The Love Chronicles, A Political Conversation

Posted: May 3, 2013 in News and politics
Tags: , , , , ,

A Political Facebook Conversation

I was participating in a conversation that was inspired by a post on Facebook by my best friend. It immediately attracted several of my acquaintances in a spirited conversation about our American political system, it’s pitfalls and several different and sometimes opposing views on how we should effect change.  Usually a point or two have been made in these types of posts before they stray off into he says she says limbo. In this case it did not and I think some valid points were made. I am going to try and see if I can give you, the reader, and an accurate synopsis of this conversation. It will be a little wordy, and sometimes repetitive, but in order to make sense of the different points being put forward I may have no choice. I will try to make an effort to keep it as concise and to the point as I can.  It started out with the following post making the statement as follows by the person, my friend, who will be called the Author for purposes of identification.

“I have been curious lately concerning how low the ratings of our Politicians in Washington are, and yet we keep voting them in. I have come to the conclusion that there are two reasons. The first is that the Democratic and Republican Parties have become so powerful that they prevent other candidates from entering the race. The second is that our current Political System is so corrupt that we have became inured to the to failings, and just accept it as business as usual. Both reasons are sad to me because the answer is so simple; we use the vote to change the entire process.”

“We were founded as a Republic because our Founding Fathers believed a Democracy would result in a Mob Rule. A Republic and a Democracy are identical in every aspect except one. In a Republic the sovereignty is in each individual person. In a Democracy the sovereignty is the group. Sadly, our Republic seems to be dead, and Mob Rule in its’ most unruly form as business as usual in our Nation’s Capital. All that is important to our Politicians is that their particular Mob rules over the other Mob, and the rights of its’ supposedly sovereign citizens, us, are left in the wayside.”

“On a side note, the Constitution seems to be forgotten by all. It is commonplace for our politicians as well as our citizens to forget the bill of rights as our emotions rule over our rights. At one time The Federal Government was limited by the Constitution, and the rights of the States were paramount in the recognition that we embrace our differences as well as our individual sovereign rights. As per the Constitution, all rights that are not spelled out in the Constitution are granted to the States.”

“It is also a fact that I as an individual can provide for myself much better than any political body. I am proudly registered as a Constitutionalist rather than a Republican or a Democrat! Just saying…..”

This statement is what started a long debate. The Author of the original post was asked if we are to use the vote to vote out incumbents or to impress upon our government bodies what it is we demand they do, why then do we still need and use the Electoral College.

The Author responded with, “If you read the Constitution, the Electoral College has morphed into something controlled by the Political Parties. As stated in the Constitution, all States are given an equal single vote in the election of the President. Also, the President is supposedly NOT to be of a Political Party (this last statement is worded poorly, sorry) As it stands right now, States like Idaho do not have a say in the election of the President. The only reason I can see as to why our State Legislature allow this is that they accept the limitations in order for the power to be in the hands of the Political Parties. I recommend reading “The Evolution and Destruction of the Electoral College” by Gary and Carolyn Alder. It is not too long, and easy reading. It is an eye opener….. Oh, and John, in reading it, I also discovered that as you my belief that my thinking that the Electoral College was founded due to poor education and communication was in error. The actual reasoning is that it is a process in finding the best American Statesman to lead and represent our Country apart for the Political Process and the Political Parties.”

I responded to this with the following statement. “I ordered your book but the two links I am giving you have some good points and seem to be addressing the same issue. They do however, touch on scattered populations only connected by rail in major population centers, and that everyone, without the communication advantages of today would just vote for the favorite son, the local guy from each state. It also touches on how the original framers of the Electoral College believed in part, that political parties were evil entities and not the way to elect a president. Now that struck a cord. So in the original 13 states, I can see how this was not such a bad idea. As a matter of fact, probably a good one, as the only other solutions were to elect the president by the federal or state congresses, with the popular vote not considered because of the afore mentioned voting of each state for the favorite son not giving a president a mandate from the country to preside. Today this is not the case, as we are connected by an information highway, as convoluted as it may be.”

