All posts by Jim MacQuarrie

How to Vote

Speaking of clowns, election time is soon to be upon us. Time to review How to Vote. If you feel that properly researching each and every candidate and ballot proposal is too tedious and time-consuming, I’ve developed a simple formula that will streamline the process a bit.

1. The propositions are more important than the candidates. Read the election guide. If you don’t understand what the proposition is supposed to do, flip to the back of the booklet where they have the arguments in favor and against the propositions. You don’t even have to read them; just take note of which argument uses the most exclamation points, and vote against it. Exclamation points, all caps, underlines and italics are the prime indicators that the argument is one of emotion rather than reason.

If it should happen that both sides are given to hyperbole, skim down and see who submitted the arguments and rebuttals. One side will likely have a contrived title such as “Citizens United for a Safe Whatever-the-heck.” If the other side happens to list an actual organization, or better yet, an actual person with a title below his name, you are most likely safe in voting against the fake grassroots group with the phony name.

2. Vote NO on bonds. Almost always. Bonds are the most expensive way to finance any government project. They should only ever be used to fund physical infrastructure, projects that will still be in existence and serving their function long after the bond is paid off. (And I’m talking about actual public work here, not some semi-private “partnership” where the NFL bamboozles a city into building a new football stadium, shifting the cost to the taxpayer while they walk off with all the profit.) A bond to pay for a bridge is an investment; a bond to pay for a program is fiscal insanity, like using the credit card with the highest interest to pay for your pizza party. If a project is that important, they can find another way to raise the money.

3. There’s always somebody to vote against. If you don’t know who to vote for, or don’t want to vote for any of them, pick the guy you hate the most and vote for whoever has the best chance of beating him. For example, here in California, Gray Davis was an absolute failure as a governor. He was up to his eyeballs in helping Enron to screw the whole state. Plus the guy thought he was king. He told the Sacramento Bee as much; he announced that the purpose of the legislature is to carry out his policies. And he was for sale. A popular joke of the time was: “How do you get Gray Davis to change his position on an issue? Tell him the check bounced.” He was also (according to Jill Stewart at the now-defunct New Times) a full-blown psycho given to fits of rage. Threw things at his staff. Literally, he’d pick up a knick-knack off his desk and hurl it at somebody. It’s a wonder he wasn’t arrested or sued.

That’s one example, but there’s another point to consider: Most career politicians start out by running for School Board, City Council, or Judge, or some other low-level office. This is your chance to kill a political career before it gets started. Read your local paper and check out interviews with the candidates. Look them up. Find the scumballs and vote against them. It’s your civic duty.

4. If you don’t know something about the candidates, don’t vote. Nowadays you can sit down with Google and work through an entire ballot in about 45 minutes, looking up voter guides and candidates’ websites and actually voting intelligently. It’s not that hard. Let me show you why it’s important.

In the 2006 election in Los Angeles, over 236,000 people voted for the least-qualified candidate for judge that I have ever seen. He ended up with almost 40% of the vote. Clearly a half-million people flipped a coin. Fortunately another 100,000 voters showed up for the other guy, so this incompetent didn’t end up on the bench. You can read the whole story here.

That’s pretty much all there is to it. You could read all the initiatives all the way through if you like, but it’s not always necessary. Most times, all you need to know is who is paying for the campaign and whether their argument is based on fact and reason or fear and emotion. Guess which side you should vote for.

Constitutional Amendments

There’s been a lot of noise lately about some proposed Constitutional Amendments: banning flag-burning, making English the only official language of the US, banning gay marriage, in addition to the usual evergreens. It seems to me that the Bull Moose Party ought to take a position on these.

As my teenage daughter said while listening to the yammerheads carry on about flag-burning, “that’s not what the Constitution is for.” Smart kid.

It’s that simple. The Constitution is a blueprint for the country, it lays out specific duties that the various branches of government are to carry out, and lays out general principles for the things it’s not supposed to meddle in. The last time a Constitutional amendment was enacted that restricted what citizens could do, it was an unmitigated disaster. That was Prohibition, and it failed so miserably that it barely lasted a decade before being repealed. Now, granted, none of the bans we’re talking about here are likely to cause anything like the rampant crime and violence that Prohibition brought, but there are principles involved.

Get used to hearing that word; we hope to make the Bull Moose Party the party of principle. We’re not going to tell you who to vote for or anything like that, but we will call your attention to what we believe to be the important principles that underlie every position that we adopt. Now, on to the topics at hand:

Flag-burning. This one seems obvious. It has been established over and over that the First Amendment protects expression, ESPECIALLY political expression. “The right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances” is specifically protected. I would say that lighting up the Stars and Stripes is a pretty clear petition for redress of grievances. Why are we even discussing this?

Defense of Marriage, banning gay marriage, whatever you want to call it. First, let’s make a little distinction here (you’ll soon discover that it’s all about little distinctions): There is legal marriage and there is Holy Matrimony. Holy Matrimony is a sacrament of the church, and each religion, sect, denomination and affiliation has its own rules for certifying and acknowledging the sacrament. Legal marriage is essentially a contract, a bit of civil law that accords those who enter into the contract certain privileges and rights, including issues of inheritance and next-of-kin status. As long as the religious institutions are guaranteed the right to decline performing or validating any marriage they so choose, there is really no good reason to deny gay couples the legal benefits of marriage. And anyway, it’s not what the Constitution is for.

English only. We’re working on an in-depth piece about this topic, but for now, we’ll just say this: why is it okay for third-generation Americans to celebrate and honor their Irish, Scottish or German heritage (ever been to a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Highland Games or Oktoberfest?), but it’s not okay for more recent arrivals to preserve their family culture and heritage? Certainly, English ought to be the language in which the US government conducts its business, and there is some little merit in the economic argument that it costs money to print official information in multiple languages, but is that a reason to carve this notion in granite as part of the Constitution? Say it with me: “that’s not what the Constitution is for.”