Category Archives: Elections

One Term, One Time

Image courtesy of nirots/

Image courtesy of nirots/

I used to be in favor of leaving it all up to the voters. It’s their responsibility, I thought, to elect the right dudes to run the country; to kick the ones out who weren’t doing their jobs, or who were doing more than their jobs. But after this latest election season, I’ve changed my mind. So, of course, you’re going to hear about it.

It’s time to establish a one-term limit for all politicians. They are spending way too much of their time on re-election, and not enough on accomplishing the goals they were installed in office to meet. This year, for example, the federal government, for all practical intents, shut down back in July (or before), while 536 people hunkered down, waiting for the elections before making any decisions. (Okay, 2/3 of the Senators were not up for election, but you get my drift).

Even now, as the pundits raise their gaze to 2014 and beyond, the politicians are having trouble reaching an agreement on the fiscal cliff, because of their fear of voter reaction to any cuts in growth or tax increases. What is ridiculous is that no one is even discussing actual cuts in spending, or tax increases on any but the wealthy, yet the hue, cry and clamor rising both sides would leave any rational thinker to believe that true hardships were about to befall—anybody!

Impose one-term limits on everyone, and there might be the possibility that elected officials would go to Washington with the action that they want to take uppermost in their minds, realizing that they have a very short time in which to complete their mission and the certain knowledge that they will not have another opportunity to do so. There is the faintest possibility that acting in their constituents’ best interests may triumph over trade-offs, stalling, can-kicking, and other folderol. Maybe. Without term limits, there seems to be no way to keep any of them in check at all.

At the very least, the time, effort, energy, and money spent on, and obligations associated with, seeking a second term, and a third, and so on, would not come to pass. Our representatives would have no reason to come home every Thursday evening and stay till Tuesday morning, establishing fund-raising offices and outreach programs, all designed to keep the incumbent in. They could actually put in a full work week–although I’m also not agin the part-time politician. Being part-timers would encourage representatives of the people to hold other, private, jobs, and retain those jobs while they complete their political work. Public service would be like a longer-term kind of jury duty: something all citizens should feel as their responsibility, but which actually only a few end up doing.

And where would we find all of those replacements every election? With a nation of 320 million and counting, I think that we will be able to find suitable replacements every couple of years or so. Think about it: each new set of citizen-representatives certainly couldn’t be any worse than some of those who’ve been sent before. Removing the ability to become a career politician may also tend to tone down the rhetoric, as politicking becomes more like a civic duty than a bridge to a better life.

We could even still allow anyone who has held public office to run for another office in the future. The only stipulation would be that he must wait out one election cycle before doing so. That way, no one would be able to use the power of his office to aid his election prospects or take time out from public service to run for any other office. Also, anyone who currently worked for the government, at whatever level, must resign his post in order to run. No one affiliated with the government at all would be able to run for political office. Finally, no one would ever be able run for any office he had previously held, no matter how long he served.

One term, one guy. It’s worth a try.


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Filed under Critical Thinking, Elections, Politics

Not Business As Usual

Okay, it’s time to get to work. The liberal/progressives have spoken. They were scared of losing rights they have fought hard to win. They were afraid they would not gain rights they think are urgent.

They are proud to be the supporters of the first black President, and they want to be part of history.

If conservatives ever want to do more than obstruct the liberals’ agenda, they must find places they can agree with President Obama, and graciously give ground on those issues. There are many points of contention. Pick the one that smells the least, and start rethinking your position:

  • Voting Rights
  • Immigration
  • Reduce the Deficit
  • Abortion
  • Equal Pay for Women
  • Gay Marriage
  • Tax Restructuring
  • Health Care

As time goes on, there will be more opportunities for reasonable, measured compromise, and conservatives should jump on as many possible. Embrace anything that does not directly conflict with your core values. Let the other half of the nation know that you do not wish that they would disappear. That you welcome political discourse, the give-and-take that flows when people who disagree with each other on fundamental issues acknowledge the right of the other to hold the opposite viewpoint.

That way, when you get to the really tough issues, the core principles that really stick in your craw, the liberals will be more willing to accept that you really mean it. That you really do believe that abortion is murder. That you are not merely mouthing words to make a political point.

