Keep Political Parties Away from our Elections

The evidence proves that Political Parties running elections is bad for Democracy.

Ideas for election reform have been flowing across my facebook screens nearly daily for the last month. Many of the ideas individually have a lot of merit, but there are some that are downright dangerous. The most common ideas are ranked choice voting, eliminating gerrymandering, open primaries, making election day a holiday, even more early voting, vote by mail, automatic voter registration, and mandating paper ballots. I am sure there are others that I missed listing and others that I have not heard about.

Why is election reform such a hot topic all of a sudden? A major driver was the recent election for president that did not turn out in any way how the experts all expected it would.  Their malfeasance has turned into a state of shock all across America. So the next question is, what went wrong that never went wrong before. As far as I can tell, nothing went wrong that hasn’t gone wrong before. That means that the problems that need fixing haven’t changed. Why all the fuss now? My thesis is that nobody wants to admit that anything was going wrong before. Especially the pundit class, that group of people who sit around tables that are near TV cameras and pontificate just as I am doing now, except my laptop camera is turned off and I don’t get paid. Also the pundit class keeps getting to talk into cameras and say stuff and two weeks later when they are all wrong, the same group gets brought back in front of the cameras and are asked to pontificate some more. Instead of looking back and asking what are we missing, they pretend that the real problems with our entire election are not consequential, and as the cognitive dissonance distance between what is broken and what the pundit class bases their predictions increases, the less reliable the predictions are, and the less the public believes them.

A reliable election process is where the best candidates are selected and those candidates should represent as much of the spectrum of ideas as possible. It also depends on all the votes being counted, and anytime the count is in doubt, a recount should be expected as a matter of course. Enforcement of election procedures along with the same level of audits used to validate that a bank is responsibly and honestly counting all the money individuals have handed to them for safe keeping is the minimum we should expect if protecting democracy is a true government objective. Are any of those standards happening in our election system? I don’t think so at all. In fact until we implement procedures to assure we have a process that brings forth candidates that advocate a broad spectrum of ideas, and elections whose results are trusted by the electorate, then any changes that do not directly address those problems will remain small band-aid patches on a deep wound. And if that is all we implement, then the band-aid will fall off and the wound will open even wider.

In order to bring forth multiple candidates with differing philosophies the two-party system has to be relegated to back of the line. It was obvious to the Founding Fathers that as odious as political parties are, they will form nonetheless. That should be accepted but in no way be legislated as a requirement for candidacy nor should parties be outlawed. People will do what they always do and form cliques, it is government’s role to make sure that parties do not make the rules.  Right now, our election system is so locked down as Democrat vs. Republican that around 98% of all elected officials in the US are members of one of those parties. That only two candidates are considered viable in at least 98% of our elections means that other ideas are literally stifled. Actual discussion is diminished and the voter finds nobody that truly represents their personal point of view, resulting in lower voter turnout. Counting ballots must take place on paper, but technology should not be eliminated. While scanner software is easy to manipulate, there is no reason that programming the machines cannot be done using open software, data entered (such as candidates names and their related printed information that appears on the ballot) should be in plain language. The program code should be written in an interpretative language so that any literate individual can read and understand how the program tabulates the votes .  Audits of at least 10% of the polling places must be mandatory and the audits must be a hand count of the scanned paper ballots.

There are two more critical issues that must be addressed since their impact on elections is profound. First, a law must be passed overturning the Supreme Court decision to release certain states and other jurisdictions from Justice Department oversight of changes to their election laws. It became obvious within days that the court had made a mistake since one state after another passed voter restriction laws as soon as the oversight was removed. Along with that, the law should provide tools for any polling places that are insufficiently supplied with voting machines or ballots to have those ballots printed at any nearby printing facility via a temporary eminent domain authority.

The second critical point is to remove any political party restrictions for Primary elections. This has become a frequent point made by many, but most do not go far enough since they only require that anyone can pick which party’s ballot they want. But consistent with my earlier point that parties must be relegated to the back of the line, each person showing up to vote in a Primary gets only 1 ballot with all the candidates on it. This becomes more critical when there is more than one office on the ballot. A person can then vote for the person they want in the primary no matter what parties their choice of candidates aligns with.

