Monday, October 15, 2012

Voting Queen

The world of voting, according to Queen Emily
If there is one thing that is frustrating me the most about this election, it is the fact that people seem to be perfectly comfortable making voting decisions based on superficial factors.

As I mentioned after the first debate, a lot of the blame for this lies in the way the media is covering politics.  Which is to say: the media are collectively being lazy bums about politics.

Rather than either having on-air reporters who actually know things about policy, or alternatively relying on policy/political analysts who know things about policy, most televised news is opinion-based and utterly shallow in terms of actual policy-making.

That's a choice.

But it's not all about the media.  It's about we the voters, too.  I, like anybody else, can get totally side-tracked by the superficial.  Just take a look back at the Live Blog of the VP debate and my fascination with Ryan's hair and how I think it makes him look like he's a Young Republican (of the 19-year-old, not 42-year-old variety).  But I don't want to base my vote on that stuff.

If I were Queen of Voting, this is what I'd do:

1. Start Young.

We should be teaching Civics in every school, preferably starting in elementary school.  Modern Civics courses should include the old standbys about divided government and checks and balances, but it should also include (at least by high school) conference committees, budget process, federalism (in the "what is decided by the states, what by the federal government" sense of that term), election processes, and administrative agencies.

Learning about government is fun, kids!

Every kid should have a good foundation in how the government works and basic political theory behind those choices before they leave high school - because everything else anybody cares about it impacted by the government.  Effective, engaged citizens can effectively advocate for themselves and can counter some of the influence of money and professional lobbying.

2. Primaries Should Count.  

You want this guy to represent you?  That doesn't happen by accident.

Look, while we could change over to a multi-party system, there are inherent problems with those, too (just look at Europe).  It's not the two-party system that is the biggest problem we have, it's the fact that there are not enough good people running for office in this country.

If more people were able and willing to run - if running for office did not seem completely onerous and expensive and counter to a happy family life, then more good people would do it.  As it is, it is mostly people who are born connected and/or people who are driven by personal motivations who run for political office.  

So of course the end result of our election processes is not causing effective, useful legislation - but rather often creating gridlock, politically-driven actions, pork, and inefficiency.  But for more people to feel like they could run for office, we'd need a more-open, publicly-financed election system.  With more open debates.

And in a two-party system, the primaries should be about who are the best people to be legislators and effective representatives - who is best suited to the job, who is most knowledgeable, and who has the best ideas.  Not about whether the party is leaning more right or left at the moment or minute policy differences.

3. General Elections Should Be About Issues.  

Say what you will about any of these guys,
but we did spend some time in 1992 talking about issues.
If primaries work the right way, you'd end up with two capable, smart people from whom to choose on election day.

Then the issue becomes less about what candidate sighed the most or which candidate you'd like to have a beer with, and more about the underlying issues and policies each candidate would pursue, and whether each voter thinks those policies are right for the country.  

There should be lots of debates.

We should argue about what is the right way to go - but we should do so with a grounding in fact and analysis.  Nobody should ever come out of a debate "winning" by lying through their teeth and assuming that even if they are caught it will not matter because the voters are too uninformed or unwilling to pursue the matter to figure out the lies from the truth.

But those are my 3 big wishes in the voting world.  What are yours?


  1. I'd like a third party I could vote for without needing a shower after.

    I'd like a cap on political campaign spending, or something else to put to rest this system we now have where you have to be extremely wealthy to even have a shot at getting elected.

  2. Yes, I agree on the cap - or I'd like public financing.

    The problem of the multi-parties is that if it's a third, it will cause the one of the 2 you generally like to lose, and if you decide to up to many at once (say a green party, libertarian and christian democratic) then your party could very well end up having to work with a party you hate to govern (see e.g. Britain -–_Liberal_Democrat_coalition_agreement).