Saturday, December 22, 2012

Arm the Children Campaign

Wayne La Pierre, foiled in his attempt to arm the teachers in every school by the Teachers Union and other rational people, now has a new ploy, sure to reduce violence and restore calm to campuses everywhere: Arm the children.

Yes, Mom and Dad, what kid doesn't want his/her own bolt action, rat-a-tat, multi shot, submachine gun and/or hand gun to protect themselves in school and at the mall or movies against some gun toting maniac.

Because, let's face it, these killers are everywhere. Having armed guards at the school is not going to stop the carnage. Only armed children will be able to protect themselves by killing the killers.

Asked if he'd feel comfortable sending his own tykes out packing heat, the NRA president said, "Hell yeah, I would.  If we don't get guns into their hands when they're young, they might turn into liberal peaceniks or something.  What kinda country would that be to live in?"

This is a real baby with real guns. And here's the story:

Baby Issued Permit to Carry a Gun

By ajzeller1979
May 18, 2007 in World
Bubba Ludwig just made history and he can't even walk yet. Bubba, whose real name is Howard David Ludwig, is the first 10 month old to be issued a firearm owner's license.
Bubba can't walk yet, or talk or sign his own name, yet, by law, he can own a firearm. Bubba's father, Howard Ludwig, applied for the card for his son as a joke. He applied for the card, paid the fee, listed his sons height and weight thinking there would be no way that this would actually be approved. The whole thing started when the baby's grandfather purchased him a 12 guage Beretta shotgun as a gift. While most people give rattles, toys or even clothes, this seemed just more... appropriate. It takes a lot of thought to match the right firearm with the right infant. The family says that the shotgun is going to be held by Bubba's father until he is at least 14, truly an appropriate age for a child to be wielding a weapon that, when fired at in close proximity to, say a human leg, can literally blow the leg off the body. Way to think on your feet dad.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Guns don't kill people - trigger fingers do

We've all heard that saying "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."  Well, yes, but what if there were not easy access to guns, of all sorts, not just assault weapons. (And really, can any gun not be considered an assault weapon?) 

Here's a simple way to stop the madness, short of banning (or making it really hard) individuals from owning guns.

Cut off the trigger fingers of all males at birth. That's right.  No trigger finger, no gun killing.  Simple?  Why only males you ask? Well, who commits most of the gun violence in this country?  Males.  Anger. Testosterone. Whatever, it's much more concentrated in the male of the species.  So we'll start there.

What about the need for soldiers?  What about police officers, and even hunters?  And of course, people being adaptable, wouldn't they just learn to use another finger, and haven't people been known to shoot with their toes? 

All right, you have a point. But how about this.  In the UK, where hand gun ownership was strictly regulated in the 90's, not a single mass killing of the type we saw this week at the school in Connecticut has happened. And Australia. They have similar laws with similar results.  There must be something to it.

So isn't it likely that there is some, call me irrational, correlation between the easy procurement of mass killing weapons and their use for mass killing?

And yes, I was disappointed that Obama did not utter those words, so loathed by the NRA, "Gun Control."

Oh I listen to the talk shows. I hear the people who call in saying the answer to gun violence is more guns. Why if those teachers had been armed, they could have taken care of the problem with  minimal death and carnage.

And of course I am familiar with the old saw "If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns."  Well, that just doesn't cut it anymore.  We outlaw drunk driving don't we?  We outlaw meth production.  Yes, those things still go on.  And prohibition is not the sole answer. Clearly, there are too many angry, disaffected people out there.  We do need more mental health options, better schools, jobs,  maybe even a national program for restorative justice, instead of our obsession with retribution and revenge. 

We live in a culture of hate and violence.  It's on our TV's, including the nightly news.  We spend more on wars than on growing a healthy society. We live in fear.  Radio personalities tell us to fear our government. Paranoia is a national pastime.  

We have congresspeople trembling before the alter of the National Rifle Association

As I watched one of my favorite all time classic feel good All American holiday movies, A Christmas Story, last night, I couldn't help but cringe that the plot of that whole show revolved around one little boy's desire for a bb gun. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Non-Profits Join the "PAC"

News from the Bay Citizen on how non-profits are getting into the business of politics:

Nonprofits wade into political giving

Some groups turn to PACs as way to gain influence, protect charitable tax donation

By on December 13, 2012 - 12:01 a.m. PST
As executive director of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, Scott Staub raises money to give to the city’s libraries. In his spare time, he raises money to give to politicians.
Staub heads a political action committee that is attempting to increase the political clout of the nonprofit sector in federal elections. Most of the committee’s members are affiliated with charitable organizations.