This second link has several headings, all about different aspects of how we vote and how the system handles it, but there is one on Electoral College. Several have insights that are worthy of our attention.”

The Electoral College – Origin and History

The Author responded with the following. “Your links are close, very close, to my understanding of the Electoral College. However, originally, it was a NOMINATING process, not a voting process. However it always had the stipulation that if there were a clear majority during the nominating process, that individual would be President. The amendment changed the word nominating to voting. It was and still is a one vote per State process if there is not a clear majority. The process we are following with two candidates running chosen by the Political Parties is unconstitutional from both the original and existing Electoral College system. As I said earlier, the Electoral College system has “morphed” into what it is today; a system controlled by the Political Parties. Sadly, I have yet to see anyone stand up and yell foul from the States, which do not have a say in the election of a President. Again, the only reason I can think of for this is that the Political Parties do not want to give up their control of the Presidency.”

At this point some inappropriate comments were made, starting with me, which do not contribute to the timber of this conversation, so I will skip them. There were some queries made by other participants asking if in all this back and forth was anyone offering any solutions. Someone else commented that in all this information somewhere solutions were to be had, or at least the germination of thought processes should have started. In an attempt to answer the query I added the following. “Well, my solution would be to abolish all political parties, each candidate would campaign on his or her qualifications for the job, everyone would just vote their choice. We would still need primaries to narrow the field, then a general election, all done without party affiliation, The politicians at the state and federal level would have no allegiance to any party, or pressure from said entities, and would better vote their conscience and be able to work with anyone of like mind they wished. Then you shoot all lobbyists, problem solved!

Since I wrote the latter, I would like to add that what I imagined is that anyone could run for President, for example, but they would have to get a qualifying petition to get on the ballet. Then a convention would be convened, with only the two top vote getters attending out of all candidates that ran. The convention would be used for the candidates to announce their choice of a running mate, and allow that person to introduce himself and why he was chosen, so forth and so on. Then no advertisements would be allowed. Each candidate could have televised statements about what they have planned for the country and why they should be elected, I would not even like to see a debate, you know how those tend to go.

There were some various conversations, links shared, and opinions given about what had been said. Then a new voice entered the conversation. Now I happen to find that I agree with this gentlemen’s point of view, almost without reservation, so I just thought at this point this should be mentioned. He added the following.  “Gentlemen, the problem, in a nutshell, is money. Money controls both parties. Money is the grease that makes our political / election system run. We desperately need to remodel election financing. Our representatives in Washington D.C. spend at least a third of their time pandering to wealthy donors. A side note: a Republic is a form of Democracy, just as a Chevy is a form of car. They are not two entirely different things.” We will call this person Gentleman A, for further reference.

The original Author came back with, “So are you saying there is no hope, or that the remodel of campaign finances should come first? I agree that financing is an important part of how elections are run today, and, concerning that issue (and in my opinion), all campaigns should have either a cap, or that they need to be limited to free public announcements on all news media; basically a resume and invitation to debate public forums. I know, that last won’t work, but the cap might eventually have hope; after all they do it in sports, why not politics. What I AM hoping for is for a grass roots campaign that will start holding our elected officials accountable, and to actually follow the Constitution as it was intended as, “The Law Of The Land.” No way to know if it will work, but there seems to be a little interest, and a lot of discontent. We can either say we the people have no money so we can’t fight the system, or try to build a grass roots political movement. As people say, you need to vote to make your voice heard, but as it stands now, your vote is for one of two sides of the same coin, perpetuating the problems, not the solutions. Be it folly or not, I, for one, am unwilling to sit back and do nothing.”

I would like to note at this juncture that I firmly believe that a fair and low cap be set on campaigns, thus allowing a broader base of individuals to compete for office. No funds from those represented by any lobby, foreign governments, big business, or special interest groups. The only contributions should come from registered voters, period.

