#648 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #65. Where we citizens fit in this political mess.

This is written to you, and to everyone, including myself, who considers themselves an eligible voter in the United States of America.
Thank you for opening this post.
Perhaps most of us who can have already voted, or will vote today. Perhaps most who vote will have taken at least a little bit of time to think about why they are voting for the candidates they support, and the long term implications of their vote.
Wednesday November 7 it will all be over, and we’ll know what we decided for the next two years. Two years from now will be another election….
Our democracy is, however, at grave risk, far worse than most of us would like to imagine. This takes many forms.
Here’s an at-home example.
Yesterday, in preparing #64, I had occasion to refer back to a letter I had written to family, colleagues and friends on October 24, 2000 about the upcoming presidential election then. The entire text of the letter, which I either hand-delivered or sent U.S. mail, is here: Election 2000001
Near the end of that letter I said this: “A while ago, a piece of information came across public radio that in 1996 $150 million was contributed for political campaigns; this went up to $300 million in 1998; and is expected to top $750 million this year. Most of this came from organized “special interests”, and most of these are the rich or those who have access to a great deal of money for political influence.”
Last night, on CBS evening news, it was estimated that $2 billion has been spent on the 2012 campaign for President. I have heard an estimate of $6 billion being spent for all races in all places in 2012. It is a financial bonanza for businesses like TV stations, etc.
Candidates cannot unilaterally disarm. They must raise and spend money.
We all know how this looks. It differs from town to town. But in many ways it’s the same everywhere.
In my own state legislative district, population approximately 70,000 or so, an incumbent candidate for state Senate did not send out a single piece of political advertising (the kind of information that we receive in our mailbox) through his own committee .
OK, you say?
For that same candidate, from the State Republican Party, came five pieces of literature either promoting his candidacy, or slamming his opponent. Another 17 mailers, all similar in content to those mailed by the Republicans, came from six assorted independent expenditure outfits, all with positive sounding names, all very difficult to trace as to source of funding.
There was also a very expensive billboard paid for by independent expenditures, and some television advertising, all paid for by these independent expenditures.
If you’re counting, that’s 22 “independent” pieces mailed to thousands of mail boxes in my town.
It was obvious that the independent expenditures were in some way coordinated.
The Democrat opponent sent out her own mailing through her own committees funds. There were two outside mailers from the state Democratic party, promoting her, and slamming the opponent.
Is this how democracy is supposed to look? And if it looks like this today, what will it look like in two years, or four?
Will there be an end to elections period? Why not just take opinion polls in the 121 crucial swing counties (or is it 106 or some other number) of the 3077 counties in the United States, and winner take all. Don’t bother even having elections.
That leads to the entire question of voter suppression, happening in many ways in many places this year, including our own MN constitutional amendment proposal.
The democracy we take for granted is in peril, and no one but ourselves can fix it.
We individuals ARE the politicians we like to blame for the mess that we are in. Here’s something to help generate some thought:
Last week a friend sent along a recent sixteen minute video from a TEDx talk given in Florida by professor Peter T. Coleman of Columbia University. The video doesn’t mention one time the name of any political party or candidate. It summarizes the problem, and doesn’t give the solution.
The solution is up to us.
Take the time to watch it, think about it, and take action yourself, where you are, to halt our slide down the slippery slope to totalitarianism.

For all other related posts, enter/click on Election 2012 in the search box above. The entire list with topic heading will come up.

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