“[Political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community…” George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
By Dom Nozzi
Updated September 27, 2012
No Meaningful Difference Between Democrat Obama and Republican Romney
I believe the American voting system is corrupt and dysfunctional.
Yes, Obama, Romney and the media effectively create the illusion that the presidential candidates are vastly different in their politics, and this illusion seems particularly accurate given the extreme, hostile partisanship we have witnessed between Democrats and Republicans in recent years. But a look at how Obama and Romney have actually governed (rather than our relying on their campaign rhetoric) shows that there is no real meaningful difference.
Exemplifying this dysfunction is the fact that I am unable to see how anyone Left of center, politically, could plan to vote for Obama in November 2012. Obama and Romney are both moderate Republicans (even though Obama calls himself a Democrat). The fact that American voters, in 2012, are only given a “choice” of voting for center-right Romney or center-right Obama means there is no choice at all. And both candidates, to have any chance at all of being elected, are forced to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from millionaires and corporations if either expects to have a chance to be elected. The fact that to be a viable candidate, both Romney and Obama must either be extremely wealthy or accept millions in campaign contributions makes it inevitable that Obama and Romney would have nearly identical politics — politics that are center-right and reflect the interests of the wealthy. What better evidence is needed that the American voting system is corrupt and dysfunctional?
Obama and Romney: Is There Any Meaningful Difference?
The following table makes me question whether there is any meaningful difference between Obama and his Republican challenger Romney. As many have pointed out, the track record of both of them shows that they are both center-right, politically (both are moderate Republicans). How many Democrats bite their tongue when Obama does the many things below that they attack Republican presidents/candidates for?
|Health Care||Romney’s Massachusetts health care said to be identical to ObamaCare|
|Illegal Drugs||Both Romney and Obama support continuing drug prohibition and the forty-year-old, Nixon-era War on Drugs. Romney also supports the continued raids and prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries (and even patients) that have characterized Obama Administration as well as Bush-era policy on medical marijuana.|
|Ronald Reagan||On the campaign trail, both major party candidates frequently invoke and heap praise on Ronald Reagan|
|Campaign Finance||On campaign finance, Romney and Obama have supported campaign spending limits.|
|Gay Marriage||On gay marriage, what Obama and Romney have in common is that they have both changed positions (or “evolved”) on the issue, and curiously done so when it would be of maximum electoral benefit to them.|
|Abortion||Because he’s adopted multiple positions on abortion throughout his political career, it’s hard to determine what his actual views are, but Romney has agreed with Obama’s position multiple times on the importance of upholding Roe v. Wade.|
|Wall Street Campaign Contributions||Romney accepts vast amounts of campaign contributions from Wall Street.||No other Democratic presidential candidate accepted more Wall Street money than Obama, and Obama continues to accept large amounts of contributions from Wall Street.|
|Wall Street prosecutions||Romney has not indicated any disagreement with how Obama has failed to prosecute any executive on Wall Street.||The Obama Administration has failed to prosecute a single Wall Street executive for malfeasance related to the 2007 – 2008 financial crash.|
|Patriot Act||Romney supports the warrantless wiretapping of the Bush-era USA Patriot Act. Romney has praised the Act.||Obama supports the warrantless wiretapping of the Bush-era USA Patriot Act. Obama has acted to renew multiple times as both Senator and President.|
|Israel||Unconditional support by both Romney and Obama. Both consider Israel America’s best long-term strategic ally in the Middle East and are committed to using US military power to go to war alongside Israel against its regional enemies.|
|Taxes||Though they are currently sparring over whether or not to extend the tax cuts for high income earners, Romney supports making these tax cuts permanent for them as well, and as president, Obama has already extended these tax cuts for high income earners once. Actions matter more than rhetoric.|
|Served in the armed forces?||No||No|
|Public Funding of Faith-Based Services||Romney supports and want to continue Bush-era faith-based initiatives.||Obama supports and want to continue Bush-era faith-based initiatives|
|Military||Romney wants to increase military spending.||Spending categorized as defense-related has only gone up during President Obama’s first term from $616 billion under Bush in 2008 to $768 billion in 2011, and Obama still wants even more.|
|Military||Romney supports Obama’s commitment to nation building (although he wants to push it more aggressively).||Despite running on a platform of change, Obama’s first term as president has demonstrated his commitment to the Bush era strategies of nation building and counter-insurgency.|
|Military||Romney supports the Bush era doctrine of preemptive war.||Obama supports the Bush era doctrine of preemptive war.|
|Military||Romney agrees with President Obama that the president can act unilaterally to take the country to war without Congress.||Obama agrees with Romney that the president can act unilaterally to take the country to war without Congress.|
|Military||Romney agrees that preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is a national security priority for the United States.||Obama agrees with Romney that preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is a national security priority for the United States.|
|Military||Romney would unilaterally take the US to war against Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.||Obama would unilaterally take the US to war against Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.|
|Military||“The US has 100,000 troops fighting and dying in the longest war in American history, but you won’t hear much about Afghanistan on the campaign trail. That’s…because Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are broadly on the same page when it comes to ending the 11-year conflict that recently claimed its 2,000th US service member.” – Time Magazine, 9/10/12, Page 10.|
|Military||Romney is a supporter of George W. Bush’s war and counter-insurgency operations in Iraq.||Obama has been a consistent supporter and escalator, as both Senator and President, of George W. Bush’s war and counter-insurgency operations in Iraq.|
|Military||Romney and Obama are actively trying to outdo each other on which candidate supports economic sanctions against Iran the most.|
|Military||Obama has involved the US in Syria’s foreign civil war. Romney wants to get even more involved .|
|Military||Romney supports continuing the Bush and Obama administration policy of cooperation with Pakistan despite its hostile activities toward US operations in Afghanistan and the fact that it appeared to have been harboring Osama bin Laden.|
|Military||Romney supports the Obama Administration’s policy of unmanned aerial warfare via predator drone in Pakistan.|
|Military||Tim Pawlenty– on Romney’s short list for a VP– has suggested that Romney would expand Obama’s already unprecedented use of drone warfare.|
|Military||Romney supported Obama’s massive surge of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.|
|Military||Though he tries to distinguish his position on Afghanistan from that of Obama’s, The New York Times reports that “despite the tough critique, Mr. Romney has loosely embraced the main thrust of White House policy for troop levels after the election: a timetable for pulling out nearly all troops by the end of 2014.” Obama has failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised on the campaign trail and as president; Romney said in one presidential debate: “My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo.” Both Obama and Romney support indefinite detention of terror suspects without trial as a valid and legal tool in the national security state’s war on terrorism.|
|Military||Like George W. Bush, Romney and Obama both speak in the rhetoric of American exceptionalism and divine providence concerning foreign policy. Romney says that like Obama did, he would sign the controversial NDAA, including its provisions for the arrest and indefinite detainment of US citizens on US soil.|
|Military||Like Obama, Romney believes in the legitimate power of the president to execute American citizens by “targeted killing” done in secret without charges or trial.|
|Military||Romney emphatically supported Obama’s decision in 2011 to use “targeted killing” to execute US citizen Anwar al Awlaki by drone strike without charges or trial.|
Jeffrey Sachs, in his The Price of Civilization (2011), asks what have been the real differences between Obama and Bush, and notes the following:
- Bush wanted tax cuts for 100 percent of households; Obama campaigned on tax cuts for 95 percent of households but, when the deadline approached in December 2010, agreed to extend tax cuts for all.
- Bush supported large deficits, in order to maintain low taxes and high military spending; Obama also supported large deficits, mainly as a macroeconomic stimulus.
- Bush bailed out the banks and the auto companies; Obama continued those policies.
- Bush supported immigration reform but was blocked by his own party; Obama favors immigration reform but is blocked by both parties.
- Bush favored nuclear power and deep-sea oil drilling; Obama favors nuclear power and deep-sea oil drilling.
- Bush filled his White House with Goldman Sachs and Citigroup executives; Obama has done the same.
Sachs notes that roughly starting with the Reagan Revolution, both Repubs and Dems have joined in a bi-partisan effort to cut taxes and rail against “Big Government.” Both Repubs and Dems have sided with major corporations and the wealthy, as this is where their main campaign contributions come from. Both Repubs and Dems have almost exclusively focused on cutting taxes and regs, as a result, for corporations and the wealthy. We now have a “corporatocracy,” wherein vast majorities of voters support something (like increasing taxes for the wealthy or cutting military spending or getting out of wars), yet both Repubs and Dems ignore them by continuing to cut taxes for the Biggies, funding weapons that even generals are screaming are unneeded, and fighting endless wars that serve no productive purpose (but instead merely create more enemies that we have to keep increasing military spending to fight). Our society is dying and no Repub or Dem is standing up to address ANY of the major problems, because the only “problem” that bought-off elected folks see is making life easier and more wealthy for the big boys (and girls).
The fact that Obama (who promised “hope and change that we can believe in”) and other Democrats have engaged in so many inexcusable actions and inactions in recent years is, by itself, proof that both major parties have been corrupted.
