Parsing the 2016 US presidential election

#vote or shut yer trap. #election2016

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Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States.

As of noon or so on the 20th of January, 2017, Trump will take the oath of office and he will be the president of all Americans.

All Americans. Even me, one of the Jewish journalists his supporters want dead.

I'm not gonna lie: A large number of Trump's supporters scare me shitless. I'm going to spend much of the next four years glancing over my shoulder.

Some newspapers around the world went with "Oh My God" on the front page. At home, they went with "you're hired," you know, because he's a reality TV star and editors think they're clever.

Where Hillary Clinton and the Democrats went wrong

So many places.

Clinton wasn't the right person in 2008. She wouldn't have been the right person in 2012. It was only a small echo chamber who thought she was the right person this year. Nobody actually listened to the majority of actual voters.

The party elite forgot that Bernie Sanders supporters entered the primaries as Sanders-or-Trump folks. They forgot that those weren't dyed-in-the-wool Democrats — that they were independent thinkers. Having Sanders ask his primaries supporters to vote for Clinton wasn't going to work — they were going to vote for whom they thought would be the best candidate, not follow the guy who dropped out.

After the convention, Clinton ignored Wisconsin altogether. She sent surrogates to Michigan. She banked on Pennsylvania. She lost them all, to the tune of 46 electoral votes that would have swung the election.

She spent the last week posting Twitter ads asking for money, when she hadn't even shored up our votes.

Clinton spent the election season sounding entitled to the office.

Where Trump went right

Trump went for the heart. He's a smile-and-shake hands kind of guy. Some of us find that kind of slimy, but most of us go for it anyway. It's the kind of thing that sells millions of cars, houses, boats and insurance policies across the country every year. It's big business.

He didn't need facts. He got a lot of stuff wrong. Nobody cared. He knew that.

What Trump's first 100 days look like

Trump's going to have a difficult first 100 days, I think. His cabinet will sail through, he'll get someone appointed to the Supreme Court. All the Washington stuff will go easy. He has a Republican House and Senate. Expect a lot of rubber stamps for two years.

But the work is going to be intrinsically hard. He's a figure head. He runs companies, shmoozes, shakes hands and entertains. He's going to have to get his hands a little dirtier than he's used to.

He's going to earn in a year what some of his businesses earn in hours — he's going to take a pay cut to the tune of four or five zeroes. He's not going to be able to run his businesses. His assets are going to be caught up in a blind trust.

All that's going to be tough for a control freak.

What the next four years look like

Differently than you think.

That wall? Homeland Security says a wall is basically useless. We've had a border fence for five years. People go over it, under it and around it.

Built with Mexicans' money? They say they'd get that money by intercepting money sent back to Mexico by workers. That means they're going to be opening mail. If there's cash in an envelope, it might just go to the wall (or some other project). Do grandmothers still put $3 in Valentine's Day cards for four-year-olds? Yeah, that's all going to the wall now. Because the federal government will be opening our mail.

Trump says he's going to force Apple to build iPhones in the US? He's not. First, because he's not going to move his own manufacturing to the US (his hats, shirts, suits and ties are made overseas), but also because Apple's not going to pay the millions it would take to create the fabricating equipment, and you'll probably balk at whatever the iPhone costs after manufacturing costs go up $100, or about a third.

A lot of the campaign promises Trump made (let's make this clear — most presidents fail at most of their campaign promises) are big government promises. Dictating where companies make products. Checking mail for cash. Getting the federal government involved in local law enforcement. He's now at the top of the small-government party. The legislature is not going to go for most of that.

What you can do as a Trump supporter

Have some empathy and don't be an asshole. No, really. Your "team" won. There are people who are actually scared for their lives, their livelihoods and their liberty. These people are your neighbors, your coworkers and your customers. Some of them are people you hire for jobs you don't want to do. You don't have to agree with them. But you have to live them.

This isn't football. You don't get a good ribbing in this week and then get back together next week for pizza, beer and the game again.

The future of third parties, and other US election issues

If you were hoping for Clinton to win, don't blame her loss on third-party voters. Most Gary Johnson supporters were not going to vote for Clinton. He was a Republican governor and had a Republican governor as his running mate. Jill Stein wasn't even on the ballot in most states.

It's not up to voters to vote for people they don't want to win. It's up to candidates to rally passion in voters.

