[thechat] Hiding from Elections Now

Matt Warden mwarden at gmail.com
Sun Oct 26 22:59:32 CDT 2008

On Sun, Oct 26, 2008 at 2:36 PM, Martin Burns <martin at easyweb.co.uk> wrote:
>> The UK and Ireland both have blanket bans on political TV adverts, and
>> draconian restrictions on campaign spending (in Britain, for example,
>> a candidate for MP is restricted to about £7500 during the period
>> between the election being called and polling day).  Third-party
>> election campaign spending designed to impact a particular
>> constituency race is a criminal offence.
>> We look at the US with some degree of horror and smugness, then.

I don't really know anything about the campaign finance restrictions
outside the US, but here in the US they (intentionally or not) end up
further entrenching the two major political parties and provide a huge
barrier to grassroots and third-party movements. As with most any
government regulation, it sounds great on the surface, until you start
talking about how these things are enforced.

There are numerous stories of small grassroots movements in local
communities getting shutdown because their posted signage for or
against a ballot issue qualified them as a "political organization",
and since they didn't register according to the new regulations in
McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, these groups of a few local
mothers making signs in their living rooms were fined tens of
thousands of dollars and ordered to cease their campaign. Their
mistake was not reading and complying with the 750+ page, small-print,
double-column book of legalese on how to comply with these campaign
finance regulations.

> Also, those supporting reform of the electoral process in general, and
> funding of election campaigns in particular (of whatever political
> flavour) are tremendously impressed with the Obama campaign's ability
> to generate a mass movement on the ground, and funding through small
> donations.

Obama gets his money the same way McCain does. True grassroots funding
like that received during Ron Paul's bid for the Republican nomination
is exactly what the Republican and Democratic parties do not want to
see. Since the parties experienced the effect that Ross Perot had in
1992, they have both worked hard to marginalize true choice; election
after election we are presented with a choice between two career
politicians, both lacking any clear philosophy except that which is
dictated by current polling. Ross Perot was allowed in the '92
debates, and having a third-party candidate in the debates today is
completely unthinkable. The change in political climate is not an
accident. It's a bit of a case of "fool me once...", and the parties
have since learned not to allow such wildcards in the political

Obama gets some grassroots funding, because he -- like Bill Clinton
and many other Democratic candidates in the past -- chant a message of
change and hope. The American people are indeed hungry for both of
these things, and they're willing to support anyone who says those
words, even if the speaker represents more of the same.

Similarly, both McCain and Obama talk about ending dependence on
foreign oil, just like the last 7 presidents have said they would do
in their presidency.

We have such a short term memory, and it results in a ton of problems.
No one remembers that "change and hope" is not a new slogan. No one
remembers that ending dependence on foreign oil is not a new slogan.
No one remembers that Bush Jr campaigned on a platform of
non-internventionalism and no nation-building. No one remembers that
they all supported the Iraq War when it was ramping up and those
against it were hippie anti-American idiots. No one remembers the
government intervention in the markets over the last couple decades,
including increasing regulations encouraging and/or forcing risky
subprime lending (that otherwise would not have happened) in the
spirit of encouraging American home ownership.

I voted a week ago by absentee ballot, and it was a bit depressing
knowing that whether I voted for Obama, McCain, or a third-party
candidate, I was throwing my vote away. I really don't know how anyone
can look at our current political process and say that it's a
democratic republic.

Time to buy gold, a handgun, and a tin foil hat? I don't know. Maybe
it's just time to stop wasting so much effort paying attention.

Matt Warden
Cincinnati, OH, USA

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