Are you sick of political ads?

So I be you’re all really enjoying the ads that are blanketing the air waves, cable lines, billboards and intarwebs, right? All of you are thinking to yourself, “Gee, I wish there was some candidate out there I could donate money to!” Everyone’s like, “Wow, I wish this election could go on for another few months. I’m seriously going to miss the wall-to-wall news coverage of how people are feeling about the news coverage!” And I’m sure all of you are delighted – nay thrilled! – by the impact that big money donations have on both sides of the aisle?

What? No? It’s not just me who thinks this is a lousy way to pick a government?

So I have a secret plan for how we can get the money out of politics. And, no, it doesn’t involve you sending me $20.

It turns out that at the end of the day, there is exactly one true form of currency in elections: votes. Right now, through the miracle of media, more money = more votes. What I wish would happen is better policies = more votes. If you join me in that wish, we can make it happen. Here’s how:

1) Go figure out exactly who and what are on your ballot
2) Go to one of the many independent, third-party sites that help you analyze candidates based on their public and provided statements. This one is good: The Voter Guide
3) Spend 30 minutes going through your ballot, figuring out which candidate has policies that best align with what you think is best for the country. If a candidate doesn’t actually have a published position, feel free to punish them for being all style and no substance.
4) Print out your selections or memorize your ballot.
5) Ignore the ads, the articles, the attacks, the slogans, the sign-waver, the favorites, the famous names, the families, the Facebook likes, the phone calls, the fliers and the noise. Make your choice based on policies and qualifications.

Guys, it wouldn’t really take that many people making decisions on criteria like this to radically change politics. Right now, there are very few voters who change the outcomes of elections. If you happen to be part of that very few and you are making your decisions based on real information, we might make it so more money != more votes. At that point, our politicians might be (GASP!) doing things like trying to have better policies.

It’s worth a shot!

Election Day is tomorrow

I remain convinced that the best, most constitutional way to fix the issue of money in politics is for voters to ignore ads and money when placing their votes. Poof! Money ceases to become important, and whatever criteria we’re using to make our decisions suddenly becomes critical.

So today, in advance of election day, I went and found my ballot, compared candidates answers on a range of questions, and made up my own mind based on stated policies who I wanted to vote for. Take that, attack ads!

For my fellow citizens of the Commonwealth — has a great voter’s guide. You can print or email your ballot when you’re done to take with you into the polling place. You can also tweet/facebook your endorsements. This is a great opportunity to help make America a Republic where votes can’t be bought, they have to be earned by thoughtful statements of policy. I think that’s something we can all agree on.

Attention Citizens of the Commonwealth

Raise your hand if you like the fact that running for national elected office requires raising millions of dollars, which then indebts the recipients? Anyone? Anyone?

I’ve thought about this probably more than I need to, and I’ve come up with one, fool-proof, Constitutionally valid solution to this problem. We, the citizens of the United States of America, need to stop making our voting decisions based on paid media advertising. Then poof! All the need for money disappears!!

Our elections are not a media production, where we should vote for the best-produced and scripted candidate. It should not be the responsibility of our elected officials to motivate us to get to the polls. If you are a person who cares about the future of your country, and you are blessed enough to have a say in how it is run, it is your responsibility to educate yourself and make your preferences known at the voting booth.

Imagine a world where people spent even half an hour researching the positions of the candidates and then selecting the one who best meets their criteria of policies, ideology, background, and non-obnoxious speaking voice. (Ok, so maybe I have a few unique criteria for elected officials who will be interviewed regularly on the radio.) I know that asking the voters of America to spend half an hour or an hour to do research to figure out who they want to represent them is much harder than raising millions of dollars and hiring lobbyists, but with such an evenly divided electorate, if even a small block of voters started doing this, it might have a real impact.

For the voters of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we can start doing this right now.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 19th we have an election for US Senator.

There are three candidates who will be on the ballot:

Martha Coakley is the current At tourney General for Massachusetts, and is the Democratic nominee.

  • Here’s her official website
  • Scott Brown is a Massachusetts State Senator and holds the Republican nomination.

  • His official website is here
  • Joe Kennedy (no relation to Teddy or JFK) is an independent who describes himself as “The Tea Party Candidate”

  • You can read his official site here
  • Unfortunately, while there is often a site offering a “by the issues” guide to voting for many major elections, I could not find one for the Massachusetts special election. The Boston Globe has a page that has links to several substantive issues, including transcripts of the debates and statements issued by the candidates.

    Turnout for the special election is predicted to be extremely low. This is not “election season”. The campaign was short, but just long enough for Senator Kennedy’s death to have been a bit forgotten. The election keeps getting buried by other issues (the holidays, the economy, Tiger Woods, and now the tragedy in Haiti).

    Voters of Massachusetts — you have something a million dollars of out-of-state money cannot buy: the right and responsibility to vote for the candidate of your choice.

    Having done my research, I will be voting for Martha Coakley on Tuesday. Regardless of who you choose to vote for, I urge you to do some independent investigation, make a decision, and show up on Tuesday to cast your vote.

    The last scion of a great house

    My state lost its senator this morning. You might have heard. I believe there were a few glancing mentions in a news organization or two.

