There are only 48 days before Super Tuesday, November 6, and honestly, ever since the heavy political campaigning started about 32 days ago, I have wanted to and shied away from posting about politics. Well, now that I have attended my first grassroots event and really started following both sides, I cannot hold back. You can see some of my pictures from the Grassroots event I attended- my first ever.
I saw President Obama speak in Golden, Colorado on September 13, 2012, and had a blast! It helped to be in good company, my friends from work, and of course, the other 10,000+ folks that were there too. The weather was gorgeous- crisp, sunny, clear and beautiful Colorado through and through. It was a good time and it was nice to see the President – I had never seen him before. I wish I was closer but all in all, great event and as usual, the President delivered. By the way, I wrote these four years ago and worth a read before you read my article on politics below: ARTICLE 1 on EXPECTATIONS and the CAMELOT ARTICLE. There are more if you look under my political archives too.
So, attending that event got me thinking about a post and while I could just write about the Grassroots event and what an amazing experience it was, I decided to write some political stuff. So, here goes – Politics 101 based on my experiences to get us through the next 48 days of what promises to be a very tight race:
1. Family — ah… family! Family should always be important and more important than politics but for some reason every four years, families are on the brink of war and alienation all over some random guys and gals whom you never met nor know personally. My parents and I now have a rule because it is just not worth it – don’t talk about it. It is not worth giving my dad another heart attack over or regretting something said later down the road. In the end, family is too important. They can vote for candidate X and you can vote for Candidate Y- in the end, it doesn’t matter. Want to know why? The Damn Electoral College – that’s why. (read on below my rants on The Electoral College)
2. Yes… as I was saying and as you already know, America, while it calls itself a democracy and invades and assists other countries to get voting rights and processes in place, is not a pure democracy. Why? Some founding fathers, centuries ago, thought it was a wise idea to set up something called an Electoral College and put it in the Constitution. SURVEY SAYS: WRONG! The Electoral College lends itself to a representational democracy NOT PURE DEMOCRACY so bigger, more represented states get to choose our President for us. The other side effects of the Electoral College: campaign financing that can blow your mind- it sure does blow the mind of developing nations. People dump millions, and billions are spent on campaigning by mainly 2 parties because again, the electoral college is such that no other parties can really EVER get ahead or get any electoral votes to win or make a difference. Third parties cannot get ahead and thus, we as a country really don’t either. Ask yourself- when was the last time SINCE YOU STARTED TO VOTE you really aligned 100% with one candidate or the other? Yeah… that’s what I thought. While the Electoral College, like some parts of our Constitution, was a great idea back then when the country was smaller, and brand spanking new, we need to evolve as a people and end that too but alas, special interest groups, PACs, and some of these States will probably not let that happen. But alas, I could devote an entire book on why we need to evolve past the Electoral College altogether.
3. Now, let’s focus on the true concerns of why we vote one way or another- is it the economy? Sure, it is a huge issue. When we are doing well, people tend to think things are going well so they vote for who they think is responsible. Wrong- it’s not just the President. It takes a bunch of people and sectors to make things tick in the economy. The President plays a small role in that. Social concerns worrying you? That is another reason people vote a certain way for President. The biggest ones this year appear to be: gay marriage rights (including benefits and marriage itself), pro-choice v. pro-life (which appears every election year and nothing really has changed), and this year add in a new one: Affordable Care Act (health care). All of these concerns seem to drive how people vote but it goes deeper for others. For some, it is about taxation- who will raise them, who will not, or who will give to social programs rather than defense and the like. Religion, like it or not, plays a role in how people vote too.
4. Another big concern that moves people to vote a certain way is the Supreme Court composition. As a lawyer, and lover of the Constitution (I used to teach Constitutional Law) this concerns me too. Currently, the composition of the court is 5-4. This means 5 of the 9 are presumed conservative and 4 are liberal. But, this really shouldn’t be the decisive issue because Justice Kennedy has been a swing vote (he was a Reagan appointee) and very recently, a very conservative Justice Roberts upheld the Affordable Health Care Act as Constitutional. Justice Roberts was a G.W. Bush appointee. So… things aren’t always what they seem. But the obvious concern for this election is Justice Ginsberg. Many thought she would have retired under President Obama’s first term but that did not happen. Supreme Court Justices are life appointments so, the worry is that in the next 4-8 years, this can be a huge swing for the court. If Justice Ginsberg retires or heaven forbid, something happens while she sits on the bench, then the President appoints, through a nomination process, a replacement and this can swing the court very conservative to a 6-3 court which can then have the effect of revisiting Roe v. Wade and of course, other cases as well. This is a valid concern and one that SHOULD impact voting but keep in mind, not all Justices vote the way their party or President wants them to which is a great thing about the Supreme Court and the independence of the SCOTUS.