One of the main points of contention is that, for the past four years, President Obama has not seemed interested in compromising. It is the height of hypocrisy to deride a politician for not being interested in working with the other side, then behave in the very same manner. If conservatives have any core values that the other side can believe in, it is that you truly believe in your principles. Don’t throw that asset away lightly. A little bit of compromise where it’s possible goes a long way toward allowing you to dig in your heels on the really important stuff.

Democrats who are paying attention have looked at the map. They can see that half the country is not entirely enamored of the new regime, the same as the old regime. That there is plenty of reason for conservatives to be afraid of what is coming.

The liberals ran a campaign of emotion. As time goes on, remind them that, while they have the right to their feelings, you have deep-seated fears as well. That, as the party in power, they have the responsibility to govern for the benefit of all. Conservatives still hold the House, and still have the ability to obstruct the liberal plan. Use that ability wisely, to achieve true compromise, and both sides can still benefit.

One of the best ways to win is to not fight at all. Find a great communicator who can work with the liberals, and send him into the other camp. Give him a list of issues that are amenable to being shelved, and the authority to do so. You can’t push against a will-o-the-wisp. When they go to the well to find some issue to champion, something to fight against, take the wind out of their sails. Before they can push, hand them a victory.

But you can’t wait for the liberals to set the agenda. If they get the chance to choose the issues, and they pick something that is anathema to the conservative core, conservatives who complain will immediately seen as doing their usual obstructionist business. Get out ahead of the talking heads. Find a piece of an issue, and immediately give it up. Even without gaining anything in return. Start the dialogue.

Listen to what the liberals are saying. They are concerned that the old white guys who have already made it are trying to slam the door behind them. Show them that the door is wide open, that they don’t have to force their way in.

You might know that race is not the issue. You might know that you are just as concerned about the future of your children as they are about theirs. You might know that you did not receive any more of a leg up than they did. You might realize that, as people, we all have value, we all are worthy.

But they don’t know that you know that. You must go out of your way to let the people on the other side of the aisle know what you know. That you are not the enemy—you are just another citizen with ideas and values that are as meaningful to you as theirs are to them.

The progressives are in their corner, warming up for the fight of the century. Give them the biggest surprise of their lives by not showing up to the battle. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from there.


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Filed under Elections, Politics

Congratulations, President Obama

Image Courtesy of nirots

I guess I owe the pollsters an apology. I don’t know how they did it, what with people not answering their home phones, not even owning home phones, but they came within a hair’s whisker of calling the states accurately.

So, it looks like we’re getting set for another four years of what we had for the past four years: Democratic President, Democratic Senate, Republican House. It’s strange that, with every seat in the House up for grabs, the same voters who returned President Obama to office also sent back a Republican House for him to do battle with. Are the voters relying on the House to rein in the President? Or is it that they are just enamored of their own  Representatives? Seems a bit schizophrenic. Be that as it may…

President Obama has positioned himself as the champion of the middle class and the poor. Even those who didn’t vote for him should be able to take him at his word, and step up to the plate to get their fair share. It may be time for conservatives to stop fighting the aid of the federal government, and instead embrace the assistance that President Obama and his cabinet are happy to provide.

Relax, conservatives! You have two years before the next Congressional election. Let all of your animosity fall away, and help President Obama achieve his goal of uplifting everyone from the middle class down to the poverty level. Quit fighting President Obama’s economic agenda. After all, he’s here to help you. If he wants to spread the wealth, let him.

Take it easy! President Obama is fighting for you. You don’t have to do anything but let him take the lead. You deserve a break after all your stalwart defenses of the past four years. Maybe a vacation is in order. Maybe it’s time for that retirement you’ve been putting off.

Sit back! The liberal base is so charged up that it might be worth the conservatives sitting on the sidelines for awhile, to let the democrats position their agenda. Maybe go back to school, take advantage of low cost student loans.

President Obama is willing to do all the heavy lifting for all of us—who are we to deny him?


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Filed under Elections, Politics

Blogosphere, Unite!

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Whoever wins the election today will have the support of only about half the country, no matter what the electoral college says. The other half will be dead set against most of the policies he has proposed.

There are now lots of people in the blogosphere who have no problem letting anyone who will read their stuff or watch their videos know exactly how they feel about how the incumbent is trampling on their rights.

