Category Archives: Election 2010

Rob Everybody to Pay Everybody

President Obama and the Congressional Republicans have reached an agreement:  The Bush era tax cuts will remain for another two years, and unemployment benefits get a thirteen month extension.  Uh huh. . . .

Didn’t the Republicans, particularly the Tea Partyers, run against the deficit and debt and excessive spending?  Didn’t Obama just get a report about our debt crisis from the commission that he created?

I’ll have more to say about this in the future, but for the moment, let me comment that politicians make teaching civics difficult when they bloviate about the house burning down while simultaneously throwing the furniture into the flames.

The Little State with the Big Name

There was at least one bright spot in this year’s election.  The voters of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations refused to change the name of their state, despite the whining of three legislators, Joseph Almeida, Anastasia Williams, and Grace Diaz.  Those three were offended over the word “plantation,” feeling that it referred to the system of slavery in the South.

That, of course, was nonsense.  The plantation in question was founded by Roger Williams as a haven for those who sought religious freedom.  The attempt to change the name was blatant political correctness, without even the excuse of actual offense.  The colleagues of Almeida, Williams, and Diaz put the ballot measure up for a vote because they were afraid of giving offense.

The problem here is fear and ignorance.  Politicians believe that voters know nothing.  They believe that we will be placated by sound bites.  In this one case, though, the voters possibly proved otherwise.  I do wonder if the vote wasn’t just one against political correctness, but I’d like to believe that it represented an understanding of history.  Rhode Island and Providence Plantations needs to be celebrated as an early example of the separation of church and state in America, an example of our commitment to individual liberty.

Election Day

Today (2 November 2010) is election day, and I have voted.  Although I wasn’t thrilled with the candidates this time around (I rarely am), but I was pleased to have exercised my right.  There are a couple of points that today raises, though.

For one, I do not believe that voting is obligitory.  It is my right, but at the same time, it is my right to refrain.  The fact that less than half of eligible voters regularly vote ought to say something to the politicians and parties in our nation.  Yesterday, I discussed what we voters need to do about the bad choices that we are offered.  Today, I say to the people who run for offices, if you want us to participate in the election, you need to be worthy of our vote.  It’s probably not a good idea, but I wonder how our politics would be different if a majority of voters choosing not to vote counted as a no vote.

The other point is that I don’t understand why election day is not a national holiday.  We are proud of being a representational democracy.  Why don’t we have the day on which we exercise our right as a day to celebrate?  Why do we have to rush in after work or during a lunch break, in the same manner as getting a prescription filled or oil changed?

The other day that we ought to celebrate is the 17th of September, the day that the Constitution was adopted.  These two days are fundamental to our American civic culture.  The 4th of July honors rebellion, and that’s a worthy day, but just as Jews celebrate both the Exodus and the giving of the Law, we in our secular society need to remember that our revolt led, through hard work, to a document that recognizes our rights and forms our government that is supposed to defend those rights, a government that we choose every two years.

Hold your nose, if you feel the need, and vote or refrain, but if you are an American, celebrate the right to choose your leaders.  Tomorrow, we can get back to telling them what to do.

Blues for a Red Country

(With apologies to Carl Sagan and his chapter, “Blues for a Red Planet,” in Cosmos.)

 

Tomorrow (2 November 2010) is election day, and I’m having the blues.  Here and elsewhere, I’ve been calling myself a moderate libertarian.  By that, I mean a belief that individual liberty is both a fundamental right and a necessity, while at the same time recognizing that government–in other words, the collective–has a limited role to play.  I’ve spent enough time watching government in action to wonder if it can ever live up to its role, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Do understand that I’m not bothered by the mudslinging.  People have been complaining about “negative advertising” for as long as I’ve been paying attention, but a lack of civility is nothing new.  In the beginning of our country, candidates routinely accused their opponents of all manner of wickedness.  Campaigns are a brawl, and that’s as it ought to be.  Those who can’t take a bloody nose and aren’t willing to give one in return don’t belong in the business of running for office.

