if our government is to get anything important done anytime soon – leadership which John McCain is more likely to provide.

Naiveté… My impression is that Senator Obama believes that he can talk our enemies of state into getting along with us, that he can resolve international threats and crises by the sheer force of rhetoric, charisma and good will. His willingness to meet with anyone, anywhere, without preconditions is testimony to his fundamental lack of any real understanding of what it means to negotiate with someone you can’t trust, whose intentions are based on an entirely different set of principles and objectives. Senator McCain harbors no such delusions.

Integrity… Senator McCain has a history of saying what he believes regardless of the consequences. Senator Obama promises everything to everyone, without regard to his ability to actually accomplish those objectives or their cost. During three lackluster years in the US Senate, he’s followed his party leadership, failing to initiate any of the major new programs which are his campaign’s slogan. What’s he been waiting for? They’re both professional politicians, and you know what that means, but between the two of them, Barack Obama gets the prize for saying and doing whatever it takes to get elected. (Does anyone remember his commitment to government campaign funding, until he realized he might be able to raise enough on his own to, almost literally, buy the election?)

Political Philosophy… Senator Obama is too liberal, even for me. (Personally, I’m a registered independent who believes in using conservative economic policy and management to accomplish a liberal social programs agenda.) Every speech he makes convinces me more that he will preside over a larger, much more expensive government with takes a significantly greater role in our personal lives and economy. I don’t believe that government is the problem, but it certainly isn’t the solution either. John McCain is, above all, a Republican in the purest sense of that label, and will not grow the government or expand its influence, certainly not to the extent Barack Obama will. (Regrettably, President Bush and his gang have given Republicans a bad name just when we need to elect a competent one.)

Balancing the Budget and Reducing our National Debt… Senator McCain will, although getting it done with the Democrats in charge of Congress won’t be easy. Senator Obama won’t, primarily because he’ll be too busy kissing up to Congress and won’t be willing to make the necessary cuts to the agenda that got him elected.

The Economy… Neither of them knows what he’s doing. With luck, the economy will recover on its own in spite of either of them and Congress, and whoever’s in charge will take full credit. In general, I suspect Republican instincts will be more conducive to an economic recovery by encouraging business to take the lead with minimal interference. It’s a smarter and far less expensive approach than what the Democrats seem to have in mind.

Checks and Balances… I think we’re going to need a President who, by virtue of his party affiliation and personal beliefs, will be a countervailing power to what may be an overwhelmingly Democrat majority in both houses. (Another Bush legacy.) For the measly three years he’s been in the US Senate, Barack Obama has consistently done what his party’s leadership has asked of him. Does anyone really think they’re going to let him be in charge just because he’s President?

Campaign… Hands down, Senator Obama is sitting on top of the better organized, better managed campaign. It’s a major point in his favor. If Senator McCain can’t manage his campaign, so the argument in my head goes, how well can I expect him to run the government? It’s convincing, but only until I ask myself what one has to do with the other. Is the product that has the most effective advertising campaign necessarily the highest quality, the most useful and the one I want to buy? To what extent do I want to elect a person President because of superior skills at managing the media and public opinion? Do I even like the way that question sounds? No. I don’t.

Supreme Court… Yes, I’m concerned about the effect of the appointments our next President might make to the Supreme Court. Yes, my personal opinions are significantly different from Senator McCain’s on a number of social issues, including a woman’s right to choose, and that bothers me in no small way. But then the President only nominates, while it’s up to the Senate to confirm his choices for the Supreme Court – a Senate that is controlled by the Democrats. The need for compromise will make a McCain Presidency is far more likely to produce moderate replacements to retiring Judges, than an Obama Presidency whose replacements might be too liberal for my personal taste and that of a very large segment, if not outright majority of the electorate. I want competent Judges who are open-minded, all things considered, when they hear the major issues presented to the Court. Which Presidency, I wonder rhetorically, is more likely to nominate and approve extremes on either end of the political spectrum?