For me, this bankrupt political system is made screamingly obvious by the simple fact that none of my Essential Actions (see list below) are addressed by any elected official.
With the sorry track record of people we have elected for the past several elections, one must wonder if urging voters and non-voters to VOTE (as so many have so urgently and desperately pleaded for decades) will improve the quality of our representatives. If so, how?
I refuse to give my implicit approval to the long, sordid list of commissions and omissions by the Obama administration that I have listed above by voting for Obama’s re-election. By not voting for Obama, I am registering my extreme disapproval of his awful actions or inactions.
To consider voting for a candidate in the future, I’m not asking for much. I only ask that a candidate openly support at least one of my Essential Actions.
Is that asking too much?
Drew Weston, political consultant/advisor for US presidents and congressional campaigns. Speaker at 2012 Conference on World Affairs: “The politics of Obama in his first term as president are identical to the politics of Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.”
George Soros: “If it’s between Obama and Romney, there isn’t all that much difference except for the crowd that they bring with them… So it won’t be that great a difference and I think there won’t be a great deal of enthusiasm on either side of the battleground. It will be more civilised than the previous elections have been.”
Newt Gingrich: “There are a lot of parallels between these two guys…”
Judge Andrew Napolitano: “Can a man who essentially agrees with President Obama on all the key issues realistically become the Republican nominee for president?”
Rick Santorum: “And there’s no difference between President Obama and these two gentlemen [Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich].”
Gary Johnson: “Most Americans are hard pressed to find a difference between Romney and Obama when it comes to intervention.”
Ralph Nader: (CBS News) ‘Consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader says he sees “far too little difference” between President Obama and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, arguing that “we deserve more choices in this country.” In the interview with Hotsheet, Nader said the president and his likely Republican challenger are essentially the same when it comes to foreign policy and their attitudes “toward Wall Street and corporate power.” The primary difference, he said, is their position on social services.’
The Des Moines Register, the newspaper that endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008, endorsed Mitt Romney for the Republican Party nomination in 2012.
Voters: (Yahoo! News) “A new Quinnipiac poll shows Barack Obama holding a four-point lead over likely contender Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Politico noted that other recent polls project similar preference, with CBS/NYT calling the candidates tied, PPP giving Obama a four-point lead, and Gallup giving Romney a two-point lead. Only CNN/Opinion Research turned up a significant spread, with Obama in the lead by nine points. Why is the spread so close? Voters don’t seem to find much difference between Obama and Romney. [emphasis added]
The above comparison is based on the article, “100 Ways Mitt Romney Is Just Like Barack Obama,” by W. E. Messamore, 07/17/2012. http://ivn.us/2012/07/17/100-ways-mitt-romney-is-just-like-barack-obama/
Lesser Evil Voting
In a poll released on October 25, 2011, approval ratings for Congress dropped into single digits for the first time since CBS News and the New York Times began asking the question more than three decades ago. Just nine percent of Americans said they approve of the job lawmakers on Capitol Hill are doing. This outcome for “lesser evil” voting – voting that an extremely large number of voters engage in — shows that “lesser evil” voting is a disaster. This shockingly low approval rating is a complete indictment of our political system.
I have voted for the lesser-evil for president for my entire life. What does that deliver when so many Democratic voters do that over and over? Watered down evil and mediocrity (in Democratic presidents) for 30 years. If I were to rate what I’m looking for in a president on a scale of one to one hundred (with one hundred being perfect), I absolutely, vigorously refuse to vote, promiscuously and mindlessly, for a Democrat who I would give a score of 8, instead of a Republican who I would give a score of 3. That has been my choice for 30 years. A score of 8 is less evil than a “truly evil” score of 3, but any score less than, say, 30 or 40, is, in my opinion, an incompetent, hideous monster. If my choices were, say Mussolini or Hitler, should I vote for Mussolini because he is not “truly evil” – to avoid a Hitler?
For the record, I am not suggesting that Obama is anywhere near as awful as Mussolini, nor that the Republican candidate is similar to Hitler. I am simply using those universally known monsters for the sake of convenience to make a point. Obama is to Romney as Mussolini is to Hitler.
“Apathetically sticking my head in the sand” is an unfair charge that flustered, frustrated, often red-faced angry friends on the political Left accuse me of regularly. Why? Because more than anyone I know, I write books, articles, essays, blogs (four blog websites), emails, and engage in regular conversations endlessly on political issues. I read and research political issues and candidates for office more than anyone I know. I therefore do a LOT of work to educate myself and others on political issues. I challenge anyone to point to anyone we know as friends who works more on politics than I do. That enormous volume of work is anything but apathetically sticking my head in the sand.
Yes, a Republican president will probably be more awful than Obama – although as I note above, these “extreme” differences seem mostly rhetorical and not real. But I have a news flash: Our nation and our world are on the brink of catastrophic collapse and we are VERY close to driving over the edge of the proverbial cliff. It is inconceivable to me how ANYONE can think we have the time to waste by voting for a lesser evil. We are in an emergency situation here. We cannot afford another 30 years of voting for a lesser evil.
I’m sorry, but I have decided, after reading the likes of Ellsberg, Derber, Bacevich, Mearsheimer & Sniegnoski (all of whom have written on the corrupted US foreign policy), that my vote is worth too much (and our situation too dire) for me to continue to vote for lesser evils. My future votes will likely be significantly more rare for candidates in federal, state and local elections. If trends continue, I will never again vote for a major party candidate for president.
I prepared a list of crucial political issues and actions that are essential, in my view, to the survival and flourishing of America. (I know there are many other Essential Actions, and I encourage those who share my political values to suggest others to add to this list.)
Despite my firm belief that these actions must be taken — as soon as possible — by elected officials, they are tragically and tellingly “untouchable” politically. They are radioactive “third rail” issues. As a result, none of them, for the past several decades, have been publicly supported by any elected official or major party candidate anywhere in the USA (at least not by any candidate that I have been able to vote for).
Officials and candidates won’t touch them with the proverbial ten-foot pole.
I believe that even those on the Left who are convinced that it is necessary to engage in “lesser evil” voting will, at some point, refuse to vote for the Democratic major party candidate if the Democratic party continues to drift further to the Right. Even a “lesser evil” advocate, in other words, will draw a line in the sand and say, “I’m sorry. The Democrats have moved too far to the Right. I am done voting for them.”
Obama’s track record as president includes:
1. Adopting the biggest military budget in US history – a budget that dwarfs the military budget of the next 8 military spenders in the world, combined.
2. Significantly ramping up a drone war which has killed thousands of civilians. This is nothing less than terrorism and actions of a war criminal.
3. Ramping up the war in Afghanistan, which has created tens of millions of new terrorists who have dedicated their lives to wanting to attack the US.
4. Continuing to pour billions in govt money into road widenings.
5. Substantially ramping up the War on Drugs.
6. Substantially ramping up torture, assassinations, and the PATRIOT Act.
7. Increasing the unconditional US support for the criminal, apartheid govt of Israel.
8. Doing almost nothing about Wall Street corruption.
As someone on the Left, this sordid, Right-Wing list of achievements has put the Democratic Party (or at least Obama’s version of it) too far to the Right. I must dry a line in the sand and say the Democrats are now pushing a Republican agenda. I am not a Republican, nor will I vote for a Republican because the opponent is even MORE to the Right.
Essential Actions Agenda for America
Dom’s Essential Actions that elected officials must implement as soon as possible:
- I believe it is essential that the US end the Afghanistan war immediately and fully disengage from Iraq, not to mention the pressing need for the US to significantly ratchet down its militarism around the world. Obama has ramped up the Afghan war, started new wars in Libya, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen, and it now seems clear to informed observers that the Afghan War will be a Forever War with Forever Military Bases. As Bob Woodward learned, even the administration doesn’t know why we are [in Afghanistan] or thinks there is a way to “win.” Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, wrote in the Huffington Post that Obama’s authorization of force against Gadhafi in Libya is a betrayal of his campaign vow to institute change in the White House: Since taking office, writes Bandow, President Obama has left U.S. troops in Iraq and expanded the war in Afghanistan. Now he has taken America into its third war in a Muslim nation (Libya) within a decade — to promote “global peace and security,” he claimed, the usual justification used by presidents to enter conflicts which serve neither. President Obama obviously has found his inner Neocon and joined Washington’s RepubliCrat Party.
”GLEN FORD: He’s not the peace president; he is the war president and recognized as such. That’s why his war-making prowess has such a high profile in his re-election campaign. At one point, President Obama was simultaneously drone-bombing five countries. Those were Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he has succeeded in redefining war. These are historical accomplishments of the worst kind. He’s redefined war, and he did this with Libya, after bombing this country for seven months, certainly inflicting tens of thousands of deaths, although the United States doesn’t acknowledge how many people were killed. After seven months of bombing Libya, President Obama tells the U.S. Congress that this doesn’t come under the War Powers Act, because it wasn’t a war at all. And it wasn’t a war at all because, as far as we know, no Americans were killed. And this is a redefinition of war. This is truly historic, a redefinition of war. It is not a war, as far as Obama’s doctrine is concerned, unless Americans are killed. So you can slaughter as many people in the world as you want to, as long as Americans’ casualties are kept at low or no. Then it’s not a war, and it’s not even the Congress’s business what you do. So, this is definitely a war president.