I've begrudgingly voted for people before, but never as strongly as I did when I voted for Clinton yesterday. She was never the right candidate for me, and I still didn't know when I walked into the room whether I was going to click that box for her.

We're going to see more third-party candidates coming out of the woodwork if we keep seeing first-wave baby boomers running as major-party candidates. They're just out of touch with most of us.

Polling is going to change. We can't keep relying on people answering landlines or hanging up cell phones as an information collection method.

We need to get big money out of politics. We say it every election cycle, but until we have an election cycle that allows people to run without requiring many millions of dollars, we're going to keep having rich, entitled people with little actual empathy (despite what their ads show) running for president.

Finally, we need to put term limits on the House and Senate. Make it 10 or 12 years in the House and 12 years in the Senate — that way if you're awesome, you're serving under at least two presidents. But career politicians who get rubber-stamped into office need to get out of the way and let fresh blood help move the country forward.

The back-and-forth we have right now isn't working. We're behind in education, in manufacturing and in social issues (seriously, stop pointing at the Bible and saying being gay is wrong if you've spoken back to your parents since you were 13 or can't name a price to sell your daughter into slavery).

We need ways to get fresh brains into office, and term limits and curbing campaign spending would go a long way.

What you can do because you're scared after the election

Organize. Love. Hell, organize love.

Yes, Trump will be your president, too. If you feel like he's not going to do a good job, you can run away or you can work toward making things better. Do the latter. If you run off to Canada or Australia or wherever you have dual citizenship, consider whether your patriotism is fairweather and maybe consider staying there when someone you like better is elected.

Revolutions aren't built by majorities. They're built by a passionate 10 percent. Get a couple of revolutions together, and you have a coalition. Pretty soon you have a plurality. Good for you. That's what you need.

Build great stuff in your neighborhood, in your city and your state. Share it. It will grow.

Finally, don't bury your head and disappear. This election (and any other) isn't about you. It's about us. Americans. We were built on collaboration and peaceful transfer of power. Our system was built to survive its government. Buck. The fuck. Up. Do something great. Do it from love, not from fear.

I posted this at 2:30 a.m., right about the time AP and CNN called the election:

Here are a few things that I learned tonight:
- We are bitter winners
- We are bitter losers
- We are full of anger
- We are full of hate
- We are full of love
- We are full of fear
- We really don't understand one another as much as we thought we did
- We have a lot less empathy as a whole than we thought we did
- We have a de facto system that is broken in a lot of ways

Here are a few things things I'll be thinking about going forward:

- Revolutions aren't built on majorities, they're built on a dedicated 10%
- No one is entitled to the presidency. We need to stop treating the office as though party elites get to dictate who "should" wind up in the chair
- As a Jewish journalist, I'll spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder. I don't trust a lot of people right now.
- We need to get money out of politics. Until that happens, elections are out of the hands of the majority.

I really wish we could hear from George Carlin this election season.

Waking up Wednesday morning, these were my first thoughts:

Some things you can do to move forward:

(1) importantly, remember it's still OUR America and no one tells US how to live
(2) there are some groups of people who might seem Truly Fucked, but there are organizations that help almost all of them. Volunteer. Donate. Don't leave your friends, neighbors and loved ones stranded.
(3) be physically and mentally strong. You may get less help than you hope for. That doesn't mean you're helpless.
(4) love.

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Election reform and the evolving myth of Two Americas (hint: there aren’t just two)

In 2004, John Edwards gave a convention speech about two Americas, drawn along economic lines. We've since developed the notion of The 1 Percent.

This was based on an academic study.

While there's certainly a dividing line between those in the top percent of Americans in terms of income, there are other dividing lines as well. The "middle class," such as it is, is a large group who may never know that immense wealth. However, the middle class may also never know what it is to decide whether to pay the electric bill or the phone bill this month.

There are several layers in between, as well — not just between the bottom one percent and the middle class, but between the middle class and the top one percent.

Economically speaking, there are not just two Americas.

***

Katie Couric was on Marc Maron's podcast recently. She made a reference to Two Americas, but it was different: It was about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and their supporters.

If Two Americas was originally about the ultra-wealthy and everybody else, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are on the same side of that divide, and it's not on the side that includes "everybody else."

Trump and Clinton are the least-liked major party candidates since we started taking polls of these things. I don't think they're the most polarizing — they're not only disliked by people in the opposing party, they are disliked by large swaths of their own parties, and by people of neither party.

