The New Mandate

After every election, we always manage to hear the winning side say that they have a mandate from the American people.  The people have spoken, and they want their plan over their opponent’s plan.  And there is no doubt that after the presidential election in November, whoever comes out on top will be declaring the same thing.  But is there really anything to it?  Can any side really claim a mandate just because they win the election?

A presidential election is a good place as any to start.  It’s a time when turnout is the highest though we’ve only been hovering between 50%-60% in voter turnout.  Can we honestly say that our elected officials know what the general populace wants when there is almost 50% of the voting population not voting at all?  We have them basing their decisions on only what half the people say.  So there is the first problem.  The second part of the equation is how we elect our president.  As stated in the previous entry (The Electoral College), we elect our highest office through the Electoral College.  It’s “winner take all” in 48 of the 50 states no matter what the margin of difference is.  We need to look back no further than 2000 and the election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. It was a time of economic prosperity, budget surpluses, and pre-9/11. There was nothing to indicate a close election, but it still was.  We make note that Bush won Florida by 537-votes.  People fail to remember that the vote difference in 12-states that year was less than 5%, according to the FEC.  In 2008, there were 6-states that had vote differences less than 5% (and the 2nd Nebraska district… since Nebraska is not “winner take all”) which totaled 88 electoral votes.  There were 9-states and Nebraska’s 1st district that were between 5%-10%.  Barack Obama won the Electoral Vote 365-173 with 52.92% of the total votes cast.  But that is only 52% of the 60% that actually voted.  So does that constitute a mandate when those that are eligible to vote and don’t could easily swing the election one way or the other?  A few votes here or there in 2000 in the right states could have swapped the election.  Same goes in 2004 and 2008.

In the US, we have a duopoly running our government.  The media and everything else focus solely on the Democratic and Republican parties despite there being several others.  So the pendulum only swings two ways.  It will stay Republican for awhile and then when the majority of voters tire of that side, they switch to the Democrats until they tire of that way and then the pendulum swings back.  And just because someone votes Democratic during one such election just might mean that they don’t like the Republican that’s running and vice versa.  In 2008, there were probably many voters who were tired of Republicans running the Executive Branch of the government… as they had been for the previous 8-years.  There were probably others who didn’t like either Senator John McCain or Governor Sarah Palin.  On the other side, there were probably people who voted for McCain that didn’t like Senator Barack Obama or Senator Joe Biden.  Now I go back to 2000 again.  We had been under Democratic leadership in the Executive Branch for 8-years with President Clinton.  Congress had been Republican for six of those years.  The people did state, by official numbers, that they wanted that branch of government to swing back to Republican control.  However, the total vote difference was just shy of 544,000-votes… or  0.51%.  And with Republicans still controlling Congress (with only the exception of the Senate being evenly split 50-50 from 2001-2003), they wanted to claim that the people had given them a mandate to do as they wish.

Now, our Founding Fathers did set up our government so that those that we elect could represent us and what we want from our government, but they never envisioned political parties or certain individuals being elected repeatedly as though its a career instead of a civic duty.  The reason why there are elections for the House of Representatives every 2-years is because that is the people’s chamber.  It was supposed to be the way that elected officials, including the President, could keep tabs on what the mood of the public was.  The Senate, being the upper chamber, was supposed to put more debate into issues to make sure that the people were thinking clearly and the representatives were doing their job.  Between President George Washington and President John Quincy Adams, presidents had only issued a veto 10-times total (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams didn’t issue even one).  They mostly deferred to the legislative branch to set policy because  that was where the pulse of the nation was.  That was how the people expressed what they wanted their government to do.  But if we were to do that, do we look at the House or the Senate or both.  In the past two years, we’ve had a divided legislative branch.  In 2008, Democrats had big majorities in both chambers.  Before 2008, it had been fairly evenly divided for the previous 8-years.  So maybe that means that the electorate is evenly divided, or maybe the pendulum is just stuck and not swinging back and forth as wildly as it once was.

A close election is more fun than a run-away.  It gets people all fired up and usually drives more people to the polls since they believe there is more at stake.  They believe that there vote could tip the scale one way or the other… well, at least in the battleground states.  States that are safely Democrat or safely Republican usually don’t have that problem.  There in lies another problem with our elections and determining mandates, only about a dozen states are considered toss-ups each election year.  2012 has even fewer.  So the majority of the election is focused on the voters in those states, and it basically comes down to whichever party gets more people to the polls to vote that particular year.