And I do not understand why people who are peace-minded, like the good doctor, are not up in arms, why folk who oppose Republican wars cannot seem to bring themselves to oppose Democratic wars. But as a result of their failure to oppose these wars and the expansion of the definition or the alteration of the definition of wars, these will continue. And that lies on people like Dr. Dyson’s head.” (http://www.democracynow.org/2012/9/7/effective_evil_or_progressives_best_hope)
- I believe it is essential that the US end the drug war. Obama has ramped up this war as well, as he has, for example, established new US military bases in “drug war” nations such as those found in South America. The Obama Administration has recently vowed to vigorously enforce federal laws against marijuana if the California legalization referendum passed in November 2010. In a March 1, 2012 Rolling Stone article, we learn that Obama “has quietly unleashed a multiagency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The Feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush’s record for medical marijuana busts.”
- I believe it is essential that the US put a moratorium on highway widening. Obama has continued this funding significantly with stimulus dollars. The Democrats remain incapable of putting meaningful dollars into trains. Widening highways is highly counterproductive and is a colossal waste of public dollars. On 3/7/11, Jim Kunstler noted that “President Obama’s top aide, Bill Daley, floated out the notion that we might draw down America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) so that the imprudent folk who traded-in clunkers for new Ford F110s and Cadillac Escalades won’t feel any pain from four-dollar gasoline.” In Transport Revolutions (Gilbert & Perl, 2010), the authors note the essential, pressing need for the US to stop “digging a deeper hole,” in an era of dwindling global oil supplies, by halting the on-going road-widening vicious cycle. The authors note that the Obama administration is squandering an excellent economic & energy crisis by NOT bringing road-widening to a halt. By NOT terminating the federal highway bureaucracy (essential if we are to end the road-widening juggernaut), and by NOT establishing a new federal agency charged with revolutionizing national transportation to create a ramped up train and electricity-fueled transport system.
- I believe it is essential that the US cut the Pentagon budget significantly. Obama and the Democrats have adopted the largest Pentagon budget in US history, and it was the Democrats who led efforts to stop plans by (Republican) secretary Robert Gates to end hideously expensive weapons projects. This also includes significantly reigning in the “national security state” and the CIA, which has worked tirelessly for several decades to overthrow governments and instill fear in America in order to wage endless war as the Global Policeman. The need to cut military spending also includes the need to close all US military bases abroad (there are something on the order of 700 US bases worldwide today). “Obama is much more favorably disposed to arms sales than any of the previous Democratic administrations,” according to Loren Thompson, writing in Fortune Magazine on 2/28/11. As of 2011, the over 44 percent of the combined world expenditures for military purposes was by the US. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the total US military budget has grown from $432 billion in fiscal 2001 to $720 billion in fiscal 2011, a real increase of approximately 67 percent. The US military budget is eight times more than Russia, 15 times more than Japan, 47 times more than Israel, and nearly 73 times more than Iran. In April 2011, the US congress and senate engaged in a bitter debate over the need to cut federal spending. Just a few hours before the federal government would have needed to shut down due to a lack of agreement between Democrats and Republicans about what budget items to cut, an agreement was finally reached. The total to be cut was a paltry $32 billion, and consisted almost entirely of efforts to cut such nickel and dime expenditures (such as funding for Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio). Despite the obscenely bloated US military budget, and despite the Democratic majority in the senate (and a Democratic president), not a word was mentioned about cutting a penny from the Elephant-In-The-Bedroom military budget. In books written over the past few years, Derber (Morality Wars), Bacevich (Limits of Power), and Ellsberg (Secrets) make it blatantly obvious that it makes no difference whatsoever whether we have a Republican or Democrat in office when it comes to the on-going, criminal war-mongering of the US Empire of worldwide violence. None. In 2011, the new Republican majority in the House proposed a number of budget cuts to reduce the deficit. It is telling that the Dems did not propose cutting, say, $500 billion from the bloated Pentagon budget, where the US now spends EIGHT TIMES more money than the rest of the world COMBINED.
The US must also end its aggressive campaign of prosecuting heroic military whistle-blowers such as Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and instead turn its attention to the REAL criminals doing severe damage to the US: the long list of unlawful, exploitative thievery of so many in the Wall Street/corporate system who have financially destroyed so many lives, companies and economies.
The Obama administration, as of 2012, supports the creation of a highly destabilizing, wildly unaffordable development of a ballistic missile defense system. Many scientists have insisted, since Reagan proposed such a system, that it is highly unlikely such a system could ever be effective. Most point out that such a system invites first-strike use of missiles.
- I believe it is essential that the US end the death penalty. No action to promote this by Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US have churches pay their fair share of property taxes. America seems incapable of ending this unconstitutional and inequitable subsidy for churches, despite a national debt in the trillions. Not a word from Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US end the unconditional support for, and massive annual subsidies for the Israeli government. The Obama administration, if anything, has been more supportive of the Israeli government that Bush. That, alone, makes Obama more “truly evil” on Israel.
- I believe it is essential that the US end massive government subsidies for corn in US agriculture. No action by Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US reform our tax system, which, among countless other outrages, pushes jobs overseas and discourages infill community development. Personally, I strongly favor what is called the “Fair Tax.” A “Fair Tax” eliminates all taxes except one: the sales tax. As a result, such a tax would strongly discourage one of the leading problems in the world today: Over-consumption by Americans. Low-income people could avoid the tax in part by buying used goods. Another essential tax strategy is, as Lester Brown (Plan B 4.) calls it, to engage in “tax shifting,” where taxes are shifted from income to other, socially harmful items such as cigarettes, gasoline, carbon, and vehicles. No action by Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US reform our legal system, which, among other things, perpetuates a gargantuan, paralyzing liability and litigation crisis. No action by Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US reform our gun laws to address the flood of guns we have in society. (1/12/11 Salon.com: …it would be wrong to blame congressional Republicans alone for the failure to put in place new gun control measures. In the first two years of the Obama administration, with Democratic majorities in Congress, the only significant piece of gun legislation signed by the president was a measure tacked onto the credit card reform bill that allows concealed carry of firearms in national parks.)
- I believe it is essential that the US price Interstate highways with congestion fees, price car parking, and reform our parking tax policies. No action by Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US raise the federal gas tax – a tax which has not been raised in several decades, despite massive American dependency on foreign oil and significant unpaid costs that motorists impose on society (pollution, crashes, sprawl, noise, etc). No action by Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US legalize prostitution (and regulate it through public health agencies). Illegal prostitution promotes crime, and STDs. Regulating it instead of maintaining prohibition would dramatically reduce crime and STDs, and provide a meaningful increase in tax revenue. No action by Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US end military detainee torture and abuse. In part, this needs to be done not only to terminate barbarism by the US, but to help restore international respect for the US, and to reduce the double-standard the US engages in, where other nations are criticized by the US for such detainee treatment. In March 2011, spokesman for the State Department, PJ Crowley, had said: “What is being done to Bradley Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid on the part of the department of defense.” The remarks forced President Obama to address for the first time the issue of Manning’s handling at Quantico marine base in Virginia. Obama defended the way Manning is being treated, saying he had been reassured by the Pentagon that his confinement was appropriate. In a resignation letter, Crowley said he took full responsibility for his remarks. [Crowley] stood by his … criticism of the Pentagon. In words that could cause further difficulty for Obama, Crowley said his comments “were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership. The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.” When Obama entered the White House, he made improving the global standing of the US one of the key aims of his administration. He also denounced the extreme treatment of detainees by George W. Bush as running counter to the national interest. … Manning has been held in solitary confinement for the past 10 months. He is being subjected to a prevention of injury order, which sees him kept in his cell for 23 hours a day and stripped naked at night. The maximum security regime he is under in Quantico has been denounced by many, including Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, as a form of torture. The UN is also investigating. How different has Obama been than Bush on war and terrorism? Here is what Dick Cheney said on 1/17/11: “I think he’s learned that he’s not going to be able to close Guantanamo. That it’s — if you didn’t have it you’d have to create one like that. You’ve got to have some place to put terrorists who are combatants who are bound and determined to try to kill Americans. I think he’s — in terms of a lot of the terrorism policies — the early talk, for example, about prosecuting people in the CIA who’ve been carrying out our policies — all of that’s fallen by the wayside. I think he’s learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate. So I think he’s learned from experience. And part of that experience was the Democrats having a terrible showing last election. As I say, I think he’s found it necessary to be more sympathetic to the kinds of things we did. They’ve gotten active, for example, with the drone program, using Predator and the Reaper to launch strikes against identified terrorist targets in the various places in the world.” Similarly, Glen Greenwald reported that in March 2012, a Supreme Court ruling granted prison officials license to subject every single arrested individual entering the general prison population to humiliating and highly invasive strip searches (that’s 13 million people every year, with hugely disproportionately minority representation), based on the definitive police state mentality — one that has been applied over and over — that isolated risks justify the most sweeping security measures. This policy has been applied to those arrested for offenses such as dog leash laws, peaceful protests, and driving with an expired license. Obama’s Dept of Justice submitted a brief which strongly urged the Court to make this ruling in favor of strip searches.
