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March 2012
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My responsibility as a citizen

I voted yesterday. Got one of those stickers to wear showing that I participated in democracy. Sometimes that makes me feel good. Unfortunately, many times it leaves me hollow.

The good thing yesterday was that I actually got to participate in a Presidential primary vote. It’s so rare that the nominations aren’t already completely locked up by the time it gets to Illinois.

The rest of the ballot was pretty depressing. A lot of “Vote for One” items with only one person listed. Even sadder, the same thing will be true in the general election in my area.

It seems to me that we need more people to participate by running for office. We need more and better choices. Unfortunately, politics has gotten so ugly that, for the most part, only those who want to take advantage of that ugliness sign up.

A local store has a billboard where they often display cute or inspiring messages. Yesterday, it was “Bad politicians are elected whenever good people don’t vote.” Nice sentiment, but in reality it seems more like “Bad politicians are elected whenever someone is elected.”

Are you willing to do more than vote? Are you willing to actually be a detested politician, but be there to attempt to make a difference? I’ve actually considered it myself for when I retire. What office would you try for?

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34 comments to My responsibility as a citizen

  • Dante

    “Unfortunately, politics has gotten so ugly that, for the most part, only those who want to take advantage of that ugliness sign up.”

    Hit that nail right on the head. No decent, honest human being would soil themselves with the dirt of politics. Only people with character defects, like an affinity for lying, and cheating, with an outrageously inflated ego would be drawn to a career in politics.

    Don’t roll in the dirt with them, Pete.

    • Not true. I ran for national office, and don’t consider myself soiled. In fact, it was, overall, a positive experience. And if you think it’s ugly now, you may want to read some history of how ugly politics have been since the first contested election in America. Politicians are not so much the problem as those who vote them in – and, especially, those who don’t vote at all.

  • ezrydn

    Lord High Sheriff, so I could hunt down ex-cops.

  • darkcycle

    I could not run for office, at least no major office. I know too many…..people. Way too many…er…problematic associations. And not a “Reverend Wright” in the lot.

    • darkcycle

      I used to hang out at a Coffehouse known as “The Last Exit on Brooklyn”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Exit_on_Brooklyn
      Started out of the ashes of the “Eigerbahn” in the 1960’s, it was a well known den of radicals and vipers. Among other things, the plot to bomb the ROTC building on the UW campus in the late sixties was hatched there. http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/uwcampus&CISOPTR=1498
      There is a side plot to this that involves explosives cached in the woods in 1968 that were inadvertently discovered twenty five years later by a bulldozer operator. Seems several of the potential conspirators got cold feet and decided to leave the principals to go on with the deed. They stashed their explosives deep in the woods. Scratch one piece of construction equipment. No one was hurt. This is old news now, so it’s pretty much public record. Google will tell you the whole story, though the whole thing’s not written down in one place.
      darkcyle’s been ’round a few blocks. Some of those blocks were in bad neighborhoods.

  • EndOfPolitics

    Anybody who’s been paying any attention lately, knows what’s needed.

  • Peter

    OT and 18 months old but i only just saw it. Kind of gives the lie to prohib minimizing of what actually happens to real people when they fall victim to the wosd. This woman’s life is being destroyed for nothing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbYGgaaA8Fk&feature=related

  • Duncan20903

    I think everyone here knows that I think that we should do away with elections entirely and use involuntary conscription by lottery to fill political offices. I’m dead serious too, no fooling.

    • Dew-Bee

      Even if a lottery were used to pick candidates it would be an improvement over the current system. Something needs to be done to separate politics from governance.

      • Duncan20903

        .
        .

        No campaign finance issues because there won’t be any campaigns.

        Dante said, “No decent, honest human being would soil themselves with the dirt of politics. Only people with character defects, like an affinity for lying, and cheating, with an outrageously inflated ego would be drawn to a career in politics.” I respond, “Bingo!” While a lottery wouldn’t eliminate these people completely from office their numbers would be minimized. Also, no re-election posturing because the only way to get re-elected is to have your number come up again.

        There would be some minimal costs for criminal charges and incarceration for the draft dodgers. Yes, I say if they don’t want to serve their term in elected office they can serve their term in prison. Inmates currently incarcerated would be exempt but not once they’re let out.

        One modification which my be discussed as a good idea would be to have elections, but have the candidates selected by lottery. That way we diminish the possibility of accidentally installing an Adolf Hitler, Rush Limbaugh or Marion Barry clone as POTUS. If we went this route the taxpayers cover the costs of a prescribed, minimalist campaign. Several debates on TV and Internet biographies produced by an organization like the League of Women Voters, not the ‘candidates’.

        Either way should produce a representative selection of the American public. Yes we have to make some significant changes to the Constitution, but I throw out milk when it smells as rotten as our current system of electing public officials. It’s gone bad there’s no benefit in keeping it around.