What is the connection between these two things? Now, more than ever, now, when it matters, ordinary people’s voices can be heard. People who will never meet in real life can have deep conversations about where this country is headed. People from all around the world can weigh in on how the policies and practices of the behemoth that is the United States will affect their lives. What changes they would make, if only they had the opportunity to vote.

America is a great experiment—not like the experiments in democracy that are disrupting the Middle East and other hot spots, not like the experiment in collectivism that is the European Union—but an experiment in everyman’s access to political theater.

Each person who has access to a computer of some type has his own soapbox. Right now, usually what happens is that a speaker decries some aspect of governance that has really gotten his goat, and others either applaud him or disdain his commentary. But what if those on the other side of an issue, those with a differing point of view, were able to explain their objections? Even a “that just feels wrong in my gut” is a worthwhile statement of beginning.

What if we had a blogosphere-wide brainstorming session? What if, instead of hurling vitriol and invective at the other party’s pet projects, we searched for the core values of those projects, uncovered the rationale behind them, and found a way to deal with the concerns that were raised. Those who disagreed with the outcome or methods of a project could express the reasons for their objection, their fear of where the project would take us, and propose alternate solutions. Back and forth, until the crux of the matter, the thing that is to be prevented, or implemented, is exposed to the light of day, the concerns about the methods or results or analyzed, and a proposed compromise is (tentatively) agreed upon.

If Congress refuses to act in our best interest, there is no reason that we can’t take up the standard of compromise, determine our own solutions, then propose that they implement a generally-agreed upon method for dealing with the issue at hand. Take any hot-button topic—abortion, gun control, education, defense, immigration—there are few people who have an all-or-nothing few of any of these. That means that there is room for compromise and airing of all opinions, fears, and proposals.

Somewhere in the morass lies a path. Maybe not the best path, maybe not the only path, maybe not even a complete way out. But the idea is to start the discussion. Whoever wins this election will have a lot of power for a long time over people who bitterly disagree with his policies. Create a forum for those people to share their ideas for a more perfect planet, to riff off each other in a productive way, and I think we’ll be amazed at the results.

It will take some time to work out the protocol and standards for such an exchange medium. We are so used to shooting down the ideas that we disagree with as soon as they are launched that the ability to let them waft long enough to discern their deeper meaning must be practiced—a lot.

I would open the floor to those who live elsewhere on this planet, as well. Nothing says that the only good or acceptable ideas come from those who inhabit this stretch of land. And whatever America does has such a profound effect on the rest of the world that it might be useful to understand exactly how our giant footprint impacts others’ lives.

We have taken the first step: we have begun the discussion process. Right now, it is disjointed, vitriolic, and polarized. But it is there. What I want to add is a measure of respect for other people’s feelings, fears, and hopes. The chance to delve into what, exactly, are the issues and the problems that are driving the conversation, in an effort to find acceptable solutions. Which results and methods are the most scary, and what alternate possibilities there may be.

Brainstorming is a messy process. It requires people to express their innermost feelings, while other people who disagree must hold their tongues until everyone has had a chance to speak. But it is, I think, an acceptable alternative to the current process of coming up with an idea and shoving it down other people’s throats. Democracy may be useful, but where’s the fun in only getting the chance to vote once every couple of years, then relying on representatives, who don’t always seem to be responsive, to run things?

Wouldn’t it be more fun for those who choose to educate themselves to get to weigh in on every decision made? We’d all bat our ideas around, come up with a suitable compromise, then present it our legislators. The cool thing is that people could be working on many issues at one time—select those that matter to you, and ignore the rest.

Let’s not spend the next four years demonizing whoever is in office. The man’s got a huge, difficult job to do. Let’s lend him a hand. Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama hates people, they just have different ways of viewing the world. Let’s offer our talents to whoever wins, and share the ideas that we have for the direction we’d like this country to take.

Let’s stop mindlessly agreeing or hatefully disagreeing with either man. We can offer a lot more than invective. We all have plenty of ideas to share—all that we need to do is come up with a forum for brainstorming, discussion, and rating of concepts, so that we can create some realistic plans for our future.


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Filed under Critical Thinking, Elections, Politics

The Lightest Touch

Image courtesy of nirots

On this, the day before the most important election in the history of the world, the election that will change the course of history forever*, it’s time again for something positive. I will list the qualities, positions, and policies I would like to see in someone who is running for office.