- I believe it is essential that the US significantly reform campaign financing. Too often, elected officials are beholden to special interests who have contributed to their campaign, which leads nearly all officials to act against the best interest of society. No action by Obama. Nearly all Democrats continue to happily accept enormous special interest (bribe) money for campaigning.
- I believe it is essential that the US reform and sufficiently regulate the corrupt, ruinous US financial system. Obama has not succeeded in establishing any meaningful regulations, has not prosecuted any of the nearly countless corrupt actors in the scandals, and has re-appointed many of the leading architects of the crisis (or department heads who did nothing while it was happening), such as Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke.
- I believe it is essential that the US establish the “single tax” on the use of land. Providing federal incentives or requirements that local governments stop incentivizing land speculation and discouraging town center infill development by instituting a high tax on unimproved town center land value, and not taxing land value increases due to development or other forms of enhancements (such as renovation or expansion of buildings). Through this change in the property tax, land speculation is essentially eliminated because any increase in the value of the unimproved land goes to local government via higher taxes. Land speculation, which is now rampant in most all US cities (except cities such as Pittsburgh PA), has a deadening effect on town centers, as speculation encourages low-value, deadening uses of land, such as surface parking lots. Conventional property taxes also strongly discourage redevelopment or other enhancements to town center land, as such actions are punished with higher taxes. A single (or “land value”) tax eliminates that counterproductive influence. No action by Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US eliminate “gross domestic product” (GDP) as a measure of economic health and community prosperity since such a measure is an extremely poor, misleading way to measure the success of the economy. Instead, replace GDP with an emerging new concept known as “gross national happiness” (GNH), which is starting to be used in a handful of nations, as well as a few cities in North America. According to Heinberg (The End of Growth, 2011), during the past 35 years, per capita income has grown almost 60 percent in the US. The average new home has become 50 percent larger. The number of cars has increased by 120 million. The proportion of households owning computers has gone from zero to 80 percent. But the percentage of Americans who call themselves “happy” has remained virtually constant – having peaked in the 1950s. No action by Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US adopt a carbon tax. Charging businesses and individuals a price to emit carbon dioxide. Such a tax is a price signal that will effectively:
• Reduce carbon emissions.
• Reduce gasoline consumption.
• Create better air quality.
• Reduce strip mining.
• Decrease car travel.
• Creates incentives for the development of clean energy and energy conservation.
• Provide needed tax revenue.
A carbon tax is relatively simple. Compared to a cap-and-trade scheme, the price of carbon is predictable in a carbon tax system. Businesses and utilities will easily know the price of carbon and its trend. They can make decisions on investments in alternative energy and energy efficiency programs accordingly. Several governments have already adopted a carbon tax, including Finland, Sweden, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canadian provinces of Quebec and British Columbia, and the city of Boulder, Colorado. No action by Obama.
- I believe it is essential that the US incorporate effective sex education in public schools, and generally promote sex-positive rather than sex-negative attitudes in US society generally (by, for example, making contraception, STD testing much more available, and ratcheting way down on the puritanical attacks on the media for anything that hints at sex). Obama continues to fund abstinence-based sex education (as of May 2012), which is a counterproductive, anti-sex, anti-science, medieval, religion-based, homophobic program. US teens continue to have, by far, the highest levels of pregnancy, STDs and abortions of any teens in the developed world. Abstinence-based sex ed is emblematic of why this abominable state of affairs persists. With regard to the media, Obama has requested the Supreme Court to challenge a Federal Court, which ruled that the FCC went too far when it harshly punished the media for the Janet Jackson “nipple” incident at the Super Bowl.
Obama’s Score on My List of Essential Actions
Obama’s score on my list of Essential Actions? ZERO out of the long list above.
And I’m supposed to give my vote to a man with such an atrocious track record? Please.
I find it highly disappointing and quite telling that an enormous number of Democrats are ENRAGED when a Republican president engages in various right-wing actions (military strikes, drug war, attacking civil rights, etc.), yet fall all over themselves in their rush to excuse and rationalize those same actions (if not worse actions) when they are engaged in by a president who is a Democrat. This is a perfect example of partisanship, rather than striving to support political – often bi-partisan – efforts to solve societal problems.
After all, are Democrats trying to solve problems, or simply doing whatever it takes to elect Democrats and defeat Republicans? Are Republicans trying to solve problems, or simply doing whatever it takes to elect Republicans and defeat Democrats? Our goal, as voters and elected officials should be to solve problems, NOT to mindlessly promote our political party by engaging in extreme, heated partisanship. Solving problems and supporting a political party are not the same – particularly when both major parties have been corrupted.
An excellent example of the corrosive effects of hyper-partisanship on our society is not just the political gridlock it engenders. Another example is to witness how often people will viciously and endlessly attack candidates for the opposing party and its supporters for being evil morons. It is a game of one-upmanship in which people consider it a badge of honor that they have ridiculed and attacked the opposing party and its supporters more so than others have. Hyper-partisanship is also toxic to friendships and relationships with family members. Here, for example, are some of the vitriolic responses I got when I announced I would be voting for a Third Party candidate rather than Obama. From a good friend, I am told that “You live in the clouds Dom. History may very well pivot to fascism in this country, and you and [the Third Party candidate you support] will have have the same self satisfaction that Nadar…enjoyed during eight years of George W. Bush. I am not presently of a mind to discuss it further.” This same friend went on to say that he “actually resent[s my] lumping Barack Obama as evil…and the sad limitations of the majority of the American people.” He closed by saying that [w]e see the world through an different lens…So go on and cast your vote for Romney, because that is precisely the consequence of your decision. Republicans will drive you to the polls. Ask former President Gore. Let’s leave it alone at this point.” My sister was even less charitable when she responded by saying “I didn’t bother reading [the thoughts you sent me]. Mitt Romney thanks you. Colorado is a toss up state. I hope he drills for oil in downtown Boulder [where I live].”
It is as if friends and family members own my vote and angrily resent it when I did not vote in the way they wish.
The Likelihood of Low Voter Turn-Out
America’s voter turn-out problem is among the worst of any of the established democracies. I will not be surprised if there is an extremely low voter turn-out in November 2012 – even lower than our appallingly low turn-outs in past elections. After all, I don’t see how Obama or Romney will be able to galvanize and otherwise excite a large number of voters to vote for them when both are moderate, wishy washy right-wing candidates who either don’t have any strong views, or regularly flip flop on their views. Let’s face it: Both candidates only have one way of motivating voters: “LOOK HOW AWFUL MY OPPONENT IS!!!”
According to Greg Olear, “[i]n 2008, Barack Obama won the popular vote over John McCain by 69,456,897 to 59,934,814. There were about 300 million people in the United States in 2008, with something like 225 million of voting age. That means roughly 100 million people didn’t bother to go to the polls that year. Obama took the White House, overwhelmingly, with the support of less than a quarter of the overall population. And we call ourselves, with a straight face, a democracy.”
The Party Is Over
Here are some telling excerpts from the book The Party Is Over, by Mike Lofgren (2012):
“Do Democrats offer a sane alternative [to the crazed actions of Republicans in recent years]?…the answer is, finally, no. They have not become an extremist party like the GOP – their politicians do not match the current crop of zanies who infest the Republican Party – but their problem lies in the opposite direction. It is not that they are fanatics or zealots; it is that most do not appear to believe in ANYTHING very strongly…it’s [a] sorry situation [showing] a deeper dysfunction in American politics and society for which Democrats own a considerable share of the responsibility.”
“…the Democrats at this time offer only a weak and tepid alternative [to the pro-millionaire positions of Republicans]. Why? They are also in the tank with wealthy contributors.”
“Bill Moyers has denounced…money laundering [by candidates holding fund-raising parties], and paints an equally unflattering portrait of each party: ‘John Boehner calls on the bankers, holds out his cup, and offers them total obeisance from the House majority if only they fill it. That’s now the norm, and they get away with it. GOP once again means Guardians of Privilege. Barack Obama criticizes bankers as ‘fat cats,’ and then invites them to dine at a pricey New York restaurant, where the tasting menu runs to $195 a person. That’s now the norm, and they get away with it. The president has raised more money from banks, hedge funds, and private equity managers than any Republican candidate, including Mitt Romney. Inch by inch he has conceded ground to them while espousing populist rhetoric that his very actions betray.’”
