Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Those pesky primaries

I'm well aware that the major-parties' faithful pretty much resent independents. We're necessary evils in that we're necessary to get their candidates elected and evil because we're just as likely to get the other party's candidates elected. Why they don't make it easier for us to vote in their primaries is truly bewildering. You'd think they'd pay a little more attention to the "necessary" part.

Some states have open primaries, which means you don't have to declare yourself to be a Republican to vote in the GOP primary, for instance. Others allow you to be, say, a Democrat for a day, or a month, or a quarter in order to vote in the Democratic primary. Others shut you out of the process entirely if you're an independent.

I'm an advocate of open primaries, but not because I want to vote in the major-parties' primaries. Neither is it because some states force us to be dishonest by declaring ourselves to be something we're not just to vote in the primary. Nor is it because I think it's unfair that we're shut out.

No. My reasons are none of the above. I have one, and only one, reason: We all help pay for the primaries. For that reason alone, every registered voter should be allowed unrestricted access to the primary process. As Michael Bloomberg recently pointed out, not only are we excluded, but also we're forced to pay for primaries while the parties do all they can to keep independent and third-party candidates out of both the primaries and the general election.

The Colorado primaries were held yesterday, and my interest level in the results is directly in proportion to my participation level. Which was zilch, because I'm an independent.

Oh, there was one point of interest: Doug Bruce lost. He got promoted to the state legislature last year when the El Paso county commission could no longer abide his antics. And his antics have been legion. He often disrupted the proceedings and was called everything from a slumlord (property he owns really was disgusting) to a sociopath. He raised a stink even before he was sworn in to the legislature because he didn't like the way he was to be sworn in, and later that day he kicked, or in some way assaulted, a news photographer. He was once ordered to leave the state house podium for calling Colorado's Mexican labor force "illiterate peasants" and was booted off the military affairs committee for refusing to vote in favor of a resolution veterans.

I guess it was a good day after all. Even if I did have to stay home.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Watch out for "nonpartisans"

One of the Web sites I regularly visit, Vote Out Incumbents Democracy (VOID), made a great point the other day about the misuse and abuse of the term "nonpartisan" by partisan interests. It's a timely reminder that "independent" and "nonpartisan" are not always interchangeable words. Here's an excerpt:

Strictly speaking, the term [nonpartisan] means not controlled or influenced by, or supporting, any single political party. But it is a loaded word, because it carries with it the following synonyms' meanings as well: unprejudiced, just, nonaligned, unbiased, independent, uninfluenced, unaffected, uninvolved, unimplicated, unbigoted, objective.

And very partisan interests and high priced lawyers and political advisers exploit the meanings of those synonyms in their usage of the word "non-partisan." It is a term that must be considered by a time reference. ...But non-partisan only has meaning in a time-framed context. One can be partisan in the 2006 elections and approach the 2008 elections in a non-partisan fashion, having learned something of the value of making choices by criteria other than political party name or affiliation.
The post goes on to describe how VOID is at times accused of being partisan because it advocates voting out "irresponsible, corrupt, or ineffective politicians," as they did in the 2006 midterms. I can relate; while I was glad that the GOP lost control of Congress that year, that in no way meant that I was a Democrat—although some people saw it that way. I'm an independent who leans neither Republican nor Democrat. And my pleasure at seeing the GOP get punished for Iraq and so much else is no reflection of my vote that year. For all anyone knows, since I keep my vote to myself, I may have voted for third-party candidates rather than Democrats. Or maybe I didn't vote at all. Only I know.

Like VOID, I cannot fathom why voters continue to re-elect incumbents who have done little or nothing to improve the lives of their constituents, have paid scant attention to voters' concerns, and are just as embroiled in scandalous, fraudulent behavior as those who got caught and made headlines. I'm not talking about all incumbents; I'm talking about those who have abused the power the voters gave them. You know who they are, in your own district, state and beyond.

Why do voters do this? Is it just easier? Are they so tied to their party that they want it to maintain power no matter what? What do you think?

