It's that most drawn out and not so fun season for folks in the US. Election season. It seems, at least to me, that the Election cycle starts earlier and earlier each year, with this last one starting as soon as the new President took office. Maybe that's the reason why so many folks just couldn't be bothered with actually going to the polls. Everyone is just so worn out by the the time election day rolls around, they'd rather just pretend it wasn't happening and go have a beer with their buddies instead. If, however, you are quite the study in perseverance, then maybe the pet election season topics will cause you to run the other way. They are, in no specific order of preference: Abortion, Entitlement Spending (Medicare, Social Security), Abortion, Healthcare, Abortion and Immigration. Yes, we are still arguing about a law passed in 1973, that for the most part does not address the serious problems most families are facing at the moment, but arguing about this pet subject, rallies "the base" and therefore makes it's way into every debate in every election cycle. Could one really be annoyed with folks for NOT wanting to get involved? Why vote when you feel like your time and effort aren't going to make a difference. And why go vote for somebody who essentially is identical to their opponent except for the banner they run under? I totally understand people's frustration. So, after some thought, here's my take on what it would take to "energize" all people into truly participating in the democratic process of electing leaders.
1. Get rid of the Primaries. The primaries are the most fun in the elections. You have a host of candidates all vying for the top spot, and everyone feels really passionate about their candidate. Unfortunately, and I don't know how on earth this happens, it seems that the most disliked, mistrusted candidate wins out in the end. It's usually at this point that most folks lose interest in the the whole election process. Why not just let everyone run. Keep them all on the ballot. Let the voters have someone to vote FOR not vote against. Most folks feel like they are put in a situation where they have to choose the lesser of two evils. Seriously? That's the choice you want your citizens to have? Devil #1 or Beelzebub #2? By keeping everyone in the race you keep people interested and engaged. I am pretty sure that voter turn out will be at all time highs if just this was changed.
2. Dissolve the Electoral College. If you want people to vote, they must feel that their votes are going to count. What does it help that people go vote and the Electoral College has the final say? It's outdated and has served it's purpose. And while we're on the topic of letting people's vote count: do away with this hysteria of voter fraud. Only ten cases of fraud over the span of how many decades? Seriously? We should be trying to make it easier for EVERY citizen to vote, not harder!
3. The President gets to run against everyone. Including members from his own party. Why should he be afforded privilege of no contest from his own party simply because he is currently in the White House? If his/her policies have worked and benefited the country, the citizens will keep the current leader if not - hasta la vista, bebe.
4. The President shouldn't be allowed to serve two consecutive terms. My reasoning for this is simple. At the moment, Presidents spend their entire first term trying to make sure they'll get elected into a second term. This leads to compromise and broken promises to appease special interest groups or the ever elusive "base" and leaves those that elected him/her to office out to dry. A President's second term is often the term that best reflects the things that were important to him/her to start off with. So why not stop the nonsense and help the President out? Make it so they only get one term in office. They can run again in four years. They can keep doing that for two terms or three or whatever. I think if they cannot have a consecutive terms, it helps to keep them honest and reminds them that their job is to serve the best interests of the citizens of the country NOT interest groups.
5. GET THE MONEY OUT OF GOVERNMENT!! Special interest groups, companies, non profits and charities should not be allowed to donate money or services to anyone who holds an office or wants to hold an office in government. If you want your citizen's to feel like their voices are being heard then you have to get all the bullies and money mongers out the way. As things stand at the moment, Regular Joe cannot get his voice heard over the sound of the automated counting machines that every congressmen, senator and, yes, President has in their office. Put caps on what folks are allowed to spend on campaigns, whether it be for local office of national office. You'll make the races fair that way, and then everyone who wants to run can run and it won't just be the folks with the BIG money that win each time. It should be disturbing to Citizens that statistics show that the candidate who spends the most money is the one most likely to win. Really? That's what decides for us now? Money? We can do better than that, and we should demand better than that.
6. Stop pretending that Abortion is a real issue. It's not. It's simply used to get people all hot and bothered. The simple truth of the matter is this: if people really wanted abortion gone, it would be gone by now. It's not a real issue for most folks. What are real issues to most "regular" folk are outsourcing, jobs, jobs, jobs, and did I mention jobs? Coupled to that are the rising costs of living and education. And, if we really want to talk about spending, lets start with military spending first and work our way down from that to Medicaid and Social Security.
To be involved in the wonderful privilege and responsibility of choosing a country's leadership, should be something every citizen wants to do. Yet, we cannot judge those that just feel like they couldn't be bothered. They have good reason to feel that way. If you want everyone to be involved, then you need to involve everyone.