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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

May 19, 2008


Fix It! Fix It! Fix It! Fix It!

If you want to fix "it(a)", then you have to end "it(b)".

It(a) is how the Washington DC leadership operates, how Politics are practiced today, and how things are done to the American people, in general.

It(b) is the system of paid lobbyists which determine who gets what and how much of the American middle class dollars are taken by whom for what.

There is only one way for our nation's government to begin doing the work of the American people, and that way is to end paid lobbying.

Just this past week, something happened which hasn't happened in a quarter of a century: The Supreme Court made a decision that it couldn't decide on a particular case. It seems that too many of the justices had interests, and possible conflicts of interests, in a case against global corporations and their support of the former apartheid government of South Africa.

"The Supreme Court tossed itself off a big case Monday.
"The court couldn't take up an apartheid dispute involving some of the nation's largest companies because too many of the justices had investments or other ties with those corporate giants.
"It appeared to be the first time in at least a quarter-century that the justices' financial holdings prevented them from taking a case."
-The Associated Press, May 12, 2008

During our nation's fight for liberation from King George's eighteenth century England, our founding fathers sacrificed much. Some were left penniless as they helped finance a revolution which required more than just volunteers to win; some were chased from their lands while fleeing from the British; and others were even arrested for their part in an English-defined treacherous conspiracy to secede from the crown. Some colony/ state representatives traveled months just to get to Annapolis, Pennsylvania or New York to do the hard work of creating a new nation. Just what hardships are our leaders doing for our nation, and us, today?

Not much.

We all know that working at the higher levels of government, especially the federal government, is a license to print money. Take a look at former Rep. Joe Scarborough (REPUBLICAN-FL) who came into the House of Representatives in the 1994 GOP ouster of the Democrats. A one-term wonder, "Morning" Joe has found himself a home on MSNBC as Don Imus' replacement on weekday mornings.

And he's not even one of the lucky ones.

Our nation's Congress has become a revolving door of special interests who have nothing but the best interests of themselves at heart. They have no interest in us, the American people, unless it has to do with getting more of our hard-earned tax dollars out of our wallets and pocketbooks.

Fixing everything begins with fixing our corrupt system of paid lobbying. Yes, I know that the first amendment to the US Constitution states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." However, it was written for us, the people of the United States to protect, not mega-corporations.

Corporations and lobbyists have no rights under the US Constitution. They have no vote and they shouldn't be allowed to offer money, future jobs and stock options to the likes of our President, Vice President, Senators and Congressmen as rewards for deeds performed on their behalf. It was a sham that a sitting Vice President, Dick Cheney, made millions of dollars from his former employer Halliburton while putting together an energy bill whose final result was the garnishing of even more dollars for that very company.

We must be collectively stupid, or something.

In New Jersey people are screaming about mayors of small towns who also hold legislative seats in Trenton, and they are right for pointing it out. But it's worse on the federal level. we have employees of government taking time out of their schedules to write books and make appearances to promote those books. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was even contemplating making a new movie while occupying the executive seat in Sacramento. Some of the worst of the "rights" our leaders take advantage of is taking money from lobbyists while taking a paycheck from us. And that doesn't even include the fact that most of these men and women campaign while being paid employees of the US while those who wish to run against them have to still work at their jobs while doing so.

Can we ever really get a true representation of our population in Congress this way?

If we wish to really fix our nation's government we must not allow our leaders the right to invest in the stock market and other ventures while employed by the American people. they must divest themselves of all holdings they have in order to serve without the fear or appearance of compromise. A "blind trust" is not enough. Those serving us, as well as those high up in their offices must remove these encumbrances in order to show the American people that they are truly behind us.

A measure should be enacted today that disallows any member of Congress, or any high level staff member, from working for any company who has dealings with the US government or any of the states. The same has to hold true for anyone who works at the White House or any of the Cabinet members. And they wouldn't be allowed to work for these companies for the same number of years which they worked for us.

Maybe then we can bring the trust back into government.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

Most Democrats expect than soon after the last Democratic primary on June 3rd, there will be a definitive nominee for president from the Democratic Party. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have said that then the Democrats will come together and the party will beat the Republicans in the fall.

Some pundits assert that the race will be determined by how the loser responds. Others have said it will be determined by how the winner treats the loser and his/her supporters.

