Posted by: Jim | November 1, 2006

The Big Psyche

Elections are the grandest of all competitions. And, like most competitions, the battle is completely psychological.

And as we enter Round 1, the “bobbing and weaving” is being seriously overplayed. There are so many polls being published–all with wildly differing results–that all I can do is sit back and laugh. Many polls suggest an overturning of the Republican majority, but the Republicans insist that their numbers are the numbers and that the Republicans will remain in power.

I have a friend who was actually going to try an start a movement where people purposefully mislead pollsters so that the polls are rendered meaningless, that the politicians will no longer know “what plays” and what doesn’t. It’s a good idea, but people are too enamored with themselves not to respond to polls with their actual opinions.

Speaking of which … why am I never polled? I haven’t been polled once. Neither has anyone I know.

But, I’m starting to think that polls (especially exit polls) are extremely important. As Stalin once said, after all, “It’s not who votes that counts–it’s who counts the votes.”

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Responses

  1. I think all election exit polls should be illegal. I think all voting should be on the same day, within the same timeframe, and the press should be completely in the dark about the official vote until the results are released. Every citizen of age should be required to vote, and penalized with heavy fines if they do not.

    All voting should be electronic, and strong security measures should be put in place to avoid tampering, both in the design of the equipment and in its use. There should be several layers of checks and balances involved, by agencies that are beholden to no one but answerable to the law if their dealings have the slightest hint of bias, negligence or other error. Voting should be treated the way Brink’s treats money.

    Expensive, deceptive, high-concept political advertising should be outlawed. Instead, there should be several cable channels devoted fulltime to political oratory, in which candidates receive free airtime to discuss their platforms in detail. BUT NOT ADVERTISING. They will have limited time to speak, which will hopefully encourage them to talk about themselves instead of smearing their opponents. In addition, the channels all refer to a single myspace-style website where candidates can have their own page and upload their own info, but the design of the page and the amount of fluff it can have will be limited by the software. No banner ads, no flash movies. Just their agenda, their bio, their record, their stance on issues/questions that users can post in a forum.

    No ad-agency-generated smokescreens — in fact, I’d like a way to eliminate speechwriters and force candidates to write their own stuff. Wouldn’t THAT be something?

    Anyway, users can post questions, comments, and even informally vote on each candidate on their page. If a candidate doesn’t cut it with the public, they will likely drop out at some point, but — and this is important — NOT because they run out of money, but because not enough people are interested in or agree with what they have to say.

    If they lie, users can call them on it. If they are especially interesting, bloggers will link to them, etc. Whichever side of an issue they’re on, they’ll have to take a stand and explain why and how, or face online irrelevance.

    For those who still don’t have web access or ability, the TV will serve its purpose of informing people — but the website would be much more interactive and allow users to have unprecedented access to candidates and cut through the crap (and money) that currently separates us from the political process.

    I’m sure others will have things to add here, or comments on how this could or could not work for various reasons I haven’t considered. But I think it’s a start, regardless of which side of the political fence you’re on. Agreed?

    * * *

  2. Wow, for someone who accuses me of being overly optimistic, these are some pretty radical ideas! 😉

    And … I like them. Another way to look at it is how we set up the German government after WWII. If my history is correct, we basically took a version of American democracy, molded it a bit to fit the German culture, and its’ been working pretty well ever since. There, the govt gives each candidate the same amount of money, and those candidates can only spend THAT money on their campaign. Each candidate is granted the same number of minutes on public TV.

    It sounds a lot like what you’re suggesting. Implementing that in the US would require vast amounts of legislation, but it would be worth every minute.

  3. I am extremely pessimistic about this upcoming election. It’s clear that the nation is ready for a change and that — on paper, at least — the Republicans are in for a rout. But we’ve seen that before, haven’t we, and look where we are now?

    I am convinced to my core that the ’04 election was stolen in Ohio, and strongly suspect it elsewhere as well. With even more electronic voting machines being used this time around and the Republicans even more entrenched in power … I think they could tell you their winning margin today.

  4. These are great ideas. GO get them implemented.
    I LOVE “Every citizen of age should be required to vote, and penalized with heavy fines if they do not.”

