Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Primary Elections and Reform Ideas

                                          Mojave County, Arizona, USA

The latest presidential race is unique in the number of 'debates' among the candidates, the power of the press and the growing power of the internet. However, it appears that the respective major parties are still in the predigital age.

The primary process is outdated and in need of overhaul, as are the east coast based party systems. During a recent expose' on the Dylan Ratigan Show about demands made on freshmen legislators to donate to the party on a consistent basis, I came to realize that the legislators should be in Washington D.C. to do their jobs, not fundraise from among the lobbyists present. Perhaps this party money in both parties is too much concentrated in one place, from my perspective out here in Arizona. These financial demands encourage legislators to take the easy way out and take lobby money and perks in return for favorable votes. Party money is then allotted to 'strategic' races across the nation. These 'strategic' races are coveted endorsements that produce cash for the candidate, like an out of state windfall that influences local elections.

Powerful individuals within the parties should not be making donation demands on legislators, nor should legislators be required to spend any time fundraising when on the job. A ban on lobbying and fundraising while in session needs to be instituted. No lobbying and fundraising in Washington D.C. should ultimately be the goal, as the halls of government should be free of special interests at all times.

Lobbyists are a chronic problem. Banning lobbying activities for the duration of the session is necessary to clear the halls and permit honest discourse without lobbyists interpretations and interference. Registered lobbyists should be required to wear badges that states the employer and the name of the individual, in order to remind and inform legislators and the public that these people are not their friends: they are hired to do a job on you for their employers. When a certain high politician talked about not running for another term, she evidently felt beholden to her donors to run again, not her constituents, her donors!

Term limits is another issue. Some long term legislators are unresponsive to their constituents because the lobbyists and donors become more important to their lifestyle. As long as big donated money and expensive media advertising dominates the voters, the politician can be voted in even though the overall voting record may not benefit the constituents, or even the nation. An argument can be made that term limits would enable the 'hired' people to run the government, but I suggest that study sessions on the issues and the legislation be made mandatory for voting members. Just the facts. Legislators need to study and learn about the issues, not spend their time in Washington attending fundraisers put on by vested interests. The national health insurance reform bill was not even read by most of those voting on it. That's ridiculous and decadent.

Money is greasing the system and those with money don't want the system changed. I think the moneyed class should admit that they found ways to control the economic system to their advantage but they also created the tea party and the occupiers and jobless college graduates. Riots and arrests in Oakland. Squatters in D.C. and a much heralded jobless recovery. What next? Financial control of the pundits on TV until the American people have only two candidates, both of which represent the groups gaming the capitalistic system? Business as usual, including the jobless recovery. And let's throw in some austerity in order to pay for the debts the politicians ran up with impunity. Give the schmucks easy credit using tax money so my associates can access the tax money using a property only worth a fraction of the price charged. Is capitalism now to be defined as access to tax money?

It's easy to create a game you can win when you control the players. The only problem is that capitalism is not really a game, but is a survival mechanism for our species created over eons of history. Creating a way to manipulate capitalism for short term gain of money and power is relatively easy compared to the task of maintaining capitalism in the face of declining availability of commodities per person due to the high population growth rates. Looting the system by creating new imaginary 'products' that the peons can't begin to understand, but that money managers are all too quick to invest money in, was hugely successful for a pitiful few gaming the system. With housing values down to a more manageable level, the disparities between existing mortgage values and new mortgages is actually growing, down some 45% here in Tucson, down 1% in 2011. Perhaps the perpetrators of the derivatives and mortgage securities frauds weren't so smart after all. Why did our legislators go for deregulation of the controls put into effect after the fall of 1929 and the Great Depression? Those who are not studious end up stupid and greedy. It's time to clean house, folks.

Back to reform of the primary electoral system. It appears that the nominee is always decided back east with a palliative thrown in by the Midwest. In the early primaries, the candidates don't run in the west or even the Texas powerhouse. According to the pundits, the primary will be decided in Florida and they have the winner all picked out by the polls for us. Voters in Texas, Arizona and California and Oregon have no vote, according to these pundits because all the money required to 'win' will exhaust the poor candidates while allowing the rich to shine. Yuk. I know this was not the intent of our founders. I'm sick of these people telling the viewers how the debates went, who won, what their latest unsubstantiated poll says and discussing ad nauseum the private lives of some of the candidates. The other night I watched a controversial issue discussed by three people, all of whom agreed. That's not journalism, that's manipulation and propaganda. So what are the credentials of the Media Judges? I think some are using the power of the media to influence elections.

True reform needs to happen. I suggest that the Primary begin in New Hampshire, then moves to Nevada, then to Georgia, then to Iowa and so on, representing all areas of the country in the early primaries, instead of all of them concentrated in the Eastern Seaboard. Let's have a Mexican border state represented also. How about a super Tuesday with several states from around the country to start it off? The primary is not fair to the rest of the states and regions.

To continue the meaning of true reform, campaign spending must be linked to the population of the state: no more than X amount per voter can be spent, and make the amount modest. If a business chooses to unilaterally support a candidate in ads, then the business and CEO must be identified in the ad. No more PACS. Limited campaign spending and more concentration on real issues needs to happen.

I liked the 'debates', although some were better than others. The debates that were actually debates, instead of the candidates answering different questions, were more fun but the questions allowed the candidates to express themselves, albeit in a tightly controlled manner. I liked the exposure to public view but saw that the glib candidates had a huge advantage over the others. I'm not sure glibness is the quality we need in a president. Studious intellect is sometimes not so immediately vocal. I think the future campaigns will be even more visual and more data will be available on the internet. Effective political campaigns waged on the internet are low cost and accessible, a level playing field, as it were.

The pundits on TV bother me because they are so sure of themselves and are usually unknown people with questionable credentials to critique the actions of others. Everyone has an opinion, of course, but the ceaseless self assured statements concerning the candidates 'performance' wear thin as they become an obvious attempt to influence public opinion. I really don't care what Miss X thinks of any candidate's 'performance' and I'm tired of this kind of 'reporting' instead of factual news. Miss X's opinion is a waste of my time and is deceptive as to value from the time spend on it. Give me some real information like a voting record analysis, speech clips concerning health care, tax records analysis and other relevant information concerning the candidate. I think it is interesting that the establishment candidates are the favored ones, with the reform candidates receiving bad ratings and reviews by the self appointed experts among most of the media. The media benefits from the campaign spending.

Campaign spending needs to be limited in order to save Democracy. The Internet must not be limited for it is the medium of free speech and will play a crucial role in future elections, giving power to the people to search for facts without a media filter.