Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Now that the dust has settled...

It's been a long and grueling election "season" here in the U.S.  If you can even describe an ordeal that has lasted eighteen months as a "season."  The temptation is to sit back and breathe a deep sigh now that it's over, but I believe strongly that sitting back in relief would be one of the worst mistakes we can make.

Put quite simply, this nation needs to change the way we elect our leaders.

Our elected officials now spend more time fighting to be re-elected than they do performing the jobs we sent them to do.  It's not right.  No President should start his re-eelction bid half-way into his term.  It's no wonder that between the bid for re-election and the complete intractability of opposition party members like John "Crocodile Tears" Boehner, President Obama was able to accomplish surprisingly little in the second half of his first term.  While I am heartened by the Tea Party congressional freshmen who were sent packing, by the fact that gay marriage rights won on every single ballot in which it appeared, and by the election of our first gay senator, I also despair of the way we have begun to do the business of electioneering.

I think we need to make some big changes.  I think it will probably be very difficult to implement any of them, but I think for the sake of our nation and of our sanity, we need to make the attempt.  My suggestions:

• Make whatever legal changes are necessary to overturn Citizens United.  One of the most toxic aspects of the campaigns we just completed were the negative and misleading advertisements by so-called Super Pacs like Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity.  At the very least, there should be full accountability so that the average person knows who is responsible for these ads.  They need to know that it's not really Americans for Prosperity banding together to make a point, it's two billionaire brothers.  That it's not Americans at a Crossroads sharing their beliefs, it's one well-known neo-conservative and Republican strategist named Karl Rove.  Complete transparency in the funding would at least enable most people to put the messages in context and take them with a grain of salt.  Banning them altogether would be even better.

Think of how those billions of dollars spent in the most expensive election to date could have been better spent.  How many bridges could have been repaired, potholes filled, textbooks purchased and empty bellies sated?  Instead, the money filled a few pockets in the advertising and entertainment industries.  It's not right.  It needs to change.  We can not afford to run the risk of elections being purchased through propaganda elicited by a wealthy few.  We know -- know! -- that when enough money is thrown at an election, it can have a huge effect on the result.  I don't want to live in an oligarchy, thank you very much, and I don't think the wealthy deserve a bigger voice than I have.  I truly believe that if we want to be a truly free society, we need serious, major campaign finance reform.

• Shorten the election season.  REALLY shorten it.  Take all the time you want to quietly get your ducks in a row, but primary season should not begin before January of the year of the election.  Winnow down the field by the summer party convention and spend September and October campaigning.  That's it.  If you can't get your message across in those nine weeks, then your message is clearly not what the public wants to hear.  And cut the posturing bullshit between Iowa and New Hampshire about who comes first in the primary season.  Part of the reason why this election was as long and grueling as it was is attributable directly to this inane competition between the states as to who gets to have the First Primary.  Get over yourselves.  The rest of us can't bear these eighteen month grinds.  And we shouldn't have to.

So that's it.  Get rid of the Super Pacs, have meaningful finance reform, and less time wasted in trading hot air with one another.  Once we put all that money to better use, we really can sit back and breathe a real sigh of relief that it's all over.

Until the next one, of course.

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