by Dr. Jim Freim
We the people of the USA are not being represented. We are being grossly shortchanged by our political system. In the 1700’s, we the people of the USA complained, revolted, and gained our independence because of “taxation without representation.” In many ways the same situation exists today. Two political parties can not and do not represent the views of all Americans.
We, the people of the USA, are a huge conglomerate. A stirred mixture unlike any recipe founding fathers could conceive. A “melting pot” of people from many different countries and cultures. A vast variety of political views and a multitude of socioeconomic classes. We have 311,000,000 (that’s three hundred eleven million people!!) in 50 states. From the wide open spaces of the west to the hubbub bustle of the east. From the deserts of the south to the Fargo’s of the north, our goals and interests are as varied as our geography.
But every four years when we elect a president, the same story is repeated, over and over. Ad nausaem.
Its Good Guys vs Bad Guys
Its Democrats vs Republicans
Its Donkeys vs Elephants
Or is that jackasses versus fat asses?
This extremely diverse population can not and is not represented by two and basically only two political parties. Yes, third party candidates have run in the past, but are generally viewed as an intrusion. In my every 4 year review of presidential candidates, my learned friends state, “You can’t vote for him, you’re taking away a vote from X and that will let Y win.” Substitute your own X’s and Y’s for your situation. But choosing between X and Y is like choosing the lesser of two evils. “Sir, Would you rather be poisoned or shot to death?”
In the past, a few third party candidates have made an impact. In 1968 George Wallace as a third party candidate (American Independent Party) for president received almost 14% of the vote. I thought Ross Perot had it all – a vision for the future, understood business, and could grow the economy. But he dropped out – there went my vote. Maybe he realized how hopelessly flawed the system is. Ralph Nader (Unsafe at Any Speed) of the Green Reform and Independent parties ran four times starting in 1996. The Libertarian party has a candidate in every presidential election. (http://presidential/thirdparty.html)
HOW MANY POLITICAL PARTIES EXIST IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
The short answer – many. (But I certainly don’t want to live in a country with one party!)
Democratic countries have multiple parties. Election results often dictate that several parties form a coalition to operate the government. The parties must COOPERATE – an unheard word in recent Washington history. For example, Norway, with only 4+ million folks in a country that is much more homogenous than the USA, has up to 22 parties that vie for election. Now that is representation. Germany has 5 main parties and several minor parties. Japan has 15 parties with seats in the Diet (their governing body). Australia has four parties. (A brief list of other democracies of the world with multiple parties is given at the end of the article.)
WE NEED MORE PARTIES TO REPRESENT US WHO ARE NOT REPRESENTED.
The political system needs drastic reforms to adequately represent all Americans and the changes will not come from the existing elected politicians!! They have too much invested in the current system to make changes that are detrimental to them. They want to get elected again! The changes must come from us, the people, by getting measures on the ballot to change the laws. To level the playing field, allow more political parties, and better representation of all Americans, I offer the following recommendations. (Each topic opens a “can of worms” and is probably worth a dissertation or two!)
1 NO COMPANY, SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP, PAC, SUPER PAC, ETC., SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO CONTRIBUTE ANY MONEY TO ANY CANDIDATE
Suppose aging Uncle Ned gives you $40,000 to help you buy a house. You are very appreciative of his help and when he calls to ask if you can come over and cut the grass, what do you do? Of course, you cut the grass. You are beholden to Uncle Ned. Likewise, politicians are beholden to those who gave the dollars, the big bucks, the dinero. Do you think they remember that MONEY when they make decisions? Absolutely! Definitely, a conflict of interest.
Somewhere along the way of USA history, laws were passed that allow companies to treated like people, like you and me who can vote. The corporation can’t physically cast a ballot, but they vote by shoving money into the hands of the politicians. And lots of it. In an article, Unleashing the Campaign Contributions of Corporations, in the August 28, 2012 edition of The New York Times, Eduardo Porter states,
This is the first presidential election since the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case removed the last barriers to campaign spending by corporations and other groups. Analysts are bracing for a tidal wave of money from rich individuals, companies and labor unions that could alter the political landscape and transform American democracy.
To eliminate companies from buying votes and casting long shadows on elections, laws need to be repealed or rewritten. Simply stated, A company is not a person. NO DONATIONS from companies, corporations, special interest groups, PAC’s, Super PAC’s (which did not exist before the Citizens United Case), etc.
2 GENERAL PUBLIC DONATIONS SHOULD BE LIMITED TO A MAX OF $100
Change the amount an individual can contribute to a maximum of $100. No one through their ‘generous contribution’ should influence the outcome of an election or later the president’s actions. Presidential candidates can receive federal money. Remember that box you checked on your 1040 (tax form) that asks if you would like to contribute to the campaign fund? That pot of public money is available to candidates, but with caveats. If a candidate accepts this money, limits are imposed on spending. No limits if they take private dollars. So most candidates don’t take the money! (The Federal Campaign Finance Law has a list of rules. For more info, see http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/thepoliticalsystem/a/contriblaws.htm.)
3 ELIMINATE THE GROSS, EXTREMELY EXCESSIVE DOLLAR AMOUNTS SPENT ON CAMPAIGNS
1 and 2 would change how elections are conducted. Our system has evolved into spending vast sums of money. We talk about how much money candidate X has raised and how much money candidate Y has in his “war chest” (term used by political commentators and appropriately named given the endless jousting and battles.)