“One might think the Democrats would oppose the erosion of the constitutional right to privacy, as well as all other encroachments on civil liberties inflicted on Americans in recent years, if only on a purely opportunistic basis, even if principle alone did not incline them to do so. After all, if George Bush was FOR warrantless surveillance, Democrats must be AGAINST it. Accordingly, they could presumably have rallied all the voters who opposed Bush and his executive overreach by means of a polarizing issue, right? Thank again. I knew the game was up in the summer of 2008 just before the Democratic convention when Candidate Obama, with all eyes upon him prior to his coronation in Denver, voted to indemnify telecommunications corporations against any claims arising from their participation in a program of unconstitutional surveillance. Since his inauguration, Obama has institutionalized, and even expanded, many of the illegal measures Bush first conceived in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. And so it is with the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth amendments. If George Bush took the pioneering role of engineering detentions without charge, undermining due process, forbidding the defendant to see the evidence against him, torturing, and so on, Barack Obama did nothing to reverse these measures. In so doing he made these infractions part of a corpus of secret administrative law neither accessible to nor challengeable by ordinary citizens. Our last two presidents have laid the foundation on which all police states rest. Our present government would be less of an insulting farce if either of the two ruling parties had the honesty to propose an outright repeal of the Bill of Rights, for it is a virtual dead letter.”
“Democrats – ever sensitive to the whiff of corporate money…, or afraid of being tarred as soft on terrorism, soft on crime, or soft in general – have closely followed the GOPs trail.”
“The results of the last decade of unbridled militarism, and of the Democrats’ cowardly or opportunistic refusal to oppose it, have been disastrous, both strategically and fiscally.”
“[In 2004, George Bush defeated John Kerry for president.] That is not to say that had Kerry been elected, he would have ushered in a new golden age in the American presidency. I suspect not. [The press] paid less attention to Kerry’s 2002 vote to give Bush carte blanche for the invasion of Iraq and what that vote said about his policy judgment. The Authorization of Use of Military Force resolution was a straightforward proposition about whether to invade the wrong country. Since I was a cleared congressional staff member, I read the same thinly sourced, heavily caveated intelligence that Kerry read. It struck me then as dubious and tendentious material. He voted for it. The American political system does not suffer from too much thinking and critical analysis; it is becoming crippled by their virtual absence.”
“…Another explanation is that underneath his hope-and-change rhetoric Obama was a centrist, if not a center-rightist, in his true foreign policy inclinations; he let subordinates do the dirty work while he remained above the fray and collected his Nobel Peace Prize…The Obama administration’s national security policies are, nuances aside, substantially the same as those of the Bush administration.”
The Swing Vote
Here are some telling excerpts from the book The Swing Vote, by Linda Killian (2011):
“While the [political] parties [are] getting more extreme, [Paul] Tsongas said, ‘what’s happening in the country is the opposite.’ Tsongas described a ‘passionate center’ of Americans who believed in being fiscally responsible, socially tolerant, in favor of environmental protection, and who favored campaign finance reform…Democrats don’t really believe in balancing the budget, and what Republicans were most interested in was a tax cut for the wealthy and draconian budget cuts to pay for it.”
“’[Former Kansas Congressman Dan Glickman states that] both political parties are on the take. Both parties are raising money from the same people – they’re the people who want things from government…It defies the laws of nature to think that you can take their money one day and then kick them in the butt the next day.’…You’d think with all this fund-raising and campaign spending going on that members of Congress are continually fighting for their political lives, but in reality, most of them are virtually assured of reelection.”
“By 2011…Independent or unaffiliated voters outnumbered both of the two parties [in Colorado]. Just over 34 percent of the state’s voters registered as unaffiliated, 32.7 percent were Republican, and 32.4 percent were Democrats…”
“The farewell address is a Senate tradition and typically is used to recount memorable moments or greatest hits of a legislative career…But the latest round of farewell addresses by those leaving the Senate at the end of 2010…sounded a warning about the dismal state of the nation’s body politic. Intense partisanship. The lost art of compromise. The vast sums of cash needed to run for office. Abuse of the filibuster…[Former Senator Christopher Dodd points out that] our political system at the federal level is completely dysfunctional. Those who were elected to the Senate just a few weeks ago must already begin the unpleasant work of raising money for their reelection six years hence.”
“With approval ratings under 10 percent, you would think members of Congress would get the message.”
“[According to Jackie Salit, the founder and president of IndependentVoting.org], ‘Independents will tell you all the time – I vote for the candidate not the party. They see the parties as institutions that are more concerned with their own self-preservation than doing what’s right for the country.’”
Kunstler on National Politics
Here is what Jim Kunstler, an American author, social critic, public speaker, and blogger has had to say on some of these topics in recent weeks.
“[The Obama administration is] mis-directing our dwindling resources toward ends (such as ‘shovel-ready’ new super-highways) that won’t promote a credible future for this society…It’s really too late for both [major political] parties. They’re unreformable. They’ve squandered their legitimacy just as the US enters the fat heart of the long emergency. Neither of them have a plan, or even a single idea that isn’t a dodge or a grift. Both parties tout a “recovery” that is just a cover story for accounting chicanery and statistical lies aimed at concealing the criminally-engineered national bankruptcy that they presided over in split shifts. Both parties are overwhelmingly made up of bagmen for the companies that looted America.”
Common Questions I Hear From Political Allies
You say the US political system is broken. What do you propose as a better alternative?
1. Instant run-off voting (IRV). Also known as preferential voting, the alternative vote and ranked choice voting, is a voting system used to elect one winner. It is a way for a voter to vote for their favorite candidate without risk of “throwing away” their vote. Voters rank candidates in order of preference, and their ballots are counted as one vote for their first choice candidate. If a candidate secures a majority of votes cast, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. A new round of counting takes place, with each ballot counted as one vote for the advancing candidate who is ranked highest on that ballot. This process continues until the winning candidate receives a majority of the vote against the remaining candidates. Instant runoff voting is used to elect members of the Australian House of Representatives, the President of India, members of legislative councils in India, the President of Ireland, the national parliament of Papua New Guinea, and the House of Representatives of Fiji. It is also used in Irish by-elections and for electing hereditary peers for the British House of Lords. IRV is employed by several jurisdictions in the United States, including Portland, Maine; San Francisco, California; Oakland, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Saint Paul, Minnesota. It is used to elect the leaders of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in the United Kingdom and the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in a national primary and in the elections of city mayors in a number of countries. IRV is used to elect the mayor in cities such as London in the United Kingdom (in the variant known as supplementary vote) and Dunedin and Wellington in New Zealand.
2. Parliamentary government. A system of government in which the executive is dependent on the direct or indirect support of the legislature (often termed the parliament), often expressed through a vote of confidence. Parliamentary systems are characterized by no clear-cut separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, leading to a different set of checks and balances compared to those found in presidential systems. Parliamentary systems usually have a clear differentiation between the head of government and the head of state, with the head of government being the prime minister or premier, and the head of state often being a figurehead. Parliamentary systems in continental Europe use proportional representation, and tend to produce election results in which no single party has a majority of seats. Parliamentary systems, which typically are multi-party in nature, lead to a better “centralization of policy expertise” in government. Multi-party governments permit wider and more diverse viewpoints in government, and encourage dominant parties to make deals with weaker parties to form winning coalitions. While there is considerable debate about the relative merits of a constitutional arrangement such as that of the United States versus a parliamentary arrangement such as Britain, analysts have noted that most democracies around the world have chosen the British multi-party model. Analyst Chris Weigant of the Huffington Post wrote that “the parliamentary system is inherently much more open to minority parties getting much better representation than third parties do in the American system. The parliamentary system makes it faster and easier to pass legislation. This is because the executive branch is dependent upon the direct or indirect support of the legislative branch and often includes members of the legislature. Thus, this would amount to the executive (as the majority party or coalition of parties in the legislature) possessing more votes in order to pass legislation. In a presidential system, the executive is often chosen independently from the legislature. If the executive and legislature in such a system include members entirely or predominantly from different political parties, then stalemate can occur. Former US President Bill Clinton often faced problems in this regard, since the Republicans controlled Congress for much of his tenure. Accordingly, the executive within a presidential system might not be able to properly implement his or her platform/manifesto. Evidently, an executive in any system (be it parliamentary, presidential or semi-presidential) is chiefly voted into office on the basis of his or her party’s platform/manifesto. It could be said then that the will of the people is more easily instituted within a parliamentary system. In addition to quicker legislative action, Parliamentarianism has attractive features for nations that are ethnically, racially, or ideologically divided. In a unipersonal presidential system, all executive power is concentrated in the president. In a parliamentary system, with a collegial executive, power is more divided. In the 1989 Lebanese Taif Agreement, in order to give Muslims greater political power, Lebanon moved from a semi-presidential system with a strong president to a system more structurally similar to classical parliamentarianism. Iraq similarly disdained a presidential system out of fears that such a system would be tantamount to Shiite domination; Afghanistan’s minorities refused to go along with a presidency as strong as the Pashtuns desired. It can also be argued that power is more evenly spread out in the power structure of parliamentarianism. The prime minister seldom tends to have as high importance as a ruling president, and there tends to be a higher focus on voting for a party and its political ideas than voting for an actual person. In The English Constitution, Walter Bagehot praised parliamentarianism for producing serious debates, for allowing the change in power without an election, and for allowing elections at any time. Bagehot considered the four-year election rule of the United States to be unnatural. There is also a body of scholarship, associated with Juan Linz, Fred Riggs, Bruce Ackerman, and Robert Dahl that claims that parliamentarianism is less prone to authoritarian collapse. These scholars point out that since World War II, two-thirds of Third World countries establishing parliamentary governments successfully made the transition to democracy. By contrast, no Third World presidential system successfully made the transition to democracy without experiencing coups and other constitutional breakdowns. A recent World Bank study found that parliamentary systems are associated with lower corruption.