What does trouble me is the insipid nature of today’s politics.  We have real problems that must be solved.  National debt, climate change, energy, pension reform, the role of America in the world–these are issues that will take decades to resolve.  Of more immediate concern, we will hover near ten percent unemployment for years to come, the healthcare system is still a mess, and we appear to be giving up on Iraq and Afghanistan.

What do the candidates offer?  Republicans promise to cut something, while Democrats assure us that they will spend some money.  If you believe either party’s rhetoric, I have some land a few miles east of Daytona that I’d like to discuss selling to you.  When Republicans are in power, they cut taxes and increase spending.  When Democrats take control, they spend even more money on bloated programs that are lacking in both brains and heart.

So where does this leave an intelligent and concerned voter?  My advice is to support third parties for now.  The Republicrats screech that doing so is throwing away one’s vote, but that’s only the case when a majority of voters believe it to be so.  We are not obliged to support the lesser of two evils.  The founders of this country burdened us with a system that favors two parties, but ultimately, we make the choice.  We can vote for the candidate who actually represents what we believe.  Nevadans are even offered the option of voting for none of the above.

In the race for Arkansas’s U. S. Senate seat, I’m voting for John Gray, the Green Party Candidate.  I don’t agree with everything that he supports, but I do like a lot of what he has to say.  His positions sound much like mine, supporting individual liberty, while offering collective help where needed.  I do want to punish Blanche Lincoln for killing the public option in healthcare reform, but John Boozman wants to repeal the whole thing.  That’s like supporting Attila the Hun because I don’t like the current emperor.

Beyond tomorrow, we must demand honesty and depth from our politicians.  This requires work on our part.  We have to pay attention.  We have to write letters and articles and give speeches.  Those of us who are suited for it have to run for office ourselves.  We have to tolerate no soundbites and no talking points.  Don’t vote for Tweedledumb just because his major party opponent is Tweedleincrediblystupid.  Write in your own name when no better choice is given.

This is not pablum.  All the money and campaigning and advertising comes down to each person’s vote.  We do get the government that we deserve, and it’s time that we deserve our potential.

Tempests in the Tea Party

The boiling of the Tea Party has been interesting to watch over the last year.  Movements like this rise and fall throughout American political history, often leaving behind a pernicious influence.  One example of this is the ballot initiative in California.  That’s the leftover from the Progressive Era that has resulted in the Golden State being required to spend money on numerous programs, but barred from raising the taxes to pay for them.

Sometimes, the movements succeed.  The Republican Party started as one such movement.  But observe that it had a lot going for it.  Without the personality of Abraham Lincoln, the revulsion against slavery felt by a significant portion of Americans, and the Civil War that ended in decisive victory, Republicans would have joined the ranks of groups such as the Know Nothings and the Equal Rights Amendment supporters.

So what of the Tea Party?  The people involved with it have a strong libertarian streak, something that resonates with American tradition, but as a report heard on NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday (16 September 2010) indicated, social conservatives are also in the movement, demanding that opposition to gay marriage and abortion must be two of the party’s planks.  This reminds me of the Saturday Night Live sketch in which Christopher Walkin keeps calling for more cowbell.

If the Tea Party is concerned only with matters of taxes and spending, it will leave its mark and disappear after one or two elections.  This is the nature of mass movements that rise, but never find a permanent role to play.  If, on the other hand, the partyers want to become a lasting fixture in American politics, they either must find a way to accomodate the schizophrenic elements in the disaffected right, or they must decide to be true libertarians, both economically and socially.

I’d like to see the latter.  Democrats want to control me in public, while Republicans want to control me at home.  It would be refreshing to have a viable political party in America that wants to leave me alone.  I am not suggesting that a libertarian-controlled Congress or a libertarian president would be a good idea.  Laissez-faire is often a good policy, but there are times when the right action must be done, and only those who believe in doing it will do so.  Still, America needs a lasting opposition party, though, one that questions the need for acting and stands up for the individual.

What if, for example, such a party had been a significant voice in the Senate when the PATRIOT Act was up for a vote?  The flaccid Democrats just let that one pass by without much comment.  Even Robert Byrd voted for it originally.  What if the multi-billion dollar welfare check for Wall Street had been held back a while for analysis and comment in public?