***

In 1992, Ross Perot ran a fairly successful third-party candidacy for president. He was onstage for debates. He garnered enough votes in several states to swing the electoral votes. In Georgia, for instance, Bill Clinton beat George HW Bush by 13,000 votes. Perot got over 300,000 votes. Most likely the vast majority would have gone to Bush.

Since then, the rules for allowing third-party candidates on the debate stage have changed drastically. Now, to be considered for a debate, a candidate must be polling at least 15 percent in five national polls identified by the group that sponsors the debates. The candidates do not need to be options in those polls. If Zogby is one of those polls and Zogby is calling people to ask whether they'll vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton, if 15% of respondents don't go off-script and say Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, those candidates are eliminated from consideration.

A third-party candidate must also be on enough ballots across the country to receive 270 electoral votes, which is the number required to win the presidency. Different states have different rules for which parties are allowed on the ballot.

***

Apart from which parties are allowed on the ballot, different states have different rules on which party you can register for. I'm registered "unenrolled." In New York, that meant I couldn't vote in a primary unless I changed my party affiliation very early. In Georgia, it doesn't matter: we have open primaries, so I can just walk in on primary day and ask for whichever ballot I want.

When I lived in New York, I would frequently vote off the major party-line even if it was for a major party candidate. Sen. John DeFrancisco may have been a Republican, but if he had the endorsement of the Libertarian Party, I'd vote for him on the Libertarian line. If a Democrat was endorsed by the Working Families Party, I'd vote on the Working Families line.

There are not just Two Americas when it comes to political beliefs.

About 25 percent of voters are registered as Republicans. About 25 percent of voters are registered as Democrats. About 50 percent are registered as unenrolled or Green or Libertarian or Working Families or Socialist or something else.

There are dozens of Americas, and they manifest as three Americas — Republicans, Democrats and others. And in a society in which identifying as "Other" frequently makes social problems for people, we only get to see two Americas, and those two Americas are really one America: they're not Republicans and Democrats, they're the folks who put up the money to make sure the rest of America is as close to invisible as possible.

***

We're one week away from the U.S. presidential election. Vote for someone, not against someone. If we continue to do what we've always done — vote for the lesser of two evils — we're going to continue to get what we've always got — one of the evils. If a major party candidate is the best option for you, go ahead and vote for that person. But if a third-party candidate who certainly isn't going to win is the best option, vote for that person. We don't change with one election. It takes a wave. Why not start now?

The end of the early season, mercifully; can we be nice to each other again?

Today marks the final big day of primary season. We still have the Washington, DC, primary coming up next week, but with primaries in New Jersey, California, and several smaller states today, we're getting ready to move into conventions.

It's been a month since Donald Trump became the only candidate running on the Republican side. He's had a contentious ride, and GOP leadership isn't going to make it any easier on him heading into the convention; presumably into the election.

Hillary Clinton will come out the Democratic nominee. The Dems' super-delegate system was put in place to ensure that party brass got to weigh in to the tune of about 30%. And why not? The US was chartered as a republic, not as a democracy. And Bernie Sanders isn't really a Democrat — he lost that party's Senatorial primary in Vermont and serves his constituents as an independent. I can only assume he's chosen to run as a Democrat because it gives him a bigger platform.

That's also why we have the electoral college — in case the voters went weird, there would be some people with some political insider status who could make sure the person elected is suitable to serve.

Fun fact: Members of the electoral college aren't bound. We want to think they are, but what happens is each party picks a slate of electors, and the party that wins the popular vote in a state has its electors cast their electoral votes. If, in November, Massachusetts votes for Clinton, the Democratic Party's slate of 11 electoral college members will cast their ballots. Typically, we assume they'd vote for Clinton and typically they would. But if someone decides he's a Martin O'Malley fan, Clinton would get 10 electoral votes in Massachusetts and O'Malley would get one.

I don't know if it's that Facebook and Twitter have become more popular since 2012; they certainly have expanded their reach since 2008. I don't remember us being this bad to each other. There are people on Facebook I haven't "unfriended," but their use of insult as a debate tactic is so bad that I'll never see their posts about anything awesome they do in the future; they're gone from my timeline and it's too exhausting to weed through and put them back in.

