Angry Youth! Blog

January 31, 2008

The Problems (And Plausible Solutions) with Elections

Filed under: Election — Tags: , , , , , , , — mikeyc252 @ 9:32 pm

The man-the big guy. He controls Congress, he controls the White House, he controls the Electoral College and he controls the school office. He’s everything. He controls the little guy like you and me. “There used to be a way to stick it to the man. It was called rock n’ roll. But guess what, the man ruined that too, with a little thing called MTV!” (School of Rock) Only some people can stick it to the man with rock. There’s an easier way for everyone else-presidential elections.

But how can a process run by the man stick it to him? Fortunately, our founding fathers built it to stick it to another man, the King of England George III. It’s changed for the better but room for improvement remains. To properly stick it to the man, parts of the election process must be fixed, and you have to get informed and active.

The man has tinkered with the process, and he’s made it difficult for you and me to stick it to him. The electoral college groups each state by color. The current primary system samples a tiny portion of the population and favors the general, well-publicized and funded, as opposed to the specific, capable and experienced. Campaign structure makes money and corporate lobbying more important than support in the early phases of the election. The public is lazy and uninformed, and the media is biased and over-analytical.

Throughout this piece I’ll mention several changes. Some of them contradict, some of them work together. I hope to educate you and get some ideas in your head.

Campaign Finance Laws

The first step to sticking it to the man is to reform campaign finance laws. Under the McCain-Feingold Act individuals can donate $2,300 to candidates per cycle. It’s technically illegal for corporations and businesses to donate anything. Groups called political action committees, referred to as PACs, can also donate $2,300 per cycle. That’s just the surface. Through multiple PACs, gifts, undocumented “soft money” and donations to the candidates gubernatorial (state) campaign, corporations can fund the bulk of a candidates’ campaign, in return for favors once they’re in office.

There is a reform called the Clean Spending, Clean Election program. This gives funds to candidates that qualify and establishes caps on spending. The funs are raised through an optional three dollar tax. Only individual donations should be allowed; PACs and gifts need to be illegal and all money spent must be documented. The Clean Spending program should remain optional but the funds increased and the tax mandatory. This will level the playing ground for qualified candidates, but allow candidates to raise large funds if they have strong support from citizens.

The Primary Election

Choosing a nominee, known as the primary electiom, also makes it hard to stick it to the man. Each state holds a Republican and Democratic primary or caucus which can be either open to anyone or available only to registered members of the party. The delegates from that area vote for the winner during the party’s convention, when the party chooses a presidential candidate. The first caucus is January 3rd in Iowa, the first primary in New Hampshire on January 8th. The primary election continue until June. Indiana holds ours in May*. Historically, the first month of the primary electiom has determined the nominee for each party.

The primary is a simple vote; people show up and cast a ballot. The caucus system is a mess. The requirements to vote are unclear. During the caucus, there is much more discussion. Caucuses differ by state, some involve hand votes and speeches, and some are voted by grouping bodies. The states also differ on how candidates get primary election votes. Some will assign all the delegates to vote for the overall winner, while some award them proportionately.

The problem with this schedule is the runner for each party is almost always determined in the first month, even though the primary election continues until June. In most elections candidates already have enough delegate votes before the Indiana primary. That’s why later states like Indiana rarely get candidates during the primary election. We don’t get many candidates during the general election either, but that’s because we’ve been labeled a “conservative” state.

After all the primaries and caucuses have been held, delegates from each state vote for the winner of their primary/caucus at the national convention of that party. That works fine, but the Democratic National Committee and Republican Natonal Committee assign “super” and “at large” delegates, respectively, for members of their party in office, members of the national party, or for meeting other criteria. These delegates aren’t tied to any vote. They make up about 1/3 of the total delegates on each side and vote for whomever they choose.

