Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lightening Rods and Listening

After the outcome of Tuesday's presidential election, I have a couple of suggestions for the Republican Party in the wake of two consecutive unsuccessful campaigns for the White House: Stop grabbing lightening rods and pay attention to what people are saying and what's going on around the country.

Sure, things like the United States economy are important, but so are the rights of its citizens; things like women's rights to make their own medical decisions.  Forget the lame attempts at commercials featuring obviously paid actors worrying how they will talk to their children about the huge deficit (like their children's eyes won't glass over when they broach the subject).

And here was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney bemoaning the fact that Florida was in dire straits, while that state's governor was on CNBC touting Florida's business fortunes.  Didn't you wonder why he wasn't climbing aboard the GOP bandwagon?  And the gall of wanting New Jersey's governor to take time out from the disaster that left thousands devastated from the destruction the most recent storm.  I mean, really?  And you were miffed that Gov. Chris Christie offered a warm welcome to President Barack Obama who showed up to pledge the nation's support in time of need?  Please.

Both Christie and Florida Gov. Rick Scott were talking but the GOP wasn't listening.

In the case of lightening rods. consider the vice presidential running mates selected by the campaigns of both Sen. John McCain and Romney.

First, look at who was tabbed to be a heartbeat away from the presidency should something happen to McCain:  the moose-hunter from Alaska, then Gov. Sarah Palin.  Yeah, like that was a smart decision.  Can you imagine how the rest of the world would react to her shrill, high-pitched rantings?

Maybe someone in McCain's camp thought that was a good idea, but it's hard to imagine the senator had much to do with the choice.

Then, rather than meet the Hispanic issue head on and name someone like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to join his crusade, Romney's camp picked an even more polarizing U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, whose ideas threw the fear of God into retirees, who worried that their Social Security and Medicare entitlements would be in jeopardy.  And while both Romney and Ryan pledged to repeal so-called Obamacare, neither offered an alternative health care plan.

Former President George W. Bush understood and could relate to some degree to the growing Hispanic population and did fairly well with that constituency.  At one point McCain crossed party lines to propose a plan to deal with illegal immigrants. But McCain's willingness to deal with the issue was quickly overshadowed once Mama Grizzly Palin came aboard.  And that discussion became lost in the fiscal rhetoric of the Romney campaign. 

So here's the deal.  In the future, the GOP needs to avoid lightening rods.  They are dangerous to a candidate's political health.  And, pay attention to what's really going on in the country; listen to what is being said and be cognizant of what really matters to people.  Oh, and try to be more inclusive.  You aren't and haven't been for some time.

Will these suggestions pave the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?  Maybe, maybe not, but what's been tried in recent campaigns haven't.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We the "People"

After today, election 2012 will be just another entry in the history books.  And I don't know if there has ever been a more tiresome, hate-filled race as that between the incumbent, Barack Obama and the challenger, former Gov. Willard Mitt Romney.

The hate didn't pour into the race from the contestants; it came from the nameless contributors to the super-pacs, who stand back unaccountable to anyone for their false claims.  These people turned the race into a $2 billion event, an obscene amount considering that both Obama and Romney bemoaned throughout how people were "hurting" in America.

Hurting?  Really?  Would either of them recognize real hurt?  Romney certainly wouldn't, since he never experienced it. Obama lived it in his early childhood, claims to know the pain felt by the hungry and unemployed, but one has to wonder how vivid those memories are.

But all of that aside, it would be nice if the new Congress, as one of its priorities in the coming years, addressed the one issue that made this presidential race as costly and full of vitriol: the definition of "people".

The United State Supreme Court ruled a while back that corporations are "people", thereby giving them the right to contribute unlimited amounts of money to what became known as super pacs, those faceless entities that could say anything, do anything, contribute any amount to any candidate and stand unanswerable to anyone.

But are these corporate organizations really "people"?  I think not.  They don't operate under the same rules of bankruptcy as Average Joe, for instance;  they don't pay at the same tax rate as the majority of individuals, and their tax obligations are greatly minimized by the allowed deductions that are not available to Average Joe.  And when a corporation is sued, little pain is felt by the "people" within that business structure.  In fact, the protection from lawsuit is one of the primary reasons corporations are formed.

All of this aside, the only way of changing what has become a campaign finance free-for-all is for Congress to say to the mega rich: "Stop it.  Your corporate largess is no longer welcome.  We are legislatively determining that you are not 'people'.  Your contributions will be under the same limitations as Joe Average."

What would that accomplish?  Certainly campaign season would be shortened due to fewer funds available for travel and advertisements, and the mute buttons of television remotes would not be worn out from overuse during political commercials.  (Okay, so the last point was maybe a little factious.  Sorry.)  More important, the playing field would be closer to level for not only the candidates, but also voters. 

Yes, I recognize that the campaign field is never completely level.  Let's face it: we're a nation of haves and have-nots, even though we are reluctant to admit it.  If you want to run for national office (even statewide office, for that matter) you better have quite a few bucks in the old war chest.

What are the odds of Congress doing anything to more accurately define "people"?
Probably more than a million to one, considering most of them are millionaires who have benefited from the court's ridiculous ruling.

So the campaigns of 2012 will have ended by tonight.  Let the mid-term battles of 2014 and presidential election campaign of 2016 and the flow of money begin.