3. Third Party. Used in the US for any and all political party other than one of the two major parties. The term can also refer to independent politicians not affiliated with any party at all and toe write-in candidates. The United States has had a two-party system for over a century. Following Duverger’s law, the winner take all system for presidential elections and the single-seat plurality voting system for Congressional elections have over time created the two-party system. Third party candidates very rarely win any elections. For example, such a candidate only won a U.S. Senate election twice since 1990. Therefore, it is very rare to have a national officeholder not affiliated with and endorsed by one of the two major parties. Currently, there are only two U.S. Senators (Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders), who are neither Democrat nor Republican, while no U.S. Representative hails from outside the major parties. The only two U.S. Presidents without a major party affiliation were George Washington and Andrew Johnson. There have been 20th Century governors elected as independents, and from such parties as Progressive, Reform, Farmer-Labor, Populist, and Prohibition. There were others in the century before. Greens, Libertarians and others have elected state Legislators and local officials. The Socialists had 600 mayors at one time before World War I, including Milwaukee WI, New Haven CT, Reading PA, and Schenectady NY. Although third party candidates rarely actually win elections, they can have an effect on them. If they do well, they are often accused of having a spoiler effect. Sometimes they have won votes in the electoral college, as in the 1832 Presidential election. They can draw attention to issues that may be ignored by the majority parties (usually “third rail” issues). If such an issue finds acceptance with the voters, one or more of the major parties may adopt the issue into its own party platform. Also, a third party may be used by the voter to cast a protest vote as a form of referendum on an important issue. Third parties may also help voter turnout by bringing more people to the polls.
Organizations which are an alternative to the dysfunctional, partisan, two-party debacle:
No Labels: http://www.nolabels.org/
The Coffee Party: http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/
Independent Voting: http://independentvoting.org/
Americans Elect: http://www.americanselect.org/
Wall Street Journal, 8/25/11. By Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen:
“The United States is in the midst of what we would both call a prerevolutionary moment, and there is widespread support for fundamental change in the system. An increasing number of Americans are now searching beyond the two parties for bold and effective leadership.
“A Rasmussen Reports poll conducted earlier this month found that “just 17% of likely U.S. voters think that the federal government today has the consent of the governed,” while an extraordinary 69% “believe the government does not have that consent.” What’s more, a poll of 1,000 Americans conducted by Douglas Schoen in April found that a solid majority of Americans are now looking for alternatives to the two-party system. Overall, a majority (57%) of all respondents said there is a need for a third party. More than half (51%) of voters favored having a third major political party. Nearly one-third (31%) said that having a third major party in our country is very important. Voters favored having a major third party run a candidate for president in 2012 — with one in five saying they were absolutely certain or very likely to vote for a third-party candidate.
“In line with these findings, 52% of all respondents in a May Gallup poll said there is a need for a third party, and for the first time in Gallup’s history, a majority of Republicans embraced the idea. In a June Rasmussen poll, 30% of respondents said they would consider voting for a third-party candidate for president in 2012.
“These findings are consistent with what we learned from a series of in-depth focus groups conducted by Patrick Caddell with nearly 100 Americans across the country—of every economic class—who had voted for President Obama in 2008 and are at the moment undecided. These focus groups indicated that the American people are desperate for a leader who stands outside of the political establishment currently running Washington. A leader who can speak for the American majority—offering not just rhetoric, but a new direction and a proven record of getting things done.
“We already see evidence on the ground that from the discontent coursing through the electorate there may emerge a third or even fourth political party that would be competitive in next year’s presidential election. Look no further than the recent launch of the centrist, bipartisan, Americans Elect. This is a nonprofit political organization that plans to break the stranglehold of the two-party duopoly by selecting a third presidential ticket, via an Internet convention, that will be on the ballot in 2012.
“Meanwhile the tea party movement is functioning as a quasi-third party already, having already demonstrated an unprecedented level of activism, enthusiasm and influence over the primary and general-election outcomes during the 2010 midterms—and, most recently, driving the debate over the debt ceiling. Polling done by Douglas E. Schoen last year shows that a tea party presidential candidate could get between 15%-25% of the vote running on that line, depending on the precise alignment of the candidates.
“There are now rumblings from Donald Trump, a former contender for the Republican nomination, that he may run as an independent. There are certain to be others.
“We have seen in the past where economic distress and political alienation can lead. In both the 1980 and 1992 presidential campaigns, third-party candidates emerged—John Anderson and then Ross Perot—and each garnered high levels of public support. Mr. Perot actually led in the polls for several months during the 1992 campaign. And the conditions in those years were nowhere near as severe as they are today.
“The political order as we know it is deteriorating and disintegrating, and politics abhors a vacuum. So there is very good reason to believe that a credible third party, or even fourth political party, may be on the ballot in 2012. The American people clearly are looking for alternatives.”
Shouldn’t a progressive or a member of the Democratic Party always vote for Democratic candidates?
My list above of my Essential Actions or policies describes reasons I believe Obama is too awful to be worthy of my highly valued vote. Any of these political transgressions, alone, is almost sufficient by itself for a candidate to forget ever being given my vote. Frankly, again, I don’t see how anyone Left of center could, in good conscience, vote for a man responsible for any of these, let alone all of them. Shame on anyone on the Left for voting for a man responsible for what I point out in my list above.
While it is likely that a Romney victory would probably be less desirable for America in November 2012 (if any of the rhetoric is to be believed, rather than the track records of Romney and Obama), I will not vote mindlessly or “promiscuously” for Democrats at that time. Actions (or inactions) by Obama and congressional Democrats in recent years have convinced me that voting for “none of the above” (by not voting) is, quite often, the only way that I am able to register my disgust, given the sorry, pathetic, appalling record of the Democrats – particularly in these recent years of uniquely troubling domestic and international events.
Why don’t you run for office, Dom?
Many of my friends have responded to my opposition to promiscuous voting by petulantly stating I should run for office myself if I dislike so many candidates. In Gainesville, I was on the verge of officially announcing my candidacy for the city commission until two crucial political allies urged me not to. While that lack of support from key allies is bad enough in killing my chances as a candidate, my running on my list of Essential Actions is equally suicidal because none of them are supported by more than a tiny number of voters. In addition, I have no constituency of voters who would vote for me REGARDLESS of issues. I don’t have the “correct” gender or skin color for that. Note, on this topic, that I voted for myself a write-in candidate in the November 2010 elections. As for using my Essential Actions as a platform, I am certain that doing so would make it impossible for me to be elected anywhere in the US. Which, to me, is a compelling reason why US electoral politics is dysfunctional.
Why don’t you vote for Democrats who are not “perfect,” and then work to make such elected officials better once in office?
Some don’t urge me to run for office, but instead that I should vote for Democrats then tirelessly work to have them support my issues after they are elected. I’ve been voting for 30 years, however, and have been more politically active than anyone I know. I have worked relatively tirelessly to elect Democrats and act politically to see that my Essential Actions (largely the same Essential Actions I have supported over the past 30 yrs) are implemented. I regularly attend political rallies, I have my political views published in books, newspapers, speeches, magazines on a very regular basis, I discuss politics with my friends (some of whom are elected officials) regularly, and I have voted regularly. Each election cycle, I spend countless days researching candidates to learn details about their positions on issues. Yet no candidate I’ve ever been able to vote for has ever openly supported ANY of my Essential Actions. After those 30 years, NOT ONE of the Actions is even MENTIONED positively, let alone implemented.
At what point does one admit that the system is dysfunctionally corrupt and not reformable via our flawed electoral system? How long should I hold my breath that any of my issues will ever be supported? At what point do we admit that there are no meaningful differences? How can we be okay with voting for candidates who ramp up the Afghanistan war (and start new wars), who increase the Pentagon budget to record levels, and who put the Drug War into high gear? It might be true that Dems are more likely than Repubs to implement the Essential Actions, but after 30 years of NOTHING by the Dems, it seems like I’m just voting for someone who is driving the car at 30 mph toward the cliff (Dems) instead of voting for someone (Repubs) who is driving 60 mph toward the cliff. What sort of “choice” is that? By the way, I should note that the Dems are just as complicit as Repubs on massive military spending. A must-read book on this topic is The New American Militarism. The book points out that since Vietnam, there has been a political bipartisan consensus that the US must have overwhelming military might. Both Dems and Repubs are in full agreement on that.
Isn’t the decision not to vote [for a major-party candidate] an ineffective way to protest?
Should I vote for a candidate who recommends driving 30 mph toward the cliff instead of the one recommending we drive 60 mph? To me, if those are my only choices, NOT voting (and telling all my friends why I’m not voting) is very much a form of protest. If I lived in the Soviet Union in the 1970s, not voting during the time of Brezhnev, for example, would be a similar form of protest, as there would be no meaningful choice in my vote for Soviet president.