The first step to fixing the primary/caucus problem is to compress the schedule to one month. Make the primaries for all the states during one month, in a random order. This will force candidates to campaign in more than 2 dozen states and rely more on volunteer grassroots campaigning. Then make all primaries/caucuses open, encouraging participation and appealing to independents. Abolish the super-delegates. Lastly, the national parties must establish delegate and voting guidelines for all primaries and caucuses. These changes will make the runner for each party be the one with the most widespread support. (See the parties section for more federal guidelines)

The Electoral College

Another problem is the system of “winner-take-all.” A group of people vote, and whoever gets the majority collects all the votes of that region. This exists in both some of primaries/caucuses and the Electoral College. This allows the man to easily group all the states and make it easier to campaign. The Electoral College is the most common argument concerning the integrity of elections. There are several solutions, ranging from abolishing it to spliting votes.

Only Maine and Nebraska use a split vote system, which splits its Electoral votes among multiple candidates. This is a simple system, give each candidate a rough percentage of the electoral college votes depending on the percentage of votes. Some primaries like New Hampshire also use this technique. No doubt controversy would arise in the process of awarding fractions of votes in smaller states.

Another option is for electoral college delegates to be directly assigned to voting districts and be tied to the winner of that district. The number of electoral college delegates is the number of House members plus two for Senate members. Change the voting districts to follow the Congressional districts, then take out the two delegates on the Senate side. Another option regarding the two extra delegates would be for them to vote for the winner. The electors would vote independently at the college.

This is also the best solution for the primary election. Divide the voting districts into Congressional districts, or at least to match the number of congressional districts. Then whichever candidate wins the district gets one delegate at the national convention.

There are ways to get around the electoral college without a federal law. New Jersey recently passed a law that will assign their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular election. What this means is that if every state passed this law, the winner would get every electoral vote. Even if half a dozen swing states passed this law, this would dramatically change elections.

A direct election is an obvious solution but would be difficult to pull off, considering our country’s recent knack for recounts. A direct election would encourage candidates to campaign in states and cities they normally wouldn’t, but they would ignore smaller states. This argument attracts the most attention and is bound to remain unsolved for several election cycles.

Reorganizing political parties

Though political parties may help the candidates reach out to voters and help organize them, they aren’t necessary, or at least how they’re organized now. Grouping the candidates hurts the process and them. The two-party system limits political ideas. The election is a great place to start.

There could be one “blanket” primary that covers all the candidates. This was ruled unconstitutional in 2000 but that was because the state’s parties weren’t allowed a primary by the state legislature. They parties can have their primaries, but they won’t get any delegates awarded from the national parties. Only blanket primaries would award delegates. (See the primary section on how delegates should be awarded)

There could also be a minimum number of delegates needed to appear on the national ballot. (There’s no point in calling them delegates since they wouldn’t vote at the single national convention, so we’ll call them districts) The candidates would choose running mates among themselves, even cross party, and announce whenever they wanted.

It would also be easy to simply skip the primaries and only require signatures for a place on the national ballot. Or, the primary election could consist of a single voting day, when voters would vote for one candidate regardless of party. Enough votes and you get a spot on the national ballot.

Neutrality

Yes, I mentioned a national ballot. This is one case where more government control is the right option. States have shown they’re nowhere near capable of holding fair elections, creating fair and working voting ballots, etc. Make one ballot, with every candidate that meets the benchmark number of districts, and their running mate.

Electronic voting machines are unreliable and easily hacked. Some are owned by Diebold Systems, the company that built the notorious malfunctioning machines used in Florida in 2000. Already this election rumors flew of hacked machines in the New Hamshire primary. All machines must have a paper trail.

Voting machines aren’t the only part of the election that’s marred by big businesses. Almost everything you see, read and hear is owned by 6 different corporations. Not just Fox News–local news stations, newspapers, magazines and even the debates can’t escape ownership. Why are the debates sponsored by news stations, especially ones like Fox? Why do we let them choose the criterion, and let them change it to fit the candidates they want? Either make the debate government sponsored or have a reputable independent organization like PBS host it.

To fit my earlier suggestion of absence of political parties in the process, debates should be held for certain topics. Hold the debates for the top 8 or 10 candidates of any party, and establish concrete requirements. The moderator should play a more active role, the immature candidates tend to interrupt frequently.

Would the Man cooperate?

