Vote your Voice!

If you’ve come by these pages a lot, you’ll know that I’ve spent a good deal of time discussing various points on the state of our republic here in the U.S. Throughout, I have always maintained that a stronger voter turnout could go a long way towards correcting some of the trends we’ve been seeing magnified lately: corporatization of government, disenfranchisement, increased lobbyist control, career politicians. I truly believe with the utmost optimism that those ills of our government can be either corrected or slowed if more citizens would just vote in every election.

Why do I believe this? Because that’s how our system works. The more people who vote, the more government truly represents the voice of our entire country as opposed to just a few sects of angry factions.

I created a group called Vote Your Voice in order to try and spread my optimism on these issues.  The sole purpose of the group is to spread the word that increased voting numbers are tantamount to an improved government.

It’s going to be a tough road and one that will require all of us involved to maintain a spirit of possibility and optimism in the face of naysayers, ne’er-do-wells, and counter-arguments. I will do my part by continuing to be loud, optimistic, and paint pictures of the voting numbers so that the disparities can be seen. What I’m asking for is your support.

Join the group over on Facebook, participate in the commentary discussions on the website, or just get your own circle of influence to go vote whenever the opportunity arises.

Voting is not a privilege. It’s not a right. Voting is a duty of all U.S. citizens and should be taken seriously.

Voting accomplished, conscience muddy

Well, I voted. I braved the rain, the cold slush, and all of everything else today to cast my vote for the person who I feel is less likely to destroy our country in the future. Neither Martha Coakley nor Scott Brown appealed to me as an ideal candidate for a state senator. Joe Kennedy just was never an option for me.

So given the field, Coakley was it. If anything, I hope that replacing a democrat with a democrat does less damage than the other way around, because I’m sure it won’t do as much good as I want it to.

All three of the candidates claimed to be the answer to the “status quo”. And they are, depending on what you define as “status quo”. My definition is such that nothing short of a complete changing of the guard on capital hill can provide the answer. The only way to get our country back on track is to remove every politician on the take from office and then remove all lobbyists. The only way is to change the platforms of both major parties. To allow third parties a fair chance at winning. To get the citizenry of this country to participate in the process and reduce the power of factions.

Will either Brown or Coakley help us accomplish any of that? Probably not. I figured, though, that a former attorney general is far less bribeable than a man who posed for Playgirl, so she was the safer bet for me.

Tuesday’s election not just about health care

So on Tuesday, we’ve got a special election here in Massachusetts to fill the senate seat left by the late Ted Kennedy. Naturally, the primary candidates for the seat are a Republican — Scott Brown — and a Democrat — Martha Coakley. I’m very torn as to how I’m going to vote. Without revealing too much, here’s my dilemma.

We’re told that this vote will determine the balance of the senate and — consequently — the success potential of the current health care legislation being considered in the two houses. Voting Coakley is, we’re told, a vote for the current health care legislation and voting for Brown would logically be a vote against it. The trouble is, I don’t agree with some primary items within the health care legislation, so this election for me is more about ideologies going beyond this particular piece of legislation.

Do I send in someone who will maintain the status quo of the current Democratic platform and continue moving things in the direction that they’re going, which is not necessarily a good thing? Or do I send in someone who will attempt to override the status quo with a different kind of status quo that is what I feel the country is trying to run from.

Whatever I end up deciding, please try and see that this upcoming special election is not just about health care — no matter how many well-written radio ads may tell you otherwise.

This is an election about personal liberties, responses to terrorist plots, the war in Afghanistan, the FED, and everything else that is plaguing the country at this point. The health care bill as written does nothing but ensure that health insurance companies will always have customers. Period. No matter what other reforms are within the x-thousand pages of that document, it forces every american to have health insurance. Mandates under penalty of law that we all purchase insurance from some gigantic corporation. Reform? Maybe. Maybe not.

In the long term, there are many other issues at hand than this year’s particular bill, and those are things we need to think about when casting our vote on Tuesday. How will Brown and/or Coakley handle the approvals of a supreme court justice? Potential impeachment? Future bills on domestic security? Vote your conscience, vote your voice.

