Tag Archives: ALEC

What the Hell Is Wrong with This Country (Part II)

Primary school government classes in the United States explain the ideals of representative government—that our democracy supports the election of (often ordinary) people who then keep access open to their constituents so that the needs in their local districts and states will have a voice in the voting body. Unfortunately, in many districts, this is not really how elections and governing operate anymore. Consider:

  1. From The Campaign Finance Institute

    From The Campaign Finance Institute

    Congressional elections averaged $1.4M for House elections in 2010 and and more than $1.5M in 2012. Senate races averaged nearly $9M in 2010 and more than $10.3M in 2012. The total cost for all congressional races for the 2014 midterm elections is estimated to run $3.5B. That’s billion. These extreme costs narrow the possibilities of who can run for seats, limiting elections to well networked or party-sponsored individuals, the independently wealthy, or people running on a cause that garners a lot of grassroots support. (See Table at the right.)

  2. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United has put a lot more money from organizations and corporations into elections, even local-level campaigns. Between 527 groups, PACs and SuperPACs, even small congressional districts see a lot of monetary input, often from groups outside of the state or district in contest. If candidate fundraising doesn’t come from kissing babies and shaking constituents’ hands anymore, then…
  3. Issues taken up by office holders may reflect the priorities of big donors and organizations rather than the general public. At the least there is evidence that so much corporate money spent in SuperPACs has been used to wage negative campaigns against the presumed opponent (SuperPACs are not allowed to raise money for a particular candidate). Thus candidates now must raise money to get their messages out and to defend against the negative campaigns from 527s and SuperPACs (hence the rapid rise in average campaign costs). Read More…

What the Hell Is Wrong with This Country (Part 1)

It’s been a month of terrible news and political developments, not the least of which were the SCOTUS decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the passage of extreme abortion restrictions in Texas, and the awful acquittals of George Zimmerman in Florida (who pursued a Black teenager and shot him, killing him) and Ezekiel Gilbert in Texas (who shot and killed a sex worker after she refused to have sex with him). All of this comes on the heels of the Steubenville trial, in which members of an Ohio football team gang-raped a young woman at a party and were convicted as juveniles, meaning they’ll be free after only a few years of light detention. It comes after three years of struggle against conservative forces pushing back gains made by workers unions in the Midwest, after a series of voting restriction laws in more than 20 states, and after a half-dozen high-profile mass shootings around the country—including one that targeted 6-year-olds—that have garnered no new restrictions on gun ownership or registration. To say that America is reeling on its collective heels is something of an understatement.

If we only pay attention to major media outlets, the narrative tells us that there is a huge polarization in the United States today, with warring factions at the extremes waging their battles through reductive and incendiary rhetoric about dead babies, massive government databases, corrupt politicians, gluttonous oligarchs, lazy poor people, insane terrorists, and tone-deaf state employees. It’s almost as if a badly written Hollywood screen play had taken over the nation. In truth, most Americans—according to places like Pew—are centrists, not pushing strenuously one way or the other for a progressive or conservative agenda. But this has occurred at the same time that people aligned with a political party have become more loyal to those parties and their stated values.

Let’s take a step back, and reassess America the Melting Pot. How has a nation of immigrants, one so presumed to be representative of a great diversity of people, values, and opinions, become so dichotomized politically? If that’s what’s actually happened, that is.
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