“We want to be a political player in a positive way,” said Staub, chairman of the Association of Fundraising Professionals PAC, an umbrella organization for charitable fundraisers. “There are lots of interest groups, and we decided we needed to have a greater voice for philanthropy.”

The PAC was formed about a decade ago and since then has contributed $68,000 to politicians who support pro-charity causes, especially maintaining the charitable tax deduction.

Charities are prohibited from donating to political campaigns as a condition of their tax-exempt status. But their politically free cousins, PACs, do not face the same restrictions.

The idea of donating money to candidates has been slow to catch on among nonprofit leaders, who typically eschew partisan political activity.

But that’s starting to change.

Robert Egger, a longtime nonprofit advocate, started a second PAC, CForward, in January. Like the fundraisers’ PAC, CForward only supports candidates who back the nonprofits’ agenda.

“Nonprofits represent the biggest unsolicited special interest group in America,” said Egger, who also runs a nonprofit community kitchen in Washington, D.C. “Most candidates are burdened by the idea that dot-com drives the economy while dot-org does good deeds.”

Just look at politics in the San Francisco area, home to one of the largest nonprofit economies in the nation, Egger said. In 2012, there were more than 41,000 registered nonprofits in the Bay Area, according to the Urban Institute. There are 1.63 million tax-exempt organizations in the U.S.
“Candidates can tell you how many manufacturing jobs are in their area,” Egger said. “But can they tell you how many nonprofits there are in their district? No way. I found that astounding. But that’s the status quo of politics.”

According to a survey of 1,500 nonprofit leaders this month [PDF] by Johns Hopkins University, “nonprofit organizations are under assault today as perhaps never before.” More than half the groups surveyed said government officials did not appreciate how the nonprofit sector works and are proposing policies that hurt charities.

“The usual pattern in the U.S. is for groups to start lobbying when they feel that they are under attack,” said Bruce E. Cain, professor of political science at Stanford University. “The current climate is very volatile for nonprofits. They were hit hard by the stock market problems in 2008, and now the threat of charitable deduction limits has to be freaking them out.”
It is.

Both Republicans and Democrats have proposed plans to increase revenue by limiting tax deductions that make it easier for the wealthiest Americans to donate to charity. The White House has proposed limiting charitable deductions to 28 percent for families that earn more than $250,000 a year. Last week, House Speaker John Boehner said he would be willing to limit itemized deductions, which could include charitable donations.
“When the (the government) looks to make cuts and get new sources of revenue, charities, because of their tax-exempt status, always become an easy target,” Staub said.

This year, the fundraisers’ PAC supported candidates who oppose any cap on charitable deductions. In 2012, the PAC contributed $23,500 to six members of the House and four members of the Senate who sat on key committees.

CForward has not yet donated to candidates but endorsed eight politicians for city, state and federal seats across the country, including Sean Sullivan, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Oakland City Council and advocated greater involvement by nonprofit groups in the city.

Not everyone in the nonprofit world likes the idea of mixing politics and philanthropy. Most advocates want to focus on their specific missions, such as eliminating poverty or feeding the hungry, not on campaign politics.

“Most people in the sector are scared to death of politics,” Egger said. “They don’t want to offend their donors or are afraid of losing their tax-exempt status. But this is a legal, viable way to get our cause out politically.”

Staub says that while his PAC’s contributions are nothing compared to super PACs that pour millions into elections, having money in the game gets politicians’ attention.

“It’s not pay-for-play,” Staub said. “But when you’re a financial supporter, it does seem to be an easier opportunity to have meetings with lawmakers to present our perspective on charitable legislation.”

Amy Julia Harris

Amy Julia Harris covers nonprofits for the Bay Citizen and California Watch. Amy is a recent Stanford graduate and has written for The Seattle Times. She most recently spent a year in West Virginia covering ... View Profile

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

1%ers Secede from the Union; form own Nation/State

With the wealth of funds, and investments growing daily, despite gloom and doom predictions to the contrary, America's top earners, or self-described "Job Creators," have announced that they will secede from the Union in order to form their own Nation/State, ruled by whoever has the most money at any given time.  Fierce competition is underway for the title of Richest person and Supreme Leader, as corporations and individuals vie for the top post.