I believe the American voting system is corrupt and dysfunctional. The only way I know of to reform this broken system, as I note above, is to be one of the growing number of reasonably intelligent, informed voters who publicly – and very vocally – does not vote. My hope is that if enough of us don’t vote, the failure of the US voting system will be so screamingly – embarrassingly – obvious that needed reform will be imperative. Preferably, there would be a “none of the above” option on the ballot (so I can distinguish myself from those too lazy or busy or uninformed to vote). While not voting is a weak, indirect means of protesting a dysfunctional voting system, it is the only one I know of to register my disgust and alarm. By voting, I am sending the message that I think the US voting system is fine. I legitimize it by voting. I condemn it by refusing to participate in it.
Aren’t you letting the perfect be the enemy of the good?
Others claim that by not voting promiscuously, I am “letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I do not agree that not voting promiscuously (in my case, for Dems) is an example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. I have prepared a list of Essential Actions for elected officials. To have the perfect be an enemy of the good, I would be looking for a candidate to support all of my Essential Actions. I’m still waiting for ANYONE I can vote for to support just ONE. Is that asking too much? Is that looking for the perfect? As Robert Byrne once said, “democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.” And that is not at all what I consider to be a healthy, functioning democracy.
Won’t Democrats be more likely to keep us out of wars?
When it comes to peace, I think the claim that Repub presidents have done more than Dem presidents, since 1960, is fairly compelling. But today, what is important is that Nobel-prize-winning Obama has signed the biggest military budget in US/world history, is ramping up the use of drone military assault planes, profoundly ramped up warfare in Afghanistan (and dragging his feet on getting the US out), and is starting his own new wars in Muslim nations. Those militaristic actions, by themselves, makes me wonder how any person interested in peace (and interested in having national resources go to productive actions, rather than killing people) can feel good about voting for future Democratic presidential candidates. This is NOT to say that I or anyone else should vote for a Repub prez candidate in the future. I hope no one ever does that. But I must ask the question: If I think that substantially reducing the military budget and getting out of Afghanistan and not starting new wars and not perpetuating the military-industrial complex are essential actions, was it worth my time to vote for Obama rather than stay home in 2008? It is not good enough to say that a Republican president would have adopted a larger military budget or fought more aggressively in Afghanistan, as it is outrageous enough what Obama has done in those two instances. What Obama has done is a crime against the US, against the world, and against future generations.
Can you think of ANY reasonable argument for why our military budget should be so high and we should be so slow about getting the hell out of Afghanistan?
According to St. Pete for Peace:
Among other things, since taking office Obama has:
- Started a covert, drone war in Yemen
- Started a war in Libya without congressional approval
- Escalated the war in Afghanistan
- Sharply increased drone attacks in Pakistan
- Continued the occupation of Iraq, in spite of saying otherwise
- Escalated the proxy war in Somalia by launching drone strikes
- Sold $60 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia
- Secretly deployed US special forces to 75 countries
- Signed an agreement for 7 military bases in Colombia
- Touted nuclear power, even after the disaster in Japan
- Opened up deepwater oil drilling, even after the BP disaster
- Did a TV commercial promoting “clean coal”
- Defended body scans and pat-downs at airports
- Signed the Patriot Act extension into law
Won’t Democrats be more likely to take progressive actions regarding the US transportation system?
I know of no Federal Secretary of Transportation who was a Democrat and was as progressive as Ray LaHood, a Republican.
“[LaHood]… got a wild standing ovation in March  when he climbed on a table in a congressional hearing room, touted his department’s livable community program, and talked about getting people out of their cars. ‘We’re going to put affordable housing next to walking paths and biking paths,’ LaHood said, amid cheers. ‘I’ve been all over America and . . . I’ve been very proud to talk about the fact people do want alternatives…They want to get out of their cars,’ he said, prompting more cheers. “They want to get out of congestion.’ Still more cheers.” [Source: Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard.com, Oct 30, 2010]
Yes, Republican voters and elected officials are much worse with regard to their views on road widening (they love it) and transit (they hate it). But we are talking about the Federal Secretary of Transportation. Has there ever been a Democrat who was Secretary of Transportation and who has taken such admirable stands on providing equal funding/efforts toward bikes/peds/transit as toward cars? (LaHood has recently made such a ground-breaking statement) Why have Secretaries of Transportation who were Democrats been either silent or hostile to congestion pricing? Why have they, unlike LaHood, been silent or non-supportive of context-sensitive roads in cities? Some claim that places such as NYC shouldn’t count (in reference to my mentioning that the NYC transport director, a Republican, is progressive on transportation) because Republicans there are unlike Republicans in other parts of the city. Well, assuming that is true, why have no Democrats who have previously been the NYC transport director showed a willingness to be as progressive as the current Republican director?
Finally, why have no Democratic governors or Democratic mayors of big cities in the US (with the exception of John Norquist in Milwaukee) been as progressive as Republican LaHood? Or have appointed transportation directors who were as progressive as LaHood?
Don’t Republican presidents start more wars than Democratic presidents?
- Roosevelt, a Democrat, started WWII.
- Truman, a Democrat, started the Korean War.
- Kennedy and Johnson, both Democrats, were primarily responsible for ramping up and starting the Vietnam War. I believe only a weak argument can be made that Eisenhower started that war. The Wikipedia listing points to Johnston. Nixon, a Republican, got us out of Vietnam.
- While Reagan, a Republican, was perhaps the most criminal, militaristic president we’ve ever had (and someone who I disagreed with on 99% of all issues), he was clearly the president who led to the biggest disarmament of nukes in history. Way more successful in disarmament as allegedly peace-loving Carter and Clinton, both Democrats.
- Clinton, a Democrat, started the US war in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq I.
- While both Iraq II and Afghanistan were started by Bush, a Republican, Obama has significantly ramped up our involvement in Afghanistan. So much that he has made it extremely unlikely we will be able to fully withdraw from there in our lifetimes. Obama, a Democrat (along with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate) has also just approved/signed the largest military budget in US and world history in 2010. Obama has started new wars, including Libya in March 2011, and drone wars elsewhere.
Why have the above, extremely counter-intuitive actions or inactions taken place? After all, we all known that Dems are ideologically more supportive of peace and progressive transportation than Repubs.
But when push comes to shove, there is so much corruption and corporate control of what happens in US politics that there really is no meaningful difference in what Dems and Repubs do when they have power. In war/militarism, for example, a compelling case can be made that we are in the midst of an unstoppable military-industrial complex where corporations have so much power that even the most peace-loving president has no choice but to engage in wars and adopt enormous military budgets. After all, how can we have just adopted our biggest military budget in history, even though we are the only remaining superpower, we have a Democratic president, House (Democratic majority in 2009 & 2010) and Senate, we are on the brink of a national/worldwide economic depression, and our debt is said to be certain to bring down the US empire in the very near future? My guess: military spending is mostly controlled by military corporations, and military spending is seen as an economic stimulus. Military corporations, via the power of the “military/industrial complex” that Eisenhower warned against, are so powerful that they see to it that the US ALWAYS has a terrifying enemy that the US must defeat with massive military spending in order to survive. In the 20th Century, it was Communism. Then The Enemy was Drugs. Now it is Terrorism. Enemies must always be manufactured and maintained in the minds of Americans so that they will be supportive of massive military expenditures. Indeed, this effort has been so successful that the book The New American Militarism (Bacevich) persuasively argues that aggressive militarism is now a bi-partisan political consensus in America. Republicans AND Democrats are fully supportive of aggressive US militarism (the US as a world policeman, for example).
Isn’t it more likely that Democratic presidents will adopt major progressive policies?
Not necessarily. On major federal initiatives, history shows that those presidents ideologically opposed to certain initiatives are the ones most likely to have them adopted (Nixon on Vietnam withdrawal and his adoption of significant federal environmental laws, Clinton adopting right-wing reforms on welfare, Reagan on disarmament, etc.). I believe this makes sense because only a hawk president can convince the right wing in congress to support peace initiatives (the right wing in congress could never trust or be convinced by a Democrat who is a dove). Similarly, only a right wing president (Nixon) could convince the right wing in congress to support environmental laws (the right wing in congress could never trust or be convinced by a Democrat who is an environmentalist). Incidentally, only a Democrat as president (Clinton) could convince congress to reform welfare.
Isn’t it a good idea to “get out the vote”? To work on voter registration drives to maximize the number of US citizens who vote?
Thomas Jefferson once said that “If we’re going to have a successful democratic society, we have to have a well educated and healthy citizenry.” Along these lines, he also stated that “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
How well-informed are American citizens? Are they educated enough to enjoy a successful democracy? To be trusted with their own government?
The following facts are cited by Morris Berman, in The Twilight of American Culture (2000, 2006):
- 42 percent of American adults cannot locate Japan on a world map. (1997)
- 15 percent of American adults cannot locate the US on a map.
- 10 percent of all American voters, in October 1996, did not know who the Republican and Democratic nominees for president were (one of the questions traditionally asked in psychiatric wards as part of the test for sanity: “Who is the president of the US?”)