    I live in Massachusetts. I have lived in Massachusetts for 9 years now. But I’ll likely never be a Massachussan. I speak with an indistinguishable accent. (My husband and I were raised 12,000 miles or so apart. We have the same generic American accent.) I drink Starbucks, not Dunkin’ Donuts. Growing up, I thought the mob was about as real a threat as Bigfoot and the Windigo. I arrived when the Big Dig was a fait accomplis. I never expected to live here so long. I vote regularly in both local and state elections, but I feel a bit like an outsider looking in. I must’ve voted for Ted Kennedy, but I don’t remember doing so. To me, he was a politician with a national profile who had a bunch of good ideas and plenty of prior personal issues. The name Kennedy is no magic to me.

    Some of the politicians in our commonwealth seem to be more like me, or at least less like the old-New England types. For example, our governor Deval Patrick has no accent and has lived in places outside “the hub”. I’m quite fond of my current state representative Jason Lewis, who is local enough to have spent five minutes selling his candidacy to me 1 on 1 and seems (in the local parlance) wicked smaht. I can connect with the Harvard/BU/Tufts folk who, like me, came to New England for college and stayed for the jobs.

    But there’s the other Massachusetts – the thick accent, old boy, Irish-Catholic Massachusetts. For example, I can’t for the life of me figure out why Boston accepts a mayor who can barely string together a coherent sentence. Mayor Menino is an excellent example of this kind of New England politician. His power base is built on unions and knowing everyone, as far as I can tell. And for all this stumps me, it appears to be a very strong power base (although thank heavens he has real challengers this year – more power to them).

    A friend of mine told a story about running for city council many years ago in Boston. Some of the “good ol’ boys” took her aside told her to be a good girl and not upset the boat. They told her that she had no chance and mentioned that friends of theirs ran the polling stations. Were there actually polling irregularities? Who knows. But the “interlopers not welcome” ethos behind her story rang very true. There seem to be areas of politics that are reserved for the third generation and connected.

    Now, I am no better than a casual observer of local politics. It’s entirely possible that my perceptions are out of date and untrue. But I find myself wondering which side of this divide our new senator will come from. I worry that the choice of who we’ll get to vote for will be made in a smoky room filled with men from large families. I worry that the Democratic candidate offered to us will be the one whose “turn” it is. A special election does not have a primary. There is very, very, very little chance that Massachusetts will send a Republican to DC instead of that critical 60th Democrat.

    I wish that Teddy Kennedy, who had plenty of time to think about his last days, had resigned in such a way that we could have found his successor in a more orderly fashion. I am glad that he didn’t name an heir, but I’m concerned that the decision will not be one that I, or ten-year outsiders like me, will have much to say in.

    Edward Kennedy was the last scion of a great family. But in America, power is not intended to be inherited, father to son, or brother to brother. I hope that the Senator who next represents our Commonwealth will be a person of great intelligence, persuasion and integrity, and will somehow manage to represent ALL the Commonwealth. And I hope they will have earned the post on their own merits.

    A civil society

    There is a defining moment in my life regarding politics. I’d been exposed to national politics from the time that KUOW launched and my father found it on the radio. Prior to NPR, I heard a lot of oldies and Paul Harvey. After NPR, I heard a lot of NPR. So all of a sudden, I became exposed to this wild world of politics and the world. I wonder how my life might be different if my father had chosen to listen to talk radio instead? I think he, like me, just likes “voices in his head” at all times.

    Anyway, from about the time I was 11 or 12, I passively took in information about the world and politics. But it all became very, very, very personal when I was a junior in high school. There was major school board drama going on. There was a levy being proposed that was important for maintaining services, and there were good guys and bad guys vying for school board positions. I knew the good guys — the ones who supported the good teachers and my beloved principal and superintendent (the school was small enough for me to know both of them well personally). Also, the good guys happened to be the parents of one of my classmates, and members of my 20-something-big church. I attended nearly all the school board meetings for a year and became passionate about the issues.

    I was 17. And then the Big Election to pass the levy took place. The levy failed by ONE VOTE. It was a small district. If I’d been 18 instead of 17, the levy would’ve passed. One person’s decision not to vote radically changed my high school. A bunch of the good teachers left. The superintendent left. The principal left. I think the quality of education really did take a hit. It wasn’t ALL about the one vote, but that one vote made a huge difference.

    Since then, I have never underestimated the power of my single vote, and the importance of local elections. The national elections obviously get tons of the coverage, and they are clearly important. But I think the local elections actually have a much greater impact on the quality of the lives of Americans. Your local schools, whether your parks are safe, what the job market looks like in your area, how many potholes you have to navigate — those are all decided by local governments. That cute kid across the street? If he goes to a public school, chances are that a portion of his ability to succeed in life (and pay your social security) depends on whether your community decides to support schools with tax dollars or not. And in a local election, it is entirely possible that a handful of votes will decide that issue.

    Yesterday was primary day for Massachusetts. I tried to go out of my way to figure out what the elections were and which candidates best served the goals I thought were important. (I personally talked to both candidates for my party and read their position statements in the local paper.) I still failed to identify one of the contested races — I wish there were an easier way to know what was going on in the local elections.

    But we walked, as a family, down to Town Hall. We explained as best we could to our son why voting was important. And we were two of the approximately 3000 citizens of our town who voted.

    Being an informed citizen requires work. But it is both an honor and an obligation that we have.