At this point two of the other participants asked pertinent questions about the Authors comments about a democracy and a republic and what the differences were? The Author responded thusly, “My main thoughts concerning Republic vs. Democracy, is that in a Republic the individual has more importance than he/she does in a Democracy. The United States was formed as a Republic so the individual can become the best he/she can be. In a Democracy, the individual has no importance other than part of the group. What has made the US great in the past was that the individual could achieve greatness on his/her own terms. Think about why freedom means so much to us. Freedom to voice our opinion, freedom to own our piece of the pie, freedom to achieve the American dream! We are loosing that freedom as our elected officials “socialize” America. Think of Obama Care where we as Individuals are forced to buy into the system being administered to the mob. We no longer will have the ability to make our own choice concerning medical care. You can see that many Government programs are being forced on us for our own supposed good. The final outcome of that is that we are being forced to accept mediocrity instead of being allowed to achieve greatness. I wish I could actually express what is in my heart and soul concerning this idea. I worry that my children will never have the chance to have the same freedoms that I have enjoyed.”

Gentleman A responded with, “Sir, I’m not sure I understand your definitions of “democracy” and “republic.” It almost sounds as if you are coming up with your own definitions. It may be that you are thinking of the difference in the same way the founding fathers did, which has changed in modern usage, but the terms democracy and republic have changed their meaning today. Under the definition that modern people in the world use, there are 5 basic forms of democracy:

Direct democracy is a political system where the citizens participate in the decision-making personally, contrary to relying on intermediaries or representatives.

Representative democracy involves the election of government officials by the people being represented. If the head of state is also democratically elected then it is called a democratic republic. The most common mechanisms involve election of the candidate with a majority or a plurality of the votes.

Parliamentary democracy is a representative democracy where government is appointed by representatives as opposed to a ‘presidential rule’ wherein the President is both head of state and the head of government and is elected by the voters. Under a parliamentary democracy, government is exercised by delegation to an executive ministry and subject to ongoing review, checks and balances by the legislative parliament elected by the people.

A constitutional democracy is a representative democracy in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of law, and usually moderated by a constitution that emphasizes the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals, and which places constraints on the leaders and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities.

Hybrid democracy: Some modern democracies that are predominately representative in nature also heavily rely upon forms of political action that are directly democratic. These democracies, which combine elements of representative democracy and direct democracy, are termed hybrid democracies or semi-direct democracies. Examples include Switzerland and some U.S. states, where frequent use is made of referendums and initiatives.

Democracy Variants:

Republic: In contemporary usage, the term democracy refers to a government chosen by the people, whether it is direct or representative. The term republic has many different meanings, but today often refers to a representative democracy with an elected head of state, such as a president, serving for a limited term, in contrast to states with a hereditary monarch as a head of state, even if these states also are representative democracies with an elected or appointed head of government such as a prime minister.

The Founding Fathers of the United States rarely praised and often criticized democracy, which in their time tended to specifically mean direct democracy, often without the protection of a Constitution enshrining basic rights. Republicanism may be distinguished from other forms of democracy as it asserts that people have unalienable rights that cannot be voted away by a majority of voters. What was critical to American values, John Adams insisted, was that the government be “bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend.”

Ok, you might want to let that sink in and maybe read that twice. I took and completed a course in college covering local, state, and the federal government and got an “A”, but have to admit that I now wish I had more formal education in these areas. Gentleman A continued, “The rights of the individual is always in conflict with the rights of the group. We have always lived in a country in which there is a compromise between pure, selfish, free market Capitalism, and everybody pulling together, which you might call Socialism at some point. Even civic clubs have to have rules that deny the rights of individuals to do whatever the hell they want to. That’s a loss of freedom, but there is always, ALWAYS a balance between freedom for the individual and the good of the group as a whole. Where that line is drawn is where people disagree.”

The Author answered, “I admit to being both a Constitutionalist, and an advocate of Austrian Economics. My arguments tend to follow along those lines. And many (some?), including me feel that our unalienable rights are being bent beyond recognition. Our Government since the early 20th Century has became increasing top down. Some of the histories of Presidents I have studied, trying to determine if the spending frenzies instituted by both President Hoover, and President Roosevelt (FDR) actually ended the Great Depression, point out that our leaders at the beginning of the 20th Century felt that a controlled society would lead to a better life for all. It was shortly after the time that Thoreau and Emerson postulated their Utopian ideals, which may have also contributed (I’m reaching here) to the birth of communism (notice the small case “c”, (I’m sure you know why that is important). Back on subject, read Ronald Thompson posts concerning a ruling class existing in America today. I found that very interesting and apropos to our discussion.”

