Single Term Activism

I have stated more than a few times my belief that term limits at every level of American politics would be a good first step towards having a government that is more accurately representative of the people. I’ve probably annoyed some poor bastard at the end of a bar (or worse, in an online exchange), by going on and on about how career politicians become jaded by spending too much time in financially corrupted Washington, and not nearly enough time back in their state or local districts with the people they are supposed to be working for. But I have to admit, that while I still believe that we need term limits, something I read yesterday made me appreciate the possible risks on the other side of that coin.

Embarrassingly, it’s a risk that I’ve joked about in the past but somehow missed the reality of its potential.

This week Florida governor Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have provided 1.6 million dollars in funding for Rape Crisis Centers across his state, a move that seems to outrage his detractors even more because it happened during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Reading about Rick Scott making yet another unpopular decision didn’t surprise me at all. What surprised me was being able to read the comments section of the article and observe the unbelievable…Near Consensus. Not consensus as in total agreement, but rather in a lack of conflict. There was no snarky arguing. Everyone’s comments ran along the lines of “how did he even get elected”, or “why would any women want to vote for him,” or why does it seem like the Republican Party is “trying to lose all of its independent supporters.”

I read a lot of online news and opinion articles from a number of sources, and seeing so much calm in the comments section of a political article is unheard of. Whether it be Fox News or MSNBC, CNN or HUFF POST, the comments section is almost always an over-the-top and unnecessarily aggressive collection of personal jabs towards those with opposing views, grandiose preaching against the “true enemy,” and near delusional warnings of the apocalyptic result of voting for the wrong presidential candidate. Oh, and the Ron Paul supporters. They have apparently called an unofficial and never-ending meeting to be held in the “comments” section of every news article remotely related to national politics. “Ron Paul 2012.” I get it. If I don’t support Dr. Paul, I must not understand.

Whatever.

Now, I’m not a Florida resident (thankfully) and I don’t have any reliable information about the need for that funding. But according to the Governor’s office, “There was no information suggesting any needs in this area weren’t already being met.” And according to the executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, “We gave them information about the number of new survivors we have and we showed them that these rape crisis centers have waiting lists. We included quotes from the programs about the waiting lists and what services they weren’t able to offer because of a lack of money. There is clearly an unmet need.” I do not know which is true, but I suspect that it’s a little of both. The FCASV probably provided what they felt was clear evidence of their need, and the Governor’s office decided that it wasn’t an important enough need to sign the bill that was passed by the Florida legislature. That’s the governor’s legal prerogative. And the good people of Florida did give him that power when they elected him.

How did they elect him? Why would women vote for him? Why does it appear that he’s trying to alienate so much of the public? Because low voter turnout in midterm elections means that fewer people are paying attention. Because the expected low voter turnout results in less detailed election coverage and he may not have had to voice his opinions about women‘s issues. And because he doesn’t need the public support unless he actually wants to get re-elected.

The short answer is because of the Tea Party. And the fact that as an organization, they are smarter than people want to admit. Rick Scott is just one of several U.S. governors who swept into office in the 2010 election cycle due in large part to Tea Party support. The Tea Party’s grassroots organization is a small minority of people in this country, but with fewer people participating and a well-organized voter outreach network, that minority can heavily influence state elections.

The Tea Party’s presidential choices are still being chased from the scene early, and rightfully so. But that quick dispatch of their national candidates might be giving people the illusion that they’re stupid. On the contrary, they wisely moved their fight to the lesser observed state elections and took advantage of the midterm election. And they will likely try it again in 2014 while everyone is watching Dancing With The Stars and complaining about the horrible job the current president is doing-no matter who wins this year.

Scott (who 15 yrs ago collected roughly 350 million dollars to resign as CEO of Columbia/HCA during an investigation resulting in 14 felony confessions including fraudulent Medicare billing), Paul LaPage, ME (supports teaching creationism in public schools, and doesn’t understand “how people, at least sane people, would want to allow transgender in our primary schools and our high schools.”), and Scott Walker, WI (who rolled back 2009 state tax increases on capital gains and the highest income earners, and cut state employee wages and benefits to help pay for the tax cuts) all enjoyed Tea Party support in their drive to the governors’ offices in 2010. These are the Tea Party Patriots trying to save America by keeping it from ever coming together.

Part of the Tea Party platform that I’ve always been able to appreciate, at least on a surface level, was the disdain towards career politicians. But I think they may have swung that pendulum too far to the other side and decided to seek out candidates that have no need or desire to be re-elected at all. Once in office they do not have to worry themselves with representing the people or running for office again, so they can just run as many of their right-wing initiatives through the system as possible and stall or kill as much of the legislation that they don’t agree with.