There is plenty of room for this kind of a third party in American politics.  The other two could combine together whenever something must be done, but a truly libertarian Tea Party could be present in the discussions to keep liberty at the heart of any American action.

Election 2010: What Am I Supposed To Do?

The coming election in the fall of this year has me in a quandary.  In the Arkansas U. S. Senate race, I have a choice between John Boozman and Blanche Lincoln, two candidates who turn out to be not much of a choice after all.  On the issues of concern to me, they tend to vote in similar ways and support similar ideas.  Whether I agree with them or disagree, I don’t see much difference.  I have voted in every general election since 1990, but this year, I’m feeling particularly out of step with both major parties, and the minor parties continue to leave me unimpressed.

That being the case, this essay is to express a few of my political beliefs.  I don’t know if anyone running stands with me, but here goes:

In general, I call myself a moderate libertarian.  That’s for lack of a party to identify with, and perhaps the term is disingenuous, but I’ll try to clarify.  The guiding principles of government ought to be a few ideals strongly promoted, a few laws strictly enforced, and a few programs intelligently run.  Sounds simple, right?  Let’s look at the details.

In a previous essay, I wrote about American values, particularly a stubborn belief in liberty and individualism.  Add to that a sense of obligation to help our neighbors, and that’s a good summary of what it means to be American.

How do those values translate into policy?  Take one case:  small arms.  I believe that it is the right of every individual, with a few exceptions, to own, carry, and use small arms for legitimate purposes.  This means a machete, a snub-nosed revolver, a switchblade knife, a fully automatic AK-47–anything that one person can use against one target at a time.  (In other words, excluding explosive devices.)  I shouldn’t have to get a carry license to pack heat; my natural rights as a free human being covers that already.  If I do something wicked with a weapon or if I demonstrate that I’m dangerous to law-abiding citizens, then I deserve to lose my right.  Otherwise, what I carry is my business.

Or consider recent government intrusions into our lives, laws such as the PATRIOT Act and other similar abominations.  It is no business of any government employee what books I check out of the public library, what websites I visit, or what persons I talk to on the telephone, unless a judge has signed a warrant, and there need to be rigorous standards of evidence for securing such warrants.

Rather than being meddlesome, governments ought to promote environments in which individuals can succeed and then leave them to do so.

Healthcare is one example of this.  Can we acknowledge that the American healthcare system doesn’t work?  If so, let’s look at other solutions that do.  The Canadians, the French, the Japanese all have found ways of promoting their own health.  Please don’t cite the horror stories.  For every one Canadian who had to wait a few months for a hip replacement, we can find many cases here of persons who can’t get essential medicines.  As the old saying goes, if you have your health, you have everything.  Healthy persons can start businesses, invent new products, play guitars, or whatever else contributes to our society.  There are systems that work, so let’s pick one and go with it.

Public education is another needed service of the government.  The liberal arts are the subjects that free persons needed to know and thus are essential to a democracy, a government run by the people.  I’ve heard it said far too often that we can’t just throw money at the problem, but that’s being silly.  I have taught in high schools with more than two thousand students, and I saw how not spending money ruins a school.  Teachers need to be paid as much as other professionals with similar levels of education.  No class ought to have more than twenty students, and no school more than four hundred.  No Child Left Behind must be recognized as an effort to destroy public education.  Multiple-choice tests tell us nothing about what the student knows.  Yes, we need to teach skills, but the central skill is critical thinking, and that cannot be tested by a blunt instrument.  This all means a big change in how we teach children in America, and I’ll write more on this at a later date.

As I wrote, these are a few of my positions.  Some of what I believe puts me in the Republican party, and other ideas make me a Green.  I do get tired of voting for the lesser of two idiots and would like to have some Good Sense Party candidates to vote for.  I’m too grouchy to be a politician myself, so don’t tell me to run.  Besides, as Michael Newdow pointed out in his arguments before the U. S. Supreme Court, non-Christians have little chance of being elected in this country.

What I do want is for others who agree with me that our politics operate on the level of the lowest common denominator to force a change.  We come from rebellious and educated stock, and we can reclaim that spirit.  Who’s with me?