Apolitical Manifesto

Posted on June 2nd, 2007 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

Updated 6/20/2007, originally posted 6/3/2003

Update 6/20/2007: Yesterday Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, announced he was leaving the Republican Party and will now be an independent. This follows on his switch from the Democratic to Republican parties a few years ago. Mr. Bloomberg has also been travelling to states with upcoming Presidential primaries, inflaming speculation that he will be running for President. Based on what I know at this point, Mr. Bloomberg is the first Presidential candidate in a long while for whom I would be willing to vote, and I hope he runs.

He fits the profile of an ideal candidate (from the article below) in that he has had a career outside of politics, he’s not a Republican or a Democrat, he can speak extemporaneously, he acknowledges that the system is broken, and he’s not a lawyer. I’ve liked what he’s done in New York so far, and I think he’d be an absolutely refreshing change from the past eight years of idiocracy.

Below is the original post from 6/3/2003:

Disclaimer:

Die-hard, straight-ticket-voting,we’re-right-they’re-wrong supporters of either of the two major American political parties should read no further, as little or nothing that is said here will have any meaning for zealots and/or fanatics and/or conformists. The same goes for single-issue voters.

I rarely vote. Many folks tell me that by not voting I am neglecting my duties as an American, but I beg to differ. In fact, from my perspective it is the people who vote out of a sense of duty who are being un-American. Why? Because by virtue of their participation they are demonstrating tacit approval for a system that is fundamentally flawed. How is it flawed? Let me count the ways:

  • The Monopoly of the Demoblicans and the Republicrats.
    With exceedingly rare exception, all serious candidates are the product of either the Democratic or Republican parties. And although there are superficial differences between the parties, they both strive to maintain the status quo, and to evolve the system to the advantage of the politically connected. So your “choice” between their candidates is like the choice between french vanilla and vanilla bean ice cream. Yes, they’re different, if you’re talking vanilla, but they’re both still just vanilla. Right now our political process is Baskin Robbins 2 Flavors.
  • The Electoral College. Back when our electoral process was developed (when delivery by horseback was the fastest communication method), it made a lot of sense to have the individual states compile their results and turn them over to a representative who would then deliver those to the central government in person for the final tallying.  But now we have instantaneous, secure, ubiquitous communications, and the selection/use of the electoral college is outdated, outmoded, inefficient, inexact and unnecessary.
  • Functional Qualifications: Rich, White, Photogenic, Ruthless, with Powerful Supporters.
    Yes, there are a few serious Candidates that don’t match these qualifications, but they are so few and far between as to be irrelevant. Show me a grass-roots candidate that doesn’t meet the above, and I’ll show you a loser.
  • The Campaign Process: Glad-hand, Recite Speeches, Make Promises, Raise Money, Run Ads, Smear Opponents.
    The primary objective of our elected officials is to get re-elected. Their secondary objective is to make sure they have a good job lined up when they leave politics. Their third objective is to legislate and govern to the extent that it does not conflict with objectives one and two. The campaign process is the candidate trying to convince the voters that objective three is their primary (and only) objective.
  • Your Voting Options: Straight Ticket, Uninformed Choices, Single-issue Votes, Vote for Somebody You Know.
    Are you personally acquainted with all the candidates for whom you vote? If not, then you are probably making an ill-informed choice, in my opinion. As per the disclaimer at the top, I have no patience for straight-ticket or single-issue voters, and presume the fact that you are still reading means that you are neither of those. So, that means that you are making your choice based on the candidate’s marketing campaign, which contains the carefully crafted and spun tale of who the candidate thinks you want them to be in order for you to vote for them. Yes, there are other sources of information such as voter’s guides, political analyses, anecdotes, writings, astrological characteristics, height, weight, race, religion, and reputation, but all of them are either inexact or also based on the candidate’s spin control.

I know many people who agree with some or all of the above list, but still vote regularly. When I ask how they can participate in such a flawed process the most common answers I get are:

  • The right to vote is so precious that it must be exercised. If you change this one to read “the right to vote for candidates we believe in…” then I’m in full agreement.
  • I don’t want someone else making all the decisions. If you are choosing between two pre-selected, preprocessed, generic candidates, then the decisions have already been made for you (“Welcome to Baskin Robbins 2 Flavors, can I get you french vanilla or vanilla bean, sir?”).
  • The only way to change the political process is from the inside. This is true, unless you count armed insurrection as an option (and if anyone is interested, such as the NSA or NIPR, I don’t), but it requires there to be candidates who are truly agents of change, and I haven’t seen one of those in a loooong time.
  • I’m anti-(blank) and/or pro-(blank) and want to be sure that our government is full/free of (blank)ists. I see no difference between single-issue-voters and straight-ticket-voters, so please see the disclaimer at the beginning of this article.

So, does this mean I *never* vote? No, it means that I *rarely* vote. I only vote when I feel that there is a candidate who has an actual chance of making a difference. For example, the last time I voted it was for Ross Perot, the first time he ran for President. Mr. Perot was certainly an odd duck, but the things I knew about him were that he was not the product of the political machine, he had enough money to not be beholden to other interests, he admitted he didn’t have all the answers but would do his best to find them, and he did not go to the trouble to polish or spin his rhetoric, and instead spoke almost exclusively off-the-cuff. I do not know if he would have been a good or bad president, but I did know that he would be different, and that’s what we need in this country today…someone to make a difference.

