We’ve all known that kid. Any number of activities could be used to illustrate, but I’ll keep it simple and just say you’re playing badminton.
You’re using one of those cheapo badminton sets with maybe ONE reasonably straight racket out of four, which he keeps for himself, because it’s his set. He takes the side of the net with the sun at his back and in your eyes. The side without the doggie do to watch out for. He makes up his own rules in the middle of the game. He bickers over calls that a ref would make if there were a ref. At some point, maybe when the bird goes astray, he stops to talk to the hot babe next door while you stand there like a fool wondering whether he’s going to continue the game or not. If he loses a round, he whines to play another round until he wins. Maybe this happens with several people he plays with, and eventually, whenever he proposes a game, eyes turn down, voices are stilled. Everyone is just a little too polite to tell him why no one is interested.
We’ve all known that kid. Most of us have BEEN that kid from time to time. If we’re smart, we learn to recognize the situation and mitigate it somehow, and prevent repeats.
That’s the Dems saying “Low turnout killed us! Why aren’t more people showing up to vote? How can we get them to show up? Would it do any good to, like, take a stand for something? Nah….”
Do you get the analogy? If not, it’s probably because you still think it’s a game between Dems and Reps. It’s not. It’s Dems and Reps on one side, and everyone else on the other. Over the years, the Republicrats have maintained a hodgepodge of election laws that look like 43 man squamish (Click the text if you don’t know what I’m talking about.), and then wonder why so few people want to play.
So how do you get more people to play?
Well, the Reps learned this long ago. Their marketing strategy appeals to certain groups that have rather narrow interests, often nonsensical interests, but they appeal to those interests anyway. They propose laws that might have no chance of passing, or pass laws that have no chance of being upheld by the courts, just so they can point out to the fanatics they appeal to that they’re TRYING. In the process, it makes the most ridiculous right-wing proposals part of the conversation and CHANGES THE TERMS OF THE DEBATE. This is the long game, and it works.
So what should they be proposing? I’ve only said it four of five times before in this blog, but here it is again: Reform the election laws. If you’re a Democrat, consider being worthy of the name and take a stand for…. wait for it….. democracy. Give people a reason to believe that their votes have some chance of having an effect on policy.
If reform isn’t possible because too many legislators are too corrupt, those who propose it can rake them over the coals for their corruption. Some things would take constitutional amendments that would fail, but it’s a chance to change the terms of the debate, and make fools of those opposing them.
A good many reforms could be proposed by ballot measure, state-by-state or city-by-city. You’re familiar with that technique, right? Putting an attention-grabbing measure on the ballot just to get people into the voting booth? It works with marijuana, why not with democracy?
If you really want more people to show up, you’ll do this. Here are just a few ideas, starting at the top:
Amend the Constitution to:
Elect the presidential ticket by nationwide IRV
– Candidates would qualify for the ballot by gathering signatures equal to maybe a quarter of a percent of the registered voters in the country. (around half a million, as it stands now). Paid signature gathering would be outlawed. It must be done entirely by unpaid volunteers. The percentage could be adjusted down if there are less than five candidates qualifying, but cannot be adjusted up.
– Running mates would be chosen from the start and named on the qualifying petitions.
Abolish the Senate
Any of these ideas would be a pretty obvious improvement over the current system. The same can be proposed for state legislatures, state-by-state.
Elect city councils and similar-sized local boards by STV
Can be proposed one little locality at a time. It takes a while to explain, but makes sense. If you have any advertising budget at all, it’s worth it just to get people thinking a little.
Abolish the use of large amounts of private funds to influence elections.
This could be attempted at any level of government, and let the Supremes make themselves fools knocking it down again and again.
– Outlaw the use of paid signature-gathering for initiatives and adjust the number of signatures required to be within reach of a volunteer grassroots effort.
– Anyone using more than $1,000 per year of personal wealth (indexed to inflation) to influence an election by advertising would pay heavy fines, increasing hyperbolically with the amount spent. A “duck test” could be applied to “issue advocacy” used to influence an election. Lotsa fun for the lawyers, taking into account the targeting and timing of an ad, and its relevance to a particular election. Non-profit PACS could still operate and pool funds to influence elections, but the $1,000 per person limit would still apply, and all donors to PACS would be published. Corporations would of course NOT be considered people for this purpose.
– Candidates trying to qualify for the ballot, and later, running on the ballot, could each get an equal campaign budget provided by the level of government that they’re running for. No other funds could be used, subject to heavy penalties or disqualification.
– Political parties, qualifying by a reasonable number of registrations, could receive a budget from the state or feds sufficient to maintain an office, employ a few policy experts to draft a platform, and maybe hold a convention once a year to ratify that platform, and maybe select candidates for a slate used in PR elections. Only in a PR election would they be given a budget for campaigning as a party. Otherwise, they would exist mainly as a base for organizing unpaid volunteers, and would not be allowed to spend money for a candidate’s campaign.
Require voting machines to be open-source, and print paper backups to be used for spot checking and recounts.
These are all fairly easy things to understand, that would at least get people thinking. Why hasn’t ANY of it been proposed by the state or national leadership of either “major” party in my lifetime?
Do I really have to say it?
Plugging my collection of educational materials one more time::