You might be wondering how all these changes might happen. The federal government is the only organization that has to want these changes. Removing electoral college electors from California and Texas will make both political parties bow to their knees. From there, the parties can force states into submission by not counting their primary delegates. But the aforementioned changes aren’t very likely. Because the man is running for president, in charge of Congress, governing the states and heading the parties at the same time. Why establish a process that will bite him in the back? Luckily, there is a force more powerful that any party, congress or college mentioned above.

Activism

The fourth, final and most important step rests in the hands of the public. Even if none of the aforementioned changes happened, the public could easily stick it to the man. All we have to do is get active and informed.

The first step is to start early. Campaigning begins as early as the summer of the year before the election. It’s relatively lax until January, when the primary starts. It’s a frenzy throughout March. By the start of April 42 states have already assigned their delegates. You shouldn’t wait until the heavy campaigning starts. Pay attention to how the candidates campaign in the early stages-are they appealing to organizations or individuals? Listen to the specifics of their platform, as it will undoubtably twist through the next spring.

The next step involves the internet. If you only looks to TVs and newspapers for information about the candidates, you won’t get very good information. The mainstream media is concerned more with actual campaign coverage, less the candidates and what they stand for. Browse the Wikipedia pages of candidates. Look through the candidates homepage. Watch the debates-they reveal the actual character of the candidates. Read political blogs and frequent user-powered news sites. You’d be surprised how interesting politics is when you read the lesser-circulated stories about the candidates.

There are few things more depressing than people saying politics is boring or there’s not use because it’s so corrupt. (Although being misinformed ranks pretty high too) Doing nothing about it will do exactly that. Change, the buzzword for this election, won’t happen because someone got elected President. It doesn’t happen overnight, it requires a total attitude overall by the public. It might require you to actually donate money to a grassroots campaign, or wave a sign on the highway. It requires you to ardously research the candidates. But most of all, change requires citizens to get informed. Learning about the presidential election is a great way to start.

RECAP:
-Reform campaign finance laws to provide more funds to lesser-funded candidates.
-Only individuals allowed to donate.
-Reorganize primary election:
1. Abolish them completely, require signatures for spot on ballot.
2. Compress schedule so all states have a say.
3. Establish guidelines for primaries and caucuses.
4. Make all delegates bound the first vote.
-Change Electoral College system:
1. Abolish it, direct popular vote.
2. Proportional votes.
3. Instead 536, have several thousand voting districts.
4. Assign electoral college votes based on winner of national popular vote.
-Federalization:
1. Only regulated paper ballots.
2. One national blanket primary.
3. Get an ballot regardless of party.
-GET ACTIVE
-Or…VOTE RON PAUL 2008! I couldn’t resist. Sorry.

* A bill in the State Senate would move Indiana’s primary to March 4th in 2008.

Hope For America/How a persuasive essay works

Filed under: Election — Tags: , , — mikeyc252 @ 9:31 pm

Ron Paul is the best Republican presidential candidate. He has more knowledge and well-rounded experience than the other Republican candidates. State your opinion. It’s not a request, just your opinion. Paul should be named the Republican nominee for president. State the basic action you desire.

Ron Paul is the most fiscally conservative presidential candidate. He has never voted to raise taxes or to pass an unbalanced budget during his 10 terms in Congress. He realizes what must be done to get out of recession-pull out of Iraq. Stop borrowing money from China. Abolish the IRS and the income tax. Go back to the gold standard to give our money value again.

Paul believes that universal healthcare is unnecessary and would result in subpar care and excessive federal control. The licensed OB/GYN knows stopping pharmaceutical campanies from spiking drug prices will make healthcare affordable. Paul mantains the conservative pillar of letting citizens control their purchases.

Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate with a clear and effective position on Iraq- get out. Paul opposed the war from the beginning. He believed Iraq posed no threat and our occupation would drain our resources and destabilize the region. He still does.

The Air Force veteran is a strict Constitutionalist. He has never voted for increasing the power of the executive branch or the infringement of any civil liberties. He believes states should decide on modern interpretation issues like gay marriage and abortion. This country needs a return to a smaller, fiscally responsible federal government. List your reasoning. Only use arguments that are strong. If you have one strong argument, use it. If you have several, use them. If you use one weak reason, your whole argument will fail because you’ll spend all your time defending that one point.