Incompetence and Misleading the Public is a High Crime

After years of observing President Trump demonstrate an ineptness that astounds even fans of the 1962 New York Mets, I have determined that for the benefit of the nation, the world, and to allow Melania Trump to return to the relative safety of the nearest Women’s shelter that she can buy; Donald J. Trump must be impeached.  His impeachment cannot be for his shady business dealings with Russia or any of the other rather unsavory business types he has done business with over the decades.  When he was elected, his past connections was fairly well known.  An astute, diligent press could and should have been able to report on all that, but then there would not have been any ink left or air time available for writing about and covering his wonderfully, enlightening tweets.  We certainly cannot impeach him for collusion with the Russians for affecting his election, mainly because.  OK because it didn’t happen and even if it did there is the slight (sic) problem that both Democrats and Republicans committed much more election tampering than the Russians could have.  See Post

 

How about impeaching Trump for the recent implied allegation by former FBI Director Comey of Obstruction of Justice? Good, but it still has that Russian stink to it and for the sake of world peace, we need to avoid any impeachment that revolves around Russia.  Any issues with Trump’s staffers, or even Vice President Pence, regarding Russia; we can resolve after we impeach The Donald. No, not Russia, not even the alleged Prostitutes in Russia will have the lasting positive impact that an impeachment trial on the grounds of incompetence will have. But only if the trial takes place and found guilty.  Trump cannot be allowed to resign, and then be pardoned. The trial must happen.  Sure, I know, it would be a bend over backwards by Congress to write up the impeachment articles but they are all experts at bullshit. I am certain they can wordsmith incompetence into legalese so that it can be described as a high crime or even a misdemeanor.

 

Just for starters here is some of the examples of The Donald’s challenge to the ’62 Mets.  He has a majority in both Houses, he claimed he had the best health care plan to replace the ACA.  He has failed, not for a lack of trying; but instead his attempts have been miserable failures.  This failure to deliver anything that resembles his campaign pledges is clearly evidence that he either ran his campaign based on total fabrications of what he intended to do once he won, or just did not care. He has admitted openly that he had adopted phrases on the campaign trail that implied policy, but were only included because the phrase elicited a positive reaction from his supporters. On the few occasions that he has actually tried to implement policy that aligns with his campaign either the Courts or his own party has thwarted him. The Courts, due to unconstitutional policy, the Republican Party leadership due to political constraints. In both cases, a competent President would have made adjustments to his proposals so that they could, in some manner be implemented.

 

Perhaps you are reading this article and are thinking that all politicians make claims and policy proposals on the campaign trail that they do not keep. Why impeach Trump?  That is very simple, because we can. Because running for president in the manner that happens today was not foreseen by the founders. Because, by running a campaign built on promises made to the electorate and then abandoned once elected most certainly in a functional democracy be considered and impeachable offense and a high crime. Because, not having the skill set required to execute the duties of any job, let alone presiding over a nation of over 300 Million people, should not be allowed to continue performing that job. Being incompetent and should the Congress awaken and do their diligence to remove Donald J. Trump via impeachment, American Presidential candidates will be restrained in making promises they are unable or unwilling to keep. Congress will also reestablish their Constitutional role of being a check on the President. But only if Trump is impeached for incompetence. His most glaring defect as President. Even his most ardent supporters are starting to realize that.

Deep State – sounds ominous

BRADFROMSALEM

The deep state is in revolt! The deep state is controlling everything. Elections don’t matter, even the President is vulnerable to the deep state. Deep State. DEEP STATE. DEEP STATE. At what point did you get scared? No, Perhaps two more iterations. DEEP STATE. DEEP STATE.

I give up, if you are not terrified by now, then perhaps you are familiar with what makes up the deep state.

Contrary to much of the fear whistles being blown about our friends working for the deep state, by and large they are people just like you and me. II bet the majority of people do, and many of those people are the dreaded DEEP STATE. Whoops, I mean deep state. Especially if they have any sort of decision authority. Yes your next door neighbor that manages the local Agriculture Department office is part of that deep state that operates inside the grey and beige corridors of Federal office buildings, immune to elections, Presidential authority and the will of the people making decisions about the lives of everyday Americans. And while her garden is lovely, her kids pretty normal, and she even invites you to her cookout every summer, will you ever look at her the same?

