Warning to “Non-voters”

I want to address the concept of not voting, which many think is an effective way to show discontent with candidate choices or the system in general.

Boy is that a fool’s errand.  Similar to snipe hunting.

The classic  fool’s errand comes in three varieties: going after something that in reality is non-existent, trying to accomplish a task in an impossible way, or trying to accomplish an impossible task.  By any of these criteria, not voting as a form of “protest” qualifies.

Because not voting is a completely inane method for getting your point across…right up there with, say, not paying your credit card bill as a way to protest high interest rates, or not calling a plumber to fix the leak that’s flooding your bathroom as a way to protest high contractor costs… the entity you’re protesting either doesn’t care or doesn’t know the difference, and the only one you’re hurting…is you.

The problem is…our form of government relies on a nifty concept known as majority rule, yet in any given race, the highest voter turn out, particularly from Boomers, is anywhere between 38 & 47%; the 2008 Presidential race had the highest turnout seen since 1968…at 56.8%.  Pathetic, isn’t it?

Such abysmal turn-out means two things:

  1. we have turned into a minority rule form a government: candidates are voted in by a majority, but it’s a majority of a minority of all registered voters…and
  2. you’re letting folks you don’t know, choose for you…bet you wouldn’t do that with even the most inconsequential things, so why would you do it for something as unequivocally imperative as who leads our country/states/counties/etc.?

Now I’ll break it down one step further, so you can see who is doing the voting for you…:

  • Only about 33% of consistent voters know precisely who they want to win regardless of party affiliation, and vote based on a candidate’s actual record of accomplishments…
  • but another approximately 33% of those who vote regularly do so along strict party lines regardless of the candidate’s qualifications or leadership capability
  • the remaining approximately 33% are undecided, usually until the last few days, and base their vote almost solely on the ever so truthful and fact-filled campaign ads they see on TV, and their vote oftentimes can determine who wins….
  • This means that approximately 66% of those who vote are doing so not based on candidates’ track record and true leadership capabilities, but upon pure rhetoric or party affiliation – which is why we have the kinds of rampant unprofessional, unethical, and unlawful behavior on an ever increasing scale that we see regularly on Capitol Hill, and more often now on the State and local levels
  • If companies/business owners hired their top managers on the above basis, Enron would be the norm….
  • Bottom line – the laws and priorities of the most powerful country on the planet are set by folks who were elected by a minority of voters, 2/3 of whom chose these folks for all the wrong reasons…

This is 100% scarey…. And we’re responsible…not the political parties, not the PAC’s, not big business….us.  We can stop wondering why those who get elected to public office are better suited for the National Enquirer than the House/Senate floor.

So, my fellow Boomers, as I said last post, keep doing the same ineffective thing and you’ll keep seeing the same dismal results.

Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, but expecting a different outcome.

Or, perhaps it’s yet the best definition of a fool’s errand.

What do you think?  Let me know.

Forget “Voting “Em Out”: Here’s the Real Remedy for Bad Legislators

cleaning up Washington DCI think we know now that we can keep ’em in, or vote ’em out, and still get the same result:  our legislators do whatever they want once they’re in office…which is most assuredly whatever their highest bidders demand, no matter what was promised us on the campaign trail….right?

That’s because we’ve been approaching this from the wrong perspective: we’ve been “treating the symptom” rather than curing the disease.

And what is the disease that, if cured, will make our legislators much more beholdin’ to us, more connected to our reality vs. their insular world, and get them doing something of substance once in office?

I call it the “Royalty Syndrome.”  If we eliminate it, we will see the kinds of action we so deserve from our elected officials.

The Royalty Syndrome is based on the following facts of public office in the U.S., particularly on the national level (but we see it on the State & Local levels too, just to a degree that diminishes the farther from Washington they are):

  • Legislators are treated like…well…royalty…with all sorts of perks, assistants, deference, and special programs (like their own terrific health-care plan)
  • With such treatment and expectations, they quickly and easily lose focus on their constituents, replaced by a sense of self-importance
  • Once they’ve had a taste of such royal treatment, no way do they want to lose it…so they’ll do anything/everything to avoid that

Here’s the cure:

  • Eliminate their perks, from special health-care plans to town cars & loads of assistants (they can have one…just like other managers in the real world)
  • As a Legislator, your children must attend public school
  • Pay them the equivalent of the average wage-earner’s salary in the US, which is $81,400 according to the Census Bureau (members of Congress currently make $174,000)
  • They cannot travel by means other than public transportation (cabs in town, commercial airlines across country) and they must fly coach
  • They must read all bills before voting on them; “I didn’t know what I was voting for” can be grounds for serious sanction (after all, this is the main part of their job)
  • They must poll their constituents no less than 2X per year to get our input to all main issues before them for a vote.

There’s more we can add to the list, be these are great starters.

