Thursday, March 19, 2015

Voting—Part II

     There's been ample talk of our nation's broken healthcare system so I won't reiterate that now, but given the U.S. population's repulsion with Congress's handling of its job (75% disapproval rating), greater disapproval than approval of the way the U.S. president and Supreme Court are handling their jobs, and all-time low voter turnouts since WWII in the last national election (37%), the argument could be made that our nation's leaders in all three branches of government are ill-representing the will of the people and that America's system of “democracy” (representative form of government, really, a far cry from true democracy whereby majority rules in all cases) is thereby itself ill, dysfunctional, and/or broken.
     True, America's leaders were never very representative—not back when nearly all were white, well-to-do men, and only wealthy white males were allowed to vote. Yet even today, with half the nation's voters female and minority groups on the rise, why is there still such a dearth of female and minority representation in Congress, the Supreme Court, and the executive branch? 
     I'm not complaining about the overall system as I recognize the value of our Constitution and the rule of law, however, without proportionate representation of women, minorities, teachers, accountants, social workers, blue collar workers, the unemployed, the poor, immigrants, and youth at all levels and in all branches of government, the people's will will continue to be ill-served by elected and appointed leaders. So can citizens be blamed for disengaging and not voting considering how leaders' capricious laws and edicts are passed, signed, issued, and forced upon them by mostly white male attorneys in D.C. and others equally disconnected at all levels of government?
     At the root of the problem lies big money influence in elections and politics, which has gotten obscene—everyone knows this, yet average exasperated citizens feel powerless to do anything about it 'cause past efforts to obliterate, reform, or even moderate such outsized influence have resulted in only paltry, token changes. I believe this can and will change when things get bad enough (yes, things can and will worsen 'cause greed knows no bounds) 'cause all governments, even ruthless dictatorships (as four time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Eugene Sharp pointed out) derive all their powers and privileges from citizens, and citizens always have the ability and power to revoke all such granted powers and privileges. And I'm not talking about voting do-nothing or corrupt politicians out of office, either, 'cause even responsible voting won't change a thing when there are only slim-pickin' just-as-bad alternative candidates to choose from that will change things only to the extent an exterior decorator might who dresses up a ramshackle, beaten down, worn, old, musty, hob-mailed, condemned, termite-ridden shack with a fresh coat of white-with-blue-tint or white-with-red-tint paint, take your pick.
     No, citizens will have to move en masse via a ground swell, a movement so persistent, powerful, and ever building that it can no longer be ignored or contained, a movement that may include but not be limited to recurring gestures, communications, gatherings, protests, marches, sign wavings, firestorm publications, and other campaigns legal and nonviolent, a movement that does not quit despite minor efforts to appease, a movement that continues calm in righteous confidence until those in power finally realize they have no choice, having been effectively stripped of all implied powers and privileges or nearly so, they must step aside or change to conform to the people's will.
     Small gestures from large numbers can mean a lot in aggregate, far more even than big dollar campaign contributions and other influence peddling and lobbying by wealthy individuals, special interests, and corporations. 
     Imagine if the 145 million non-voters in the last election placed one brick each to form a wall around the White House, Congress, and U.S. Supreme Court to symbolize citizens' will to block would-be buyers of influence from those hallowed institutions. I imagined there'd be a pretty high wall. Turns out a ten foot high brick wall would extend 345 miles, long enough to surround all of Washington D.C. city and then some. 
     Or imagine if those non-voting citizens instead mailed their individual bricks to either one of their congressmen, the president, or the U.S. Supreme Court. The resultant 5.6 million cubic feet of bricks would form a solid block 6 stories high and cover two football fields. Picture the highrise construction cranes and dump trucks necessary to move those loads.  
     Or imagine if each of those same 145 million non-voters instead got a bundle of Monopoly or Life play money, dirtied it, and mailed portions (instead of a brick) to each institution and enclosed in the packets a signed declaration that said, “campaign finance reform.” Such a deluge would certainly be unprecedented, the message would be clear and convincing, and recipients would no doubt feel convicted of the need for change, change requiring immediate action lest more demonstrative actions be forthcoming.
     My kids agreed to help me dirty some play money and to write and sign a note each: mine will go to our (local boy) U.S. president, Braden's to the Supreme Court, Penelope's to Senator Schatz, and Jaren's to Representative Takai. It may take awhile, but the removal of dirty money from politics may happen during their lifetimes if not mine. 
     Twenty-seven years ago I said, “No minority will ever be elected president in my lifetime,” yet citizens surprised me and I suppose something similar could happen again with this. Clean elections with attractive, ordinary citizen candidates—what a thought!
     Finally, about non-voters, let's stop assuming they're lazy, indifferent, apathetic, or take-your-pick pejorative label. Perhaps non-voting is their way of demonstrating—effectively boycotting what they consider to be sham elections that only perpetuate the powers of non-representative insiders responsive only to big business and special interest benefactors. My dad would make a better representative than ninety percent of the choices I see 'cause he has real character, integrity, and heart, and as an intelligent, thoughtful, and understanding retired school principal, knows real people and the issues. I always say Barbara Bush would have made a far better and more compassionate and humble president than either of her Bush kinfolk—kept us out of wars at least. And I'm sure everyone can think of an uncle, friend, coworker, grandparent, or other associate who'd make a fantastic and/or superior Supreme Court justice, president, senator, or representative.
     Numbered among nonvoters is now my mom, historically one of the most responsible, up-to-date, knowledgeable, and thoughtful voters around. She has even stopped following political coverages, deeming them all wastes of time. Why the sudden changes? Because, in short, things don't get better no matter what she does or who's in power. I consider her nonvoting proactive and am considering doing likewise (which is different than what I have been doing by not voting in races in which I can't stand any of the candidates which results in lots of blanks in my ballots), for by any reasonable standard, last election's 37% voter participation rate was miserable. How much lower can it go? 25%? 10%? What would be the ramifications of ever lower voter turnouts? Might leaders eventually get the message and realize that wholesale election changes must be made? I am hopeful they would, but if they didn't, what would happen if it fell even lower to only 5%? Or 1%? At what point would election results become so meaningless as to become invalid or illegitimate? .1%? At that point citizens action would by default be forcing government's hand, wouldn't it?
     Election season is fast approaching—get ready for even worse dirty money mud slinging than before. Any good-hearted, level-headed teacher, mother, librarian, nurse, waitress, salesclerk, or student ready to enter that humiliating mud-wrestling rink? I think not near enough and I don't blame those who demur. 
     Hats off, then, to all contentious, nonvoting, election-boycotting protestors, whose nonverbal message will register clear and convincing. One day.

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Supreme Court of the United States
1 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20543

(Check out the U.S. Supreme Court's hilarious website faux pas! Right at the top of its home page is a reproduced image of “We the People”—the opening words of the U.S. Constitution, one of our nation's most beloved documents. But the washed-out looking words are over half-covered by a border on top and “The Supreme Court of the United States” in huge bold letters below. Which begs the question: Is this indicative of a desire for we the people to subject ourselves to the Court? Or a belief that we literally fall beneath the Court? I'm no legal expert, but isn't the Constitution the supreme law of the land to which all, including the Court, are subject? Might the Court's partial erasure of the Constitution's words be indicative of belief that it may alter the Constitution's contents? Or that it may erase those portions that protect we the people's rights? Regardless who designed, vetted, and approved the site, it demonstrates an appalling lack of judgment—tragic considering the source...)

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