Ever since the Supreme Court declared that corporations had the same rights as human people, (reinforced recently by the pronouncement by former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney that "Corporations are people my friend"), the scramble to collect and itemize capital worth has begun.

Some of the 1%ers have even been heard to grumble that it's time to stop this corporate personhood stuff, at least for the time being, so as to even out the playing field, and let all rich peole compete fairly.

Other just shrug and say, "tough luck; if you haven't established a multinational corporation all your own, it's your own damn fault."

The battle of the fat cats and the corporate entities is on.  Some predict a two-state solution. Corporations over here, and individuals over here.

"The problem is," confided one wealthy magnate, who prefers to remain anonymous,"is that the Cayman Islands just isn't big enough to divide up that way."  He predicted a blood bath or at least a money fight, and suggested some of those claiming deep wealth may be out in the cold once the corporate assets are toted up.  "The corporations will win this, and the people will lose.  If you haven't got a cushy CEO job yet, you may be out of luck and back in the work force on the mainland," he opined grimly.

As for creating jobs, openings are now being advertised for security guards and top flight CPAs.

"Of course there will be need for the usual service personnel, maids, personal chefs, chauffeurs and the like, " he continued. "We will be creating hundreds of positions once the matter of statehood is sorted out."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dems Working to Fix California, not Ruin it

In response to an oped by a local Tea Party Maven, I wrote the following.  Here I leave out proper names, as unnecessary to the story. I got a lot of nasty responses, as well as great support, and one truly threatening phone call, saved and passed on to the local authorities.

Democrats are trying to fix California, not ruin it
Guest op-ed column
Posted:   11/17/2012 05:00:00 AM PST

POOR TEA PARTIERS. The party is over. The tea is cold and the dregs are bitter. Or are they? Maybe the tea has hallucinogenic properties, the effects of which have not yet worn off.

At least that's the impression left by one Tea Party Maven (TPM) in an oped of Nov. 14. No sooner had Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 passed, ensuring the state would not fall off its own fiscal cliff, and funding for education and other services would continue, than  this person is accusing the Democrats of "trying to ruin California."

The people of the state just voted for a major fix to the budget problem, proposed by Democrats, and that is the party attempting to bring the state to its knees?

Yes, says TPM, because taxes are going up, businesses will leave in droves and the poor huddled middle classes will starve in the streets. It's not just the fact that Proposition 30 passed; it's that the Democrats have a 2/3 majority which may enable them to (gasp) levy even more taxes on the beleaguered masses.

Look, no one wants to pay higher taxes, and sales taxes are regressive, but part of Proposition 30 was a progressive tax on the highest income earners. Middle class families will not see their income taxes. Small businesses, however, in the mind of TPM, will be forced to leave the state, not only because of the tax increases, but because of the onerous environmental and other regulations Democrats are notorious for— hence the accusation of wanting to ruin California.

It all sounds very nice and like a plea for fairness, until you examine the facts. California is a fertile place for small businesses to thrive. Just visit the governor's Office of Business and Economic Development ( High tech and clean energy jobs are booming. If anyone is being driven out of business, it's mom and pop retailers, forced to close their doors by the likes of corporate big box retail, who move into an area, offer cheap foreign made products and low wage jobs. These small businesses don't leave the state. They just leave, period. And I don't hear TPM complaining about that. Why? Could it be because corporate entities donate largely to Republican campaign coffers?

Nor does TPM tackle a major culprit in the loss of revenue for schools and services over the past 40 years — Proposition 13, a Republican-backed measure that insured gutting of our schools by severely limiting the amount of revenue taken in through property taxes. Instead, she blames Democrats because they have held both houses of the Legislature for most of those same years. However, she neglects to mention that this is the first time the Democrats held a "supermajority" since 1933. A 2/3 vote is necessary to pass any tax increase and until recently was needed to pass a budget at all.

No, TPM, Democrats do not want to ruin California. They want to save it, and according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office, that's just what they'll do, turning a $1.9 billion deficit into a projected $9 billion surplus by fiscal year 2017-2018. As stated on their website: "Our projections show that there could be an over $1 billion operating surplus in 2014—15, growing thereafter to an over $9 billion surplus in 2017—18."