This race has certainly brought out the worst in a lot of people. At some point in the not-too-distant future, I think we're going to need something in the way of more radical change. At the rate it's going, the middle class will be a vast minority by the 2024 election. Inasmuch as "40 acres and a mule" was an actual dream for several days (look it up), it was supposed to represent a status to which we could all rise.

Among Trump's supporters are dangerous people who make death threats. Some of Sanders' supporters have been violent at times. We forget that, at the beginning, when there were 16 Republican candidates and three Democratic candidates, a lot of people couldn't decide which way to register so that they'd vote for Sanders or Trump — despite Sanders' decades in national politics, they were the "outsider" candidates on either side. Outsider enough that if Sanders runs on a third-party ticket, he might take enough votes from both Trump and Clinton that no one gets the necessary majority of electoral votes.

If we don't stop treating politics like sports in the U.S. — hating the other team for the jersey they wear — we're headed down a long, dark road.

More: The presidential race and the problem with politics in the US »

Have elections officials lost faith in the American voter?

I spent a little bit of time the other night piecing together the photos below of huge lines and crowds from the primaries in Arizona and the caucuses in Idaho and Utah.

Some people in Arizona were voting two and half hours after polls closed — after standing in line for three or more hours.

In Idaho and Utah, officials had to open not only auxiliary rooms to handle caucus-goers, but in some cases auxiliary buildings.

In both Arizona and Utah, they ran out of official ballots and had to hand out provisional ballots, which means they'll need to verify all the voters are actually registered, since there's no way to determine whether the provisional ballots were handed out because there were no official ballots or because the voter was supposed to fill out a provisional ballot.

How did officials underestimate the number of voters who turned out so badly? Do they think people just aren't interested in voting, despite the fact that we've had record turnouts throughout primary season?

It really is a shame. I don't have any answers as to how to fix this election system, but it definitely needs to be fixed.

The presidential race and the problem with politics in the US


Note: This podcast was recorded before Ted Cruz's Super Saturday victories and Ben Carson dropping out of the race.

We have problems with our politics these days. I've been holding off on posting about it because I'm not sure I've had reasonable words, but comedian (and UFC commentator, etc.) Joe Rogan and former CIA covert operative Mike Baker really get it right.

Baker, who is more a rationalist than anything else (he has operational issues, for example, with Hillary Clinton — he explains in plain language what happened with her email), spells out the issue with anyone willing to run for the presidency: "There's a certain personality type that's way up its own ass that allows you to think, 'Yes, I should be president of the United States.'"

"We're down to assholes, basically," agrees Rogan. "Bernie Sanders seems like an old kook, he doesn't seem like an asshole," but he doesn't seem to think we should really be voting for anyone who would actually want the job.

That all happens in the first few minutes of the podcast, by the way. You needn't put yourself through very much of the video above (the first five or seven minutes will be plenty to get you started) to see where they head with the conversation.

Let me be honest with my perspective, before we get too deep in here. I'm a disenchanted liberal. I grew up in a strictly Democratic household, and identified as a Democrat until about 2000, when I really saw Ralph Nader's point. Barack Obama brought my back into the party, but quickly lost me (here's my very hopeful post after his first inauguration, and my jaded look forward after his reelection). I now live in a state with open primaries, so I have no need to register for a party ever again. In political "quizzes," I match up as a left-leaning Libertarian.

Louis C.K. — another comic — writes, in what I think is a really important rant about Donald Trump, puts it nicely:

When I was growing up and when I was a younger man, liberals and conservatives were friends with differences. They weren’t enemies. And it always made sense that everyone gets a president they like for a while and then hates the president for a while.

Around 11 minutes into his discussion with Rogan, Baker points out that somehow compromise is now seen as a weakness. And that's really a major problem for me. That's what we're built on: discourse and compromise. The rhetoric from both sides these days is not only angry, it's vindictive. And that's our fault as voters.

It's been pretty well figured out, I think, that to win a primary, a candidate has to move toward an extreme, and then will have to move to the middle to win a general election. What we don't know is what happens when the president gets into office — on Day 1, is he handed a book (he, here; we haven't had a she yet) of what we know and then he has to look back on his campaign promises and say, "Holy crow, we can't do that!"

Baker says soon we're going to need an end to the two-party system, to really have stronger other options. He also goes on to say he thinks presidential candidates should have to disclose who they'd like in their cabinet: after all, presidents don't know everything about everything, they take advice from their circle. Rogan goes even further, saying maybe we should eliminate the position of president, instead making decisions by committee.

