Fact-checked news reports and personal opinions about political events and electoral issues. All comments are welcome. Hosted by Rob Lafferty, former newspaper editor and National Affairs columnist now living deep in the woods of Oregon's Coast Range...
How to own your government
to own your government
liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth
of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the
democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism –
ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other
controlling private power."
– " Franklin
D. Roosevelt, in a message to Congress in 1938
American people own and operate the United States government. That's
the underlying truth of our democracy, even when the reality is
something quite different. Just about everyone agrees that the
current state of our government is ugly and dysfunctional, while
everyone blames someone else for the mess.
it's all our fault – yours, mine, and the folks next door, too. We
let special interest groups pay lobbyists to bribeentertain
members of Congress with lavish gifts, and we allow politicians to
almost without limit. Those elected representatives of the people
then vote on behalf of those special interests, and we re-elect those
same folks the next chance we get.
fault is that?
doesn't need to be that way, because it hasn't always been that way.
There have been moments in history where a Nation or a People
reasserted common ownership of government, changed the course of
history and made life a little better for just about everybody. We
can create one of those eras any time we choose, and 2015 is looking
like a very good year to start.
the next few weeks, this column will try to describe a path that
could help us reclaim ownership of government and control how it
functions. A certain kind of map exists for us to follow, even though
it's a rather rough map and a bit thin on details. Drawn over
centuries of time, it can be seen in the historical record as well as
the modern world, with guideposts marked by some of the finest
thinkers on the planet.
don't need to overthrow our government or invent a new one, we just
need to liberate the process of self-governance from the people
holding the keys. That won't be as difficult as it seems – after
all, we gave them those keys, and we can take them back whenever
most important key, however, is one that we've held on to all along
but don't use enough and seldom use well. We need to vote in greater
numbers, and we need to vote smarter. Neither of those things are as
hard to do as they sound.
full one-third of all eligible voters stay out of every national
election. In the 1960 presidential election, only 63 percent of the
eligible voters in America actually did. When it comes to exercising
our civic duty, that sorry number is also the best we’ve done over
the past fifty years.
typical national voting rate is between 50-55 percent, which is no
way to maintain a democracy. It’s also the primary reason
government doesn't respond to the will of the People – because it
doesn't have to.
smart is also easier than you might think. We need elected officials
who are committed to representing all of the people while, at the
same time, acting in accordance with the wishes of the majority.
Politicians who promote one specific philosophy are seldom able to
forge agreements with people who think differently. That's been the
downfall of our current system; political parties have become
fortresses full of politician/warriors who defend their beliefs
instead of seeking sensible solutions.
actual process of voting needs a lot of repairs, too, but it all can
be done with tools that already exist. Two things need immediate
attention: the process of drawing district boundaries according to
political demographics instead of population and geography needs to
stop right away, and we need to get rid of electronic or digital
voting machines that can be hacked. Paper ballots offer better vote
security, while mail-in ballots offer voters a better opportunity to
full rehabilitation of the American electoral system probably
equivalent to a 12-step process, with every citizen making a full
committment to vote as the first step. The next few steps involve
making better decisions about who we elect, how we elect them and
what we expect from the politicians we choose.
need to start talking about those aspects of our system and devising
the necessary repairs instead of accepting a choice between
candidates who are supported by – and beholden to – Democrat or
Republican party power brokers. In 21st Century America, that's
usually a vote to maintain the status quo. In a society where
democracy is dying from neglect, that kind of partisan approach
towards government no longer works.
very strange happened on election night to Deborah Tannenbaum in Volusia
County. At 10pm she called the county elections department and learned that Al
Gore was leading George W. Bush 83,000 votes to 62,000. But when she checked
half an hour later, she found a startling development: Gore's count had dropped
by 16,000 votes, while an obscure Socialist candidate had picked up 10,00 – all
because of a single precinct with only 600 voters." – Washington Post, Nov. 12, 2000 "Anyone within a half mile of any machine could have modified
every vote, undetected. I could teach you how to do it over the phone. It might
require an administrator password, but that’s OK – the password is
‘admin’.”–Jeremy Epstein of SRI International on AVS
WinVote machines, 2008
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we see high turnout because of vote-by-mail. It’s extremely convenient and accessible; it’s secure and cost-effective.”–Oregon Gov. Kate Brown On
Election Day, Oregon…
were planning to steal an election, our long history of rigging the
popular vote can help you. Controlling who
counts the votes and how those votes get counted is the most
direct and effective way of election thievery – especially when votes are
cast, counted and stored by digital machines. Decades
ago, with our typical enthusiasm for technology, Americans
accepted voting machines – first mechanical, then electronic, now
digital and tomorrow wireless – as a valid replacement for paper
ballots. We were wrong. It's bad
enough when machines malfunction, but storing votes on hard drives offers thieves an easy way to steal. They just need a few minutes of access to
machines before an election to install malicious software, or similar
access to storage drives after votes have been cast.
That access is available to whichever
political party controls a state government. It's much, much harder to rig elections that rely on paper ballots marked with a
pencil. Lots of volunteers help…
Rise of the Independents"I
don't want everybody to vote. Our leverage in the elections quite
candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." – American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) co-founder Paul Weyrich, 1983A true
democracy may be the least efficient form of government, but that's
because it includes more freedom than any social construction ever
devised. You need consensus for it to work well; you need to seek
solutions on common ground, and you need mass participation by
engaged and informed citizens. Those are hard things to find in 21st
Century America. Just like
every other country on the planet, we have a diverse population with
multiple points of view regarding how a citizen-owned government
should operate. Our electoral system, however, is dominated by two
political parties that aren't nearly as different from each other as
they want voters to believe. Flash back
to 1952 when Dwight Eisenhower was elected president, then jump
forward to 20…