There has been a lot of gridlock over the past two-years.  That’s what happens with divided government.  And it’s not necessarily a bad thing except when it prohibits anything from being accomplished.  One side doesn’t want to make the other side look good even if they do agree.  That’s when gridlock becomes bad because no one wants to work together because both sides usually agree on the basic principles and don’t want to help the other side look good.  At least when they are on “moderate” opposing sides, they can usually work together to come up with a somewhat reasonable compromise that appeases both sides… and is usually better than the one-sided plan.  Democrats state they had a mandate in 2008 because they won big majorities in Congress and the presidency.  Republicans say they now have a mandate because they took back the House in 2010 and took several seats in the Senate.  Is either side right?  Not really.  The pendulum was just swinging back and forth as it always does.  Can it show what the people are thinking though?  Kind of.  It can give a possible indication on how the voting populace is thinking (not the total voting populace).  And the reason why it’s only a “possible indication” is because we can’t be 100% sure why someone votes the way they do.  It could be the issues of the day, it could be that they are tired of the one party being charge, or they might not like a particular candidate that is running.  In any case, our elected officials need to stop using the term “mandate” when they speak after election.  Especially in today’s times, there just is no such thing.  There are entirely too many variables which include the flaw of our duopoly in government and that almost half of the voting population aren’t actually voting at all.  It’s difficult to getting any kind of accurate census in that manner.

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Don’t Say It

It’s my second entry in less than a week to rant on my home state of Missouri.  Once again, I find it absolutely incredible that our legislators would waste time with this particular issue when they complain that we aren’t creating jobs quickly enough.  Let’s put two and two together here.  This time, though, this issue is more near and dear to my heart, so I cannot afford to sit back quietly.  Not this time.  Something must be said… especially for those that have no voice.

The legislation in question is House Bill 2051 (HB2051… otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) and is sponsored by Representative Steve Cookson, with the backing of both the current Speaker, Steven Tilley and the Speaker-Elect, Tim Jones.  HB2051 has been referred to the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, and isn’t on the calendar for the committee as of yet.  But that doesn’t make it any less dangerous.  The legislation has to deal with the LGBT community… and even more importantly, it has to do with LGBT youth.  And at a time when LGBT suicides seem to be running rampant, this particular legislation does not help.  The text of it is short, but it reaches far beyond.

170.370. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.

My first question is how is this even legal?  How is it not a violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution?  The government does not have the right to tell us what we can and cannot talk about, and it can’t make up laws that do.  What’s next?  Are they going to tell us what we can think about?  I could see a private school doing something of this nature, but for the public schools that are supported by taxpayer dollars… again, this cannot be even close to legal.  This is another case of the Republicans in the state of Missouri trying to demote part of its population to second-class citizens because they’re afraid of the “homosexual agenda.”  But this is a bunch of BS.  Legislation such as HB2051 is nothing short than a “hear no evil, see no evil” approach.  The Republicans in the state legislature believe that if the youth can’t talk about their homosexual tendencies/feelings, then they won’t give in to them.  They won’t be encouraged.  Unfortunately, the majority of the people that support legislation like this don’t know what they are talking about.  Someone either is or isn’t gay.  It doesn’t matter if it’s encouraged or not.  It is already something that is inside them.  No amount of legislation by the government (any government) will make that go away.  All it will end up doing is isolating a vital, productive, and creative part of our overall community.

Our youth will be the most adversely affected by such legislation as it is targeting them and the schools they go to.  Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs will be prohibited, and faculty and administrators will be forbidden to talk about anything dealing with sexual orientation… even if a student needs someone to talk to about it or even if a student is reporting a case of bullying.  Growing up, I was often teased throughout school.  Not for being gay but for basically being more of the nerdy type.  I know how it can make one feel.  Sometimes, I young person just needs someone to sit and listen… and to care.  And as we grow into young adults and starts dealing with more “adult-type” of situations, we need those people more and more.  We are often very careful about who we confide in, as well.  We want to make sure that it is a person that we can lean on.  For some, that particular person is a teacher.  And if this bill is put into law, that teacher won’t even be able to help even if he/she is the only person that kid or young adult feels like he/she can talk to.  It is just shameful.  And it hurts me to my core that our young people are made to feel more alone and more isolated at a time in their lives when they should be embraced and loved.