We sort of do that, actually. We need a point person, and the president sort of acts as CEO — the board (cabinet, generals, etc.) gives him all the options, and the president has to make the final call. For example, Baker points out, there's a lawyer in the White House who advises the president on whether the secondary casualties that would result from going after a "high-value target" make it a doable operation.

As for Trump, Rogan says that people like him because he "talks shit," which he clearly does. Personally, I don't want someone who's verbal political tactics are a great way to get into a bar fight. "There's so many goofy white guys who are ready and psyched to have a reality star as president," he says.

C.K., in his rant, calls for people to just read up a little on Trump. "If you do vote for Trump," he writes, "at least look very carefully at him first." Here's a guy who has said he likes people who weren't captured, but further, that John McCain, who was the target of that criticism, "has to be very careful" for criticizing the candidate and that "he'll find out" why. I don't know about you, but the way I read that, any US soldier who gets wounded or captured is going to be in trouble, and that if you say anything bad about Trump, you'd better be prepared for...something.

We do know that Trump wants to change libel laws (that's a conservative publication I linked to, by the way). The Daily Beast (which claims to be independent but seems to lean liberal at a quick glance) has a good explanation of our current laws and Trump's proposed law.

Whatever you think of the Chronicle's take on Trump gutting the First Amendment, I can say that I watched his Super Saturday rally and noted that Trump said, before taking questions, "you know the press is among the most dishonest people created by God, so I would love to take a few questions from these dishonest people." Start around 12:37 here:

If I'd have been there, I probably would have left. As a voter (and Jew and member of the media), I'm scared of Trump; as a journalist, I'm over him. If you could get me to go to cover a rally, I'd be there with duct tape over my mouth.

I'll close with Baker talking about Trump and the American Dream. Baker served the US as a covert CIA officer abroad for many years, and now runs an intelligence agency called Diligence LLC (around 51 minutes into the conversation).

How does it happen that this country — this fantastic country, and again I've spent most of my life overseas — I can go to the deepest darkest shithole out there, somewhere out there [in the] middle of nowhere, and someone will say, "if I go to America and I can work this hard and I can do really well, I just have to, you know, if I can get to America," they still — people out there in the middle of nowhere — still believe the American Dream.

And yet you worry about it, because I think we seem to be giving up on it here. If this is the best we've got, if we're willing to follow this guy down the tunnel, I don't know where we're heading, but it's not good."

Transparency vs. objectivity in journalism

Poynter has a really good piece up this week about Nate Silver and the future of bloggers as journalists (OK, so I oversold that a little, but still, that's sort of the gist).

Silver, as you probably know, predicted a landslide for President Obama in the electoral vote in this year's election. While news media were busy talking about the 1% difference in popular votes according to polls leading up to the election, Silver was figuring out which polls made the most sense in which states and predicted that Obama would have 313 electoral votes on election night.

Conservatives, and even some in the media, thought that was ridiculous. If their polling was so close, how could Obama win 313 electoral votes to 225?

Actual electoral vote count: Obama 332, Romney 206.

Not only was Silver right about a landslide, he was off by 19. I don't know where that came from; maybe Virgina and Nevada (13 and 6 electoral votes, respectively).

Part of the bloggers vs. journalists debate over the years has been this. Bloggers are typically politically biased, while journalists are objective.

Here's the thing: That's not true. In The American Journalist, we find out that most (nearly three-quarters of them, in fact) journalists lean to the left. And while we might call that a liberal bias in media (particularly in print), content analyses show over and over that while some newspapers lean left on the editorial page while others lean right, as a whole, newspapers tend to pick on whoever's in office, regardless of their politics.

I'd argue that people who attack every story objectively are dull writers.

We want to hear both (or all, really) sides of every story, not no side of every story. And if the writer is honest with me about his or her viewpoint, it's easy to forgive a viewpoint injection. It's when the journalist injects a viewpoint under guise of objectivity that we have a problem. You can disagree with a writer, but you can't disagree with a piece of paper in front of you (well, you can, but it can't put up a coherent argument – it's a piece of paper).

Poynter also notes that the Times didn't take on a risk when they signed Silver; someone else had already dropped $700,000 on a couple of books. Good for him.