- 70 percent of Americans believe in the existence of angels.
- 50 percent of Americans believe in the presence of UFOs and space aliens on earth.
- 30 percent of Americans believe they have made contact with the dead.
- 40 percent of American adults do not know that Germany was our enemy in WWII.
- 58 percent of American high school seniors cannot understand a newspaper editorial in ANY newspaper.
- 50 percent of all students in America were unaware of the Cold War. (1995)
- 60 percent of all students in America had no idea of how the US came into existence. (1995)
- 59 percent of American teenagers cannot name the three branches of the US government, but 59 percent can name the Three Stooges. (1998)
- 98 percent of American teenagers cannot name the chief justice of the Supreme Court. (1998)
- 74 percent of American teenagers cannot name the Vice President of the US. (1998)
- 50 percent of American 17-year olds could not express 9/100 as a percentage. (early 1990s)
- 56 percent of all American adults believe that electrons are larger than atoms. (1995)
- 63 percent of all American adults believe that the earliest humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs (off by more than 60 million years, BTW). (1995)
- 53 percent of all American adults believe the earth revolves around the sun in a day or a month. (1995)
- 21 percent of all American adults believe the sun revolves around the earth. An additional seven percent said they did not know which revolved around which.
- Of the 158 countries in the United Nations, the US ranks 49th in literacy.
- 60 percent of all American adults have never read a single book in their lives. [I checked this shocking number on the Internet and it appears that this should state that 60 percent of all American adults have not read a single book AFTER HIGH SCHOOL.]
- 6 percent of all American adults read as much as a single book in a year.
- Among American readers age 21-35, 67 percent regularly read a daily newspaper in 1965. By 1998, it was 31 percent.
- In 1998, the Massachusetts Board of Education instituted a literacy test for teachers, pegged at the level of an exam for a high school equivalency diploma. Of the 1,800 prospective teachers who took it, 59 percent failed. In response, the interim commissioner of education announced that the passing grade would be lowered.
It appears, from the above, that the LAST thing we should be doing is to “get out the vote.” An essential, unachieved task that Jefferson would urge us to engage in, BEFORE we get out the vote, is to first educate our population. Uneducated people, it seems likely, would vote against their own interests, or vote for those who are incapable of achieving the objectives of a healthy society.
In the book, Berman notes chilling parallels between the time at which the Roman Empire fell, and the US today. In both cases, there is extreme economic disparity between rich and poor. The middle class was significantly shrunk in size. The cost of bureaucracy and the military had become so enormous that in both cases, the government teeters on bankruptcy. Literacy and classical knowledge was replaced by a kind of New Age thinking (in the case of Rome, the classical knowledge was Greek learning, in the case of the US, the disparagement of learning from “dead white guys”).
Berman is nearly certain the US empire will collapse before the 22nd Century, and like monasteries that sheltered and bridged classical knowledge during the Dark Ages to protect it for future generations, he calls for a secular “monastic option” for contemporary times so that today’s storehouse of knowledge is protected from the coming decline into barbarism.
The November 2010 Elections
What was the quality of the Democratic Party candidates for office in November 2010? Who knows?? All I seemed to hear during the November 2010 political campaigns was how AWFUL, EVIL, STUPID, DANGEROUS and WHACKO various Republican candidates are. That we must vote against them to avoid Fascism or rule by morons. Hardly a word is mentioned about why we should vote for the opposing Democratic candidate. It is all about voting AGAINST.
Voting promiscuously by voting AGAINST someone cheapens your vote. Because you are willing to vote for ANYONE who is at least slightly less awful in order to stop someone else from being elected. This form of extreme partisanship in voting is a dead end. It puts the political party over the dire need to solve societal problems. Again, if I have a choice between Mussolini and Hitler, I am not voting for El Duce.
Partisanship, my friends, is not a recipe for a better future.
To vote against, in my view, is not good enough. Obama is a militarist who has engaged in aggressive efforts to ramp up Afghanistan, start new wars, and adopt the biggest Pentagon budget EVER (and his potential need to not seem militarily wimpy in the face of a resurging Republican Party). Apparently, the lesson for Democratic presidents since Vietnam and the Iran Hostage Crisis: Don’t be a military wimp. Bomb the hell out of anyone that the Repubs consider to be “dangerous.” Remember that Dems got us into Vietnam, Korea, Kosovo, Iraq 1 and Bosnia despite claiming to be peaceniks.
My position is not that people should just stop voting. I favor voting, but doing so – for many – needs to be much more based on detailed research about the candidate one is voting for, AND a confirmation that the candidate openly and vigorously supports at least one or a couple of the MAJOR issues that the voter is interested in seeing implemented.
Too often, many will vote simply because the candidate is somewhat better than the (often scary) opponent (that is, they vote promiscuously). In my opinion, that is not good enough. My vote is too valuable to squander on someone who is a lesser evil. In my view, our situation is too dire to be voting for wimpy, half-ass candidates – candidates that tend to be bought off by powerful, wealthy special interests (whether Dem or Repub). My voice – even when I choose not to vote in certain races – is a LOT louder than most others when it comes to ranting about what needs to be done (because, as I noted above, I am a public speaker and a prolific published author in books, magazines, newspapers and Internet blogs – not to mention one who is always eager to discuss politics at any dinner party or social event I attend – but often find a complete lack of interest on the part of others to engage in such conversation).
Of course, I fully agree with those who say, in the months before the November 2012 elections, that Obama and the Democrats cannot reverse all of the terrible actions committed by Bush and the Republicans over the past several decades in just two years (or even, perhaps, four). But that is absolutely no excuse for the ramp-ups in #1, #2, #3, #4, #7, #15 and #16 in my Essential Actions list above. Ramping up just one of those is heinous and disqualifies such a person from getting my vote. Ever. And Obama has ramped up all four. Shame on any Democrat for voting for a man with such a hideous track record.
I think for myself and other disappointed progressives, it is simply not true that instantaneous results were or are expected with Obama and the Democrats. What it IS fair to expect, however (and why so many are so disappointed) is that Obama CANNOT use the past eight years of Bush to excuse some of what he has done: Ramp up the war on drugs, Afghanistan, road widening, the Pentagon budget, and on and on…
The question, for me, is whether candidates show enough leadership to take public stands on issues that are crucial to me. These days, very, very few Democratic candidates do that. Voting for people who don’t have the guts to take a stand on issues important to me is just enabling such spineless, wimpy politics if I vote for a lesser evil.
Voting for a major party candidate sends the message that I think our choices are okay and that our electoral system is not broken. Our electoral system is utterly broken when I only have a choice to vote for a Republican Moderate (Romney) or a Republican Light (Obama). I refuse to vote for Obama because he is less of a Republican than Romney. My only way – albeit a very weak way — to send a message that I think the electoral system is broken and needs to be fixed is to not vote for a major party candidate. And shout from the cyber rooftops about my views regarding politics and voting.
If I DID vote for a major party presidential candidate (which I will never do again), I would send the message that I think the electoral system is NOT broken. That the system is okay.
I am unwilling to send such a dishonest, enabling message.
I have almost never had the chance to vote FOR anyone at the local, state or federal level in my entire voting life. In my view, the only way we can progress beyond the endless, ultimately ruinous process of always having to vote AGAINST candidates is to stop enabling this dysfunctional system by demanding much more from a candidate before voting for her/him. I generally do not give anyone my vote unless they are worthy of it. I am done with voting “against.”
Again, there is only one way I know of to register my objection to being forced to vote for awful or truly awful. NOT TO VOTE FOR EITHER. Someday, if enough voters come to the same conclusion (which I believe is the only chance America has if it expects to survive as a nation), a message would be sent that an enormous number of relatively intelligent voters are staying home and not voting for an awful candidate. That presumably loud and clear message: the US political system is broken. That, tragically, is the only way to send a message, given our failing two-party system.
Voting in a downwardly spiraling system such as what we now find in America is counterproductive to electing the leaders we need.
Join me in showing candidates that your vote is important. That your valuable vote will not be mindlessly given to candidates who do not have the leadership skills to openly support your most important issues.
A lack of support for any of my list of Essential Actions means, to me, that candidates are either too stupid or too spineless, and that therefore such candidates are unworthy of my vote. I highly value my vote, and am unable to promiscuously grant it to someone who is mediocre at best, just to stop someone else from being elected.
I’m interested in supporting people who are able to work directly, proudly and openly to solve our huge problems and create a better future. Not people who are corrupt, but “okay” because they are slightly less corrupt.
To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, if now is not the time for elected officials to take meaningful action — given all the troubling, converging economic, ecological and energy crises upon us — when is the time??
And if now is not the time for voters to vote FOR someone rather than AGAINST someone, when is the time??
Over the course of several decades, our elected officials seem to be getting worse and worse. More and more incompetent. Increasingly corrupt. Less and less admirable. It seems, ironically, that all our historical voting has led to LESS representative democracy.
The hour is getting late. Join me in opting out of a corrupt voting system.
My latest book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607
Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.
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