Do Dems want advice? Doubt it.

GarbosorrowIn the commentary following the Dems’ expected mid-term drubbing, I’m getting echos of childhood and not-so-childhood.  Let’s see if you can follow me here.

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.

nobodylikesyoucareSome people don’t learn, or don’t want to learn.

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….”

systembuilthiswaysmallDo 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.

sidewalkclosedThe Dems don’t seem to do this at all.

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.

installingdemocracysmallA 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

NorthKoreanlaughdemocracyA voter in North Dakota has about 3.4 times as much influence over the Senate as a voter in California. There’s nothing more obviously ridiculous. So ridicule it, already.

Elect the House by IRV within district, or nationwide by party list PR, or make a bicameral legislature with one of each

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::

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9 Responses to Do Dems want advice? Doubt it.

  1. Campaign finance reform is a good place to start. I agree, this supposed democracy has gone side-wise. The problem is complicate and so the solution is just as complicated. It’s not a, as you say, a Dem v. Rep. issue. It goes so much deeper. We don’t have an informed citizenry, big business buys our government (both parties), life-time politicians have lost touch with what it means to struggle to live in the America they don’t ever see, … and on and on…

  2. Darius Sarrafi says:

    Well said, Mudge! The problem is that Americans would much rather drown themselves in their multitude of shallow pastimes than to change the world for the better. Changing the world for the better has been so stigmatized by the spin meisters that it is not chic to do it. Conformity and obsequiousness is in vogue!

  3. Sharon Toji says:

    I’m a huge fan of neighbor to neighbor informational campaigning. I tried to get the Irvine Dems to think about it, but they put their efforts into yes, distributing information door to door, but it was non-personal. I write my own notes, copy them off, sign them, put in at least one type of way to contact me — sometimes my address as well, and take them door to door in my three neighboring precincts. In past election cycles, we tracked the voting, and the Democrats turned out to vote by an increase of 40 percent over a three year period (two elections). People are afraid to identify themselves. When someone understands that it is a neighbor saying, “you know, Larry Agran is not a crook or a racist. A lot of developer money is going toward telling you that, but why don’t you look at the facts for yourself before you fall for it,” it does have an impact. We didn’t win, because I didn’t do enough, and most others put all their efforts elsewhere. But I personally know of votes I did change by doing that. Old fashioned precinct captains, who work throughout the entire cycle, not just a month before the election, getting to know their neighbors and making sure that their neighbors know them, can do a huge amount to counter the expensive television ads and slick slimy mailers put out by the opposition. It isn’t that people will always vote in a manner influenced by those lies, but often they will stay home in disgust. If you can counter by showing by example that giving up and staying home just increases the reasons for disgust, I think it might help. It certainly would be worth a try! I’m 78, been at this since I was a little girl, and I’m too old to stop. I like your ideas. And I agree: Let’s go ahead and propose what we know should happen, and let them be the naysayers. I went with a hopeless issue to the last Irvine City Planning Commission. I’m going to be back again. I hope others will keep on making these people advertise through their actions and votes just who the true villains are.

    • kitchenmudge says:

      Ah, you remember a time when people actually paid attention and talked to their neighbors. When a teenage girl having a phone in her room was a big deal. Remember that?

      I’m not an Irvine resident, but proposing STV there might be a quite worthy project. Would Mr. Agran like to draft an initiative?

  4. Laurie Martinez says:

    I appreciate your research and analysis of these important topics.

  5. Pingback: APOCALYPSE NOW & THEN | kitchenmudge

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