I'll ask you: Would you rather read a strictly objective article by a journalist with no viewpoint (nor the guts to take a side), or a biased article written by a smart person who uses all sides to tell you why s/he thinks s/he is right?

Give me smart, biased journalism any day. Just give me all the information so that I can make a decision, too.

The day after

It's a crisp but still 25 degrees out this morning, with a fuzzy crescent moon visible as the sky is lightening. The day after election day this year doesn't feel like a new era to me; in fact, it feels like a good time for leaders to sit down, light a fire, open a bottle of Scotch, and spend a couple of months reflecting on where our country is really going.

» Blog Archives: Day 1

The nation is 236 years old; about halfway through the expected lifespan of a strong empire, historically speaking (Rome and Greece each lasted about 500 years). Our economy has evolved in such a way that we don't really know how to pull out of a slide. We make less stuff; we're primarily service-based. And for the people who do make stuff – domestically that's fewer and fewer people – we have a burgeoning movement of people who want to get rid of their stuff.

In 2008, Barack Obama ran on a platform of change. It feels like something has changed, but as a whole, it's not tangible. He won the Nobel Peace Prize on the promise of what he could do for the world, and I don't think we've seen that promise come through yet. Obama is certainly a divisive figure, but I don't think he's any more divisive than George W. Bush before him or Bill Clinton before Bush. They've been divisive in different ways (read: people hate them differently), but I think, given the way communications is evolving, we're going to keep seeing bigger and bigger divides for the next couple of election cycles, before it comes to a head.

I don't know what that head will be.

This year, Obama has run on a platform of forward. Here are some things I think we need to do to make forward happen.

Civil equality. So much of our division has to do with social issues. We've stopped competing with each other for food resources and the physical ability to procreate, and so the way to feed our evolutionary need to keep ahead of our neighbors is to legislate that hunter-gatherer competition. It's the reason we fought the Revolutionary War. It's the reason we fought the Civil War. It's the reason we had to push through abolition and women's suffrage and to allow everybody to drink from the same water fountain and it's the reason – wait for it – we need to do the marriage equality thing tomorrow, and it's the reason we need to do something for immigrants who have been here illegally for a long time.

We're not going to get any real work done until we're all full citizens. Let me repeat that. We are not going to get any real work done. Not until we take away the need for my friends and our neighbors to worry about what happens if the person they love gets sick, or if their 17-year-old son gets into college.

Seriously, let's just get this done. Let's do the equivalent of a wet-foot-dry-foot policy for immigrants who have been here five years. If you've been here less than five years, let's fast-track your residency application so that, even if you have to leave, at least you won't be looking over your shoulder anymore. And let's just pass a national marriage equality act.

The day after those things happen, the people we're bringing into full American-hood will be able to fight other battles. And so will the people who oppose them. They'll be able to help look at the economy and the environment and figure out how we end the wars we're in.

Environmental destruction. I don't care what you think about global warming or climate change or whatever we want to call it. It's pretty clear that something's up. We're still cleaning up from Katrina in some parts of the Gulf. We're going to be cleaning up from Sandy for a long time. We keep moving people inland as mudslides hit the California coast. It seems like every summer there's a wildfire it takes longer and longer to contain.

I can't tell you the causes. Humans might have nothing to do with the creation of these events. (I think we do, but I can't prove the science myself, so I'm not going to push that on you.) We might not be able to do anything to stop these storms, fires and slides.

But we can change the lifestyles that keep getting disrupted by these natural disasters. I don't think we can legislate those changes, but enough people have been affected by weather events over the past decade that if wind up having some good ideas, people might actually listen.

Fund all mandates. If you want to "fix" the economy, one of the things that we need to do is start funding all mandates. We have a healthcare mandate that will cost some people upwards of 10% of their income when it's enacted. We have federal education mandates and Medicare/Medicaid mandates that states and municipalities are picking up the cost for, at the cost of things like public safety departments and public works items like, say, enough road salt to last the winter.

I think we've shown that things like tax breaks for small businesses and higher taxes for the wealthy are only going to get us so far. They are policies that will help tweak statistics in the directions we want them, but they're never going to actually solve anything.

Diversity of viewpoints in government. Our focus on diversity in positions like judicial and cabinet appointments through the past two administrations has revolved primarily around gender and ethnic background. But for the most part, everyone appointed tends to fall into line, at least on the surface, with the political views of the person who appointed them. That leads to an us vs. them attitude in elections every four years, and it specifically excludes the viability of a third party coming into play.