Paul’s opponents claim he’s not electable. State the arguments used against your solution. This will make your audience receptive-they’ll listen to you now. However, Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate whose Iraq withdrawal stance will appeal to independents. As Paul gets fair media coverage and voters learn more about him, his support will increase. exponentially because he is the perfect conservative candidate with a spotless voting record.

Paul is also the only candidate that could beat Obama if he gets the Democratic nomination. The neoconservative base is shrinking and people will flock to a candidate that promises change and has the experience and straight talk to back it up. Paul also has the biggest grassroots support and a steady flow of individual donations, unlike many GOP frontrunners. Debunk your opponent’s arguments. Now you’re ready to do something.

If you will be 18 by November 4th 2008, vote for Ron Paul in Indiana’s Republican primary on May 6th. Make sure you are a registered voter and register for the primary by April 7th. You can register to vote at http://www.govote.org and register for the primary at http://www.gop.com/actioncenter/registertovote. If you have a steady income, donate to his campaign-it’s almost entirely funded by individuals like you. The average donation of his record-breaking fundraising effort was $50.

If you’re an adult, you might be able to become a congressional delegate for the national convention. This can be accomplished by contacting Ron Paul’s campaign office at 703-248-9115 and speaking with your regional coordinator. If one candidate doesn’t get 1191 delegates, delegates vote for a candidate of their choosing. This would allow Ron Paul to get the nomination even if he has a minority of state delegates. State SPECIFIC actions your readers can do to get this solution accomplished. The less they they have to think the more likely they’ll do it.

Once Ron Paul gets the nomination, he’ll finally receive fair media coverage and the support of the conservative base. He will win independents with his record, plans, and grassroots momentum. Once he is elected, our economy will improve. We will pay lower taxes that we know aren’t being squandered by policing the Middle East. The government will not wiretap our phones, read our emails or monitor our internet browsing. Healthcare will be more affordable and the price of gas will go down.

If he gets the nomination but loses the election, he’ll get fair media coverage in four years and be in even better position to win the 2012 election. State motivation. Why should your readers do this? The best motivations are mental.

RECAP:

  • State your opinion.
  • State the solution.
  • State your reasoning.
  • State your opponent’s arguments.
  • Debunk your opponent’s arguments.
  • State specific actions.
  • Offer personal motivation.
  • This works like a charm. You’ll see it’s a huge step from just arguing.

    One reason why Obama is so appealing-He’s Romantic

    Filed under: Election — mikeyc252 @ 9:28 pm

    Barack Obama is a modern-day Romantic. The biggest characteristic of Romanticism is emotion and imagination over intellect. When you hear Obama speak you can’t help but feel incredibly moved and supportive of him. This is because he appeals to voter emotion more than logic. He realizes that voters want an honest-looking person they can trust. His platform comes second.

    He makes people feel good that they’re supporting him. They can make a difference, if they vote for him. “But on this January night – at this defining moment in history – you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

    His biggest advantage in the race isn’t “experience” or “family values” it’s his personification  of change. People trust him regardless of his position because he’s so likable and polite. He stirs emotions with his idealistic speeches, instead of cold hard debating. “I’ll be a President who finally makes health care affordable and available to every single American the same way I expanded health care in Illinois – by bringing Democrats and Republicans together to get the job done. I’ll be a President who ends the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut into the pockets of the working Americans who deserve it.”

    Obama also represents the Romantic quality of revolting against the old order. He represents a rebellion against corrupt, old, disliked politicians. He promises to change politics and this country. He has tapped the growing discontent of the public and is giving them exactly what they want to hear. “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists – and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not get a job in my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president.”

    Barack Obama stresses the importance of individuals. He operates on individual donations and reaches to voters, not corporations. He constantly thanks the American people and refers to “we” accomplishing things in his campaign. He believes each person can have a huge impact. “You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that’s consumed Washington; to end the political strategy that’s been all about division and instead make it about addition – to build a coalition for change that stretches through Red States and Blue States.”