Missouri is not the first state to attempt a “Don’t Say Gay” bill.  The state of Tennessee voted several times last year on a similar bill, but it drew national ridicule that even came from the state’s Republican Governor.  The Tennessee bill eventually failed… though the state is trying again this year with an identical bill.  And now the state of Missouri is trying.  Apparently, the dumbasses who thought this thing up didn’t think this through very much.  Are they trying to prove that they are more conservative that the Republicans in Tennessee?  Is there a special prize at the end for them?  Well maybe on that last one… re-election by the same crazy voters that allow them to do dumbass things like this.  Again, it’s these same Republican legislators that say that we have fallen behind in creating jobs… that new businesses and new people are not moving to the state.  Yet, they can’t seem to make the correlation that it’s stupid stuff like this that makes Missouri a less-desirable place to live.  People tend not to want to live in a state that is trying to revert itself back to the 1850s (or even the 1950s).  This is the 21st century, and again, the people in Jefferson City need to pull their head out of their asses long enough to actually see the real world.  I know it might seem scary to them at first, but it will subside.

The consequences of such a bill needs to be thought through.  We’re isolating our youth.  We are isolating a part of our community.  Is that really a wise thing to do.  Regardless of our religious beliefs (and yes, I am a Christian), no one deserves treatment like this.  The legislators in Missouri need to realize this first and foremost.  They do not have the right to tell us how to live our lives, nor do they have the right to tell us what type of people we should be.  We are all different and unique, and we should all be embraced.  Even though I have been quite harsh on the legislators in this entry, I am trying my best to go after their actions. Afterall, hate only begets more hate.  I don’t mind when people think differently, it’s just when they act upon those thoughts and try to make others feel inferior… or in this case, feel like second-class citizens and that something is wrong with them.  The LGBT youth are simply amazing, and I think quite brave for all they have to endure at such a young age.  The bullying must stop… not only within our schools but from our government, too.  And if want a state that attracts businesses and new people, then we must stop writing BS legislation like this that makes people believe that Missouri is an ass-backwards state.  Let us move forward.  Let us work together to build a state that embraces everyone instead of isolating.  And let us work together to teach our youth to be good citizens and to be proud of who they are.  I think the youth of our state could teach some of the Missouri legislators a few lessons.  Afterall, to love thy neighbor means to embrace and accept them.

“Homosexuality, is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce.”  Plato~

INFORMATION:
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please call 1-866-4-U-Trevor (1-866-488-7386).  You can also click on the link for The Trevor Project.

For those living in the state of Missouri wishing to contact their Representative regarding HB2051, please click Here for the directory.

PREVIOUS ENTRY:
From The Shadows

After Iowa

So the Iowa caucus has come and gone for the 2012 election.  Does it really mean anything in the overall grand scheme of things?  Not really.  The Iowa voters don’t necessarily pick the candidate that will eventually be the nominee.  And when it comes to the voting demographic in Iowa, it does not come close to being an accurate representation of the overall national voting demographic.  Regardless, though, Iowa goes first… as it has since 1972.  And though it might not pick the winner all the time, it can definitely derail campaigns and make other soar.

Remember then-Senator Barack Obama (Dem) and former-Governor Mike Huckabee (Rep) in the 2008 primary?  Both of them were largely unknown and won their party’s caucus.  The difference, Obama, though losing in New Hampshire, was still able to ride his Iowa win to victory in other states and eventually to the nomination and to a general election victory.  Huckabee failed in New Hampshire, too, but wasn’t able to mount a successful campaign to stop John McCain from getting the nomination despite winning a few more states.

The Republican Presidential Candidates

What hurt Mike Huckabee then might play out again here in 2012.  Former-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney beat Former-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by 8-votes in Iowa.  Texas Congressman Ron Paul came in third.  Santorum nearly pulled off a Huckabee-style win getting the majority of his votes from the Christian conservatives/Evangelical Christian voters.  The Republican voting bloc in Iowa is overflowing with them.  The problem for Santorum is going to be the next battle… New Hampshire where Christian conservatives just aren’t very abundant.  If he can somehow survive a beating in New Hampshire, he has a chance in South Carolina and maybe parts of Florida (northern Florida).  But when the contest moves to Nevada, it’s again unlikely that he will win with those that aren’t his main voting bloc.  If he hasn’t derailed by then, that should be the mark.  His virtual-tie in Iowa only means he gets more media attention for now, but it doesn’t mean that he can get the nomination.  The Republican voting bloc sees him as to religious and too-far right wing.  He can get the Tea-Party and Christian conservative votes, but he won’t get the independent and moderate votes that he would need to win in November.

