Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How to Run America - A Citizen's Primer

I watched this evening's presidential debate and wondered to myself just who would have been swayed from their previous position? Senator McCain was blase and mean, Senator Obama was bland and uninspiring. I didn't experience a single moment that moved me during tonights Q&A. If I asked 10,000 people around the country how they were going to vote and what impact tonight's debate had, I would be willing to bet that at least 95% of Obama's supporters before the event would still be Obama voters and would cast their vote for Barack if the election were tomorrow; I think essentially the same is true of McCain supports. And the folks on the fence? I doubt that tonight will make their decision much easier come November 4th.

I think I might immediately cast my vote for the first candidate who succinctly answered three consecutive questions - and I mean answered the questions they were asked, some some distant relative of the question asked. Just about every political candidate in the recent past has perfected this talent, and theirs bosses don't call them on it; WE don't call them on it. We have the toughest job over the course of the next 2-3 years, as WE have to retrain ourselves while we teach our children how to expect and demand accountability and responsibility from our government. It's going to require us to become experts on political capital, but there's one resource we have that politicans need: VOTES. We need to make people EARN our votes initially and KEEP them going forward.

And make no mistake about it, WE have the power to do just that. We proved it in California when we ousted Gray Davis back in 2003; I don't want to debate whether that was the right move or if the replacement governor was any better. I'm using that as proof that we CAN make our voices heard. We have to be adamant and diligent in wielding that power; we have to hold ourselves up to the standards we want from our leaders. Because in the coming days, WE are going to need to lead ourselves. Are YOU up to the job? Here's what you need to do to accept that mantle and make sure we move forward as well as we can.

1. Register to vote. The deadline is either today or tomorrow, but if you have NOT registered, DO IT NOW!!! If you don't register to vote, then your justification to complain is limited to only the most aggregious of situations. And then you have to wait at the end of the line. It's free and it's easy, but you HAVE to do it.

2. Decide what is important to you. Is it same sex marriage? Abortion and women's choice? Gun control? The economy? Iraq? Take the issue(s) that resonate with you, that MEAN something visceral to you, and decide how you feel about them. Find groups that share your viewpoint and support them with your time, energy, and $$$. Get involved and stay involved - if you don't, why should anybody else? And don't sell me the load of goods that "your vote don't count". Wisconsin's electoral votes in 2004 were decided by a mere 11,384 votes. That may sound like a lot, but that's less thatn 5,600 who need to change their vote to make a dead heat. I went to high school with that many people for crying out loud; your vote DOES count and you know it does. But that sure is a convenient excuse. Guess what? The time for those has past. We can't accept them from our President, our Senators, nor our Governors; how can we accept them from one another?

3. VOTE that decision. Vote for the candidate(s) whose announced policies are in line with your priorities. If you are not sure, read their website. Look for interviews. Check out the Women's League of Voters. Read your election pamphlet (we paid for it, so you might as well). Talk with your friends to see how they see each candidate's position on these issues. But decide who YOU want leading YOUR America from Washington D.C., from Sacramento, from Downtown. Then VOTE for them.

4. LIVE your decision. Talk with folks, hear their points of view, share your passions. Cruisade for what you are passionate about. Help convince others to vote for who THEY believe in. Promote the election as if it were you bachelor/bachelorette party - remember you want EVERYONE to come to the party.

5. Hold them accountable. If someone promised something, they owe it to you to try to get that done to the best of their ability. Call them on it: send letters, e-mails, etc. Sign petitions. Speak to other representatives and let them know how you feel. Reward them with a donation, signature, vote, etc. if you like the job they are doing. Punish them by withholding your vote and giving it to another candidate, signing a recall petition to help speed their exit, share your frustration with others on websites, blogs, petitions, letters. Make the official know you do not like what (s)he is doing and that you expect them to do better.

6. Hold your friends and family to these same standards. Don't even dare allow them the apathy to not vote. Persuade, bully, cajole, threaten, whatever it takes, get them to the polls. Whom they vote for (so long as it's who they believe will do the best job) is not as important as their participation in the process. Afterwards, stay on them about how folks are doing. Engage them in debates, etc.

It's time for us to find our America, polish it off, and put it up on the mantle for the rest of the world to see. It's time we found that country so we can give it to our kids.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Quick Take on the Bailout Bill

Without reviewing the text of the Bailout Bill that was just approved by the House of Representatives, I can only comment generally on the concept and not the particulars.
I'm not opposed to finding temporary ways for the federal government (yes, I'm using lower case on purpose - I don't know that our current leadership warrants capital letters) to encourage economic machinations that will allow businesses to run until this situation stabilizes. I also don't the federal government should look to micromanage this process (Lord knows they haven't done so well keeping their own house these past few years).

But I am 100% opposed to any plan that does NOT include some Federal oversight. I'm also opposed to any plan that does not include provisions to curb executive compensation, at least during the duration of the governmenal intercession. I'm ALSO opposed to any plan that includes provisions for foreign investors who purchased risky paper.

This plan is not supposed to relieve investors of their obligations for their investments that did not turn out the way they were supposed to. I'm HIGHLY skeptical that all of these debts will "eventually become properly valuated" (if they would, then financial institutions would be less desparate to divest them).

I just prey that our leaders (and MAN do I use that word with a grain of salt) have not just thrown $700 B of our hard-earned dollars away on a solution that will NOT effect real change and reset the economy. Otherwise, that's one hell of an expensive bandaid.