Gentleman A responded with the following, “The Author stated, “What I AM hoping for is for a grass roots campaign that will start holding our elected officials accountable,…” There are numerous grass roots movements dedicated to improving our political system. And yes, I do very much think getting the money out of politics is one of the initial keys to reform. The primary motivation of politicians is to stay in office/power – to stay in office they need money – to get money, they have to please those who can afford to give it to them.”

The Author responded, “Granted, the article of the link provided is from a Conservative Publication, so you might want to dismiss it as propaganda. That point given, I looked for statistics, and found many all showing an increase over time. However, none of them discuss the reasons; whether the rise is due to unemployment, or due to the unwillingness to work based on various individual motivations. It is not an easy question to answer. Nevertheless here is an interesting article.”

Gentleman A response was as follows, “I don’t have a lot of time or energy to research this, but what I did find leads me to believe, yes more people are becoming dependent on government assistance. But most of that increase has happened since the economic crash of 2008.

Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has surged 70% since 2008, reaching a record 47.8 million Americans in December 2012. That means 15% of the country receives the benefits, nearly double the rate as in 1975. That would be about 9% on SNAP in 2008 plus 70% (6.3) = 15.3%. So most of the increase in SNAP participants “can all be explained by a slow job market, more pockets of poverty and a push from states to get residents to apply for SNAP, reports The Wall Street Journal.” “An official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture told The Journal he expects the rolls to shrink as the economy continues to improve.”

More people on assistance, while at the same time the wealthiest of Americans have become richer and the income gap is the widest in modern history, can be interpreted as the deck being stacked in favor of those at the top – the big banks, the corporations that profit from shipping jobs out of the country, etc.”

The author responded to this by adding, “The one thing in the article that jumped out at me was that the Government Agencies running the programs actually were encouraging people to apply for their programs. This, of course, is typical of Government ran Agencies. Spend more money, so your budget increases, one of the things that is “wrong” with our current system is that increased Government Spending increases inflation. What many don’t realize is that inflation is basically a “hidden” tax. First it reduces the impact of the debt by allowing the Government to pay back it’s loans with cheaper dollars than it originally borrowed, and it wasn’t for still running a deficit, the ratio of debt to GNP would reduce accordingly. The second and most horrendous problem with inflation is that it is passed down the line with the bottom level of consumers, us, picking up the entire tab. This is one of the major causes of the rich getting richer, and the poor, poorer. I hesitate about saying it is the only cause, because of the financial greed of people manipulating money as a commodity in order to create wealth out of the thin air. I wish there was a way of taxing the generation of wealth by manipulation without also taxing companies trying to build wealth by actually making a tangible product. If there was, I would be 100% behind taxing that wealth at astronomical levels.”

So with that I will conclude. I did leave out several well-written and cogent passages by other participants, but I had to basically concentrate on the conversation between the Author and Gentleman A in order for this not to turn into a novel. Of course you did also have to put up with blather by me, but hey, it is my blog after all! I hope this is read by all of my readers, it is a little long, but I think you should know what it is your contemporaries are discussing. If any of you have comments, there is a place provided on my blog. If you want to email me, feel free!

  1. James Mahon says:

    Great synopsis John, and I agree that it was a good idea to limit your blog to the thread you did. Some of the “intellectuals rabbits” being chased, I think, detracted from the original intent. Also, I felt that the responses, including mine, were too long, and sometimes seemed written to show the writers intellectual prowess, instead of actually contributing. Since the thread you synsopsized (I think I am making up a word here, or am just showing I don’t know how to spell) was written on a social forum, it’s intent was to share it with others. However, the length of the responses, I’m sure, bored them to tears, and lost many of the readers, thus failing in it’s original intent. I think your blog allows others to read the “heart” of the original thread without the problem of chasing down the message….

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