We’ve seen a lot of changes in the past three years. Still, we asked for it, didn’t we, when we elected a president who’s entire campaign slogan was “change”> So what have we seen change? How much of the change is due to this administration and how much is just the cumulative change resulting from past political actions?
I know we’re seeing fewer jobs. The local newspaper, which used to have a whole section devoted to “help wanted” now has a couple of columns, most of which are devoted to scam-like “work from home” schemes, and about a half dozen real local jobs. It’s sadder yet to realize that the jobs I’m looking at are the ones in the region of the state with the highest number of jobs traditionally. I hate to think of what it is like in the portions of the state that have always struggled to employ its residents.
I know that the people I know that are unemployed are staying unemployed, even when they have rarely seen long term unemployment before. For those that have always job hopped, it’s worse. For those that have jobs, they go to sleep at night worrying about whether that job will be there at the end of the work day tomorrow. None of these situations lead to good health and happiness, let alone prosperity.
I’m seeing a lot of people drive cars long past the point of efficiency too. Even those who are financially stable are not buying new or newer cars, but sticking with what they have. Remember that cash for junkers program? I didn’t know anyone who turned in their junker car that SHOULD have been turned in to buy a newer car–they couldn’t afford them. The cars being junked were in better shape than a lot of the cars still on the road. That’s only gotten worse, which means that the only ones making money these days are the gas stations and car parts sales…as they keep patching together junk cars with poor gas mileage and leaking oil. Our own van has gone from reasonably efficient to wheezy in the past three years too, and we have no current plans (or ability) to replace it either. It was also depressing to research new mini vans and discover that there is nothing on the market that compares in terms of passenger ability and gas mileage (it still gets 22-26 mpg with a passenger capability of 7 people.)
We’re also seeing inflation at the grocery store at completely unreal rates, with predictions of more over the coming months as the reality of reduced corn, soybean, and wheat production hits the market as a result of bad weather through the Plains states. We’re also competing with ethanol production for corn products, which increases the price even further. Add in higher fuel costs to get food to market, and there is no hope of prices stabilizing, let alone going down.
We’re at war…seemingly everywhere. Like most Americans, I’m not even sure why we’re there, let alone what we hope to accomplish. Iran, Afghanistan, and then this new war against Libya has me even more confused. I remember hearing about Ghadafi, but since when is America the world’s humanitarian police force? We’ve got too much turmoil within our own borders to be pointing our fingers at other countries too much. We need to focus on solving our own problems, which range from transportation, food supply, health care, and jobs on to issues such as human rights, police brutality, and border control. Most of us support our troops, but we don’t support our politicians’ choices about where to send them. After all, it’s not the soldiers who write their orders. A lot of us know a lot of young people who have joined the Armed Forces out of desperation–there were no jobs at home and no way to pay for college for them either.
Then there is the current health plan, commonly referred to as Obamacare. None of us have faith that it is going to provide most of us with actual health care, especially the group that it will affect the most, that vast class known as the Working Poor. We aren’t destitute, so we don’t qualify for state health care plans, and we can’t quite afford to purchase insurance privately, as well as don’t have the option from our employers. We’re also the backbone of America, the ones that do 75% of the work that keeps America moving and eating. We work for thousands of small businesses, and often are entrepreneurs ourselves. We are concerned, and our votes are more likely to have an affect in the upcoming elections.
Then this bit about social security. Cutting the program isn’t particularly viable, and it certainly isn’t going to win awards with most of the over 50 crowd. Over 50 is also the biggest percentage of voters that show up to polls. Do these politicians really want to risk their actions at the polls? Over 50 has paid in the longest, and is the closest to actually receiving benefits. Are they going to vote to cut what is probably the biggest portion of their retirement? Many Americans are approaching retirement age right after the recession, stock market, and real estate market have devoured huge chunks of their retirement funds.
So we take a look at our current crop of politicians and we grade them. Few are getting passing grades, so then we look towards the upcoming crop of competitors for their seats. Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter to many, we want and need some action beyond just “change.” Even at the highest level, for the presidential seat, we assess our chances for something real to happen, like jobs, social security, and health care that works.
The Republican party has a whole crop of candidates. How many of them are viable? Who would you vote for? Is religion going to be the sorting factor among them? Do we really want to use religion as that sorting factor? Just who do we have? Here’s the current list:
- Rick Perry
- Mitt Romney
- Ron Paul
- Michele Bachman
- Newt Gingrich
- Herman Cain
- Rich Santorum
- Jon Huntsman
- Gary Johnson
So out of this bunch, who’s on top? What do they have to say? Who really has a chance at the seat?