This does a number of things to hit the proverbial “reset” button back to true representation of us, not special interests:

  1. Eliminates those who run because they love power and prestige (which right now is almost everyone…I’ve always believed that anyone who wants the office is someone I wouldn’t want in it, because they desire it for the wrong reasons…)
  2. Replaces them with folks who don’t mind hard work, are not in it for self-aggrandizement, and will want to get in, get the job done, and get out
  3. Eliminates what is right now a very insular culture within the ranks of Legislators, fed and magnified by their “royal” treatment – when they are treated like the rest of us, they will act like “regular folks”
  4. Serves as a constant reminder that they are servants of the people, not Emirs

Only when our legislators are treated like the rest of us will they remember who we are, what their real purpose is, and what is needed by the majority of citizens.

So, my fellow Boomers, this is what you want to be pushing for, rather than staying with the same tired approach we’ve been using all of our adult lives, that simply hasn’t worked.

How’s that for change?

Have the Rules of Politics Changed?

At the end of Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, Mr. Spock dies, and when asked by an anguished Jim Kirk why he sacrificed himself, he states simply: “Don’t grieve, Admiral: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one”

Jonah Goldberg, an editor at large of the conservative National Review Online, bemoans the shifting of the rules of politics, from what has up to now been straight lines from point A of a societal shift, to Point B, our typical response to it; I quote:

“For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters – and scares over alleged ones – help environmentalists push tighter regulations…  According to the rules populism is a force for getting the government to do more, not less…According to the rules, Americans don’t care bout the deficit during a recession….And yet (today) none of these rules seem to be applying; at least not too strongly…As a conservative…it’s becoming harder and harder to shake the feeling that something bigger than politics as usual is at work here.”

Indeed, something bigger than “politics” as the public generally defines the concept is at work, and I believe Mr. Spock’s dying words provide the explanation.

We have…voters and legislators alike…abandoned the willingness to do what is best to meet the needs of the many, wanting instead to ensure that our idiosyncratic needs, i.e. those of the few, are met.

Thus the schizophrenic reactions from every body politic, left/middle/right.  The extreme Right wants less government….unless it negatively impacts entitlements they hold dear like Social Security and Medicare; extreme liberals want more government…unless it interferes with individual causes like immigration and sensible regulation of the internet; Centrists may see both sides of the issue, but are paralyzed by indecision, or flip-flop, because they too get mired in what will best serve an individual vs. greater good.  We want what we want when we want it, without regard for either the long-term or overall impact of our choices.  We don’t seem to care about the big picture…the needs of the many.

In Star Trek III, Mr. Spock comes back to life in perfect sci-fi form…so his sacrifice wasn’t a final one after all.  The same is true for us.  By doing what’s best for the many over time, even when it will create some hardship for the few in the (relative) short-run, our sacrifices, too, may be difficult, but will not be permanent.  From energy sources to social security, only once the many agree to place the country’s wellbeing as a whole above their own individual wish lists, will we at last be on the path to a better nation.

Thinking for Ourselves….Part II

Here’s some quick, easy, and helpful tips for self-determination of thought so we can stop relying on TV & Radio pundits to do the thinking for us…

  • Assessing legislation: It’s easy to tell when legislation is designed to help a special interest rather than us (it’s clear in a bill’s language, carved out exceptions, etc.) – what makes this even easier is that pretty much all legislation is designed to help the politicians as much (or more) than their constituents; how would you create that bill (in general terms) so it benefits us, not them?  Now you know how to think/respond to not only the legislation at hand, but your legislators about it…
  • Assessing decisions made by leaders, whether elected or otherwise: Those who have been in a supervisory/decision-making position know first-hand how difficult the job is, and that you can’t please everyone…those who have experienced a variety of supervisors know the difference between a true leader (helps others to do the right job the right way) and a “manager” (tells others what to do/seeks no input); true leadership requires balance – balancing the needs of the many against those of the few, doing the utmost to create a win/win for all concerned and if that’s not possible, ensuring there’s balance between all interests so everyone at least comes away with something they need.   When those at the fringes of both sides of an issue are unhappy with the outcome, that’s a very good sign that the outcome is balanced, that true leadership rather than “management” has taken place, and that the decision is generally a good one
  • Avoiding The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Discovered by Cornell University David Dunning (along with Prof. Kruger) this states that our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence – wow, that’s a catch 22…and it underpins much of the erroneous thinking we unwittingly do (like letting others do the thinking for us…).  To keep this from happening to you, simply increase your level of competence.  This is easily accomplished by:
    a). some fast fact-checking of claims/opinions/statements made (the internet makes this effort that much easier), thus making sure you form your own thoughts based on fact, not emotion or a situation in process that may not even pan out; and

    b). understand that we all have levels of incompetence and be strong enough to find out what are yours…once you know what they are, you can ensure you don’t fall prey to them…

  • Don’t make decisions when you’re very angry or depressed: When you do, they will most often be bad ones… This is why we see Boomers holding opinions that are self-contradictory (wanting government out of their lives while preparing to collect SS/use Medicare), or choosing to behave badly, from shooting at Census workers to brawling at their children’s sporting events…  That incompetence thing above is fueled by such powerful negative emotion, which masks our ability to think more rationally/use deductive reasoning (or any reasoning at all for that matter…).  These are awfully hard times – making bad decisions that will come back to haunt us later will only make things worse.  Remedy: seek some input/help from someone you trust who isn’t angry/depressed, and listen to them.