5. Foreign policy and international opinion have mattered recently as well. The President is a figurehead and someone who does represent us in a global economy to other nations. So, it matters and more and more because we are losing our status as a super power. Other countries’ economies and educational systems are pulling ahead of ours. It matters how a President handles him or herself in a global situation – crisis or otherwise. If anything, the Presidency of G.W. Bush taught us that how a President is perceived overseas also impacts our nation’s perception and ultimately, our standing in the world. I lived overseas when the events of 9/11 occurred and subsequent to that as well. Trust me, it matters. So, while not as important to Americans as other issues this is also a consideration when voting. Recently, there were some uprisings in the Middle East and how our leaders react to these situations is quite telling- about them, their character, and ultimately how they will handle foreign affairs and domestic matters when in office. When a small faction of our population (let’s use LA as an example) riot, we do not, for example, bomb all of California as a lesson. We punish the wrong doers, the looters, the rioters. We try to stop the rioting, and use diplomacy along with force to end the root cause of the riots. While the U.S. does not need another war, it will be interesting to see how we handle the uprisings in the Middle East and around the world. The country has at its disposal several instruments of power – diplomatic, economic, informational, and of course military. It is the use of all of these and the balancing of all when used that determine whether we are successful in a global crisis or war OR not.
6. Military, Defense and Wars matter. This was a huge reason why people elected Barack Obama in 2008. They wanted to end wars especially Iraq which really seemed like an invasion without justification. Our economy, our people, can no longer stomach the loss of lives to foreign wars anymore. It’s cyclical really. We were isolationists in the 40s too and WWII was hard to enter but we were basically drawn out to enter. When you talk to people today, more and more want peace and diplomacy to the “seek, attack and destroy” mentality of yester-years. It does not mean we shrink our military to nothing but it also means we pull some of the funding towards rebuilding and taking care of our own here at home instead of doing countless thankless missions overseas where sadly, some nations may not even want us there. Sadly, some nations where we are present kill our troops even though our troops are there to help and nation build. This issue is near to dear to me and I am sure to a lot of military families. Ending wars, engaging in well thought-out conflicts only where we have to, and whenever possible, using diplomacy and other instruments of our national power to hopefully resolve issues.
7. Social Media is a powerful tool these days and as one recent article pointed out, it can impact people’s views and even how they vote and as much as up to 16% of voters have claimed to have changed their views based on social media (reference:therealtimereport.com/2012/09/11/social-networks-and-politics-16-have-changed-their-views-based-on-social-media shared by @marieleslie via @tonie_ries)
8. Conversely, using social media to spread messages that others have strong views about (pro-life, gay marriage and religion), can have a negative effect too. Depending on how it’s handled, some not only risk losing followers, they also risk losing respect of those close to them. Social media, when used properly in politics, can be a powerful tool. Just look at Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. He used social media in the right way to win. But, he had then and has now, a barrage of people running his campaign. You may not have people vetting your information or filtering what you say. So, engaging people on fundamental issues could really have a negative effect on your job, if social media is your job or promotes your company. And just like a job on the outside, bad publicity can have a negative impact on your earnings too.
9. And with that, I add one more thing about politics 101 to those who avoid politics like the plague and don’t want to talk about it- and I do mean this nicely: lighten up! Do not get upset every time you see a picture or a political post, and while you should certainly pick your battles, don’t shy away from it completely. Embrace the positive and the negative. After all, if you watch “Slutty Housewives of….” and can’t stomach a little political ad here and there (including the horribly negative ones), come on now! I agree that all politics need a make over in our country but this make-over can only come if we make it happen and write our Congressmen and Senators and maybe encourage the elimination of the Electoral College, which would also be a step in the proper direction.
10. Finally, there is a reason why elections are negative. Because we are a 2-party system, and less than 50% of Americans actually go out and vote, it begs the question that most people actually vote for the “lesser of the two evils.” Yes, that is how sad a 2-party system can be but that is what most Americans say. For example, “Why are you voting for GW Bush instead of Kerry?” RESPONSE: “I don’t like Kerry, and while GW Bush is a moron, Kerry is a bigger moron so I choose GW Bush.” WHAT?! That is how it works so in this game of building a house of cards, if the other guy can tear down your house, it’s simple really – he or she wins. That is why there are negative ads, and in social media, why people cut the other guy down. Plain and simple, most Americans who vote aren’t JUST voting for the guy they like and the reasons they like him, they are also voting for who they can tolerate the most leading their nation. That is why the other guy has to be painted in a negative light, or if he or she commits public gaffes, well then, not much negativity has to be done because the case is made for them. So, I understand why people are upset about negative ads or people on social media cutting down the other side but that is how politics truly works in a 2-party system. If you do not like negative ads, do something about it instead of complaining about it all the time. Like it or not, they are here to stay because of our current political climate, the 2-party system, and all the reasons why that exists.
And finally, to all those who despise this “most wonderful time of the year,” remember, this is once every four years and it is the only part of a NON-Pure democracy we can actually engage in, be heard and maybe, along the way, make some new friends out of … let’s hope not enemies. For me, it helps me understand those different than me. I may not agree with them but it helps me try to understand them or their background. Or, it just firms up how crazy they truly are. Ha! Either way, at the end of the day, and after November 6, we are all going to be EXACTLY THE SAME- Americans living our lives- sending our kids to school, going to work, paying our taxes, helping charities and doing community service, blogging away, attending our respective churches to pay homage to our respective Gods (or not), and saying the same pledge of allegiance: “one nation…. with liberty and justice for all.”Disclaimer (small – very small – teeny tiny writing): This post is my opinion and it does not reflect on my employers or any of the positions I hold. I write this in my personal capacity as a blogger, a hobby I truly enjoy. And… finally, if you post a comment you believe should be posted but does not make the cut, remember, my blog is my own and a benevolent dictatorship not a representational democracy like the Electoral College. Thanks for understanding and go out there and vote- make a difference and get your friends to do the same. It does matter!