        (God help us all…my spell check software recognized Limbaugh)

        • Dante

          Duncan:

          Your lottery idea has merit, until you realize the people who WANT to be in politics (see above description) will find a way to rig the system so only they get into office. I can see it now:

          “Dang, they picked me again! That’s the 16th time in a row! Well, gotta obey the will of the voters”.

        • Peter

          should we have a minimum iq standard? that would have eliminated bush palin and perry from holding office

    • there was a science/speculative fiction story from the late ’60s, early ’70s that dealt exactly with that topic, might have been in one of Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions collections.

      It would work in a society w/conscience. Not so much here and now methinks.

      And ya know what else? I’m tired of hearing the ’60s and ’70s kids being called the worst generation. We will be proven right soon enough. Responsible living on the earth, compassion and respect are not just noble ideas or goals, they are an essential to societal longevity. I grow ever more doubtful that this experiment in governance will survive the onslaught of the Mammonites.

  • Benjamin

    Feels good to vote for Ron Paul!

  • darkcycle

    I understand the Chicago area broke all previous records for voter disinterest.

  • Dano

    I’ve thought about this too. Unfortunately, here in Los Angeles area campaign costs are wildly expensive. I think I could do as good a job as many of our city council members, not that they have an easy job.

    I think that local office would be the place to start, moving onto higher office only if it fit and financial backing was available.

  • claygooding

    People are tired of voting for the candidate that sucks the least,,and when all the candidates pushed down our throats by the battling financial institutions and industrial giants suck for too many reasons to elect any one over the other,people don’t participate.

  • Outlier

    Totally agree that more people supporting drug policy reform need to run for office. If you really want to make a difference, run for state representative. It’s not a glamorous job but you have some of the biggest impacts on people’s day to day lives. Money makes some difference but on election day a lot of the time it comes down to who knocks on the most doors. Should you win, you’ll have shown your state’s political establishment that legalizing drugs isn’t a political death knell as it once was and will have done a ton to advance the movement in your state.

    • Dante

      Here’s the problem:

      In my state (Virginia), I read that a candidate spent over $5 Million in order to win the election for a Delegate job that pays about $18,000 per year.

      What normal person does that?

  • primus

    after I attend the polls and cast my ballot, I immediately go home and take a long hot shower, because I feel dirty for participating in this sham. Unfortunately, the people I would like to vote for are not interested in running, and those who are interested will only do it in the context of a party, because they are so weak that they can’t stand up on their own hind legs, which is exactly what the party wants.

  • claygooding

    In this Quebec town, the firefighters are accused of helping people light up
    WFP / Peter Rakobowchuk and Melanie Marquis / 3,21,2012

    http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/about-20-arrests-in-raids-against-contraband-cigarettes-and-marijuana-in-quebec-143648306.html

    “”MONTREAL – It’s alleged that in one small Quebec town, firefighters didn’t just put out flames — they also helped many, many people light up.

    Four firefighters have been arrested in a broader crackdown against marijuana and contraband cigarettes in Quebec, following a series of raids Wednesday that even saw a municipal fire hall targeted.

    The town mayor says they were excellent firemen. Provincial police say they were even more prolific sellers of pot and illegal smokes.””

    Pete is going to have to edit his quote to include firemen,,sadly,,a lot of towns depend on volunteers and they just took out a whole crew of experienced firefighters and left that town in possible danger.

    • strayan

      Christ, another moron who says gangs will just turn to other types of crime: http://www.spectator.co.uk/politics/all/7684268/bad-habits.thtml

      • Duncan20903

        There are a heckuva lot of people who are sworn adherents to the Motto of the Know Nothing prohibitionist.

      • Peter

        suggested alternatives to the drug trade: prtection racketeering and theft. only problem is these crimes unlike drug use have real victims who are likely to file a complaint. the writer is indeed an idiot

      • strayan

        Here is my response (hasn’t been published):

        The idea that gangs won’t wither and die because they will be able to replace their main source of tax free income with income from other types of crime is sheer fantasy.

        Think about it, if there was that much money to be made from other types of crime why aren’t all these underworld figures volutarily quitting the drug trade?

        “Hey guys, I read this editorial over at The Spectator and they said that we can earn just has much from ‘common theft’.”

        You’d be laughed out of the industry.

    • Peter

      Last night I tried to post a comment at smh pointing out that schizophrenia has remained stable at 0.3-0.7 % of the population for the last 60 years. Meanwhile cannabis use has increased enormously during the same time. If schizophrenia were really caused by cannabis use we could expect to see a sharp rise in cases which has not happened. So far they have not published my comment.

  • won't_be_fooled_again

    i have voted MANY times. nothing changes. i am sorry, but our political system is broken. unless they start letting people vote directly on issues, i will not be voting again any time soon.

    although i understand the sentiment that people not voting is the problem, i must disagree. the problem is that we are electing people to represent us that cannot possibly represent the variety of opinions in any given community. furthermore, there are many members of society who cannot vote or who are not educated enough to vote. i do not want people voting just because they feel they should, that just causes more mess. our entire electoral and political system is corrupt and desperately needs to be revamped.

