Monday, January 25, 2010

If we voters are mad as hell, why do voters keep enabling the behavior that makes them angry?

There's a lot of anger out there among the American electorate (1, 2, 3, 4).  There's also more passion and interest in politics among some of my acquaintances than ever before.  How do we channel that anger into something positive?

The first place to begin is a rejection of political parties.  Neither party has served us well in the past, and the chances of either party improving are slim to never.  Whenever I bring this subject up, I get arguments, dismissals and eye rolling.  People are comfortable with their brands, whether is is Pepsi-Coke, Good-Evil, Democrat-Republican.  People constantly tell me that I throw my vote away every election when I don't vote for either party.  Yet I walk away from every election content that my vote went to someone who best represents my political philosophies.  (My discontent is that not enough people agree with me.)  I'm not throwing away my vote by voting for someone who won't win.  I'd be throwing away my vote if I voted for a candidate that is the best of two bad choices.

I'm not disappointed by the Obama Administration, much in the same way that I wasn't disappointed by the Clinton Administration.  I'm a registered Democrat, and consider myself a Democrat.  Yet I refuse to vote for a Democratic candidate who is beholden to interests that undermine our democracy and the true spirit of reform.  Both administrations are full of the same centrists and party hacks who only care about perpetuating their career and not true solutions.  We need health care reform, yet the true need has been derailed by moderate corporate mouthpieces that have destroyed a good idea in the name of profit.  After a full year of 'negotiations' we ended up with a bill that no one likes- progressive or conservative, and the Obama Administration enabled it.

Why?  Because the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate didn't understand that voting on the bill was the key.  They were more afraid of defeat than advocating the best policy.  If the Democrats had backed a strong bill and the Republicans had filibustered, then the Republicans would be on record as obstructionists on an issue that needs attention.  In 2010 and 2012, a good percentage of independent voters won't remember the speeches and negotiations over this bill.  But they will remember that the Democrats failed, not that the Republicans and Joe Lieberman threatened to filibuster.
If Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi had any sense at all, the sample ad for 2010 and 2012 would have said this:

Have your health care costs increased over the past four years?
Have you or anyone you know been denied coverage?
Are you spending more money on coverage and receiving less benefits every year?
Here's why: Republican Candidate voted no on Health Care Reform.  
Democratic Candidate didn't.
If you vote for the Republican again, your costs will go up more.
Vote for the Democrat.  We'll fix Health Care.
Every post election analysis wonders why the electorate swung away from one party to the other.  The analysis fails because no one ever wonders why the electorate keeps on swinging back and forth every four to eight years.  Independent voters change party allegiance based on two things: frustration with the incumbent, or hope the the new candidate will be better.  They forget that the perpetuation of the party either candidate belongs to will be more important than the promises of an election year (and that the independent voter will forget the promises a few years later.)

Neither party is willing to press forward on promises  even in the face of defeat.  To an elected official, defeat is the enemy, and narrows their chance for re-election.  Their advisers and pollsters steer them away from principle to pragmatic indecision and compromise that doesn't serve the public good.  (Here's a great example.)  They forget the simplest notion of politics:  if you have a good idea, and a chance to express it, do it and continue doing it.   Voters will respect you for it, even if they don't agree.

And if you refuse to bow to party pressure in the favor of principle, then the voters will truly understand what a real independent is.   Perhaps then we will be free of political parties.

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