Monday, November 13, 2006

Election Musings

Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong. ~Richard Armour

So, we've survived another political season, although the next one has already started, since someone I never heard of announced himself as a candidate tor the Democratic nomination for the presidency. The city I work for will have a mayoral election next November, so candidates for that post will start announcing themselves any day now, too. The political season never really ends anymore.

At any rate, as a card-carrying pundit, commentator on the passing scene, and the best blogger in my house (the Daughter has her own place, where she, presumably is the best blogger), I feel I must utilize my wit, wisdom, and incredible command of the English language to offer a few thoughts for your consideration.

Pardon me while I admire the incredible construction of that last sentence.

Oh, well, back to the mundane stuff. Incumbent governor Bob Riley easily beat Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley. The campaign was a most unusual one for Alabama in that it was conducted with restraint by both combatants. Lt. Gov. Baxley was a huge underdog, which usual means below-the-belt ads in a vain attempt to close the gap. But, both candidates seemed to limit themselves to the usual “the other guy is going to raise taxes, while I'm going to lower them”, which no one believes, but at least no one is calling anyone a fascist or a socialist.

It was a little strange that the Lt. Governor ran for governor this time around. Gov. Riley has done a quiet, creditable job, with no scandals or hints of scandal during his first term. Given some of the recent tenants of the governor's mansion, Bob Riley was a pleasant change. It's hard to imagine that he would have been vulnerable. Conventional wisdom would have suggested that Lt. Governor Baxley should have waited until the next election which would have been wide open (in Alabama, a governor can serve unlimited terms, but only two consecutively). But, the Democrats lacked a good candidate, given that former Governor Don Siegleman, who was being tried for various improprieties at the time (he was ultimately convicted), and no one else seemed willing to lose to the incumbent.

It would be nice to see Lt. Gov. Baxley run again next time, but it's tough to stay in the public eye for four years when you're no longer in office.

The incoming lieutenant governor's race was a veritable joke by comparison. In this corner, we had Luther Strange, a former lobbyist, carrying all the baggage that implies, especially with the Abramov mess being exposed on a daily basis in Washington. In the other corner stood former governor “Little” Jim Folsom, Jr., son of Big Jim Folsom Big Jim was the legendary former governor who once exhorted voters to vote for him for a second term because he had stolen all he was going to while a new governor would just start stealing all over again. I don't know if that statement is true, but I've heard it from so many Alabamians, there must be something to it.

Jim Jr. has his own history. He was lieutenant governor during the Guy Hunt administration and became governor when Hunt was found guilty of ethics violations (misuse of some campaign money to pay for inaugural events and using the state airplane to fly around the country preaching; not serous stuff, but not legal, either). Mr. Folsom proceeded to blow his opportunity to be elected in his right when his relatives started flying around on personal trips using the state plane.

I think Gov. Riley had the thing grounded.

At any rate, Little Jim pulled out the election, proving that Alabamians, like any sensible voters, would rather have a rather inept son-of-a-corrupt-politician over a lobbyist.

Oh, and the big news, of course, is that the Democrats have taken control of Congress. It's only taken six years of getting shafted by the most corrupt administration since the Teapot Dome scandal for Americans to realize it might be a good idea to make some changes. Frankly, given the pathetic state of the war in Iraq (which many notable Democrats did nothing to oppose when they could have) and the egregious handing over of power to corporate interests, the Whigs could have made a comeback.

The problem is that there is still no sign that the Democrats actually have any sort of program of their own. Anything they do pass will be vetoed by President Cheney, er, Bush. So, we've got two years of posturing, rhetoric, and general gridlock to look forward to.

It's time to revise the electoral system. We don't need a two-party system; we need a no-party system. Since neither of the big parties have meaningful platforms, they are largely irrelevant. Let's go to an open election process where individuals run against individuals. Basically, we could have non-partisan primaries, with the top two candidates going into a runoff. Let's cut the confusion over moderate Democrats trying to act like Republicans and liberal Republicans trying to act like Democrats. No more party campaign war chests to pump out supposedly “issue-oriented” ads actually aimed at specific opposing candidates.

Let's end the nonsense of a party controlling Congress. Elect the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem from the full House and Senate, instead of getting whatever hack the party-in-charge wants to hand the gavel to. Committee assignments? Draw 'em from a hat, then let the committee members elect a chairman. It can't work any worse than the system of handing out favors that exists now.

Oh, and dump the electoral college while we're at it.

Of course, it would be tough on the voters, having to decide what a candidate actually stands for, rather than just blindly voting the party line. But, political parties are an anachronism, dating back to when the populace was uneducated and politically naive. There's no excuse for that now, with TV, newspapers, and the Internet providing reams of information.

Sure it's a crazy idea, but, then, so was the American Revolution. Maybe it's time for another one, this time against the fat, dumb, and happy politicians lousing up a beautiful system.

It could happen.

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