  5. Jesus, Bri! I thought I had some radical ideas! Aside from the fact that what you propose is completely unconstitutional and would likely result in a 2nd American Revolution if they (the Congress) tried to pass a law which would basically require the Constitution to be rewritten, I agree with you about the secure electronic voting and keeping the media in the dark until all the votes are counted. Chew on this: It takes a 2/3 majority vote in BOTH houses of Congress, or 2/3 of all the States legislatures to even propose an amendment. After it’s on the table, it takes ¾ majority to ratify it. You think 75% of the elected politicians in this county are going to slit their own throats? I don’t think so, but I like your style 😉

  6. “You think 75% of the elected politicians in this county are going to slit their own throats?”

    Oh God I wish they would. I would take a long, luxurious bath in their blood.

    OK, maybe that’s a bit morbid. Just a bit. But you get my drift. Of course I don’t think the status quo is going to cannibalize itself; I never said any of this would come to pass through proper systemic channels — I simply stated how I think things SHOULD be. As for being optimistic, I can nip that rumor in the bud right here and now by saying I think we will likely destroy ourselves as a viable world power before we ever implement any changes so radical as what I propose.

    Anyway, as far as my approach being unconstitutional — it would be completely in the SPIRIT of the Constitution, unlike the crap (like anti-gay-marriage amendments and such) that the current administration wants to enact. But anyway I’m not the first person to propose radically reforming the electoral process. One thing I didn’t mention, because it’s been said a thousand times before, is that I would abolish the obsolete Electoral College in favor of one person/one vote. That would certainly vie with the LETTER of the existing Constitution, but that is because while the framers were relatively farsighted in many things, they could not possibly have foreseen what the distant future could look like from a technological and sociopolitical perspective. If Jefferson, Adams, Franklin or Paine were alive today, they would no doubt be in favor of something similar to what I’ve described. That is clear from their writings — and yes, I have read several of them.

    The Electoral College no longer makes any sense, except to those folks it has benefited. The relative ease with which the last 2 elections were manipulated (and I realize that some of you may not believe this) is an indication that the system has gone horribly astray from what the Constitutional writers intended. In fact, their farsightedness is sublimely evident in the fact that the document is open-ended (what people often like to refer to as a ‘living document’); in other words, while they couldn’t foresee HOW the world would change, they knew it WOULD, and they left an apparatus in place to allow for that. Unfortunately that apparatus is vulnerable to abuse (see Prohibition as well as countless other attempts to change the nature of the Constitution from a contract expressing the RIGHTS of the people, into a punitive document LIMITING those rights). BUT any electoral reform that simply restated the intent of the Constitution as it applies to a very different modern world would not necessarily be re-writing anything, but amending and thus improving a document that was MEANT to be amended and improved ad infinitum by successive generations.

    The bottom line is that the system of checks and balances in the Constitution is sound, as long as it remains enforceable against those who would seek to impose the tyranny it was created to oppose. I am merely proposing that we update the methods of enforcement to reflect a changing world. Just as the government is constantly trying to update the way it protects itself, we should (and do) have the right to update the way in which we protect ourselves from IT — which is why we have a C0nstitution in the first place.

    And please note that there is nothing partisan in my proposal, unless of course you are part of the thin margin of people who actually think everything is just fine; that the political landscape is exactly as it should be and that there is no corruption, etc. Then, well, I don’t even know what to say to you — except to give you a fentanyl lollipop and pat you on your little flat head.

    * * *

  7. “If Jefferson, Adams, Franklin or Paine were alive today, they would no doubt be in favor of something similar to what I’ve described.”

    Probably so, and they would be leading the revolution it would take for us to get there. They would probably be labeled as terrorists. Pity.

    And my interpretation is non-partisan either. The abuses we’ve seen by the Republicans will almost certainly be enjoyed in full by most Democrats next term (if they win.) That is outside the slim chance that the Dems will actually do anything to reverse the trend. Somehow I doubt they will.

    I would also add another critical element to Brian’s “Quality Improvement Plan” (lol), and that is to return all powers outside the 13 specifically granted by the Constitution to the federal government–BACK TO THE STATES. The more centralized our spending is, the less accountability and visibility we have.

  8. Absolutely.


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