I think the outcome of the presidential bid will be determined by the GOP, just as every race in my adult lifetime has been. Any Democrat who thinks otherwise–and that includes Barack Obama–is not living in the red state/blue state reality that has made the past two presidential elections the closest in American history.

The media talks a lot about the numbers and Obama does have the strongest potential to win at this point: Overriding all other considerations is the fact he has won the most delegates. But that factor is only one of many that will create both a nominee by the August convention and a winner come November.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and its chairman, Howard Dean, have made it clear that they do not want a brokered convention in August. Dean wants the nomination determined as soon after the primaries end as possible.

But many Clinton supporters want a brokered convention where they believe Clinton would win overwhelmingly. I spoke with one Clinton campaign worker last week who was unequivocal, noting, “She has the popular vote, he has the pledged delegates. There should be a floor fight and then they should both end up on the ticket.”

Brokered conventions were once the norm, not the exception. In 1976, the Republicans had a brokered convention and Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford ended up on the Republican ticket together. In 1960 the threat of a brokered convention for the Democrats (there had been one in 1952 that put Adlai Stevenson on the ballot after a grueling 102 votes) resulted in John F. Kennedy inviting his rival, Lyndon B. Johnson, to share the ticket with him. They won.

For months I have argued that the best way for the Democrats to win in 2008 is with a joint ticket shared by Clinton and Obama. To me and many other political veterans this seems to be the only answer in what many have called a contentious primary.

After the West Virginia vote was cast, with Clinton winning 72 percent to 25 percent–one of the biggest wins in the entire race–that joint ticket makes more sense than ever. Her win once again put Clinton ahead in the popular vote, although Obama maintained his delegate lead.

The historic nature of the Democratic primary--first woman and first African-American to vie for the eventual nomination of one of the two major parties–has turned exciting politics into rancorous identity politics. And therein lies the biggest problem for the Democrats no matter which candidate is their eventual nominee.

Clinton supporters feel disenfranchised by the tactics of both the DNC and the Obama campaign. For months pundits have said that if Clinton is the nominee, African Americans will be angry. No pundit has presented the reverse scenario: If Obama is the nominee, women will be angry. The presumption is that women will shut up and take it, but African Americans might cause trouble in the party, so they should be appeased.

The dismissive attitude toward women supporting Clinton presents real problems, because now a full 68 percent of Clinton supporters–mostly women and of all races–have said they will not vote for the Democrat if Obama is the nominee. That number has risen steadily over the past few primaries and threatens the outcome in November more than anything the GOP might toss into the mix.

The West Virginia vote should have sounded an alarm to the Obama campaign and to the DNC. It didn’t. Instead Obama grandstanded in Michigan the next day. Michigan–a state where Obama filed a lawsuit to prevent a re-vote in the contested primary which Clinton won.

Obama presented John Edwards to give a speech endorsing him, as if Obama were already the nominee and as if Edwards, who was forced to drop out of the race for lack of money and votes despite having spent the four years between his losses in 2004 and 2008 doing nothing but campaigning, mattered more than the voters of West Virginia.

This is exactly the kind of tactic that enrages Clinton supporters and makes them feel their votes don’t matter. One Clinton supporter in West Virginia said, “He [Obama] didn’t seem to care whether we [West Virginians] even existed. So in November, if he’s the nominee, I’m going to pretend he doesn’t exist.”

While West Virginians were voting, Obama was in Missouri–campaigning in a state he lost to Clinton in the primary, but which is an important swing state for the general election.

The Obama campaign miscalculates if it thinks these slights to voters have gone unnoticed. Voters have long memories when they feel a candidate doesn’t share their concerns. Just ask John Kerry and Al Gore.

The DNC needs to recheck the numbers and by that I don’t mean the delegate count or even the popular vote count, but the states that have been won and how.

Thus far Clinton has won every big state and every blue state except Obama’s home state. She has also won every swing state. The states Obama has won–predominantly in caucuses which favor wealthy voters and college kids, since they require a day-long investment of time and there are no absentee ballots for people who must work, who are disabled , elderly or even who are serving in the military–have been the red states. The caucus states have all voted Republican in the past ten presidential elections.

The conventional wisdom from both the DNC and the Obama campaign is that once Obama is the nominee, all Democrats will come together and vote for him in November and that many of the red states he won in the primary will cross over to blue.