The present situation allows the big buck donors to be represented. The rest of us get no representation since we don’t throw green backs at politicians.
Estimated dollars to be spent on 2012 election campaign is $5.8 billion!! Up from $5.3 spent in the 2008 election. (http://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/) Other sources put this number even higher.
$6 billion!! This a huge amount of money to be sucked into the ether and to disappear forever. To put this into perspective, $6 billion is more than or about equal to the annual budget for 12 states! Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, Montana (who will have a budget surplus – lets figure out what they are doing!), North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. (from the Sunshine Review)
Here is another perspective. In a list of 163 countries of the world, 5.8 billion dollars (I rounded it up to 6.0 billion) is greater than the GDP of 60 of the countries on the list. http://www.studentsoftheworld.info/infopays/rank/PIB2.html
Unbelievable but true. We spent more on one election than the GDP of 60 countries!! That money could be better spent solving some of our problems rather than throwing it into the wind.
Perhaps Mark Twain said it best, “We have the best government that money can buy?”
Maybe elections would be won by the best candidate rather than the candidate who raised the most money. Level the playing field so more candidates can participate. We’ll get Amtrak rolling and let the candidates wave from the caboose; done many years ago by Roosevelt, Truman, Adlai Stevenson and others. Or walk door to door ala the Brits. But in this day of social media, we’d probably just get more annoying calls, emails, and tweets.
4 ELIMINATE ‘WINNER TAKES ALL’ and THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
We have winner take all in our elections. For example, Texas has 38 electoral votes in the presidential election. Suppose, there 3 candidates; A got 51% of the vote and gets all the electoral votes. B got 30%, C got 19%, but B and C get no electoral votes! Zip! Nada! Grossly unfair because almost 50% of the people voted for B and C and yet these two candidates get nothing. 50% of the voters are not represented!! They are being cheated – a modern version of “taxation without representation.”
Suppose our candidate A gets 50% in the populous states, he may have enough electoral votes (270 or more out of 538 possible) to “put him over the top” as the commentators spew on election night. Now another candidate gets the 49% in these populous states and wins the rest of the smaller states. Our other candidate has the most votes in the USA, but loses to candidate A. Fair? Hardly.
Four people won the presidency while losing the popular vote. The following presidents received less than 50% of the general vote (add up all the votes from all the states) but were elected because they had more than 50% of the electoral votes.
Year Candidate (Most Votes) Candidate Who won the Election
1824 Andrew Jackson with 38,000 more votes, but lost to John Quincy Adams
1876 Sam Tilde with 250,000 more votes, but lost to Rutherford B Hayes
1888 Grover Cleveland with 90,000 more votes, but lost to Benjamin Harrison
2000 Al Gore with 540,000 more votes, but lost to George W Bush
Who thought up this system? I’m stepping on the toes of our forefathers, but we need to change the system! Just imagine how history could be rewritten if Al Gore had been president. Would President Gore invaded Iraq looking for WMD (weapons of mass destruction)?
Even in Russia, the person with the most votes becomes president. That’s more democratic than the USA.
5 PRESIDENT SERVES A SIX YEAR TERM AND CAN NOT BE REELECTED
If a president serves two terms, he actually is only effective for 6 years. The president spends as much as 2 years out of a 4 year term running for reelection and campaigning for others. Change the law to one term of 6 years. With all the problems the USA faces, we need a president who literally has his /her butt in the presidential chair every day. And he / she can not campaign for anyone! Period! The president should focus on his job and not divert one ounce of energy to running for reelection.
Most Americans are not being represented by the two party system. The political system and process needs to be changed so all Americans are being represented. Allow more political parties. Eliminate the gross amounts spent on elections. Eliminate ‘winner takes all’ and the electoral college. Corporations are not people and can not contribute to political campaigns. Limit individual contributions. We can not depend on our politicians to make the necessary changes.
We the people of the USA have been granted the power of the ballot. We can change the laws. We can change the procedures. We can decide how our tax dollars should be spent. We have the Power, so once again, rise up and eliminate taxation without representation.
Country Population Political Parties Percent of Vote
United States 311+ million people
Party House Senate
Democrat 192 51
Republican 240 47
Independent 0 2
Norway 4+ million 22 to 23 parties
Germany 81 Million
Christian Democratic Union
Christian Social Union
Free Democratic Party
The Greens / Alliance 90
Usually ruled by a coalition of a major and a minor party
Australia 23 million
Australian Labor Party 38%
Liberal Party of Australia 39.9%
National Party of Australia 3.4%
Australian Greens 11.8%
Japan 128 million
15 Parties that have Representatives in the Diet (their governing body)
Party and Reps in Diet
Democratic Party of Japan 251
Liberal Democratic Party 118
People’s Life First 37
New Homiest 21
Your Party 5
Japanese Communist Party 9
Social Democratic Party 6
Kizuna Party 9
Peolple’s New Party 3
Sunrise Party 2
New Party Daichi True Democrats 3
New Renaissance Party 0
New Party Nippon 1
Tax Cuts Japan 1
Okinawa Socialist Masses Party 0
ANNUAL BUDGETS OF STATES From the Sunshine Review (http://sunshinereview.org/core/)
State Annual Budget in billions of dollars
North Dakota 4.1
South Dakota 4.0