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Fixing the System, or More Drivel From the NY Times

Joe Nocera, a columnist for the New York Times, recently published an article called “Fixing the System.” In essence, it was a liberal wish list (he thankfully held it to only five items) for “improving” politics. Part of the problem is that liberals and Democrats generally view today’s political climate as broken. This stems from the view that because everyone is not bowing at the altar of Barack Obama, something must be wrong. The political system working as it was intended to work with at least one house of Congress acting as a check and not a rubber stamp on the Executive branch. But, this is viewed as “obstruction.” Of course, that obstruction is laid at the feet of Republicans in general, and the Tea Party in particular. In fact, liberal commentators often do not lump all Republicans together if they are feeling benevolent. Instead, they offer up the likes of John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker as “reasonable” voices within the GOP. The only thing “reasonable” about these people is their affinity for the Democratic agenda at times.

So with Election Day now behind us, it is best to address this liberal drivel coming from the likes of Nocera and others. We have heard these “suggestions” before. Without further ado:

#1: Move Election Day to weekends. For this, Nocera trots out a quote by that great political observer, Chris Rock. Quoting Rock and then agreeing with him, he claims that the only reason Election Day is held on a Tuesday is to keep blue collar workers (a/k/a Democrats) from voting. Not to burst their bubble, but the selection of the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was established way before blue collar workers were some monolithic voting bloc. It was, in fact, adopted because at the time we were a more agrarian society. The actual first Tuesday was not chosen because it could potentially fall on November 1st, or All Saints Day, which would offend Catholic voters. This is not an attempt to discourage anyone from voting, but an attempt to standardize national elections and not offend a then-growing religious group. Regardless, are Chris Rock and other liberals so dense as to suggest that blue collar workers do not work on weekends? The 9-5 job with weekends off is increasingly a thing of the past. Hence, it is liberals who are living in some Norman Rockwell alternate reality of days gone by. And here I thought it was conservatives and Republicans who are retrogressive. And finally, some states, particularly in the south, hold primaries or state elections on weekends. If they are any indication, voter turn out does not magically increase as a result and their turnout rates are comparable- sometimes worse- to states with a Tuesday election day. The day of the week makes little difference; the quality of the candidates makes a greater difference. And it is nice that Australia fines people for not voting. If that is such a great idea, then Nocera should move to Australia. And wouldn’t this practice somehow be racist in the mind of the liberal because fines would disproportionately affect the poor and blacks? If they cannot afford $5 to get a photo ID and that is racist, wouldn’t a $50 fine be even more onerous? Wouldn’t the “fine” be some kind of reverse “poll tax?” One could expect voter registration to actually decline. And given the decline in the educational level of the average voter, do we really want everyone voting? The election of 2008 and 2012 may be good advertisement for the return of literacy tests.

#2. Term Limits for the Supreme Court. Bad idea #2. First, this would likely require a constitutional amendment, so from a reality standpoint, this is just conjecture. Second, liberals suggest this when they perceive the Supreme Court as being against them and conservatives are guilty of the same sentiments when rulings go against them. It is the nature of the beast. His suggestion is an 18-year term which will be staggered so that there is a vacancy every two years. So, a one-term president, who may be a debacle (think Jimmy Carter), would be guaranteed two choices. He claims this would allow a president to appoint older judges which sounds funny coming from a liberal as it is they who argue for retirement ages in the judiciary. Supreme Court justices are not term-limited for a reason and those reasons have not changed since the Constitution was ratified.