Monday, August 11, 2008

New presidential survey from Barna

Fascinating results today from a survey conducted by highly respected pollster George Barna. As he points out elsewhere, most polls simply ask if a person is evangelical; The Barna Group asks specific questions about religious beliefs and determines from that if the respondent is evangelical.

Here's an indication of the staggering difference in results using the two methods:

Using the common approach of allowing people to self-identify as evangelicals, 40% of adults classify themselves as such. Among them, 83% are likely to vote in November. Among the self-reported evangelicals who are likely to vote, John McCain holds a narrow 39% to 37% lead over Sen. Obama. Nearly one-quarter of this segment (23%) is still undecided about who they will vote for.

Using the Barna approach of studying people’s core religious beliefs produces a very different outcome. Just 8% of the adult population qualifies as evangelical based on their answers to the nine belief questions. Among that segment, a significantly higher proportion (90%) is likely to vote in November, and Sen. McCain holds a huge lead (61%-17%) over the Democratic nominee. Overall, just 14% of this group remains undecided regarding their candidate of choice.
Wow. Those are some crazy wild disparities. You can find the full survey results here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Misunderstood Undecided Voter

As anyone who has read We the Purple the book or We the Purple the blog* knows by now, I truly resent the fact that the MSM so often links the word "undecided" with the word "independent." The independents I know—that is, the politically active ones—are, um, highly opinionated and very much decided. As I wrote in We the Purple the book:
Really now, what image comes to your mind when you think of an undecided voter? A nervous, fidgety Edith Bunker who's afraid of making the wrong decision? A neurotic individual who weighs every factor in excruciating detail to such an extent that making a rational decision has become an impossibility?
But today I'm here to defend the undecided voter in this year's election, and here's why: I respect the fact that they still want to vote even though many of them say they don't like either candidate. You gotta love someone who's intent in doing their civic duty despite the nausea it produces.

Back when it became clear that Obama and McCain would be the major parties' candidates, I recall reading a blog response from someone who had this to say about undecided voters: "Are you kidding me?? How can anyone be undecided between these two guys??" But the commenter completely misunderstood many undecideds. They know the obvious ideological differences between Obama and McCain. That's not their problem. Their problem is that they're wondering how they can be good citizens and not lose their dinner before they even leave the polling booth.

Sure, there are lots of Edith Bunkers and neurotic undecideds out there. But critics of those undecideds who are civic-minded, thoughtful and conscientious fail to hear the question these voters keep asking this year: "Is this really the best our country has to offer?"

Like them or not, many undecideds take the responsibility of voting seriously. They just wish they had better options. Many decideds wish the same.

* That's the one you're reading now. Just so you know.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Americans for Redistricting Reform

Here's a heads-up about a new initiative and Web site. A number of organizations have come together to work toward changing the highly partisan nature of redistricting. From the Americans for Redistricting Reform site:
Americans for Redistricting Reform (ARR) is a national nonpartisan umbrella organization comprised of groups from across the political spectrum that recognize the critical need to reform our nation’s redistricting process. Americans for Redistricting Reform is committed to raising public awareness of redistricting abuses and promoting solutions that benefit voters and strengthen our democracy. The organizing principle of ARR is that voters should choose elected representatives, not the other way around.

Advisory Committee member organizations in ARR include: Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Center, Committee for Economic Development, Common Cause, Council for Excellence in Government, Fair Vote, League of Women Voters, Reform Institute, Republican Main Street Partnership, and U.S. PIRG. A number of civil rights groups are also involved in this project and have offered helpful advice and information on redistricting reform.
One of the problems with redistricting, aside from the obvious, is getting people behind the need for reform. Until I became politically aware, the very word redistricting sent me straight to a deep and dreamless sleep. It's a tough sell to an audience already overloaded on political news.

That's why I'm grateful to ARR for working so diligently to get this much-needed reform. The site doesn't have an RSS feed yet, but it does have a link to The Redistricting Game, which I thought was a hoot when I wrote about it in We the Purple. And no, I haven't played it yet. You're on your own with that one.