Thursday, October 14, 2010

Despicable Choices at Election Time

In Illinois, once again, we are faced with a daunting choice in the upcoming election; which candidates are least despicable. The two major races in Illinois, governor and U.S. Senate, present us with no real choice. In both races we are presented with men who have questionable records and policies, who I would be hard pressed to hire to walk my dog.

Governor Pat Quinn is a mealy-mouthed political hack who has proven in his short time in office that he has no clue how to run a state and has no backbone to stand up to the real governor, Michael Madigan. Quinn's opponent, Bill Brady, presents little in the way of innovation and looks from here like another George Ryan in the making. In other words, he'll come in, present a clean image, but likely will just settle into doing business as usual instead of challenging the Democrat elites who really run things. How long will it be before ole' Bill will be seen rolling the bones at some casino or soliciting campaign contributions for relatives? He most certainly be counted on to carry on the tradition of one-party politics in Illinois, kowtowing to the Democrats in Springfield and Chicago while espousing his conservative values and hating Gays.

In the U.S. Senate seat we have a choice between a serial embellisher and a mob banker. Both candidates appear to be political stooges who have little stomach for bucking the party line and can't wait to join the cushy club in Washington, reap the benefits and hope no one notices that they are asleep at the switch and licking whatever boot is offered to them.

I suspect that the reason elections offer so little hope is because those who are the best and brightest (and the most qualified to lead and govern) are also smart enough to avoid the swamp and all the critters that live there. They know that government and politics is dirty and no place for anyone with any ounce of moral conscience and dignity. If you don't believe me just go back to some of the presidential debates in 2008 and count the number of promises Mr. Clean and bright Obama made that he has conveniently forgotten to follow through on. You can start with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and go on to the promise to get our troops out of the Middle East. How are those two working out for you? It's been two years Barry! A signature on an executive order ends DADT or wasn't that in the instruction manual Bush left for you at 1600?

There are solutions to be had; term limits for Congress, forensic audits of campaign funds, a full time independent prosecutor with subpoena powers to oversee congressional corruption and a standardized code of professional conduct for all national and state congresses, executive and judicial branches. But unfortunately the foxes are never going to agree to deny themselves access to the hen house. The next best thing is to overhaul the election process.

My suggestion is this. Present voters with a third option in voting. (yeah I know there are third party candidates on the ballot, candidates who have as much chance of getting elected as I have of dating Angelina Jolie) Give voters the option of rejecting both of the candidates from the major parties. This would be the no-confidence option. In other words by opting to vote for neither, the voters would be saying, we don't care for the choices offered, give us more choices. Assume for instance that 50% of the voters voted "neither." This would remove the two major party candidates from the ballot and require a new election to be held with new candidates. This option, although expensive, would require candidates to revise their thinking about the dreaded attack ads they run and might just compel them to talk about issues and actually try to appeal to voters instead of trying to scare them about the opponent. This would also give contributors pause about giving money to someone who might be eliminated from consideration come election time since the odds would no longer be 50/50. Just like George "craps" Ryan, contributors might walk away from the table with nothing.

Politics is a dirty business, pretty much always has been. The difference now is that the nature and character of media has changed and the money is so huge that anything goes. No lie is too big, no chance too big to take in order to secure the prize. The nation is going through one of worst economic times I can remember, including the "gas line" days of my youth. One would think people would want to be more proactive, however it is tough to be proactive when your thoughts are consumed with losing a job or worrying about the bank foreclosing. The sad reality is that until things get really, really bad, and the masses get out the pitchforks and torches, we will continue to get despicable choices for public office.

I recently wrote several congresspeople about maybe introducing legislation to require credit reporting and rating agencies to disclose their arcane formulas for coming up with credit scores. Seems to me that if credit scores are going to be used to determine fitness for jobs, we should all be privy to how they are arrived at. Three guesses as to how much interest I got on that one. Politicians simply don't care about anything except getting elected and staying elected. Until we all start writing and phoning to the point of annoyance no one is going to listen. When was the last time you visited your local congressperson's office? Do you know where it is? Might be a good time to find out.

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