Occupy a Position, Not Just a Stance

With all the political fervor, discontent, disillusion, and general despair going around, you’ve probably heard (or even said) “if you don’t like the job they’re doing, vote them out.”

First, this is a nonsensical statement.

Second, we can develop a better plan.   

Let’s look at why this statement doesn’t work.  Voting, by design, counts positive responses.  Which means: it counts “yes’s” instead of “no’s”.  Since you cannot vote “no” for someone, “voting someone out” is fundamentally impossible.  So, what is possible?  We’ll simply have to vote someone else in… but then, if there are no other viable options, what, exactly, did your vote accomplish?  I would contend that it simply reaffirmed the delusion that we have a choice in the matter…  So, is that it?  We have no real options, so let’s just keep protesting until someone has a change of heart?  Nah, we can do better than that.

So, what’s a better plan?

There are several fronts on which to work, so let’s start with the voting issue.  

It’s been made pretty clear that those currently in positions to make decisions and differences aren’t interested in a dialog with the American people (we don’t exactly hand out perks, you know?), so I agree that it’s time for them to retire their positions.  However, we need people to replace them.  This is a process that has to begin long before we ever head to a polling station to vote for whatever options we’re given.  We need volunteers (however reluctant) to be voted in.  That’s how this works.  Without better options, we cannot fix the problem: too many people in important positions… for the wrong reasons.

So, what are the right reasons?

I’m so glad you asked…

  • Let’s begin with a desire to leave things in a better condition than you found them.  This is a markedly different notion than ‘leave in a better condition than when you got here’.  (A tutorial can be provided if needed.)
  • Or the expectation that you’ll serve the needs of those who depend on you to make good decisions – after which, you get to return to the masses and resume your pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness… reaping the rewards or hardships of the decisions you made on our behalf.  A public servant should serve the public, not live off of them for the rest of their lives.  A bonus year of pay after your term is over, to help out financially until you get re-settled?  Sure, that’s probably reasonable.  But you’re not a public servant if you’re making decisions that are not in the public’s best interest, then living out your years drawing a salary from them.  The only real way to ensure that the decisions being made include the best interests of the rest of the citizens is to make certain that those making the decisions will also have to live by them.  << This would be a reform.

Staying with the ‘voting’ theme for another moment, let’s look at the way our system works (and doesn’t work).  Currently, we’re afraid to vote for a better candidate, because it may split the vote between two better-candidates, leaving the third-best candidate with the elected office.  How does that make any sense?  Here’s another way of handling voting that makes more sense: Approval Voting.  If you would have confidence in more than one candidate, then vote for more than one candidate – in this way, everyone’s vote really does count.  You can vote for the newcomer, whom you really admire, support, and want to believe in, while still ensuring that if they don’t have enough support, yet, the next-best and most-popular candidate assumes the office.  This is a method that allows us to cease under-representing a candidate’s popularity and votes of confidence merely because there’s more than one viable option.  We can begin actually electing the candidates with the most support.  << Another reform.

What?  You want more election reform?  How about we cease the ‘campaign donation’ disease?  Let’s try looking at the elements of an electoral campaign.

  • Do candidates have to pay for debate air-time?  Not really.  That’s considered a Public Service on behalf of the broadcaster (which is required to provide all candidates equal air-time).
  • What about videos?  Nope.  They have just as many means to get their videos out there as the rest of us (and has anyone noticed a shortage of LOLcats on the interwebz?).
  • Candidate websites, twitter feeds, or facebook pages?  Not likely.  Most of those are free (or really inexpensive).

What it may cut down on are tour busses, hotel rooms, commercials and professional studio time.  And I think I can live with that.  Maybe, instead of ‘town hall’ type meetings with candidates (which are difficult, logistically, for most of us to attend), we could try out group chat or a Vokle event to really get a dialog going?  The point is: there are options.  Lot’s of them.  And numerous ways that a candidate’s supporters could help spread the word which wouldn’t involve funding a campaign.  Let’s allow the candidates to get more creative.  Maybe even level the playing field a little.  [If you’re still not sure what this portion of the post is about, Dylan Ratigan does a good job of explaining it.]

And while we’re at it, why not re-structure the Lobbyist system?  Why are lobbyists (supposed to be) there in the first place?  To represent those whose pockets and voices are too small to represent themselves, so that their needs are not overlooked while our Congress makes broad legislative decisions that would affect all citizens, including these people and groups.  We’ve allowed that idea to get completely turned around.  The small voices are not represented by lobbyist because the lobbyists work for the highest bidder.  How does that make any sense?  The highest bidder is already in a position where they don’t need the extra help in order to be represented… so, now they’re… over-represented?  The simple answer: yes.  And therein lies the (very) basic problem with the current Lobbyist system.  We can fix this.  It won’t be easy (there’s a lot of money on the line), but it will be worth the effort.

We’ve also been fed this line for years: “vote with your money.”  When industries and companies who should have been subject to “free market demand” are governmentally subsidized (corn, soybeans, US auto industry, etc. – which, by the way, began long before anything called a “bail out” ever occurred), our government is voting with our money, leaving us impotent to do so.  At the moment, we have a lot less control over how our Government uses our money than we do over what we choose to do with what’s left over.  So here’s something we can do: move our money (or what’s left of it) to an institution that actually works for its members.  Since commercial banks no longer have to be separate from investment banks (by repeals made to the Glass–Steagall Act in 1999 – which Newt Gingrich now calls a “mistake”), the systems have become “so large, complex, and intertwined that both they and their regulators failed to see … that a failure in one part of one bank could lead to cascading failures across the global financial system.”  So, let’s dial it back down to a manageable level.  Credit Unions are a good option.  What are the differences between Commercial Banks and Credit Unions?  There are two very important distinctions (along with several others worth looking up):

  • Credit Unions are non-profit organizations.  Credit unions do not exist to make a profit, but to benefit their members. Unions don’t issue stocks. Rather, earnings are returned to members in the form of lower fees and loan rates and higher interest on deposits. << This generally includes your checking account as well!
  • Credit Unions are also run by a Board of Directors, elected by the members of the Credit Union, instead of being run by stockholders; and Board members serve without compensation.  In other words, they answer to their members, period.

So, if you’re interested in utilizing a financial institution that makes decisions which are in the best interest of its patrons, you may want to seriously consider one that isn’t trying to make a profit off of you and gives you a voice in the decisions being made.

What else can we do?

Well… are political offices the only ones who need “new blood”?  No.  Boards of Directors do, too.  A lot of them do.  And I would challenge any and all Boards of Directors (of any size) to commit to bringing on new members, specifically, from their constituents.  And we should volunteer for these positions.

What I really hate to admit is that this entire situation was born out of complacency… a desire to worry about only oneself (+ family or immediate surroundings) and leave the ‘governing’ to people who really wanted “that kind of life.”  But, what “kind of life” is it that we’re avoiding?  One that is actively involved with making the decisions which affect the rest of us, our families, our friends, everyone we’ve ever worked with or passed on the highway?  The problem is that the people we’re attracting aren’t the right sort, and the right sort don’t want the job.  In short: too bad.

It’s time to be activists, not just protesters.

Go forth, and get involved.

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