Rick Scott allegedly spent 75 million dollars of his own money during his campaign for the 133 thousand dollar salary as governor of Florida. And he wasted no time making a name for himself. He has been sued for trying to block a previously voter approved amendment to the state constitution that banned district gerrymandering. He rejected federal funding to develop high-speed rail even after a veto-proof majority of the Florida Senate asked the Department of Transportation to continue the funding. He signed several bills affecting women’s access to legal abortions including the infamous ultrasound requirement. He’s done whatever he wants. And if people want to re-elect him when his term is over, I’m sure he’ll accept it. But if they don’t, I imagine he’ll happily go back into the venture capital business and donate funds the next asshole’s campaign.

It’s the extreme negative possibility of the “no more career politicians” movement. And while I am still in support of term limits in general, it made me wonder if instating them would result in “final term activists” that would just use the freedom of not having to run again as a blank check to run their own personal agendas through the state’s legislative process as hard as they can.

I guess what I’m slowly realizing is that no amount of legislative rule or campaign guidelines or term limitations will eliminate selfish assholes from government as long as equally selfish assholes still vote.

I do however feel like it would be a whole other world if everyone that were eligible to vote did vote, and voted in every local, state, and federal election that they are legally able to participate. Voting only for the President while ignoring the rest of the ballot and all of the other elections is probably as close to doing nothing as you can get and still get that “I voted” sticker.

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I Wanted That Pause

I have to admit that even though I disagreed with almost everything that he claimed to stand for, I am genuinely bummed that Rick Santorum has dropped out of the presidential race.  I agree with his decision to do it, and it was weeks (if not months) overdo, since we all knew that he wasn’t going to get the nomination.  But I really wanted him to somehow make it happen.

I’m sure some people might assume that my desire to have Mr. Santorum’s silly ass as the Republican national candidate was motivated by the want for a weak candidate that would offer less of a challenge to President Obama.  But that is not entirely true.  I wanted him to get the nomination because I believe he was, as he often proclaimed, the most “conservative” candidate in the race, by the politically skewed definition of that word.  He and I wanted the same thing.  We both wanted that “clear contrast.” Now with Santorum out, and Mitt Romney almost guaranteed the nomination, if Romney loses it will be blamed on the party’s failure to nominate and run a truly conservative candidate.  The “not conservative enough” excuse was born the very second that Santorum stepped down, and that baby will grow into the greatest and most popular excuse for any failures of the eventual candidate. 

Hell, Santorum himself was alluding to it a week ago before he even decided to quit, when he compared his campaign to Ronald Reagan’s failed bid in 1976.  (Ignoring that St. Reagan himself would be called a RINO by today’s Tea Party patriots)

That lame “not conservative enough” excuse is exactly why I wanted Rick Santorum to win the nomination.  Every GOP candidate has been proclaiming themselves to be a true conservative while attempting to portray the other candidates as lesser so.  The highest profile Republican spokespersons all use the word “moderate” as though it is the dirtiest thing any person could be called, except “liberal” of course.  But liberals are clearly the god-hating creation of the devil, so they’re hopeless.  Many GOP supporters, Republican Party members, and conservative pundits have expressed a desire to seek out the most conservative candidate that they can find, and that message has clearly been heard.  How else can people like Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, and Rick Santorum all attain front-runner status while aggressively alienating the independent voter?   Why did John Huntsman’s declaration that he believed in evolutionary science and demonstrated willingness to work with a democrat essentially kill his chances to even compete?

Now, I’m not stupid.  Not completely stupid anyway.  I know that in any election, anything can happen.  And with 2010’s Citizens United decision now allowing unlimited corporate influence and the people’s complacent reaction to blatant misinformation it would be incredibly naïve to assume that Rick Santorum couldn’t win an election against Barack Obama.  But if he could, that would be a valuable learning experience too.  If someone that openly states that he would roll back even those tiny steps made toward equality for homosexuals, that proudly participates in the ongoing over-involvement with women’s reproductive choices, that clearly doesn’t understand the separation of church and state, that would admittedly get us involved in another unnecessary war, and that accuses the federal government of waging a war on religion while at the same time feeding the paranoia of the nonexistent threat of Sharia law can win, I need to know that.  I need to know that I am in a country of people that I cannot relate to anymore.  I need to know that my retirement plans will have to include moving to another country.  Adjustments would have to be made.