Of course you will, and you should. She is just an everyday American working a job, but with a special added responsibility. She has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and defend America from enemies foreign AND domestic. That’s right, the lady next door that runs a small office for the Agriculture Department has taken an oath that actually allows her to interpret the Constitution of the United States! Is that as friggin’ democratic as you can get? The fears that you hear about the deep state acting on their own to stall or even block Mr. Trump’s agenda is part of the design that created the Civil Service which is a large portion of the deep state. So while most of the deep state consists of average Americans doing the best they can at jobs that are mostly thankless and often reviled, there is also the deep state permanent government employees such as the CIA, the FBI and the other 15 spy agencies not to mention other parts of the Defense Department, State Department, and Treasury Department. These people include many, many people with as wide a range of viewpoints as you will find in any other large enterprise. The deep state is not a group of people with similar outlooks and agendas. And many of the ones in the agencies I noted can and do have an impact on serious and dangerous and controversial issues affecting everyone in the nation and potentially the entire world. But, there is one thing they all have in common with our neighbor who runs a small office for the Agriculture Department; they have all taken that same oath to uphold the Constitution. Even the ones with guns. Sure many will abuse their power, but if a large number perceive that the President of the United States is a threat to the security of the United States isn’t their first responsibility to protect the nation against such a domestic threat. And, if the method chosen is to leak information to the press about activities that shows evidence of incompetence are they not fulfilling their oath?

What are they supposed to do? Sit quietly while someone that up close may be demonstrably incapable of handling all aspects of such a critical job. They cannot go up the chain because the top of the administrative chain is the danger. It’s not as if big huge government secrets are being revealed. The worst was that it was leaked that Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador. It happens every time a new guy takes over as President, and it ain’t even illegal. So far, the deep state is doing their job, fulfilling the oath that each and every one took. This is how our democratic government is supposed to work. Certainly, there is opportunity for abuse, but we have laws against that and the elected state is not afraid to use those laws against the deep state, just ask Edward Snowden.

Progressive Policy Defined

BRADFROMSALEM

The components of a Progressive policy is unclear. How is it different from Liberal policy, or is it just an alternative name? It is both. Progressive policy is long term policy, while Liberal are the immediate policy. Progressive is larger in scope and is less forgiving of compromising on principles. Liberal is practical, Progressive is aspirational.

I have defined Progressive as being the sum of 3 non negotiable components. In order for a public policy to be Progressive it must be morally based, compatible with the principles of Democratic Socialism, and finally must seek out peaceful solutions as a primary objective.

Public policy in the US is any law legally enacted, Executive Order issued, or regulation published. For any policy to be considered morally based it must adhere to what is often called by Christians the Golden Rule; “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”. This is but one version of the Golden Rule which is a consistent teaching of all religions and other moral structures. A policy is moral when it applies to all equally and any that are affected would apply the same benefits to their fellows and those that are not affected would want the policy to apply to themselves.

When a policy is morally based it already contains a critical component of a true Democratic Socialist society. Democratic Socialism is already consistent with the US Constitution in the clauses regarding eminent domain, the postal services, and interstate commerce; as well as the preamble’s commitment to “the general welfare”. Democratic Socialism also does not prohibit Free Enterprise or fair and open elections. Any policy that restricts government’s ability to act for the general welfare, restrict Free Enterprise, prevent or hinder fair and open elections, are not Progressive policies. To clarify, Free Enterprise differs from Free Markets by some critical criteria, which is that Free Enterprise promotes open markets for competition of any business that does not impinge on the General Welfare. Free Markets on the other hand promotes less regulation over the markets and prefers the market to provide all services even those that affect the General Welfare. Free Market capitalism is not compatible with Democratic Socialism, Free Enterprise as I have defined it is compatible.

Lastly, seeking peaceful solutions is worthy not only in international relations but also with domestic problems as well. Internationally, entering into discussions over differences with the stated and demonstrated intention of a peaceful resolution makes a solution much more likely. A show of force by the US is totally unnecessary, the world is well aware of America’s firepower, there is no need to flaunt it. Domestically, the threat of prison and other harsh punishments that do not fit the crime are not only immoral (see above) but pits citizen’s against each other and diverts precious resources of people, land, and facilities from being into uses that enrich the entire country.

Progressive Policy = Moral + Democratic Socialism + Peace

Within that short formula is not a rigid one size fits all, but instead a means of determining where compromise can be made, and a wide range of viable positive policies can be derived.

If Money Equals Speech, Does Speech Equal Money?

Salem Harbor

 

 

BRADFROMSALEM

(NOTE:  The following post is adapted dramatically from a comment and a reply to another comment regarding a letter that appeared in the Salem News. The letter was written by a member of MA Move to Amend, a mission I wholeheartedly endorse.  Some of the reply comment appeared separately as a Facebook post and has not been altered very much.)

