Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Change Our Primary System

In 1986, Paul Simon released his landmark album, "Graceland," which opened with "The Boy in the Bubble," that featured the line, "These are the days of miracle and wonder."  It's been almost 30 years since then, and a lot has happened in the interim, but if Simon released that album today, he'd likely have to change the line to, "These are the days of misery and anger."

Everywhere you look, people are miserable, angry, and hateful.  Radical Islamists would rather kill people than negotiate with them, the world's climate is in grave danger while people around the globe ignore the warnings, and you can't go to school or the movies without worrying that the guy next to you may pull out a gun and open fire at any minute.

And how do we deal with it?  By encouraging people like Donald Trump, who feed off that anger and appeal to our basest instincts.

It used to be that this type of political climate could not exist in periods of economic prosperity, but something has gone wrong.  The numbers say that the economy is great, but most of us feel poorer than ever; it's not trickling down.

This situation enables radicals around the globe to expand their influence.  Even here in the US, we see that John Boehner is not conservative enough for the Tea Party.  As far as I'm concerned, the relatively strong economy is the only thing preventing the Tea Party from morphing into neo-fascism.  If that economy were to tank (as it could, given the unsteadiness of the world's financial markets), the anger aimed at immigrants and young Black men could easily morph into placing them in concentration camps.

People tell me, "Oh, that can't happen here...not in this modern era."  But that's exactly what Jews in pre-Nazi Germany said.

And don't think the Democrats are free from anger.  Have you seen Bernie Sanders?  His message may be on target, but he looks like he's ready to explode at any minute.  I'm not sure I want his finger on the button any more than I want Trump's.

The truth is that no sane person who's had a life would want to run for office in this era of hate, which features internet searches into everything that anyone has ever said or done.  Several congressmen have recently admitted that we are spending millions of dollars examining the Benghazi incident for the sole purpose of bringing down Hillary.  That money could be spent on promoting public service.

But the Republicans hate Hillary, and the Democrats hate the Republicans, and there you have it.  Even in this country, which prides itself on democracy and diversity, no one can compromise.  So, why are we surprised when everyone else hates us?

I wish I had an answer to the world's issues, other than to sound like a beauty contestant asking for "world peace."  But I do have an idea that might temper the rhetoric right here in the US: Change our primary election system.

Let's face it...only about 15% of voters cast ballots in primaries for any office, and those people tend to be the zealots on either end of the political spectrum.  So, what we end up with are nominees that don't represent the mainstream; you often have to choose between an ultra-liberal Democrat and an ultra-conservative Republican.  In addition, we allow people to register as independents, then vote in whichever primary they choose...those are the people that often take the parties in directions they might not otherwise go.

Here's an idea for changing the system:
  1. If a voter has a party preference, he or she will register in that party, and have to retain that affiliation for a minimum of ten years.  This prevents people from switching to sabotage the other party.
  2. Independents cannot vote in either party's primary elections.  This prevents the radical elements from exerting undue influence.
  3. If someone who has registered with a party fails to vote in three, consecutive primaries (for any federal offices--president, senator, congressperson), that voter loses his or her party affiliation and becomes an independent.  This encourages people, who feel strongly about supporting their party's philosophy, to vote in primaries.
  4. These are federal regulations that cannot be altered by any state, but do not pertain to local or statewide elections.  This prevents the above provisions from infringing on states' rights.
If we were to implement these provisions, while simultaneously taking action to overturn the Citizens United decision, we may stand a chance of reducing the anger and hate that have recently dominated our political landscape.  In doing so, we could set an example for the rest of the world that may at least begin to turn down the volume on the hate meter.

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