As we Boomers, the ones in power and with the greatest influence, wield that power and influence, it is imperative that we live by Spidey’s uncle’s words: “With great power comes great responsibility” – what we do, how we vote, what we say now, will not just make a lasting impression on our young children/grandchildren, but will form the basis of our lives for years if not decades to come.

To do these things with little preparation, in-depth thought, and with too little rationality, is no different that letting a teenager drive with no training and practice (whoa…that’s scary – teens driving with lots of training/practice is scary enough…), seeking a job without a resume let alone a well-written one, or going on vacation without packing for it…

We can do this right.  Let’s start right now.

The Extremists & The Rest of Us…A Fairy Tale…

Once upon a time, in a land that was the mightiest throughout the world, the people in charge known as “Boomers” became very disgruntled and returned to their roots of activism; well, actually, only a small number of them did, but the media made it seem like it was lots & lots of them…

Yes, the protestors, on both sides of the political divide, became very ugly…ooops, uh, vocal… about their unhappiness with many things the rulers of the land were doing, things like:

  • Passing “health care reform” where the peoples’ money was to be used to keep lots & lots of loyal subjects from, well, dying because they couldn’t afford care
  • Or not passing any reform on the practices of big entities called “greed factories”…oops, sorry again, “financial institutions”]
  • Or not addressing a problem called “illegal immigration” whereby millions of people from other lands could sneak in without permission & get work, a  place to live, healthcare, and generally act like they belonged there…

The most well known protestors were called “tea partiers” (not because they were much for partying or tea…but that is another fairy tale for another time) and they were lead by a beautiful & vapid princess called “Sarah” who brought them to frothy heights of discontent with beautiful images of mustached tyrants, bucolic concepts of “reloading” as in guns,  and “death panels.”  And they were portrayed by the mainstream media as representing what most people of the land believed.

But low and behold, the tea partiers were actually:

  • only 24% of all registered voters, including the Boomers
  • overwhelmingly White & male
  • retired or semi-retired so they had lots of time on their hands
  • or unemployed so they had lots of time on their hands and they were really cranky…

These subjects’ main complaint was that government programs designed to help the people of the land, are bad…except the ones they use (as, alas, many of them were on a thing called “Social Security,” a government program designed to help the aging people of the land…or something called “unemployment compensation,” a government program to help people pay their bills while they’re out of work…).

And they vowed to take their revenge on any of the land’s leaders who voted for any new such programs like health care reform, which they didn’t believe to be needed since most of them would soon be eligible for “Medicare” – another government program providing medical coverage for older subjects…

But alack, what about the other 76%?  Where did they stand?  What did they want?  Why were their voices not resounding out across the land?  Where were the women?  The non-White ethnic groups?  The non-retired & employed?

Unfortunately for the mighty land, based on a type of governance called “democracy” whereby it was the peoples’ votes and knowledge of the issues that the rules of law were made, as it turns out the majority of its subjects didn’t vote, got there “issue knowledge” from 2 minute “sound bites” designed to inflame more than inform, or just stayed silent in their own discontent about the discontented minority.

Then there were things called “polls” whereby subjects were asked what they thought about things.  And one such poll in a part of the land called “FloriDUH” showed that most subjects were against the new healthcare reform.  Alas, the poll had what was called a “margin of error” (how likely the poll sampling reflects the rest of the land’s views) of 15% – a credible poll has a margin of error of no more than 3%; 10% is considered highly unreliable – which meant that the poll reflected the actual views of… those polled….  And they lived in a State where subjects regularly re-elected legislators who polluted the environments on which the main source of income was dependent (tourism), decried “government spending” while grabbing their share of it, and balanced their budget by giving their big businesses lots of tax breaks while decimating all the programs for their most vulnerable subjects (from the developmentally disabled to abused/neglected children).

Thus, over a short period of time, and with help from the entire range of main stream media, it appeared that a minority of the land’s subjects would be able to dictate what the majority would get & what they “should” believe.  Why did the majority put up with this?

Would they remain silent no more, understanding that so long as they did, the country would not be “majority ruled” any longer?!

We don’t as yet know the answer, but the moral of the story is:

In a land where the majority rules, and that majority is a “silent” one because they are either apathetic or “too busy to get involved,” the many will see their fate sealed by the will of the few…and in any other land, that is called “dictatorship.”