What about some other candidates.  Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has withdrawn after coming in 5th place.  Texas Governor Rick Perry went home to think about it but has now decided to fight to South Carolina.  Without a strong showing there, it will be over for him.  He might make it to Florida, but no chance after that unless he can make a huge comeback.  Former-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is on life support.  Unless he can show that there is some life in his campaign in New Hampshire and/or South Carolina, it will be over for him, too.  Again, he can’t get passed Florida without something bigger… and South Carolina is going to be his best bet to beating Mitt Romney and where he should concentrate (since New Hampshire is not possible for him).  After coming in third place, Texas Congressman Ron Paul is in a good place to make a difference.  He gets a very different demographic of the Republican party and even the independents.  It remains to be seen how far he can go.  His supporters are usually fairly faithful to him.  But his main downfall is that he doesn’t appeal to the core Republican voters.

Former-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney might have been left holding the victory torch by those 8-votes after Tuesday, and though Iowa doesn’t necessarily pick the eventual nominee, he is sitting pretty good right now.  In New Hampshire, he has a double-digit lead.  Though in 2008, Obama had a lead in Iowa but Hillary Clinton ended up winning the Democratic primary there, so nothing is set in stone in this last week.  Who could upset Romney? Congressman Ron Paul could surge up in the independent-minded state.  But there is one other candidate that has put everything at stake in New Hampshire.  He came in last in Iowa, but didn’t really campaign there at all.  Former-Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. He’s a moderate and has been campaigning hard.  Though it will be hard for anyone to take down Romney’s double-digit lead in a week, Huntsman needs to have a good second-place finish to stay in the race.  If he doesn’t, I fear that his campaign will end.  If he can, and then can survive until Nevada in February, he might be able to best Romney.  The two Mormon candidates battling it out for that vote in the West where they are on Huntsman’s home turf.  All of that depends on his finishing in New Hampshire, though, and if he can pick up some momentum so he doesn’t get trounced in other states.  Again his biggest drawback is going to be that he’s a moderate and not a party extremist.

With Iowa now over, the nomination is Romney’s to lose.  He didn’t campaign there very much and wasn’t making a big play for it.  Yet, he still edged out a win.  And with New Hampshire being in his political back yard, the ball is in his court. It will be interesting to see now how long this race might go on.  It could all be “theoretically” over with Florida or Nevada… though mathematically, he’d still be far short of the number of delegates needed for the nomination.  It’s all about money to mount the campaign in each state, and he’s the one candidate sitting on it and the campaign infrastructure to keep going.

UPDATE: (1/19/2012)
Upon certifying the Iowa caucus votes from January 3, Rick Santorum won the state by 34-votes over Mitt Romney.

SIDENOTE:
President Obama was not challenged in the Democratic Iowa caucus and will receive all of his party’s delegates.

SITE NOTE:
Have you checked out the Election 2012 pages yet?  Start HERE and go through them.  And don’t forget to “like” us now on Facebook if you haven’t already.

“Super” Failure

It was announced late Monday night that the supercommittee that was formed as part of the debt ceiling compromised reached earlier in the year had failed to come up with $1.2 trillion in cuts from the budget.  So now automatic cuts will take place… most of which are coming from the Defense Department, starting in 2013.  Let me ask you this…  Was anyone really surprised that this “super” committee of 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans couldn’t agree on a deal?

Washington is more polarized than ever.  Even if Party A agrees now with something that Party B said several years ago, Party B won’t agree to it now (and vice versa).  And we also have to contend with the Tea Party factor, too.  You know, the faction of the Republican Party that refuses to compromise on anything and is probably that biggest hindrance on anything being accomplished in the last 2-years because most of them don’t understand how a government truly works.  A government, and most importantly our government, has always been give and take since the beginning.  It’s what created the two chambers of Congress.  It’s what created our financial system and decided where our nation’s new capital would be located.  So why does it seem like no one these days can agree on cutting even the smallest amounts from our federal budget?  What makes compromise such a dirty word in today’s times though it’s basically what formed our nation?  Let us not forget that the Tea Party Republicans were elected in 2010 on their no-compromise platform.  So is this faction of the Republican Party to blame or is it the voting populace that actually voted them into office and believed the drivel they were being fed?