The search for the most conservative candidate possible has to be predicated on the belief that the majority of the country is sitting in nervous anticipation of a candidate to the extreme right.  Doesn’t it have to be?  If someone wants to collect as many votes as possible, wouldn’t they naturally have to align themselves with as many people as possible?  Pandering to an extreme minority would seem to be a poor strategy in winning any majority-rule competition.  But that is what it appears the GOP is saying.  They are not doing it of course, because Mitt Romney is definitely not the most conservative candidate.  But it is what they are saying and that is why Romney can’t seal the deal.  They want someone further to the right. 

I don’t understand that desire at all, but I wanted them to succeed.  Why?  Because I think that the further right (or left for that matter) a candidate gets, the less likely they are to win.  And if they could nominate their dream vision of a super conservative and that super conservative got destroyed in the general election by a President that they’ve labeled as some extreme liberal Islamo-socialist boogie man, then they would have to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, they are in fact not in step with what the majority of the good people of this country believe.  I know that no matter what happens, the far right will never acknowledge that they are not a majority.  They have created such a vivid alternate reality to this one, that normal communication with that world has become difficult.  But having their dream candidate lose to their fabricated demon-monster of a president would have to cause some moment of pause.  And I wanted that pause…way more than I want to hear the excuses.

 

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”  Benjamin Franklin.

Forward Thinking?

Politics in general is supposed to be complicated and slow. It has so many facets and complexities that it would be unrealistic to expect any candidate or pundit to be able to express his or her complete view, or your complete view, in a single sentence. That being said, I was impressed to see Rick Santorum do the inverse. Two days ago, in a simple two sentence statement, he expressed the total opposite view to my own.

“We don’t win by moving to the middle. We win by getting people in the middle to move to us and move this country forward.”

Well done Sir. More polarization and less cooperation is the obvious answer.

And sadder still is that he clearly doesn’t know the definition of “forward.” If only God hadn’t created him so stupid.

for•ward [fawr-werd] adverb Also, forwards. 1. toward or at a place, point, or time In advance; ONWARD; AHEAD: to move forward; from this day forward; to look forward.

I realize that the exact direction of forward can be somewhat subjective, but unfortunately for Rick, backwards is never forwards.

If we’re going to call them leaders, we need politicians to do just the opposite of his ridiculous statement. We need them to seek out compromise and to look for reasons to cooperate. We need them to alienate the extremists at either side of an issue and focus on the larger rational population of people that are still capable of measuring their response to a political disagreement with some level of reason and the understanding that they just might not know everything. Every politician claims that their dedication is to the greater good of the country (or state, or district, etc.), but so many of them somehow manage to ignore the damage to our country that is caused by the vitriolic nature of the discussion.

Congress’s approval rating hovers just over 10%. How can they possibly be representing the citizenry if almost 90% of the country holds a negative view of their work? Could it be because the grid-lock of personalities has made them unable to get any work done? Maybe, but what it definitely does is feed into the long held desire for a third party. I would love a third party, but I don’t want another party that thinks they have all of the answers and will be equally unwilling to compromise (Cough, cough, libertarians). I see absolutely no need for another group of uncompromising personalities pulling away from the middle. No one has all of the answers. Everybody has ideas. I want a third party to be born from the middle. I want a centrist third party that is formed by representatives that are capable of listening to all of the ideas with an open mind, find any parts that make sense in each of them, and find a way to bring the best parts of every angle into the mix to write legislation that benefits all people. I know that sounds fantastical and it‘s incredibly unlikely, but how many great things have ever started with a small idea? I don’t know the answer to that question.

As a country we seem to have fallen so in love with the fight that we don’t care at all about the damage that we’re causing ourselves. There is room for compromise on every single issue ever brought to the floor, but that compromise is impossible as long as the debate is allowed to be polluted with lies and conjecture and continually dictated by people like Wondernuts Santorum who have absolutely no desire to find a middle. The “my way or no way” attitude is incredibly stunting to any forward progress, no matter which direction you think is forward. And it’s all a moot point as long as so many people continue to pretend that every issue is a life or death decision and should therefore be fought with religious level tenacity. Our political differences are not differences between “good” and “evil” as so many people like to pretend. Political opponents are not automatically your enemy and deserving of destruction. Neither political party is holier than the other, and to my knowledge no deity has ever showed up to endorse a political candidate. Allowing every single issue to be presented in this “good vs. evil” fashion only radicalizes the arguments, putting further gap between the two sides that could likely agree if they could only take off their “D” and “R” team jerseys and talk to each other and the public like reasonable human beings.

But what do I know? I went to public school.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js3BYcHmBhE