Factionalization is killing our country

The United States Congress has betrayed its purpose: the representation of the ideals of its constituents is no longer a primary motive. Rather, the concerns of corporate entities, personal gain, and political favor have corrupted the work our government does and the general population is left to ponder the outcome and live in the aftermath.

This has not happened just this year, nor in the last decade, nor indeed over the last 50 years. It has been a slow and inevitable process brought on by the one weakness in the armor of the United States Constitution: it’s ability to become beholden to factional influence. It is a process described in the Federalist Papers, as well as in George Washington’s farewell address to congress. It is the reason why Washington was against the idea of political parties, and the primary reason why Thomas Jefferson believed that every citizen should be educated: to protect the country from factionization. Their warnings have not been heeded, and our country is failing. It is not the fault of our elected officials, however.

We, the people, have allowed the factions to elect those unscrupulous men and women who pervert their calling in the halls of congress. We have allowed it to happen by not participating in our own government. Congressional elections since the 1960’s have had participation in the 20 – 30 percent range. An average turnout of around 35% has been seen during those elections over the last 40 or so years. After accounting for the non-voting population, that is approximately 17% of our citizenry who are determining who remains a representative.

By deciding to not participate in congressional elections, we have handed our country to the entities that most desired it. Those entities and their bank accounts are now controlling how laws are written and which ones pass.

The cynical amongst you will come forth with some kind of “well, it would have happened anyway” or “my vote doesn’t count” quote. To you I say shut up. The reason your vote is slowly counting less and the reason this is happening is because of that very thought process. Our government only works when everybody participates in its operation. It’s not just a right, but a civic duty to follow, analyze, decide, and act on the decisions your representatives make — in your towns, states, and otherwise.

Whether you voted or not, the people from your district will work to determine your quality of life.

This is not a country for cynical people, unfortunately — a fact I have had to come to terms with myself. Cynics will look at a system and see how it has failed them, see the utter futility of trying to correct what seems so obviously wrong. Our country is designed, however, to be fixable. To provide us the view into what is wrong and the means by which we can repair it. All we need do is act.

The massive turn-out in the 2008 elections and its historic result — while not my personal choice — is an example of the voters trying to fix a system. That election was easy, though.  Can you do it in 2010 when it matters more, but will be far less glamorous? Will you turn out and discard those representatives who have failed you, your families, your neighbors and your towns without the television telling you to do so? Will you become the moral compass for those who have none even if your favorite news station disagrees with your ultimate decision?

We are not lost yet. The factions are winning, yes, but they are no longer a concern when we override them with sheer participation.  We can still reclaim the US Congress and give it back to those who would do a better job of representing the people of this country over corporations. It is, after all, our congress to control. The people who sit in those aisles are merely stewards of our rights. And as stewards, they are beholden to our disgust, our wrath, our choices.

Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduces extension of Patriot Act sunset

GovTrack: S. 1692: Text of Legislation, Introduced in Senate.

With the bill linked above, Patrick Leahy is attempting to move the end date of the USA Patriot Act from December 31st 2009 to December 31 2013. On October 8th the bill was read twice and submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Leahy is chair.

Specifically what S. 1692 will do is amend the USA Patriot Improvement and Re-authorization Act of 2005 by changing ‘2009’ to ‘2013’ in various sections of the law which reference the bill’s “sunset”, a fail-safe date placed into the law in order to make it more palatable to its detractors. The next step for Leahy’s bill is for it to leave the Judiciary Committee and enter debate on the floor of the senate.

If Leahy’s amendment goes through, the USA Patriot act and all that it allows will stay with this country for another four years. This law needs to run its course and end this December.

For eight years now we’ve lived in a shadow of fear brought on by first the destruction of the World Trade Center, the fall-out caused by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and — not the least — the fear-mongering actions of our representatives in congress, of which the Patriot Act is one.

The structure of the United States is such that we can either entertain personal and civil liberties, or we can give all of that up for the illusion of perfect safety. We can’t have both. The Patriot Act represents the latter. It’s time for the former. There is still time for us to contact our senators and representatives and let them know that we’re done with the Patriot Act and the fear it represents.