Monday, October 29, 2012

Myths and fantasies


By Bill Kraus

Election season produces myths and fantasies aplenty. There is a bumper crop this year.

Attack ads work best:

They work best for the people who produce and promulgate them and convince candidates that they work best. And they are indisputably suited for soundbite politics. But to claim they work best there would have to be competing positive, position ads to compare them with. There aren’t any. Some long-suffering reporter in Colorado Springs watched 1,500 political ads this year. Five of them were positive.

The internet is today's news source:

The internet is a wonder. The internet is a library. Newspapers are in the library and on the internet. Newspapers are convenient, disposable, and aggressively comprehensive. The internet is inconvenient and aggressively specialized and segmented. Big difference.

Everybody hates the electoral college and wants the presidential election decided by the popular vote:

There is a viable alternative to the electoral college which has been around for years. State legislatures can enact laws that tell their electors they must vote for the candidate who wins the national popular vote instead of the candidate who wins the vote in their state. This does not require an impossible, unpassable constitutional amendment. Nine states have enacted this bypass legislation. These states have 131 electoral votes. If, as, and when enough states do likewise and the popular vote states bring that total to 260 votes, the electoral college will become irrelevant. This hasn’t happened. It comes with a side effect. Campaigns instead of being concentrated in the few states whose electoral votes are in play will be concentrated in urban areas where there are the most voters. No one in northern Wisconsin, for example, would ever see a presidential candidate again.

Term limits are necessary:

Term limits are also procrustean. Term limits throw a lot of good babies out with the bathwater, and enhance the power of the bureaucracy which remains while the temporary elected representatives come and go through the spinning doors of legislatures everywhere.

A less draconian suggestion is that legislatures should be part-time so that our elected representatives have one foot in the “real world.” This idea ignores a few other realities like the importance and complexity of what we have delegated to the public sector. It also, like term limits, shifts power to the permanent, fulltime bureaucracy.

Tax loopholes are a bad idea:

Loopholes by another name--incentives--smell a lot sweeter. It is obvious to even the greenest representative that tax breaks are what make the world go around. Tax breaks encourage home ownership, risky investments in untested business, grease the wheels of art, charity, religious institutions, and of even less revered but beneficial ideas like life insurance.

Employers should not tell their employees how to vote:

This would be less absurd if the employers had a way to determine how their employees do vote. Putting that aside, singling out employers is blatantly discriminatory. Everyone tells everyone how to vote or, in this era of negativity and demonization, why they should vote against someone who threatens them in any way--including economically. Unions do this routinely and use the dues they collect from their members to tell a wider audience what they tell their members about voting. The U.S. Supreme Court-blessed corporations are also very much in evidence in campaigns today, along with the opinionated billionaires and preachers who have strong views on the worthiness or lack of it incandidates. Free speech for everyone, no matter how, rich, powerful, near or far is the Holy Grail.

Social networks are what local foot soldiers and neighbors used to be and what TV commercials are:

I, not surprisingly, liked what campaigning once was when local organizations of volunteers really counted. I hate what TV-driven campaigning has done to personal participation, campaign strategies, politics, and politicians. I like the sound of social networking. I don’t know how or if it works.

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