Category Archives: National

The Reason the GOP and Democrats Keep Talking Past One Another (illustrated)

 

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Follow me on Twitter at Patience Burke@TameTheGorilla.

 

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Do You Know a Good Repairman? My Democracy is Broken.

This week, The Hill contributor Allan J. Lichtman writes about “a shattering new study (that finds) ordinary Americans have virtually no impact…on the making of national policy in our country.”

Shattering? That’s really not the word I would use. Is it shattering that the sun rises? Surprising that earth spins? No. We’ve come to expect it. But interesting, I’ll give you that.

The study was conducted by pronounced university professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern. It is due out in full this fall.

Mr. Lichtman, a professor himself at the American University in Washington, likely was privy to a sneak peak. He continues that “the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a “non-significant, near-zero level”…(while the) rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process.”

Again, I don’t think this qualifies as “news” for the majority of Americans. Most of us already possess a healthy level of pessimism where political influence is concerned. But don’t let my sans-coffee, cranky musings diminish the importance of what Mr. Lichtman promotes.

Indeed, this “should be a loud wake-up call to the vast majority of Americans…bypassed by their government.” Yes, “the relationship between the people and our government” must be changed.

But how?

Mr. Lichtman describes an apathetic public, one where more and more Americans are opting not to vote, not to participate. Somewhere, our country fell off the civic bandwagon.

So, what does it take to spark a revolution?

I’ll point you back to a 1972 political theory called the Downs Model. It was the basis for much of my college thesis and is something I refer to whenever I need to sound smart. It is my fix-all for virtually any governmental or social ill and is the only political theory I can identify by name.

The genesis of the model is quite simple: crisis breeds opportunity. Change follows catastrophe.

With these crises come “windows of opportunity.” Every sinking ship needs a plug, so the first shipmate to show up with a giant piece of cork wins. People aren’t so picky during times of emergency.

But the window won’t stay open forever. No patch kit? Well, there goes humanity. Opportunities are just as easily missed due to the fact that no one stepped up with a solution. Or, on the contrary, someone stepped up with a bad one.

Mr. Lichtman suggests non-elites pool their moderate resources into competing political action committees (PACs)…meet thy enemy head on in the war of political fundraising.

I’ve got to admit, PACs and Super PACs straight up give me the willies. Even for a cause I believe in, it just feels wrong. Could it be a transparent Super PAC that doesn’t eat meat and that hugs bunnies?

Frankly, I don’t have an alternative for the masses. I’ll think on it, if you will. But remember, time’s a wastin’. Do as Mr. Lichtman suggests, and act now! This is a limited time offer – it won’t last forever!

 

Follow me on Twitter at Patience Burke@TameTheGorilla.

 

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Who Wins Every Election Cycle? The Cable Company.

Last week, I found myself wondering who really benefits from the many millions of dollars that are raised and spent by super PACs.  For the most part, I’ve assumed it was the candidates, their parties, and the special interest groups who fund these enterprises.

You know, an interest group gives money to a super PAC.  The super PAC spends money (indirectly) promoting a candidate or party platform.  The candidate gets elected and makes decisions in favor of the interest group’s priorities.  Rinse and repeat.

But step back for a moment.  Think of how these dollars are spent.  Election cycles increasingly bring in ungodly amounts of advertising dollars.  The Wall Street Journal reported that for the 2012 elections, super PACs spent more than half a billion dollars.  That’s in addition to the millions spent by the candidates and parties themselves.

Clearly, the influence of super PACs on our political system is very troubling.  But perhaps there is another middleman – aside from super PACs – about whom we need to be concerned.

The sheer amount of money being spent on campaign ads gives cable companies and broadcast networks major skin in the game.  They have a lot to gain from the campaign season and from the unabashed use of super PAC dollars to influence politics.

Last Saturday, Matea Gold of the Washington Post wrote about the Democrats’ increasing reliance on super PAC fundraising.  She reported that the board for Priorities USA, a key Democratic super PAC, now includes an executive from Viacom, as well as a lobbyist for Comcast.  Interesting.

In the world of super PAC haters, the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson are low hanging fruit.  It’s really easy to demonize them for using their mega wealth to influence politics.  But what about the television networks that accept this money and run these ads?  They, too, deserve our scorn, as they are perpetuating this revolting trend.

Like bookies who take bets on dog fights.  They may not own the dogs, but they’re still culpable for the harm.

Follow me on Twitter at Patience Burke@TameTheGorilla.

 

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Election Season – It’s Kind of Like that Movie “300.”

February 7, 2014

As I read Matea Gold’s (Washington Post) piece about the Koch brothers’ attack against Democrats this election cycle, I couldn’t help but envision a scene from the movie “300.”  Two armies, clashing together in a winner take all battle…but without those undeniably impressive six packs.  This – is – AMERICA!!!

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) already has pumped more than $27 million into advertisements for the 2014 election cycle – November still nine months away.  AFP is taking aim at the Democrats, but I don’t know that it’s fair to call it a pro-Republican organization.  It’s shown before its willingness to cannibalize when, in the 2010 elections, it ate its own kind during the Tea Party’s rise to power over the GOP.

Of course, the Democrats, on the defensive, want to start lobbing money bombs back the other way.  You know, because that’s a productive cycle to get into.  Nothing fixes a country like spending millions of dollars on campaign ads.

Just imagine, $27 million.  Do you know what $27 million could do?!  That could buy a year’s worth of HIV treatment for 1,173 individuals.  It could pay the college tuition costs for 424 students attending a four-year public university.  It could buy 243,000,000 meals for the nation’s hungry and malnourished.

Instead, it bought some political ads.  In other words, it just made several million Americans change the channel.

Follow me on Twitter at Patience Burke@TameTheGorilla.

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Fort Lee: Is losing their job enough?

January 11, 2014 

Government corruption akin to what’s recently taken place in the Christie administration – i.e. the Fort Lee debacle – isn’t an anomaly.  This stuff happens amongst elected officials and their staff across the country.  No surprise really, as powers corrupts.  That old adage likely will forever remain true.

But that response really isn’t satisfying to the American public, who foots the bill and the frustration both during and in the aftermath of these events.  Yet, it seems that too often the only penalty felt by those bad actors is the loss of their jobs.  Is that enough?

Saturday’s Washington Post cites thousands of man-hours lost and wasted as result of the Fort Lee lane closures – both by the port authority and ostensibly also by the many private citizens who were trapped in gridlock traffic on the bridge.  The Post also cites more troubling consequences such as the traffic jam interfering with the care of a woman in cardiac arrest and the search for a missing child.  Really!?

Government officials know that if they cross the line into Blagojevich-land, they can reap criminal penalties.  But what about cases like Fort Lee?  Did these bad actors break any laws?

My husband joked about a massive class action suit, and surely, there were tangible harms felt by those thousands of individuals.  While I suspect it would be hard to get around the “state actor” protections these former government employees enjoyed, it isn’t a terrible idea.  There needs to be some accountability, and I question whether loss of employment is enough.

Civil service is an honorable responsibility, and those with a poor moral compass ought not enter the field.  We need some established deterrent to prevent these types from wanting to serve in government in the first place.

Follow me on Twitter at Patience Burke@TameTheGorilla.

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