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Election Season: What Can We Tell You?

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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.

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About David R. Remer

  • Baronius

    Not to quibble, but the US was involved in World War II for four years, then occupied Germany for another five, and Japan for seven. But it depends on how you look at it. We secured the border of West Germany for 45 years.

    Iraq War: about one year, from increased US bombing in early 2002 to the collapse of the Iraqi government in 2003 (1/4 the length of WW2)

    Iraqi Occupation: about two and a half years so far (1/3 the length of Japanese occupation post-WW2)

  • Yes, I will quibble. We entered WWII on Dec. 8, 1941, one day after the Pearl Harbor attack. We ended WWII with the surrender of Japan on Aug. 15, 1945. We were engaged in WWII a little less than 3 years and 9 months.

    Revisionist history is not required. These dates are considered historical fact. In 4 months, we will have exceeded that time in our military engagement in Iraq without victory, as defined by our President and White House personnel leading up to, and shortly after, the invasion of Iraq.

  • You are right on target, David. The voting in this country is atrocious, and the major money people would be terrified if everyone came out to cast a ballot. The internet gives a rare opportunity to have a voice. How ironic that Bush wants to spread democracy while deminishing it here.

    Regarding the quibbles: (from my own piece)”Iraq was created, with various peoples forced to live together. Saddam, the cement, was removed by us. Now we expect to impose a democracy and have it work with such a fractured society. We were able to do this with Germany and Japan because in each case they had totally surrendered, and in each case they were ONE people, culturally and ethnically joined. They were not fighting amongst themselves, but were working to survive as a single unit and came to welcome the intrinsic value of a democratic system.”

    Interestingly, there was a hardcore Nazi insurgency following Germanys’ formal surrender
    which had to be put down. Also There were a number of U-Boats still in service post-surrender which either didn’t believe the end-of-the-war message, or didn’t receive it. So the danger remained for awhile. I was beginning training in August 45 when the bombs were dropped and was therefore rescued from an attack of the home island of Japan in which predicted casualties would’ve made “D-Day look like a picnic.” (read that).

  • What can they tell us? Would a mass suicide pact be too much to ask for?


  • Nancy

    Mass suicide? Of whom, the politicians? Shit, Dave, we should be so lucky. However, I’m not sanguine.

  • Uncle Sammy, thank for the comments. Yes, absolutely dead right on about the homogeneity of the Japanese and German societies in the post war Marshall plan period. So many of us, but too few as it turned out, saw the writing on the wall regarding the disaster an invasion of Iraq would be. All one had to do was review the 2000 CIA fact book which gave all the relevant facts needed to predict precisely what has happened in Iraq in the post Saddam period.

    Its not that the Administration didn’t have access to these same facts. They even had CIA analysts leak info, and resign over the Bush Admin’s decision to invade and they no doubt warned loudly within the CIA that it was a humongous mistake in the making. But, they were silenced. There was another agenda. One set out years before Bush was even elected. One which Bush himself was likely not even aware of as he depended upon Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rove and others to guide him on the Iraq decision.

    Bush was not a well educated person. And that lies at the core of the failure of his administration and remains the core of the dilemma in Iraq as he continues to rely on the Generals for a military solution in Iraq, when it is plain to see, many another solutions were called for. Now it is too late. Iraq is engaged in a sectarian civil war, over which we have little control. We have lost the hearts and minds of the Iraq factions, and the Civil War is theirs to fight now, with or without us in the middle of it.

  • Dave, yep, too much to ask. Just like term limits is too much to ask. Too much, because Congress itself would have to vote for it. And they are not about to bite their own hands which feed them.

  • Baronius

    Dave, I’m not being revisionist. As Sammy and I pointed out, the period after WWII wasn’t easy. There were competing interests, aggressive neighbors, and a domestic insurgency. There were war crimes trials. We spent a fortune rebuilding the infrastructure that we’d just finished destroying. In Japan, there was widespread starvation, and we forced a very different type of government on them. Surely it isn’t revisionism to see the parallels.

  • Baronius

    Also, let me add that you’re completely right about pork, and about political packaging. The first one is an obvious burden on society, but the second one is insidious. They’re actually very similar: they create false impressions of what a great guy the incumbent is.

    The thing that infuriates me about political packaging is that a voter can find out the truth behind the story in about 5 minutes at 52k, faster on a DSL.

  • Baronius, I am not disputing the facts you present. Just that if you are going to compare apples to apples, you have to consider our occupation in Iraq as a continuation of the war in Iraq because we never defeated the Baathist’s and Sunnis who are still killing our troops and Shia on a daily basis. This is not a mop up operation like after WWII, nor is Iraqi reconstruction underway in anyway close to the Marshall Plan. We diverted 80% of the reconstruction funding to combat operations. Now we are increasing troops in Iraq, yet again. More than 3200 Iraqi civilians died last month in sectarian violence, and we are calling up the reserves again to active duty. This war in Iraq is still escalating.

    Therefore, your implication that what we are now involved in is akin to the mop up operations after VJ day, just doesn’t wash. Our President’s stated goal of installing a free, productive, and unified democratic Iraq capable of peaceful relations with civilized nations and efficient trade with the rest of the world is nowhere close to being accomplished.

  • Baronius, I am counting on the Internet factor this November to deliver some genuine surprises for incumbents who went into the elections feeling safe, Democrat and Republican. Lamont’s campaign indicates that that this may be the case.