  • Jeff Trigg

    Go for it Pete. City council, county board, state rep., college boards, lots of possibilities. How much potential $ and feet on the ground you can expect would pragmatically decide how high you reach. I’d have some tips.

    I filed to run for Governor of Illinois as an independent against Rod Blagojevich in 2006. Rod kicked me off the ballot using an election law that was ruled unconstitutional as a violation of the 1st and 14th amendments a few months later. Lee v. Keith – 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The filing date for independent candidates was more than a year before the election so they couldn’t wait to see if any crooks (Derrick Smith) got selected in the primary before deciding to run. Basically it kept all independent candidates off the ballot for 20 years in Illinois, combined with excessive signature requirements and petition signer screen outs.

    Not a pragmatic run, more like a stab in the dark for a different purpose. I didn’t expect to be on the ballot. If something happened that I was on the ballot, I would have had a blast talking about drug reform policies. Rich Whitney, Green, later made it on the ballot, and he was a fresh voice for some reforms and got 10.5%. I wanted to hear more about industrial hemp in this ag rich state, but Whitney did what we could.

    Run for office if you can, if you can’t run, find someone who can, or find someone who is that you agree with. Please do something. Ultimately, whatever you are confortable doing is what you should do. And please don’t be bought off by Obama-style party before 800,000 arrests propaganda. Most states, like Illinois, are going to be blow outs one way or another. Illinois could give 10% of the vote to a good drug policy reform candidate and Obama would still win here. Ron Paul just got 10% of the GOP vote in IL, which is encouraging. There are messages to be sent in the margins if we are smart enough about it.

  • I think a major issue (which relatively few people are aware of) is ballot access -specifically, the ability to get ones name on the ballot for a Democratic or Republican primary.

    Third party candidates do not win elections, period (ok, maybe 0.1% of the time). In most electoral districts, one can predict with over 90% certainty if the winner of the next election is going to be from Team Red or Team Blue. So, the election that really matters is the incumbent party’s primary election.

    In many states, party rules are designed to make it nearly impossible to mount a primary challenge to an incumbent. In my own state of Connecticut, a registered Republican who wanted to challenge an incumbent would need to get votes from 15% of the delegates at the district nominating convention. Who selects these delegates? The chairpeople of the various town committees. How do they choose who to select? By their loyalty to the incumbent. Most states have similarly uncompetitive party primaries.

    I am really interested to see how the top-two primary system that California and Washington now have plays out in the next couple election cycles. I think it will seriously open up the system to outside candidates by allowing voters to cast a ballot for the candidate they truly identify with, knowing that if that candidate doesn’t make the general election ballot, they will still be able to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils’.

    • Jeff Trigg

      Top two election systems are horrible, non-competitive, and anti-democratic. Top two closes the system to outsiders and creates an insiders only election. You can’t even call yourself an independent on their ballots under top two. Top two is designed to make it easier for one party rule to maintain their one party power. Election choices will be limited to who party bosses and big money picks to run. During the 2nd round of voting, which is the real election when people actually pay attention, voters only choice will be who had the most money and most establishment resources in the first round of voting. There is nothing good at all about the discriminatory top two system. Limiting voters choice to 2 candidates only is downright anti-American. Proportional representation is a real reform that would open our election system.

      As for “third parties do not win elections period”, I’d suggest a more thorough study of history. Most major reforms and changes that came about in America are because of third parties. The Whigs and then Republicans and the Democrats have historically been drug along into doing whats right after decades of losing votes.

      And besides, pro-drug reform candidates don’t win elections either, but that doesn’t mean we should give up, abandon them, and bad mouth them, using your logic. The people to give up on, abandon, and bad mouth are all DEMOCRATS and Republicans. This selfish notion that 3rd parties can’t win is exactly why it took decades for the Rs and Ds to change when it came to slavery, sexism, and racism. Votes for third parties will bring about change faster than supporting the corrupt status quo.

  • My point is that pro-drug reform candidates have a better shot at getting into office by running in the primary election of the dominant party in their district than by running in the general election as a third-party candidate. In most electoral districts, the general election result can be predicted with over 90% certainty, meaning that the primary is the only truly competitive election.

    The top-two PRIMARY system recently introduced in CA and WA is far more democratic and competitive than either the closed or open primaries held in other states. Read more about it here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_two_primary

    I’m a big fan of proportional representation as well, but since we don’t have PR here, primary elections represent the best chance of getting outsider candidates into office -the generals are simply too uncompetitive.

    Anyone can get their name on the primary ballot, and moreover, can choose which party (if any) they wish to be affiliated with, REGARDLESS of whether the party bosses approve of them or not. So, if you wanted to run as a pro-drug reform candidate from a heavily Republican district, you could list your party on the ballot as “Republican” and the local Republican Committee would have no power to prevent you from doing so.