In this particular instance, you had two different ideologies at work against each other, and it basically seemed like failure was going to be the only option from day one as both sides dug in their heals and refused to cooperate.  The Democrats wanted to take away the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2%… something they’ve been hounding on since 2010 (and even as far back as the 2008 elections) and refused to accept any budget cuts until the Republicans agreed to do so. Republicans would only agree to close tax loop-holes but not tax hikes on the upper 2% of the population (who are paying their lowest percentage in income tax since income taxes became legal by the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution in 1913).  It’s the same old story we’ve heard time and time again.  They couldn’t even come to an agreement on smaller things because they couldn’t get over their bigger ideological differences.  I will, however, give some credit to Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA, who is very vocal about not raising taxes, for attempting to bridge the gap though his plan would still fail.  (You can read about the Toomey plan on the Bloomberg Businessweek website by clicking HERE.)

So does this mean that Washington is broken?  The general population tends to think it is.  Afterall, Congress has its lowest approval rating ever at 9%.  To give some bearing to this, President Richard Nixon had a higher approval rating during the height of the Watergate Scandal.  If you were to ask conservative columnist/commentator George Will this exact same question, you would get an entirely different answer.  He has repeatedly said that Washington is not broken.  This is routinely what happens when you have a two party system that have two different ideologies.  Though I respect George Will and see his point, I don’t really agree with him on this.  Yes, this does happen when you have two different political parties with two different ideologies, but throughout our history, we’ve managed to come up with solutions or compromises when our nation has needed it the most.  And yet, now, we can’t even agree to a simple $1.2 trillion in budget cuts.  And to put it into perspective, cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal budget is like taking a crumb from the crust of pie.  It’s basically all smoke and mirrors.  They look like they’re doing something when they are, in fact, doing nothing that would really curtail our rising debt by any significant measures.  And somehow, they still failed at doing nothing.

In August, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the US credit rating from AAA to AA+ marking the first time in history that has happened.  It’s main reason for doing so was the political climate in Washington and that the two political sides would not be able to come together to cut our spending and get our budget back under control.  (click HERE for report)  Our political leaders immediately screamed foul and pledged to get the deal done to prove S&P wrong and show the world that we were on top of things.  As it turns out S&P was right and maybe we earned that downgrade in our credit rating.  Washington doesn’t seem to want to solve our problems… just fight amongst themselves and stick to their political ideology rather than do what is needed for our country and for our future.

So what happens now?  S&P has already announced they won’t downgrade our credit rating over the failure to reach a deal, so I guess that is some good news.  Any budget cuts or tax increases the committee would have reached would not have gone into effect until 2013, so there is still time for Congress to dwindle the amount of cuts or eliminate the cuts completely… though President Obama is standing firm on those automatic cuts by saying that he will veto any legislation sent from Congress that takes away the automatic cuts that were part of the debt-ceiling compromise.  As for the general public in America, they need to wake up and realize that this is a bigger problem.  The voters are just as divided as the members of Congress are… which isn’t helping shed any light on the issue.  There are going to have to be major budget cuts (even more than 4-trillion) to get things back on track, and, sadly, taxes will have to be raised as well as other forms of revenue.  We can be somewhat creative in this approach though.  I have seen one Congressman suggest legalizing medical marijuana and taxing it.  Regardless, we as Americans are going to have to change how we are looking at this particular subject and what its really going to take to get us out of it.  The situation is only going to get worse.  If we don’t get a handle on this, major budget cuts are going to become massive budget cuts.  Our infrastructure that is already falling apart will be completely out of reach of being repaired.  And as for those politicians on any side of the aisle that think compromise is a dirty word, they need to be voted out of office and taught a little bit of American history.  (Sadly, most of them will probably win reelection in 2012 or beyond.)  We need to be electing officials that are will to compromise… not just give in.  Both sides should be working through their different ideologies rather than just cementing their feet into the ground and refusing to budge.  Compromise is part of the fabric of our nation.  It has made us the super-power that we are today.   And it is time that we bring the term ‘compromise’ back into the congressional dictionary and back into the light.  Only then will our elected officials and the people of this country be able to tackle this major issue.  We have the ability to do it.  We are Americans, afterall.  Now let’s get it done before the real clock does run out.  It is still ticking down.

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