#3. Open Primaries. Here, Nocera lays the blame for political polarization squarely at the feet of Republicans as if their are no strong Democratic congressional districts. Admittedly, the number of swing districts is fewer than in the past, but they do exist and they exist in a variety of states. He offers up the California open primary system which is supposed to be less partisan. After the primary, the top two vote getters, despite their party affiliation, move on to the general election. In 2012 in California, there were actually a couple Democrat vs. Democrat finals which was amusing as the candidates tried to “out liberal” one another. How that decreases political polarization defies explanation. Open primaries are a Utopian ideal that solves nothing. Congressional districts are as they are because Americans naturally sort themselves. We do not force people of opposite political persuasions to necessarily live together to achieve some political parity every two years when we vote. Regardless, in pure numbers, there are more extremely Democratic strongholds than there are extremely Republican strongholds. Just looking at the Cook PVI ratings over the past 20 years, the average Democratic district is stronger than the average Republican district. Liberals cluster more compactly which is why you get strong Democratic districts such as those in the NYC area, Seattle region, San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago, etc. Republican districts tend to be more diffuse, suburban and/or rural. In only swing districts would there be “moderation,” but that already exists under the existing system.

#4. End gerrymandering. This is the great bugaboo and “go to” explanation for the broken political system. In typical liberal conspiratorial fashion, those evil conservatives have concertedly taken over state houses and governor’s mansions so that they can gerrymander districts to their liking. Of course, this can only be done every ten years and totally ignores the fact that there are factors like internal migration and a possible influx of foreign immigrants. Again, Nocera offers up the California example as a shining beacon. Their districts are determined by a commission of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans and 4 independents. If anyone believes that California congressional districts are not politically gerrymandered, they are seriously mistaken. Nocera likes the idea because it is to the advantage of Democrats in California. But, New Jersey uses a similar system and Nocera would likely be critical of the fact that although being a decidedly very blue state, New Jersey has six Republican districts and six Democratic districts. Even I, a conservative Republican resident of New Jersey, knows that does not accurately reflect the politics of New Jersey. Furthermore, if we are going to go this route and get rid of gerrymandering such that it exists, then let us go all the way and get rid of the ridiculous looking districts guaranteed to send a Hispanic or a black to Congress.

#5. Bring back the small donor. You knew that campaign finance reform of some kind was going to make this list. But Nocera needs to get one fact straight: candidate positions do not follow the money; the money follows the position. Let us take the example of two candidates in West Virginia. One is supportive of green energy initiatives and believes coal should be a thing of the past while the second candidate fully supports the use of coal. If you are a coal company, to whom would you donate? Are you going to the expend your money on the first candidate in the hopes of changing his mind over the use of coal? Furthermore, as I have tried to illustrate in articles past, the track record of the candidate receiving the most in campaign contributions is about a 50% chance of victory. In cases where the candidate receives the most support from outside groups- the dreaded Koch brothers and the like- the chance of success is under 40%. Despite the increased flow of money, the biggest beneficiary in any race is not guaranteed electoral victory. Likewise, for every Koch brother out there, there is a George Soros, or a Hollywood industry. Liberals like to portray the situation as being solely a conservative group phenomena, but they are no less guilty. I understand they are still smarting over the Citizens United decision, but get over it. Nocera uses the matching grant for small donors system used in New York City. There, the city matches the donation 6 to one. That may help explain why New York City is so damn expensive. Can one imagine that on a national basis? Unfortunately, fund raising is now a very large part of campaigning, but no recent Supreme Court decision caused this. The cost of campaigns had been on the steady rise before Citizens United. Campaign finance reform and suggestion such as these are based on false assumptions. There are very few actual cases of quid pro quo corruption related to campaign contributions. If the Koch brothers or George Soros, the NEA, SEIU, the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity want to spend billions on what in the end is a 50/50 crap shoot, let them. What is appalling is identity politics. Here, the blame has to be placed squarely at the feet of liberals, not conservatives. They are the ones who proffer the “war on women,” “the war on the poor,” “the war on civil rights,” “the hostility to Hispanics” strategy because a conservative idea may not fit into their worldview.

In the end, these are silly suggestions made by silly people. There will always be pontificating on the subject of “improving” or “fixing” our political system that may not need fixing at all. It is what allow people like Joe Nocera and your’s truly to write articles.

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