A Modest Proposal

If you’re anything like me—believe me, I’m not that unique—you are tired of the pageantry and puppetry every two years for national elections. Our entire process has become a televised three-ring circus, full of creepy clowns and poo-flinging monkeys, most ignoring reality and acting solely on hysteria.

Once a model for stability and smooth power transition, our elections have quickly becoming a joke on the world stage, negating any legitimacy for American intervention or leadership abroad. Elections are expensive and have become tiring due to their ridiculousness alone.

So, how do we stifle the madness? My post-election brainstorm:

Elections:

All national and statewide offices should be filled every four years on Election Day, which should become a paid national holiday.

US House of Representatives: (Wikipedia, Official) Each term should be four years, with the entire House up for reelection every Election Day. While we’re at it: Full pension should not be attained until the fourth term is completed, and members should be limited to 20 years in the House.

US Senate: (Wikipedia, Official) Each term should be eight years, with half of the Senate (one from each state) up for reelection every Election Day. While we’re at it: Full pension should not be attained until the second term is completed, and members should be limited to 24 years in the Senate.

President: (Wikipedia, Official) No change. Office up for grabs every four years on Election Day, with a limit of two terms.

At the state level, all statewide offices should be up for grabs only on the national Election Day, every four years. Whether states choose to have officials serve four or eight years is up to them. Local jurisdictions should also be encouraged to only hold elections on the national Election Day. Obviously, this one requires cooperation and voluntary compliance, but saving money and making things more orderly should be the impetus for the change.

Legislation:

Each bill before either chamber of Congress should cover only one specific law or regulation. Multiple bills could be included in one package submitted between chambers and to the President, but each item could be rejected or vetoed separately. Each and every bill should be made publicly available online (and in print upon request by phone) for at least 21 days before a vote is allowed. (Emergency bills passing 60% of both chambers would be exempt.) Each bill must also identify all members of Congress who proposed, wrote, and/or sponsored the bill.

Campaign finance reform:

Corporations are NOT people. They are, however made up of people. And the presence of those people should dictate how much can be donated to the political process. However, direct contributions to candidates or political action committees should be banned. Yep. I said it. None. Zilch. Corporations should only be allowed to donate to political parties at the state and national level, and must do so publicly. The amount should be directly proportional to the number of full-time, fully compensated American employees on American soil who make at least 150% of the US minimum wage. The amount allowed per employee can be set by Congress, but its establishment or future adjustment must get a 60% majority, not a simple majority. While we’re at it: Any business that tells its employees how to vote should lose their legal right to contribute ANY money to the political process for 20 years.

Redistricting:

Of course redistricting is needed. And I fully believe we need to retain Congressional districts rather than have US Representatives elected “at large” within each state as some suggest. However, districts need to be drawn along logical, preexisting political and geographical boundaries, with priority given to drawing only along county/parish lines. Beyond counties, districts should be drawn along municipal and then geographical boundaries. The process should be overseen by non-partisan citizen groups and not by legislators and elected officials. Citizens of any established or proposed district should have legal right to petition and have the matter up for vote on the next national Election Day.

The corruption surrounding redistricting has been a tool of all parties and most ideologies, but it’s time to move on from having district boundaries as a tool to “retain power at all costs.”

Church and State:

Contrary to the nonsense about the “Christian foundations” of the country (click here for more on this), any religious organization that tells its members how to vote should lose all tax exemptions and/or non-profit status for the next five election cycles. They absolutely have the right to say whatever they want, but they should then be treated like everyone else when they do so.

Media reform:

No corporation, agency, or organization should be allowed to call itself a news outlet unless 75% of its daily programming is actual (and factual) news reporting. Editorializing and discussion should NOT count toward the 75% and should be identified as “Editorial” on screen for television, or before and after said editorializing on radio. Any reporting by members of political action committees, political campaigns, or paid political staff also should also not count toward this 75%. While we’re at it: No news outlet or its parent company should be allowed to donate to political parties if more than 5% of airtime on that news outlet is devoted to politics.

Exit polls serve no purpose. They should be banned. Voters should not be obstructed or impeded while entering or exiting polls, between the door, and their mode of transportation. Period. The findings of such polls are always skewed toward those who have time to loiter at the poll, anyway.

No election results or even speculation about the results should be released until at least 4 hours after polls have closed. The televised, American Idol-esque pageant serves no one but advertisers.

Just a start:

Clearly, much more is needed to fix the mess. These are just basic suggestions on ending the tyranny of money and the circus that it creates.  This is also a test of values, because any official who objects to the principles behind these suggestions must have something to lose if we had free, fair, and orderly elections And believe me, I know there are many who do. But they should not only be distrusted, but removed from office as well.

And make no mistake: We the people are the government—local, state, and national. None of this was hoisted upon us from some foreign our mysterious entity. We built the system we have, through our own action and inaction. Apathy is as big a political tool as marching through Washington, so saying we have no power is the same as actively voting for someone who threatens you. And we the people are the only ones who can fix this mess.

Further Reading:

 

On the web:

8 Things You Can Do to Help Get Money Out of PoliticsBillMoyers.com. “The 2014 midterms showed that the time has come to stand up to the plutocrats.”

Making elections matter: Open Secrets, The Campaign Legal CenterCommon Cause, The Sunlight FoundationDemocracy 21Public Citizen.

2 thoughts on “A Modest Proposal

  1. I agree with your suggestions here with a few exceptions: staggered elections for the U.S. House of Representatives. 1/2 up for re-election every 4 years.

    I’m also not opposed to mandatory voting and I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to putting caps on campaign spending and complete transparency on where the donations are coming from and where the money is being spent. And any funds left unspent at the end of the election cycle go to a national general fund. While I’m at it, maybe we need to have a donation period which limits when candidates for office can start and must end their fundraising activities.

    Just thinking out loud here.

  2. I would agree fully with staggering the House of Representatives, too, except that would make them just like Senators, and it would give those clowns 8-year terms! 🙂 I fully understand the appeal of not having a “full sweep,” though.

    I’ve thought about mandatory voting a lot, too. I don’t know how to pull it off. Maybe tying tax exemptions/deductions to active voters only? It also seems that any solution there would require a national ID? I’m not opposed to that, personally, but that’s an ugly topic these days.

    I’m all for the forfeiture of funds at the end of the cycle! Great idea!

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