The Supreme Court’s recent McCutcheon ruling allows individuals to donate up to the current limit an amount of money to an unlimited number of candidates. This erases the limit set on the number of candidates one could finance . Of course this creates some new problems in our electoral process. Many we can anticipate, and probably just as many we can’t. It is possible that some aspects of the ruling may even create some positive effects, but for one reason alone, the negatives absolutely outweigh the positives. The overwhelming amount of expenditures being made in electoral campaigns cannot be seen as anything but a negative trend. I make this point not only on moral grounds, but also on sound economic principles.

The law was put in place to prevent wealthy individuals from affecting not only the outcome of the election, but also the results of a federal election. The outcome being the winning candidate, and the result the winning candidate’s votes in Congress. Historically, the PACs frequently have funded candidates of both establishment parties. Why? Because no matter who wins, they get access to the candidates. By allowing unlimited access, because that is what a campaign donation is, a request for access; wealthy individuals can and will fund both candidates.

And the reason for overturning the maximum number of funded candidates? Free speech. The logic somehow is that the money provided to a candidate so that the candidate can get their message out is free speech, The very same free speech as protected in the US Constitution. (I know my choice of  language is somewhat a subliminal negative message about the ruling, if it offends you; get over it.) Really? So I can go into Macy’s, go up to the clerk at the register with a cart full of clothes and then proceed  to pay for the clothes with a 2 hour speech, or perhaps if I use a lot of big, gotta look that one up in the dictionary words, I only have to speak for 15 minutes! I know, just because money equals speech does not mean that speech equals money. But, if I silently gave money to a cop after he (hypothetically, of course) pulled me over speeding isn’t that a closer example to this SCOTUS ruling?  Or am I trying to influence the cop into not handing me a very expensive speeding ticket?

No, money provided to a candidate can be used for the candidate to exercise her right to speak freely, but it has nothing to do with the donor’s right to speak freely. In fact, just the opposite. When I speak (or write) in favor of a candidate, then the words of endorsement are mine. I am responsible for the content, not the candidate. When I fund a candidate, the opposite occurs. I get to speak to the candidate to influence her. And the speech is mostly private, not public. The more funding, the more private. Are you cynical yet, because thee is one last point. Even though there are dollar limits on the amount you can spend on any one candidate, that doesn’t stop the average influence seeker from finding party organizations to buy influence from. The amount of direct, legal influence a seeker can use to gather access is essentially unlimited.

Gaining influence over our political leaders is effectively described in the Constitution.  The right to assemble is an allowed form of influence.  And so isn’t the right to speak and write freely. But, nowhere does the Constitution equate speech or press to money or wealth. In fact, The Court has ruled that the right to vote cannot be associated with any sort of poll tax.  Money as speech is an artificial construct of the Supreme Court and the Court has taken that construct beyond any reasonablele limit. We can speak freely, but not all the time. Falsely shouting fire in a crowded area is prohibited speech that endangers others. Making false accusations in print may make one subject to a libel suit. Assembling to commit violence or even assembling without permits are not allowed. Our freedoms have limits and we depend on the Congress to define them, and the Court to name them. The McCutcheon case does the exact opposite, Congress had defined the limits to the concept of money is speech, a concept defined by the Court. 

What are the limits to money is speech? I would say that Congress determined that limit is 18 candidates. Perhaps that limit is too high, but the question can also be asked at what decibel level is it OK to speak the word ‘fire’ in a crowd?

That is the type of analysis the court is supposed to make. At what limit does the campaign empowerment and ‘gratitude’ that comes from an unlimited amount of money effectively become a bribe? How about the donor that gives both sides the maximum amount? Isn’t it obvious that the donor is expecting one of the two major party candidates to return the favor? Very rarely does large sums of money go to one major party and also a small one. Isn’t that using one’s wealth to squeeze out points of view not held by either party an obvious and negative influence on our elections? Doesn’t allowing by multiple rulings virtually unlimited money into electing people divert from our economy more productive uses of that money.

There is much more that is wrong with this decision, as well Citizen’s United and the Voting Right’s act. In my mind, these 5 Justices need to answer in a public hearing. There is only one kind of hearing that will force the 5 Right Wing  justices to prove to Congress that they overturned standing law on sound Constitutional grounds. That would be an impeachment hearing. These 5 need to be impeached and if they cannot explain themselves sufficiently, they lose their jobs and their rulings are nullified.

 

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