Short-term… This is my last and most perverse argument. Remember, even though I think we’re better off with Senator McCain in office, neither of these candidates measures up to my absolute standards for The Oval Office. In this context, I believe that McCain’s age is actually a point in his favor. However successful, he’s likely to be only a one term President, while we’ll probably be stuck with Obama for the full eight. Four years from now, I want to play it again. With or without Hillary Clinton, maybe next time we’ll get it right and give us the opportunity to make a more positive choice between two highly qualified candidates.

Whew. There, I’ve typed it all out. Spilled my guts, and it still makes sense. To me anyway. Now I can sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the campaign. Whatever the polls say, I plan on having a good time.

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None of the Above: “Election Reform We Need.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Every once and a while, I like to float an idea out there that’s a bit of a stretch, that I think is worth talking about even though it’s still a work in progress. Here goes. What the hell, it’s Friday.

As you may know from reading other pieces I’ve been writing, I’m not particularly crazy about either candidate for President. Actually, that was too kind. To be honest, I don’t think either of them knows what he’s doing. Hillary Clinton, maybe, but I find both Senators Obama and McCain to be well short of what I have in mind for The Oval Office. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I was pleased with either candidate running for any major office.

My problem is that I don’t want to compare the candidates to each other. I want to compare them individually to some standard I feel we need in anyone who aspires to high office. It’s not that I’m looking for the flawless candidate. I just want a candidate that doesn’t have any major shortcomings and whose ideas about the significant issues of our time are acceptable – not necessarily the same as mine, but acceptable. Anything less that this standard, and I don’t want him or her wasting our time.

“Is this the best our political system can do?” I keep asking myself every two, and especially every four years. And so it’s occurred to me… I want a “Right to Redo” built into the voting process. I’m not talking about the right to recall an elected official. That’s too late, after the fact. What I want is the right to redo the election if the electorate and I, after a reasonable but not endless campaign, still don’t like either of the choices we’ve been offered. I’m tired of settling for someone less than I wanted to elect, and then spending the next four years regretting it.

Suppose we made it the law that every ballot for high office – Governor, US Congress and Senate, and President of course, especially President – have a standard option, a third candidate on every ballot named “None of the Above.” (Write-in votes won’t do it. The option has to be specific and right on the ballot, as legitimate and as easy a choice as voting for any of the candidates.) If None of the Above gets a majority of the vote, the election needs to be held again, but this time with different candidates. The people have spoken. The campaign that just happened has not convinced a majority of the voters that either candidate is worthy of its endorsement. According to law, neither one of the first candidates can run again until the next regular term election.

The law would allow only one “Redo” per election which we schedule far enough in advance, let’s say 90 days from the end of the term, so that the parties have time to play it again. Real campaign financing reform which we desperately need isn’t enough. We need a national primary, and campaigns of limited, much shorter duration. But we also need a formal mechanism for ordinary people who aren’t involved in party politics to send a message: “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve listened carefully to what they have to say, and neither of these two is acceptable.”

I’m trying to give us an alternative to the negative choice option – the way we now tend to vote for the candidate we dislike the least. I know, I know. It’s radical, some would say “Nutball.” (Who said that?!) But let’s be honest, wouldn’t you like Senator Obama more if he had, let’s say, experience? Between the nice sounding, but empty rhetoric and endless stream of promises he can’t accomplish and none of us can afford, am I the only one getting tired of the sound of his voice? If you’re a McCain supporter, wouldn’t many of you prefer that the Senator were a tad less Republican, less conservative, less old and a lot smarter? You know what I think? I think that if you could somehow merge both candidates, taking only their very best attributes, you still wouldn’t have one I’d want to be President. But then that’s just me.

At the very least, the None of the Above vote, even if it wasn’t a majority, might change the way our political parties select their nominees and the campaigns they run to get elected.

Oh, did I mention that I also think it should be illegal not to vote, that qualified citizens who don’t vote should be fined? Voting, I was taught, is not just a privilege. It’s my duty as an American. So let’s make “compulsory voting” the law. It may very well be both the least and the most important thing we can do for our country. Not a huge fine, just enough to make the non-voter feel bad and think twice. Can you imagine how elections would be different if almost everyone who could vote, did? I can’t, but I’d sure like to find out.

Wow. Do you see now what this election has done to me? …I need a nap. No. I need some Ben & Jerry’s, then a nap.

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