Congressional representatives are all back home with their constituents trying to figure out what they can tell you to get your vote. So, what is it you want to hear in order to give them your vote? Or, given anti-incumbent sentiment swelling, is it too late for that?
For many, but far too few, it is what politicians did, said, and voted on since the last election that will determine whether they vote for or against their incumbent senators and representatives. For others, short cuts for not having paid attention will have to do. For example, many voters will ask themselves, am I better off today than I was two years ago? For fewer voters, the question is, will my kids be better off in the future given my incumbent's actions, or lack thereof, over the last few years? But for many, the shortest short cut is to listen to the ads politicians run to discredit opponents and hail themselves as the newest incarnation of Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The easiest and laziest voting decision for many millions of Americans however, is to not vote. These Americans will rationalize that candidates and politicians are all thieves and liars so, what's the point? This, however, is not a shortcut to figuring out how to vote. It is an excuse! In effect, it abdicates the responsibility attached to every person who lives in a democracy — parliamentary, direct, republic, or otherwise. Moreover, it seriously undermines democracy and the health of the nation.
There is no more important vote than that cast by the disgruntled. It is the disgruntled vote that has the greatest potential to unseat corruption in government, to deny reelection to the incompetent and inept, and to replace those politicians who, for all their good intentions, remain ineffective in the eye of the disgruntled citizen.
If ever there was a time to unseat incumbents, it is now. A huge majority of our politicians in Congress share a corrupt but common priority system. First priority — don't alienate the party's contributors or leadership. Without party backing of one's primary election, one has less chance of reelection, a lesson Senator Lieberman is still smarting over.
Second priority — don't alienate the wealthy donors representing their own wallets, like lobbyists, and corporations, and unions, whose campaign donations and backing are essential to purchasing the advertising to tell voters what they want to hear just before an election. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake here for incumbents.
Third priority — do not forget the pork. Never mind the fact that bringing home federal dollars for a bridge to nowhere, or a $200,000 gazebo for the state's capital city has a price tag 49 times greater than what it actually costs to build. It's okay. Because voters haven't yet figured out that in order to bring home 40 million dollars of pork federal dollars, the other 49 states who could veto your pork project in Committee will insist on their own 40 million dollar pork projects. And politicians do their best to obfuscate the fact that their 40 million in pork dollars actually costs tax payers almost 2 billion dollars in extra taxes or deficits. These are taxes and deficits our children will have to pay in increasing amounts.
The fourth priority of incumbents is packaging their candidacy. They spend a lot of the money they receive from the above donors to hire PR firms who help them decide from polls and psychological studies what it is the incumbent must say, and not say, to diminish their failures and highlight the future of what they are going to do if reelected. Then they spend your federal tax dollars to mail you progress reports on how great they are doing in fighting for this or that, and how their reelection is essential to winning the battle against your fellow Americans who stand in the way. Divide and conquer!
Fifth priority is to gerrymander. If you are an incumbent, the greatest single action you can take to insure reelection is adjust your voting district so that it gathers up as many of your party supporters as possible, and subdivide the opponent party's constituents to mere minorities in each district. It is amazing how much time and taxpayer dollars are spent by our incumbent politicians and local governments on this priority between elections.
The sixth priority is finally the nation! After all, incumbent politicians have kids too, well, a majority of them, anyway. And they do want their children to have a decent future in this country with as many privileges and opportunities as Congressional pay raises will provide them. Congressional pay raises occur very frequently these days. It is funny how that works to the advantage of the nation. Well, for that part of the nation in the incumbent's upper middle or wealthy class, anyway.
The final priority for incumbent politicians is you. I mean you, the individual voter. Your are last. You are inconsequential. You are either for them or you are a meaningless minority. I write my senators and representative frequently on issues, and they all have skilled staff to draft replies to me saying how much they appreciate hearing from me on issues they don't agree with at all. Now there's a blatant lie if I ever heard one. I ask for an end to deficits this year. They reply, "Thank you for contacting me on this very important issue. I assure you deficits are one of my top priorities and I will continue to work toward ending them." But, then I watch C-Span and see my representatives vote for spending bills right and left that insure another huge deficit year.
But, as a voter, I am neither meaningless, nor inconsequential. The reason is that I vote and I am not alone as a disgruntled voter any more. I started writing about my anti-incumbent position in 2003. I didn't reach too many folks by the 2004 elections so a record number of incumbents got reelected.
But last year I formed a PAC called Vote Out Incumbents Democracy, (VOID for short). It is an all-volunteer organization of voters from all parties seeking to end this cycle of incumbent reelection and gratuitous mismanagement of our nation's future. VOID is helping to insure growing numbers of voters feel the strength of their numbers, and remain energized and motivated to go to the polls this election and vote against incumbents in the primaries, and in the general election on November 7. As Lieberman's Connecticut senatorial primary race demonstrated, it is having an effect.
The only meaningless and inconsequential vote is the one not cast. Many of you will decide your incumbent is the best choice for you, your country, and your children's future. I congratulate you. However, you were likely to go vote anyway. For the rest of us who believe record national debt, an Iraq war about to last longer than our involvement in the whole of WWII, and the corruption and waste of tax dollars by the likes of Abramoff, DeLay, Jefferson, and Enron have gone on long enough, I commend you for your resolution to vote this year for a challenger. Polls are beginning to show November will witness a record voter turnout.
The simple truth is that if politicians believe reelection is in the bag, no matter how bad things get, they have no need to change their priorities. We will remain their last priority. Only if record numbers of incumbents lose reelection, will the remaining incumbents and freshmen get the message that the voters demand first priority position. Government of, by, and for the people, is really that simple. You just have to vote for it, by voting against the incumbents who have other priorities. I am confident this election will not be about what politicians can tell us for our vote, but what we voters can tell them about why they won't be getting millions of our votes.Powered by Sidelines