We're never going to bridge divides if we don't have to build coalitions. In a two-party system, we either pass all legislation in one direction (if the presidency and the majority in both houses of Congress are of the same party), or we pass only moderate legislation (because the Democractic president and Senate need to concede some stuff to House Republicans).

We move in small increments, and every four years we have the option to push those small increments in a different direction. Let's sprinkle some Libertarians, Green Party candidates and other minor-party representatives into the cabinet and into our courts. It will be a slow change, but eventually, those parties will start to really put some seats in Congress, and leaders will have to create coalitions across a variety of viewpoints. Instead of Blue vs. Red on every issue, there will be a gradient of purples in the mix.

***

I recognize that I've left foreign policy entirely out of this post. But I think we need to take care of things at home before we're going to effect much change abroad. And if we take care of stuff at home, we'll be able to put more people to work on what's going on in the world.

Onward.

The issues important to me: Why I’m voting Green this year


Wherein a politician tells his 8-year-old son he plays piano in an opium den because he doesn't want the kid to know he's really in politics.

Tuesday is election day here in the U.S. It's a day when a bunch of people puff up their chest and smile proudly about civic duty (though most of us only vote in presidential elections and then only when it looks close going in – and even then our voter turnout is embarrassingly low). The reason we're doing this on Tuesday is that people are more likely to stop at the polls on their way to or from work – or take an hour out of the office – than to give up some time out of their weekend to vote.

For me, the most important races in my neck of the woods are on the federal level: president and Congress.

Here are my pet issues right now.

Civil rights. Marriage equality is at the top of my list. I have a bunch of friends who, unless they live in a handful of states, won't be able to visit their partners in the hospital – even after 40 years of monogamous couplehood. Seriously, it's ridiculous. We don't even need to talk about children, but let's do. If one of the couple has a child, the partner has no parental rights and has a terrible uphill battle to get some. Sure, raise the kids together for 12 years while the birth mother is healthy, but the second she gets hit by a bus, we'd rather make that 12-year-old a ward of the state than let him live with the other woman who helped raise him. Makes sense, right? Nope, didn't think so.

Also, I'm going to put abortion here, as a civil right, not under health care, though health care's an important piece. Abortion should be safe and legal. Why? Because laws limiting (or outright outlawing abortion) don't actually decrease the number of abortions performed. They just limit the safety. You want to pretend you're "pro-life"? How about saving the lives of moms in need, and how about making every child a wanted one, instead of one that's born into malnutrition and raised as a burden?

Health care. At this point, it looks like a single-payer system is the only way to go, unless we're willing to regulate the hell out of the system and make it a la carte. Health care is so expensive that even those of us you might consider to be middle class can't afford it, because it represents upward of 14% of our pre-tax income for a lot of us. And unfunded mandates coming up in 2014 are going to cripple some people, especially young families.

Jobs and income. OK, I really don't know how to create more jobs. But nobody can live on minimum wage. $7.25 an hour gives you $15,225 a year for a full-time job. Let's assume that gets you 50% off your health care cost and 50% off your housing cost and a 0% tax rate because your state is really helpful. You're still paying well over a third of your income into a bare-bones health plan and a small apartment ($150 and $300, respectively, out-of-pocket). There aren't any good-paying jobs out there, so I hope you didn't bother going to college, because another $300 a month in students loans would really put a dent in there. Also, I'm pretty sure you're taking the bus to work, since even if you managed a small car payment, you couldn't pay insurance. It just seems our elected politicians are entirely out of touch with reality.

Higher education. I have someone on my staff I was going to give more hours and perhaps start developing toward a management position. But I wound up having to cut his hours because he went back to school. He went back to school because his student loans were called in and, though we're paying him more than minimum wage, he can't come close to making payments, and going back to school – and getting deeper in debt in the process – was the only way to put off paying those loans. Yeah, what a crappy system.

The environment. Go ahead, tell me climate change doesn't exist. These freak storms that we're getting every couple of years are just that – freak occurrences. Except that they're happening regularly. We just had this storm come up the east coast that was 1,000 miles across. A thousand miles! And it was colliding with this giant snowstorm that came in from across the country. Have you had a headache or vertigo the past couple of days that seemed unusually strong? Yeah, that's the lowest barometric pressure that's ever been recorded getting to you. I'm sure our consumption has nothing to do with this.</sarcasm>

I left the Commonwealth during Mitt Romney's years as governor of Massachusetts. He didn't do anything for the Bay State. In fact, the most notable thing he did accomplish was to pass an unfunded mandatory health care law like the one President Obama passed that Romney is fond of claiming he'll repeal (you know, because presidents can repeal stuff – has he even read the Constitution?).

