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The Expansionist
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
 
"Horserace" Horsesh*. The major television networks are, as usual, harassing the public with useless coverage of the "horserace" aspect of the midterm elections two weeks hence. Instead of focusing on the issues and the qualifications of candidates, pretty much everything is about polls and projections, speculation about turnout, and other useless and nearly worthless things. Why should we even go to the polls if it's just a popularity contest, and the issues don't matter?
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The horserace is NOT a legitimate matter save as regards getting people to understand that they have an obligation as citizens to get out and vote. And the media wouldn't even have to do that if the Government would do what it long ago should have done, and simply require everyone to vote, as some other democracies — better democracies, like Australia, Chile, Singapore, and even Venezuela — have done. Instead, each major party hopes to depress the vote of the other party (if not even their own) to gain advantage, the exact opposite of what little-d democrats do. Why should any election hinge on turnout? If the result would be different whether 30% of people vote or 98% of people vote, then we are giving ourselves a government selected by an unrepresentative MINORITY if we do not have universal voting. That's not democracy.
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So we should either institute compulsory voting or stop calling this country, and its various subdivisions, a "democracy".
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Naturally, people who are compelled to vote must have a real choice, not just of the two candidates the major parties put forward, by their antidemocratic means — primaries that are even less representative of the people than are general elections. If third parties cannot, absent public financing of elections, afford to run candidates in the enormous districts (708,000 constituents in each Congressional district) that this country has developed since the idiots in Congress in 1912 froze the size of the House of Representatives at 435 members, then we must at very least provide a binding NONE OF THE ABOVE option to voters. If more people vote for None of the Above than for any named candidate, ALL named candidates would be defeated, and the parties would have to put forward all NEW candidates, or offer various write-in candidates — also new people, not people already rejected — in a second-round election. If the people again vote NONE OF THE ABOVE, same thing for a third round, or fourth, or fifth, until the major parties stop giving us crappy candidates we don't want. Sooner or later, the parties would get the message and present acceptable candidates to the electorate. It might take five months the first time, so that after January 6th, there would be in Congress only such members are were elected in preference to None of the Above — however many or few they might be.
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Since Congress operates by a quorum of all members, and only people actually elected could be regarded as members, there would be a powerful incentive to the major parties in the FIRST go-round after None of the Above wins, to put up candidates the electorate can stomach, because otherwise their district would have no Representative, and/or their state would have only one Senator to vote on legislation. The more arrogant major-party bosses might think that they can force voters to give in to their will by trying to scare them about letting Congress act without a representative from their district. But voters could easily afford to ignore such silliness, since they would know that one vote out of 435 doesn't amount to a hill of beans as regards getting Congress to do what their one district wants. Thus they could easily hold out as long as it takes to break the back of arrogant major parties.
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Unless primaries also entail compulsory voting, the primary system must be abolished, because it is why, above all else, politics in the United States today are so parochial and poisonous: small minorities determine who gets on the general-election ballot, because almost nobody votes in most primaries. If you have more than two candidates in a primary, as often happens, and only 15% of voters vote, a very small, rabidly extreme group can put a nut on the general-election ballot. Consider 3 candidates and a 15% turnout: the winner need draw only 6% of the electorate of that party. In a district with roughly equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, that would be 6% of 50% of the electorate, or 3% of the total. Many crazy ideas can inspire 3% of the electorate to get out of their homes to vote.
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So we have developed an electoral system in which highly unrepresentative minorities control who gets on the general-election ballot. Why are we surprised that there are so many crazy candidates all over the Nation this year?
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Compulsory voting in closed primaries could solve the problem of hijacked general-election ballots. Compulsory voting in the general election, with a binding NONE OF THE ABOVE option, would solve the problem of a House of Unrepresentatives and an equally unrepresentative Senate.
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But even having bad choices on the ballot could be partly self-correcting if media were doing their job of covering the issues, character, and stances of the candidates. Instead, the media are fascinated by the horserace. I don't give a sh* about the horserace. Tell me, tell the voters, the stance of the candidates, on all major issues, over and over again.
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Is the Tea Party a coherent entity, united as to program? If so, the most extreme stances of the most bizarre candidates are representative of the party overall, and everyone running with Tea Party backing must be held to account for those crazy stances: ending public education, teaching creationism (where?, in the few schools that people of modest means could afford?), abolishing Medicare and Medicaid, privatizing Social Security — on and on thru the fantasmagoria of magical solutions to the problems of society that the Tea Party is pushing. People on Social Security and Medicare should be scared sh*less. Will that get them to the polls? Not if they don't believe the Tea Party's 138 Republican candidates are dead serious about destroying the social safety net we all rely upon.
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But media won't focus on the catastrophe we face if the extreme Tea Party-mandated Republican program wins a majority in Congress. So will a large and representative portion of the electorate turn out? If not, then an antidemocratic electoral process will give us an absolutely unrepresentative Congress filled to overflowing with crazy people devoted to destroying the very government they take over.
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These are the kinds of things the major media should be telling us about. That's not what I'm seeing on the evening news.
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,426 — for Israel.)



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