First, every politician ought to be prepared that his day job is a part-time gig.

“Part-time?” comes the inevitable protest. “How can I run the country on a part-time basis?”

Well, sir, madam, you should not be running the country at all. The country is capable of steaming along quite well all on its own. What you should be doing is protecting its citizens from dangers outside our borders. That’s it. Almost. There are a few other items that need to be taken care of, but let’s get over the idea that we need someone to run our lives.

The U.S. is not, as President Obama is so happy to remind us, a business. The  320 million people who make up this country do not need a manager to set policy, determine what products we will make, or legislate how we will run our private lives. Our public lives, though, involves  another dynamic.

The United States used to be known as the great melting pot. All kinds of immigrants, from all sorts of countries, came to the land of opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families. They brought their own customs, languages, and religions. If they so desired, they established enclaves of like-minded people, and spent their nights and weekends, and whenever else they weren’t working, celebrating their roots.

But these immigrants had one thing in common. They knew that to succeed, they must learn the common language, English, familiarize themselves with the local customs, and abide by the local rules. Diversity in the common arena was not tolerated. A splash of color here or there, an exotic food brought in for lunch, a smattering of a homeland curse or blessing, distinguished one person from the crowd, but too much difference was frowned upon.

“If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go back to where you belong?”

“I came here to make a better life for my family. There was no opportunity at home.”

What never seems to be brought out is the next logical line in that conversation:

“There’s a reason that there was no opportunity where you came from. Part of the reason that America is a land of opportunity is that here, we all support the same customs and mores and language. Dress and behave and worship however you want to at home, but we all work together because we all operate under the same code.”

Those who want to celebrate their differences at work, without having to accept any consequences for their actions, are ignoring the fact that a great many ills in the world come about as a result of people’s intolerance of others’ religion, dress, race, or language. America works when we ignore all of those differences at the workplace, while allowing them at home. Our leaders have a duty to inspire people to adopt the overarching mores and culture of the successful in our country: work hard, respect others, help out when you can, and speak the common tongue.

Here, where you work, it doesn’t matter whether you are Protestant or Catholic, Sunni or Shia, Buddhist or Coptic. Unlike in other countries where announcing your religion in the streets could get you killed, we tend to tolerate a lot more diversity because we all adopt the same culture—a light dusting of civilization, instead of a heavy dose of a particular way of life.

I understand that many people have religious beliefs that conflict with the currently accepted practices, but before anyone decides to pressure the government to fall more in line with a particular belief system, remember that what may sway members of the government one way at one point in time, may also sway other members of government another way another time. Prohibiting abortion may fly now, but later prohibiting Christianity may be the battle cry.

The government works best that treads lightest. It is true that, if people are not forced to do the right thing, however that is defined, there may be many, many problems that still exist. Not all poverty will be wiped out. Not everyone will receive the best education. Some people will become drug addicts. Of course, those things all happen now, and the government has been intruding itself into all of those arenas for some time now.

If someone wants to go all crusader to fix all of the ills of this world, that’s fine. But don’t run for office. Start a sect, fire up a non-profit, begin a new religion. Gather as many followers to your cause as you can, and work to fashion the world in your new image—privately.

No country, especially one as large and heterogeneous as this one, needs a zealot in office, with the power to back up his otherworldly vision with guns. And what we certainly don’t need is one zealot after another, teetering the country first one way then another.

All we really need from our politicians is maintenance of a civil society, with the barest touch of guidance now and then. Certainly we have the skills and the knowhow to convince people to act courteously toward one another, instead of having to force them all to behave through threat of punishment.

So, once you’re elected, go to Washington, check on how things are doing there, then return home to your dry goods business. The rest of us will manage to steam along somehow, even if you are not there to prod us all along on the path of righteousness.

*This is a pet peeve of mine. Everything changes everything forever. Nothing stays the same. “You don’t step into the same river twice,” as Heraclitus said. What people mean when they say something is changed forever is that it is changed profoundly. So say what you mean.

If you find yourself in need of a writer for one job, or many, I’m available. From

resumes to proofreading articles, to blog postings, I will provide content

that meets your needs, written in the voice you desire,

with the quality you deserve.

Email your proposals to tredalong@hotmailcom.


Filed under Critical Thinking, Education, Elections, Politics