All is not gloom and doom for the Golden State after all. And if we tackle the inequities in Proposition 13, especially the ones favoring the largest corporate abusers, the outlook could become all the more rosy.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

No More Mr. White Guy

Demographics are ever changing in today’s world.  Who was in is out; who was on top is slipping down the ladder.  We live in a country that is looking more and more like the rest of the world.  It’s no more Mr. White guy in the U.S. of A. Not at the top of the population heap anyway. Although they do still control the seats of power.  Wall Street. The banking elite.  Corporate board rooms. All these bastions of power are still dominated by white males.  But it is still true that he who controls the wealth controls the bucks controls the ducks? The ones that line up to make sure the 1% hang on to their wealth.

So far, that seems to be the case, but as the trend is showing in who votes in this country, that could be changing too.  Barricades of moneybags may not be enough to stem the tide of hordes of minorities and women, whatever their skin tones, from huffing and puffing and blowing their houses down.

At least we can hope so.  There is, of course, lurking in the wings of all governments, a power bigger than the outrage of the masses, or even their more subdued but just as strong-willed, voting power.
As long as there are crazy white guys like Pat Buchanan who called Obama’ re-election the death of white America, which he apparently took as personal rebuke, white people being so obviously much better and more intelligent than any other kind, the rest of us, white and non-white alike, must remain vigilant. They still have the airwaves, the guns, and the money.  Not only that they have the the armed forces who stand at the ready to put down insurrection as we have seen time and again in other nations – in Latin America, Africa, and more recently, the Arab world and middle eastern countries.  Or, even more scary, to stage a coup on their own.  No, I’m not making dire predictions. In fact, I actually feel hopeful, sorta, and really, some of my best friends are White Guys, but not Republican ones, although I’ve been known to tolerate them on panel discussions.  

But I’m not ready to let these guys out of your sight.  As Machiavelli is reported to have said, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and Polls

Yes, Polls; they are switching back and forth like an out of whack seismograph needle during the big one.  This could be the big one.  It's big, all right, and it's got more than its share of lies.  The wacky thing is some people seem to be believing them.  Romney understands this phenomenon - the Big Lie.  The Big Lie Told Often.  So he keeps right on spinning.  General Motors is moving to China.  No matter GM says it's not true. It scares people. So the needle swings. Yesterday - Obama up int he polls - today it's a statistical dead heat.

And who can forget those heady days of yore when Obama enjoyed a seemingly unbeatable lead? Before the first debate, when he deflated into the "flat Obama" that was seen gracing County fairs across the country throughout the summer.

Polls that are close as the ones we see today are all within the margin of error.  It's anyone's race at this time.  Can Romney keep on lying and reap the rewards?  Or will the public catch on.  Wait. GM is staying put. Wait, Romney was a believer in climate change before he wasn't.  Wait, wasn't it Romney who invented Obamacare (nee Romneycare) in Massachusetts while he was governor?  Why is he throwing his own ideas under the bus?

Bus, bus? I don't see a bus.  The big question is who will the bus run over? who will it carry on to a victory tour?

Not even the polls know for sure.  And we haven't even started down the long dark road to voter suppression.

Friday, October 19, 2012

More on Not Voting

As the last day of registration draws near (Monday, Oct. 22), we revisit our question of the day: why vote? Here's one pithy response from the interwebs: 
And from a fellow blogger ( a very thorough analysis: 