I haven’t voted since because I have not found another candidate (including Ross Perot’s second candidacy) who met my personal qualifications. Here, in no particular order, is a partial list of those   qualifications/characteristics:

  • Career outside of politics – Asking a career politician to help change the existing system would be like asking a Creationist to help carbon date some fossils.
  • Not Republican or Democrat – I’m tired of vanilla. Also, since there is no serious competition to keep them sharp, the quality of their products just keeps declining. Think the US auto industry in the 1970’s.
  • Speak extemporaneously – I’m tired of electing speechwriters.
  • No lawyers, please – We hold this truth to be self-evident.
  • Acknowledgement that the system is broken – Admitting there is a problem is the first step in fixing it.
  • Sense of humor – I don’t mean grabbing the mic and doing an hour at The Improv. I mean being able to see the ridiculousness of the process, to be truly self-deprecating, and to speak with wit and verve.
  • Warts – Everybody has flaws. If a candidate has no apparent flaws, that means they’re hiding something.

So, those are my minimum requirements for any serious political candidate. But meeting the above is not enough to get my vote, it is simply the buy-in to be a serious player in the game. The candidate(s) who get my vote(s) will have the following philosophical platform:

  • Restructuring of terms and term limits – We should remove the temptation to legislate for re-election by eliminating *all* consecutive terms. But, extend the terms to six years, which gives elected officials enough time to formulate, implement, and realize the results of their efforts. But then make them sit out another six year term before running for re-election (or any other elected office). All other term limits should be removed, and in this system a candidate should be able to be re-elected as often as they can win (as long as they sit out every other six year term).
  • One-third of all representative positions (federal and state Senators and Representatives) should be At-Large – As an example, in this system each state would retain two senators in the federal government, and we would add 50 at-large senators, who aren’t elected to represent a geographic constituency, but instead a philosophical constituency. Let’s say that there is a candidate who represents the philosophy and values of 10% of the entire US population, but doesn’t represent the majority of any particular state. Under the current system this candidate would probably never be elected. Under the new system the candidate would have a good chance of getting elected, and their constituency would then be represented. This will allow for a broader spectrum of ideas and philosophies in government, as opposed to the bland, middle-of-the-road, least-common-denominator philosophies which much be espoused today in order to win a majority election.
  • Complete reform of income tax – I could *almost* be convinced to become a single-issue voter over this topic. The fact that our stupendously problematical existing system remains in place really says all you need to know about our current political process. My personal preference would be for a national sales tax, with only basic necessities (unprepared food, medicine, etc) exempt. The infrastructure is already in place to collect taxes at the point-of-sale, we’d finally be able to tax the spending of criminals (who don’t report their drug sales as income, but do buy beer, cigarettes, gasoline, and clothes), and the honest, middle-class schlub will never suddenly find himself thousands of dollars in the hole and faced with either giving the rent money to the IRS or fiddling with their tax return.
  • Complete reform of the electoral process – What if we were to eliminate *all* private campaign spending? All public forums, debates, glad-handing visits, television commercials, and travel would be paid for by the government, and dispensed equally to all qualified candidates. To qualify for this largesse candidates would be required to meet qualifications as a serious candidate, such as gathering signatures (real or electronic) on a petition, or alternatively there could be a Primary (unrelated to any political party) where anyone can list their name, nobody can spend any money campaigning, and the top 5 candidates qualify for the structured and fair campaign system.
  • Elimination of *any* public support or consideration for political parties – Parties could choose to continue to exist, but *all* functions would be privately funded and staffed. If you think this is the way it works now, check with your local voting and election officials and find out how much of their daily work is done in support of the Democratic and Republican parties. Or ask the staffs of our elected officials how much Party business they conduct. Also, Party primaries actually have absolutely nothing to do with our governmental or electoral process, and are simply the selection processes for private organizations. They should be treated as such.
  • Addition of “None of the Above” to ALL ballots – If “None of the above” wins the election, then current election results are discarded, and the process is restarted with the goal of having another election in 3 months. The incumbent remains in office during this delay.

You may notice that none of the above philosophies has anything to do (directly) with Social Security, public health care, defense, the economy, abortion, gun control, religion, or any of the other typical hot-button political issues. It’s not that I think all of those things are perfect, or that I don’t have very definite opinions about them, it’s that I believe that we have to fix the system before the system can fix any problems.

And so what I do is continue to not vote for the candidates I don’t like, and to watch and wait for candidates who I think have some chance of beginning these types of fundamental changes. However, there don’t appear to be many of those, and instead the political debate focuses on the surface issues without addressing the fundamental problems. In fact, from my perspective most of the political debate of today is analogous to the passengers on a cruise debating the relative merits of the dinner selections while the ship slowly sinks. We all need to get up from the table, get down into the bilge and start patching and bailing.

For me that means looking harder for candidates who come close to matching the requirements described here, supporting them, letting them know why I support them, and telling others about the candidates and their platforms. This rant is the first step in that process, for me. I urge you to do the same.

Look beyond party politics, single-issues, conservatism, liberalism, trickle-down theories, safety nets, and all of the other rhetoric at the forefront of today’s politics, and instead look for candidates who will help repair the sinking ship of state by fixing the fundamental flaws in our electoral and governmental processes. There’s an old proverb (that I just made up) that says you can’t drive home a nail with a broken hammer, no matter how hard you swing it. Let’s fix the hammer.

Post a comment

*