Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Salon.com Arts & Entertainment | Wish upon a star

Posted by shannonclark on December 5, 2003

Salon.com Arts & Entertainment | Wish upon a star

Article about celebrity driven “get out the vote” campaigns. I think that these are pretty much doomed to not live up to their organizers expectations.

More critically I think that the organizers of “get out the vote” need to connect to voters and big and small issues. In general I think that the best way to “get out the vote” would be to be competitive and offer solid options in local elections as well as the general election.

If you look at the California recall election, for just one example, it actually ended up with the winner winning with more actual votes than the previous election.

I think that Democrats (and Republicans) alike are all too complecant and willing to give into gerrymandering and assumptions that they are not competitive in most districts these days. In both the primary and general elections there are far too many candidates who end up running virtually unopposed. This cannot be a healthy thing for a democracy. At the very least, an active opposition forces the incombant (or the otherwise going to be unopposed candidate) to declare themselves on issues and to listen to the voters and perhaps change positions on certain issues to address voter’s concerns.

Here in Chicago we are a virtual one-party system, it is rare if ever that a Democrat faces a serious opponent in any local election, which means that many very important positions (such as local judges) go unopposed.

Most critically, it means that many voters take the very reasonable position of “what does my vote matter when I am not even making a choice?”

I have a feeling that were a third party to be created, it would have the best shot of getting some candidates elected by running almost exclusively in “safe” districts, i.e. those districts where the incumbants have generally won without opposition and likely have grown more than a bit complacent. There, serious “get out the vote” activism built on top of active online and offline work, and perhaps backed by celebrity media access and money could have a real and critical impact on the country.

For example, all it would take is a small handful of senators, or a slightly large number of representatives for a third party to have enough votes to mean that neither party held a majority, as a result that third party would have a very strong negotiating position to further their goals.

This would have to be done with compromises, but alot could be achieved and further this would be a self-reinforcing cycle. The voters in that district would see that the third party (once it achieves enough clout to be the swing votes in the house or senate) would offer a very compelling argument of influence and power.

On the minus side, the structures of the Congress have grown up around the assumption of two parties, everything from the rules of committees and the floor generally assume that independants or third party candidates if present are very minor and generally unimportant. With enough votes to deny either party a majority however, this would change. Likely it would mean that various committee appointments would be offered, as well as other compromises to accomodate the third party.

At some point in the future I hope to see such a party form. Tenatively I am calling this the “Centrist” party – i.e. not a party of one extreme or the other, but a party that is socially liberal but fiscally conservative while being comitted to globalism, free trade, and an active involvement of the US in the world (this is in contrast to the Libertarians though this party might share with them many views). I do think that this party would find a large and reasonably solid base of support throughout the country.

Republicans who are more socially liberal than their current leadership, and who are strongly in favor of small government and free trade (which the current steel tarrifs and other trade issues cast some doubt about the current leadership’s positions) would be attracted to this party. In fact, even some conservative Republicans who while they might disagree with some of the social positions of the party (pro-choice for example) might find the arguement that “Government should not force a moral agenda on the people” a compelling one.

Democrats who are looking for an alternative to the current party’s infatuation with every possible special interest group without seemingly being able to clearly state what the party is for (and who might be annoyed with the definition of the party as anti-Republican instead of actively for something) would be attracted by the social positions as well as potentially by the fiscal responsibility. The arguement that our children and their children should not be burdened with unmanageable debts and that the budget and deficits should be brought under control could sway many as well.

However, some Democrats might find the globalism aspects controversal, especially the ones that are in favor of free trade, removal of protectionism in American policy (and active negotiations and diplomacy to strive to get our partners such as the EU to do the same), an active engagement in the world (which might include the use of our military force) complicated. Certainly many unions would find these difficult points. However, the more innovative and open minded unions might also recognize that to compete in a global environment the US will best succeed by openness and engagement, as well their members will see changes as a result of global free trade, but the US has many advantages and resources and with planning and care they can ensure that their members have a significent and positive role in the future.

As well, by trading with the world and by being actively engaged, we have an opportunity to raise the quality of life around the globe. This means that working conditions, life expectancy, health, education, and opportunity will all be growing around the globe. As a world, when anyone from anywhere has an opportunity to stretch themselves we will see more and more gains as less and less of our collective intelligence, intution, and skill goes unused.

Somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa there are genuses with the ability to solve many of the major problems of the world, with access to education, health, food, shelter and other resources, as well as the political structures to be involved in the world these individuals may have a chance to impact our globe for the better.

Anyway, I’m an optimist at heart.

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