One result of the widespread cynicism about public institutions that grew out of the Sixties era—combined with the thirty-year Republican war on government’s capacity to do its job—is a large number of people who state proudly that they do not vote, or who choose to vote for minor-party candidates who have no possibility of reaching office.
Typically, their arguments include one or more of these elements:
Conspiracy theory. “Shadowy Powers really call all the shots in our world, and the elections are just a show.”
Cherry-picking complaint. “My issue is X and the major parties are lousy on that, so if I vote at all, I’m voting for Righteous McFringerton of the Thoroughly Groovy Party.”
Overgeneralized false equivalence. “Both major parties are the same. They’re controlled by the same people, so it doesn’t matter who you vote for.” On the left, the supposed puppeteers are “the rich” and “corporations”; on the right you get “special interests,” which is code for racial and sexual minorities, public interest nonprofits, and unions.
Strategic fantasy. “I vote third party because we have to start somewhere, and the two mainstream parties are lost causes. One day, the Good Stuff Party will be a major force in this country.”
I’ve been asked by several people how I would make a case to such folk that there is good reason for them to vote, and to vote for a candidate with an actual chance of winning. This post is in response to these requests.
To begin with we have to recognize that people who make these arguments do so because at root, they feel powerless. They prefer to believe that they are “in the know”, unlike the “sheeple” that make up most of the public, because it allows them to feel good about themselves in the context of that powerlessness. They have chosen this stance as a preferable alternative to grappling with complex issues and an electoral system in which most of us can only play a tiny role.
So please read the following responses with the caveat that rational argument cannot trump an emotional impulse. Many who express these beliefs simply aren’t persuadable: they need their shelter too much to give it up.
On “they’re all run by the same Powerful Interests”: I don’t think anyone disagrees that there are powerful interests which swing disproportionate weight in this country. But 100 years ago, it was far worse: mining and railroads and heavy industry were completely in charge. They openly bought and sold votes…and politicians.
But somehow, voters managed to do a lot of things those interests didn’t want to see happen. They elected reformers who started regulating those industries. They passed child labor and workplace safety laws, and the 40-hour work week, and guaranteed insurance for our bank deposits, and legal equality for minorities, and air and water quality protections, and invented the national park. Those voters and the people they elected are the reason you don’t have lead pipes delivering your drinking water or arsenic dusted on your food to deter spoilage. They’re the reason we have Social Security and Medicare, which are probably keeping some of your relatives afloat right now.
Powerful interests fought against all of those things, but they lost. Just a couple of years ago, those big interests lost on issues like the health care bill and the Wall Street reform bill, even though they spent millions on lobbyists trying to stop them.
Did we get all of what we wanted? No. But what we got made things a lot better than they were previously, and those interests hated every bit of it. That is what can happen if we put people in office who feel more loyal to us than they do to those interests. And the only way to do that is to vote for them.
A lot of men and women were terrorized, jailed and murdered to get the power you’re saying there’s no point in using. They knew voting mattered. Getting the vote meant the difference between oppression and freedom, between hope and despair, and in many cases between life and death for those people and their kids. The interests who tried to keep them from getting it knew it, too, because sure enough, when those who had been shut out of the election booth finally got the power to vote, things changed.
Think about it: whatever your opinion of him, Barack Obama could never have been President if African Americans had never been allowed to vote or run for office. That proves that voting matters, even when powerful interests are on the other side.
Sure, Exxon and the Koch Brothers have a lot of influence in our politics…but so do millions of ordinary people, if they gather together around what they care about, and back candidates who mostly agree with them and have a chance of winning.
I’m not saying the system can’t be improved. But it could also be a lot worse. To me, the excessive power of the wealthy and powerful business interests is even more reason to work to elect people who will push back against them.
On the major parties (or the President) being wrong on My Pet Issue (usually, pot legalization):  You know, you can’t expect the political system to be like a genie granting you wishes. You have to fight for what you want, and sometimes it can take a long time before you get it. In the meantime, the idea that just because your issue isn’t making much progress right now means that voting isn’t worth bothering with at all doesn’t make much sense, does it?
That’s like saying you’re willing to starve to death because your favorite food isn’t on the menu.
Look at it this way: there are more than 300 million people in this country. In anything even somewhat resembling a real democracy, government has to listen both to you and to people who completely disagree with you. So outcomes are going to be somewhere in the middle. Nobody gets everything they want.