    Obama is very idealistic. He believes that as President, he can change many things wrong with this country. He believes that corruption and apathy can be cured in the country. He believes every vote truly counts and that the people can change the policy and laws of this country if they unite behind a cause. “This was the moment when the improbable beat what Washington always said was inevitable. This was the moment when we tore down barriers that have divided us for too long – when we rallied people of all parties and ages to a common cause; when we finally gave Americans who’d never participated in politics a reason to stand up and to do so.”

    Barack Obama focuses on the common man. He appeals to nonvoters, those with little influence or uninvolved with politics. He appears to be an enemy to corporations and DC lobbyists and corrupt politicians. “You’ve earned the role you play in our democracy because no one takes it more seriously. And I believe that’s true this year more than ever because, like me, you feel that same sense of urgency.”

    Obama uses very simple speech while talking to crowds. He generalizes while talking to avoid alienating people. He uses common phrases easy to understand without using political jargon. Barack Obama uses Romantic techniques of appealing to emotion and the common man and revolting against the old political order to appeal to the growing American discontentment with how this country has been run and what political culture has become. And that’s why people like him. Romantic is just another name for inspiring. The change in political atmosphere is very similar to the change from Neoclassicism to Romanticism.

    Delete my MySpace?

    Filed under: Life — mikeyc252 @ 9:18 pm

    I realize that question is a little redundant but bear with me.

    Frankly, I love my MySpace. Isn’t is awesome-I luv it. It was my first foray into the world of social networking, which led to web 2.0.

    I still remember the first day I talked to one of my friends on MySpace over the summer I hadn’t seen since the end of school. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it. I was talking to someone-ONLINE!

    Since then, it has led to easy communication, a big plus when dealing with homework/projects. I don’t have to call someone to find out about homework. (Or is that a bad thing?)

    It started my blogging habits. Yes, MySpace is where it started. No one reads my blogs there nowadays. My so-called “friends” clearly don’t care about me that much.

    It also led me to get a AIM screenname-a huge step in my social life.
    That sounds horrible but at the time I had no other way to talk to people I wasn’t great friends with

    It has let me showcase my amazing photoshop skills. Yeah. You should look at and cmnt them!

    But now…You know. Dumb bulletins. Dumb pictures-the infamous MySpace angle.  5 minute loading times every page of the site. Countless reminders everytime I do something. It’s a Model T compared to the sleek vehicle of Facebook.

    As cool as my profile is, I hate the site. I have 2 good friends that don’t check/have Facebook. Since they’re probably not reading this, they aren’t that important. If they are, check your Facebook. I wrote on your wall 3 days ago and you haven’t responded!   http://mashable.com/2008/01/21/delete-your-myspace-account-day/
     It’s a tough decision. 

     UPDATE Ok I didn’t delete it. Sue me. Give me a couple weeks to  consider this important decision, nd I might. 

    The Truth About Iraq

    Filed under: General Politics — mikeyc252 @ 9:17 pm

    We’ve all heard about the Iraq war. One side says Saddam had WMDs and was cooperating with Al Queda but we just didn’t find them. He was still dangerous. The other side (which was almost nonexistent at the time-save patriots like Paul and Obama) said there were no WMDS and Iraq wasn’t dangerous.

    It’s obvious the later group was right be now. Yet another question remains-why didn’t Hussein cooperate? First off, he did. Iraq submitted a 12,000 page report to the UN detailing how they destroyed their WMDS. They allowed inspectors in.

    But to the US and the world, Hussein was defiant. He didn’t want anyone in his country poking around labs. He was unclear to the US about his nuclear program.

    Now the answer has emerged. Yesterday on 60 Minutes, a former FBI agent was interviewed who debriefed Hussein. He says the reason Hussein was defiant was because he didn’t want Iran attacking them. That’s right. He was afread of Iran and he wanted them to be afraid of him.

    I hate Bush as much as the next guy, but it seems this gives him credit-Hussein was purposely misleading him.
    I’m not saying it was a good decision, but it makes the evidence to go to war go from 0 to 1.

    Consortium

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