And I've had high hopes since Obama took office. I loved his speech at the 2004 Convention, and I was surprised to see him running in 2008 (I thought Hillary Clinton was going to be the obvious choice for a couple of election cycles and Obama would be the Democratic candidate of choice in 2016). Still, I was optimistic, and, in general, I've been unimpressed. Yes, Obama's done some important things, but every president does.

I don't like my relationship with my government more than I did four years ago, and really, that's what we're asking. "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" is always the wrong question, because over the course of four years, most of what happens to us is our own doing, for the most part.

I'll be casting my vote for Jill Stein. It's an easy decision for me; if I accept that we're a de facto two-party system and either Romney or Obama will be sworn in January 20, 2013, and I accept that, for me, Obama is the lesser of the two evils, New York is safely an Obama state. Look at Stein's issues page. It speaks to me. It's by and large stuff I agree with. As I said, voting for Stein is an easy decision for me.

» JFM @ TheMins: Sometimes you have to follow your heart even when you know you’re going to lose.

Not such an easy decision for me is the one to vote for Ursula Rozum. I definitely align with her on the issues, and I've seen Rozum out in the community – my community – talking to groups I'm part of, engaging young voters and organizing for some important issues. And she's aggressively outspoken, which I think is important.

It's a difficult decision for me because I know the major-party race is going to be close. Ann Marie Buerkle, the incumbent Republican, has not spoken for me over the past two years. Not by a long shot. Her website doesn't allow donations under $15, and says so up front. Civil liberties and education aren't on her issues list. On the other hand, the Democratic challenger, Dan Maffei, surprised me by aggressively pursuing legislation and generally sounding smart during his term in Congress.

I say Maffei surprised me because I'd met him a few times before his run. I used to work for syracuse.com, a news website. Each time I met him at a party or other function and he discovered who my employer was, he'd immediately ask the host for a non-alcoholic beverage (seriously? The current president brews beer in the White House) and would go find someone else to talk to. Meanwhile, I'd bump into his then-fiance, Abby, at all kinds of volunteer events. She'd be real easy to vote for, but I just can't bring myself to vote for him. I mean, look at what he says about education. It says, "someone should make this better," not "I'm going to make this better, and here's how."

In a close race, that might mean two more years of Buerkle, but I'm getting tired of voting for the lesser of the two evils. America was built by idealists, and I'm an idealist, so I'm voting my heart.

Clay Shirky on transparent vs. participatory government

Pay attention to what Clay Shirky says here, because it's important.

The commercial Internet is approaching 20 years of age. From an availability standpoint, it's a mature medium – there are few places in the world you can't access the Internet, and in the developed world, it is readily available to a large percentage of the population either in their homes, at work or in libraries or other places of public accommodation.

From a standpoint of what we're going to do with it, we're not even close.

Shirky points out that the printing press was invented in 1454; we know of erotic novels dating to 1499 but not scientific journals until the 1660s. So, LOLcats might be everywhere on the Internet in various forms right now, but give it time.

Mitch Joel recently likened Shirky to Marshall McLuhan, a comparison I've grown more comfortable with since I first read it a week ago. And if you can understand what that means, you can understand why Shirky's projections on the Internet's future are important.

Here in the U.S., we're in presidential election season. One of the toughest things for me in this season is our de facto two-party system. Anybody meeting a short list of qualifications (35 years old, natural born U.S. citizen) is allowed to run for president, but it's always a two-person race.

This means that typically, we're voting for the person whose policies we dislike least (or, in very bad years, the person we dislike least).

The continuing maturity of the Internet has opened up a more transparent government. We know more about who has done and said what, what our laws are, what legislation is coming up for votes and who is throwing stupid amendments on what.

What the Internet hasn't yet done for us is create a more participatory government. Participation starts and ends with voting for the average citizen. While the occasional letter to a legislator may or may not change someone's mind on an issue, but it doesn't directly contribute to government. Shirky explains how people are using GitHub for open organizational flow.

Pretty interesting stuff.