But the only people who get to make those decisions are the ones who are in office. If you help elect someone in the name of an issue you care about, that official has to pay attention to it. Being a part of a winning campaign puts you in a position to make progress on the things you care about.
Incidentally, what about everyone else? If politics are making progress on your top issue progress difficult, don’t you have friends or family who care just as much about other issues? Like a woman’s right to choose, or the environment, or civil equality, or the cost of a college education, or taxes, or war? Why wouldn’t you help elect someone who can help make the difference for them?
On “both major parties are the same.” You know, back in the 1990s this was somewhat true. But now it is completely untrue. The Republican Party has become a raving gang of right-wing extremists. On any major issue you can name, there are huge differences between them and Democrats.
If they’d had a Republican President, Congress would never have ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Republicans are trying to reinstate it right now, and permanently ban gay marriage anywhere in the country with a Constitutional amendment. Republican leaders complain that we ended the war in Iraq. They want to go back to a system that allows health insurance companies to drop your coverage if you use it. Their solution to all problems is to give more money to the rich, even though that’s been proven a disaster for most Americans. Many of them want to eliminate public education, take away any meaningful help for people in their old age, make homosexuality a crime, force women to have babies against their will, even if conceived by rape, and sell off most of our national parks and public lands. They deny that climate change exists. The list goes on, and it is ugly.
There is a difference. There is a tremendous difference, and pretending there isn’t doesn’t make you look smart or knowledgeable.
If nothing else, think about the Supreme Court. Republicans have appointed a narrow, 1-vote majority of hard-right Court Justices which handed the White House to George W. Bush even though Al Gore won the election, which have taken away much of our right to privacy, and which approved unlimited corporate expenditure in political campaigns. They’re getting ready to make important decisions on issues like abortion rights and even access to birth control. The next President will appoint at least one Justice to the Court, and maybe as many as three. That will lock in the direction of the Court—and our rights—for decades. Several of the current Court majority believe that government has every right to police what you’re allowed to do in your bedroom. If for no other reason, don’t you think that’s a good reason to vote for the guy on the other team, who doesn’t agree with that stuff?
On the fantasy of “building a national third party”. At the local level, sometimes third parties can bring new ideas and shake things up. That’s not a bad thing. But at the national level, history says they’re a counterproductive strategy, and a formula for failure.
The United States settled into a two-party system shortly after the Civil War, and the only effect third parties have had since was to split the vote and hand elections to the people the third-party advocates disagreed with most.  Ross Perot and his Reform Party split the Republican Party twice, and gave the White House to Bill Clinton. John Anderson undermined Jimmie Carter, and we got Reagan. The Green Party’s Ralph Nader drew away enough voters from Al Gore in Florida to give the election to George W. Bush, thus providing us the unnecessary Iraq War, a draconian Patriot Act, a smoking crater of an economy, and a shameful reputation on the international stage, all of which wouldn’t have happened if Nader hadn’t been running. Heck, you can go back to Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party in 1912, which split the Republicans and handed the White House to Woodrow Wilson.
It doesn’t work. It’s been tried repeatedly. It’s a failing strategy.
Oh, and if you think you’re “making a statement”? You are, but it’s not the one you think. By and large, elected officials write off those who vote for third parties as fringe extremists and cranks who may safely be ignored. Voting for a third party makes you and your issues less influential, not more.
Please: think like an adult. You don’t get to have the ideal government in your mind. It isn’t the political process’ job to hand you your wish list on a platter. This is a complicated world full of shades of grey. It isn’t about “the lesser of two evils,” it’s about choosing the best of the available options.
Third party candidates aren’t real options. They’re castles in the air. The only possible effect of chasing them is to undermine the issues you claim to care about. In other words, to make things worse.
Finally, I find that this tends to make advocates of the conspiracy theory sit up and take notice:
You’re being used. The Republican Party has been encouraging cynicism about government and the political system for more than 40 years, because most of us disagree with their policies, and they can’t win if we turn out and vote for Democrats. And you’re playing right into their plan.
Why do you think they’re pouring so much effort into trying to suppress the vote in areas that vote Democratic? Why would they bother if the outcome isn’t important? C’mon: business guys don’t pour millions of dollars into something that doesn’t really matter.
So wise up: vote, and do it for candidates who 1) have a shot at winning; and 2) you agree with: not on everything, but on most things.
How hard is it, after all? What on Earth can it hurt?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Who me, Vote?