That has never happened in modern politics and it’s not going to happen in November. The odds mitigate insurmountably against that scenario.

Here’s why: In 2000 and 2004 the nation voted exactly the same way. Red states went Republican, blue states went Democratic and the purple states–states with large Democratic cities but equally large Republican suburban and rural areas–presented the swing opportunities. Those states–Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, New Mexico, Florida, Missouri, Indiana–were all won by Clinton in the primaries. In 2004, Ohio, Florida and New Mexico were the states that eventually determined the election. In 2000, Ohio and Florida determined the election. No Democratic nominee who has not won any major states in the primary has ever won the general election.

The DNC, in what might be the worst error in its history, made up rules this year that disqualified the votes and delegates from Michigan and Florida. As a consequence, the 2.3 million Democrats who went to the polls and voted in those two states were effectively told their votes didn’t count.

That’s exactly what the GOP did to Democratic voters in 2000 and 2004 and many Democrats are still angry about the outcome.

The votes must be counted and the delegates seated. To do otherwise is to damage the party for November in a way that may indeed be irreparable. Counting the delegates enlarges the number needed to win the nomination by another 180, but that presents no problems, logistical or otherwise. The DNC rules committee meets on May 31st to determine what to do about the two states.

The answer is clear: Give both candidates the votes and apportioned delegates from Florida where both were on the ballot and make a compromise decision about Michigan where Obama decided to withdraw his name from the ballot but Clinton did not.

The outcome in June will no doubt be the same as it is now: Obama ahead in delegates, Clinton ahead in the popular vote. Clinton ahead in all the states that matter for November, Obama ahead in the total number of states won, mostly small red states.

That makes the decision for the DNC clear: Both candidates need to be on the ticket. At the very least, the loser–who will have lost with the closest margin in Democratic history–must be given the right of first refusal and offered whatever he or she wants in exchange for a solid effort at campaigning for the winner.

That West Virginia win was a cautionary tale for Obama. The states with large African- American populations are all southern states, all traditionally red states and the ones in which the DNC system favored Obama overwhelmingly in the primaries. But that system does not apply in the fall. Not one of those states has crossed over to the Democrats since 1964 when LBJ was on the ticket with JFK. To think that in our ideologically entrenched nation something will shift is a tactical error at best.

Plus, women voters are angry. If African Americans might have felt cheated were Obama not the nominee, women feel equally cheated because the DNC system has favored Obama. Clinton should have been the nominee back on Super Tuesday. But apportionment rules heavily favored Obama. Thus while she swept the states and the popular vote, he actually accrued more delegates.

If the DNC does not seat Florida and Michigan, the nomination is tainted. Many voters will feel Obama stole the nomination and cheated his way into the top spot. That will affect votes in November and will also cause lasting dissension within the party. I have spoken with scores of delegates supporting both candidates who have said it would damage the party if all 50 states are not counted and that it will make the Democrats look disorganized and weak against the Republicans who chose to seat their delegates from Florida and Michigan, despite the same rules violations.

Obama will have a lot of work to do with women voters if he does not have Clinton on his ticket. Choosing another white guy when this is the year of change would be a disaster. Women are already complaining bitterly about the grandstanding move with Edwards in Michigan, making it appear that they were the new Democratic ticket writing “no girls allowed” on the clubhouse door.

Women represent the core voting bloc of the Democratic Party. No single demographic votes more consistently than women. If the Democrats lose that, they lose the election. African Americans comprise 11 percent of the population. Women are 54 percent. It’s not rocket science to determine that Obama cannot win with just the black vote; he must have women, too.

Obama will also need white working-class voters. The media constantly denigrates the “uneducated white voter” while never mentioning the “uneducated black voter.” Obama leads among uneducated black voters, but Clinton has the uneducated white vote sewn up. Those voters will be as difficult for Obama to win over as the uneducated black vote was for Clinton. (Educated black women voted for Clinton more often than they voted for Obama.)

The game is far from over, but how the DNC makes its final decision will be pivotal to what happens in November. There is as much entitlement to the nomination for Clinton as there is for Obama and if the cards aren’t played judiciously and delicately, the election will be lost before the votes are even cast.

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-Noah Greenberg