Like a lot of people, I have some I’ve heard of, like Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachman. I’d guess they are front runners, mostly because people like me, who are largely apolitical, have heard of them. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have been around a while, and are much more familiar names…but that may not be a good thing too. Others, like Michele Bachman, have established themselves as ultra-conservative, and for moderates like myself…that’s not a plus either. Too often, she’s played the religion card, which I’m not thrilled to see in politics, since America has long had this rule of separation of church and state. Her tendencies towards muck raking are also not endearing. Rick Perry has also not done or said anything to encourage my support as a moderate. (Okay, technically, I’m a conservative-liberal, I’ll admit it.) The others are dark horses, unknown to me, and I have no idea what they have to say or have claimed as their intentions if elected. Out of the options in my list, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney are the best options in terms of electability. Will the others and the Republican party think so too? We’ll have to see.
The GOP has got to come up with a good line up and a solid platform, or it will be an election where most voters decide “better the devil we know.” They may not like Obama, but they may not dislike him enough to vote for someone they also don’t like. They may not cast a vote at all, leaving the entire opinion to the electoral college to decide. That’s the other thing, too.
The electoral college does not have to follow popular vote. It can vote opposite. Many Americans don’t realize that the electoral college exists, let alone that their vote in the polls doesn’t influence or determine their vote. (read more about the electoral college right here.) Most electors follow their state’s vote, by whichever method determined by the state legislature, but there have been cases in which that was not true. An amendment to the constitution, abolishing the electoral college and changing the presidential election to popular vote, has never been proposed. When I was a child, the electoral college’s benefits were explained to me that such an institution prevented electing a charismatic leader as a dictator, such as Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, or Castro. (Notice the examples chosen!) I’m not so sure that it can in fact prevent such an event happening.
So what is the bottom line?
Do your research on candidates. Skip the whole party rhetoric, decide on each candidate’s merit. What are their goals in office? It doesn’t matter whether they are running for local mayor or the president of the nation…pay attention to what they stand for and what their track record really is. Here are some questions to put to yourself.
- Are they qualified to fill the office? This includes technical qualifications as much as skills. Residency, place of birth, work history, political history, etc.
- Do they have the charisma to do the job? Face it, half the job of any politician is to get others to work with them. Abrasive natures are not conducive to that happening!
- Do they have the political experience to do the job? We may not need a lot of experience with the local mayor, but we need a lot more in upper level politics. Presidents need to meet with other heads of state and perform many diplomatic actions. Can they do this without irritating and aggravating situations? Will they embarrass the country? Can they successfully get opposing factions to work together?
- Are they capable of leading? Not everyone is a natural leader, and not everyone learns how to lead. Leaders don’t have to know everything or do everything, but they do need to know how to listen to advisers who do. They need to know how to delegate authority, how to choose competent advisers and subordinates.
- What is their history with their staff? Good leaders don’t have high staff turnover, for any reason. Good leaders don’t treat their staff badly, nor do they select staff without considering their longevity. High staff turnover indicates they may lack good leadership skills. Former staff should also leave on good terms, when they do leave. Frequent disgruntled former staff members is really not a good sign, and electing someone with high staff turnover is like electing that “bad boss”. We all remember what that “bad boss” was like to work for! Do we want them running our government?
- What is their track record for honesty, transparency, and due diligence? Don’t elect someone who hasn’t got a good record in terms of these either. “I don’t remember” isn’t a good excuse either. Nor is “I didn’t pay attention” or “I didn’t notice that”. Noticing, paying attention, and remembering are all things we want, remember? Besides, how far would these excuses get you with the IRS or the court system? Hiding history, whether its a doctorate dissertation, a political past, criminal history, religious records, family history, or educational error, are not good signs for future transparency in office. It also implies that there is a reason for preventing some items from being made public. Besides, who cares if they failed fourth grade, had a brief marriage in college, or they have an uncle who was a ne’er do well? It just makes the candidate more like a real person! On the other hand, if they have a past closely tied with a foreign government, belonged to a anti-American club, or have a criminal history involving accepting bribes…that may be pertinent to their ability to properly perform their elected role.
Support your chosen candidate! That can range from just telling others about their good points to financially contributing to their campaign or even serving on their campaign team.
Most of all, get out and vote. Be pro-active, whether you like the current direction our government is taking or not, being involved and voting makes your vote count. Too many people believe that their vote doesn’t count, that it doesn’t matter, but it does. All the way from your local politicians, to the state, and ultimately federal elections, your vote does count. It takes a lot of votes to get someone elected, but it doesn’t take many votes that never happen that sees a candidate not get elected. The entire American political system is based on citizen participation, and if you think too often that special interest and minority groups are getting their way…maybe its because they DO get out and vote. Protecting your rights starts with using your right to vote.