Why vote?

You’ve heard that, right?  Why vote, it just encourages them.  That’s the jaded citizen talking. The one who pays her taxes, keeps her lawn neat and her kids clean, and not one person she ever voted for got elected.  Except for the ones who did and then disappointed her, because they didn’t do all the great things they had promised.

“Why vote?” she asks. “My vote doesn’t count, not really, even if I vote for the winning side, they’re all corrupt anyway.”

It’s easy to feel this way. I used to feel this way.  When it came time for me to register to vote at the age of 21 (yes, that was the voting age back “in the day,”) I said why bother? It’s just a choice between Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee.   I wasn’t thinking about things like Supreme Court appointments. I wasn’t thinking beyond the big national stage on which politics was played out like a high drama production on the nightly news.  We had bigger fish to fry, a war to end (Vietnam), women’s rights to secure, still more schools to integrate.

I didn’t connect the election with getting those things done, because I didn’t see that the national Strutters and Fretters on the (still small) screen were going to get a single thing done for any of those issues.
Direct action was where it was at. Marching and sitting in and  (for many of the young people around me) breaking things. Not so very different from today’s Occupy movement and the break away groups who take their rage and frustration into the streets, not the ballot box.

So none of my peers voted for Humphrey. At best, we thought he was the lesser of two evils. At worst, no difference.  Imagine, if we had voted, we may never have had Nixon and Watergate.  Would the war have ended sooner? Who knows; we never will.

Room for both:

Well, now I know there is room for both expressions of discontent.  March, sit it, write angry letters and rant, (I’m not advocating breaking things; that just encourages them to arrest you, not productive in the long run). 

But vote too. It’s fast and painless. (Yes, a little homework required.) You can do it in the comfort of your own home.  It just takes a little time and effort to understand the issues.  And I bet you understand more about them than you think you do, so why not just check a box expressing your opinion?

The go out and rabble rouse all you want.

What your single vote gets you: 

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Clinton, now a sage political commentator said this:  “Remember: The biggest party in America is neither Democrats nor Republicans. It’s the party of non-voters — a group that outnumbers the other two.”

So, see already, your non-vote has counted. The problem is it may have counted in a way you didn’t mean. It may have counted toward those not voting for something you wanted but didn’t vote for, because you thought your vote wouldn’t count.  

Voting lets you register a number, a statistic, on national issues, and even more importantly, on local issues.  Your vote may go into a big Halloween cauldron in the nationwide tally, but in your City, your County and even your State, your single vote can make a significant difference.  Here are some examples showing how your vote might just count a lot more than you think.

One vote in one small town’s very big election:

Here’s how it happened in one small town looking to raise money to keep a volunteer fire department going.

The fire tax needed a 2/3 majority to pass.  It looked like it would be fairly easy to attain as people in this remote coastal village relied on their volunteers as first responders in times of emergencies.  All voters were dutifully called by firefighters and their supporters before the election and many of them got a knock on their door.  Previous such measures had passed easily, but the volunteers were taking no chances as their need for up to date equipment was great.

On election night, the victory party turned into a wake when the final results were tallied and the measure came up one vote short.

The next day one of the volunteers casually asked another one if she voted before or after her shift. Very sheepishly, the volunteer answered, “I didn’t vote. I didn’t think my one vote would make a difference.”

You can bet that she hasn’t missed a vote since then.
                                                                     What could happen if an important tax measure fails. In this case, it wasn't 
                                                                     so dire; it passed at the next election and disaster was averted.
Slightly more votes in a bigger election:
In another election, this one for a crucial seat on the County Board of Supervisors, four candidates were in a hotly contested primary election.  One was a very popular sitting council member, and everyone agreed he would get the most votes. The race then was for the number two slot, to have a chance to go head to head over issues such as open space preservation and traffic in the fall.  

Two women were virtually neck and neck on election night, but there were still outstanding absentee ballots turned in too late to have been counted yet at the Registrar’s office.  Both women were fairly unknown and neither had served in elective office before. But one was a nurse and professor, with a strong environmental bent; while the other seemed more interested in smaller parochial issues.

Two weeks passed before the final votes were counted. The nurse had won the right to compete in the fall by 22 votes.  

The rest, as they say, is history. She fought a grueling general campaign, backed by the Sierra Club which culminated in victory in November and preservation of some of the County’s most important baylands. She has held her seat against tough challengers because of the coalition she was able to build in that first election. 

One last example: medium sized town, medium sized election, one anxious candidate:  

Another not so dramatic election was a school board election in a mid-sized city.  A challenger wanted to shake things up and ran against a popular incumbent. Without doing much at all, the incumbent led by 100 votes or so on election night.  The challenger was dejected." If only I’d walked one more precinct!" he lamented.  But wait, by the time the final late absentee votes were counted, he was victorious, now holding the 100 vote lead. He has not been challenged in his office since that time and has been an effective school board member.

So your vote counts. It might be your vote alone that does make the difference, or yours and a few friends you take to the polls or yours and hundreds who think like you, but have not taken the time to vote.

If nothing else, vote because so many people don’t want you to. They know that if people don’t vote, they win by default.  Why else are there so many voter suppression efforts underway, putting into place voter ID laws, machines that switch the votes, not enough ballot boxes, hanging chads.
If a few more people voted in Florida in 2000, maybe, just maybe there would have been enough of a critical mass to stop Bush before all the last chad was hung.