Political Lawn Sign Proposal

I have an idea for next political season, based on the following Atlantic Monthly article: http://m.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/11/the-popularity-and-irrelevance-of-our-lawn-sign-wars/264488/

So, if lawn signs are ubiquitous but useless, as this article suggests, here’s my proposal. In the future, all politicians must have supporters remove all lawn signs one week before voting. This plan has two advantages:

1. It ensures that lawn signs don’t get abandoned after the election is over. I hate driving around months, or even years, later and still seeing signs for long-resolved political races. Plus it’s litter – we fine people $103 for littering, but don’t apply this to political signs*.

2. It demonstrates which politicians follow through and can motivate supporters twice. It’s easy to say you believe in personal responsibility, but this would force aspiring public servants to actually show some responsibility.

I’m quite sure that voters wouldn’t forget the candidates’ names if the signs disappeared early. And frankly, I would be more likely to vote for the candidate who didn’t leave a bunch of useless and ugly election detritus lying around.

* There’s no way to track down the supporter who put up the sign. Instead, simply fine the politician whose name is on the sign for every lawn sign remaining after voting day. Use the money for something like maintaining green spaces or promoting transparency in politics.

Unrelated but nice:

Political Showbiz

Day’s Verse:
I’ve written to warn you about those who are trying to deceive you. But they’re no match for what is embedded deeply within you—Christ’s anointing, no less! You don’t need any of their so-called teaching. Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught.
1 John 2:26-27

Not having too much to do, I’ve been able to follow the Republican primary circus pretty closely, and generally found it to be a fabulous show. I’m an interested spectator: I’m not Republican, but I’m also not a dyed-in-the-wool registered Democrat; although I usually lean liberal, I try to vote based on the candidate’s positions, not his party.

I can’t remember enjoying a primary election so much in the past. There have been so many bizarre twists and turns, with a cast of characters beyond a fiction writer’s wildest dreams:

  • Michele “My facts are accurate” Bachmann
  • Herman “I did NOT — OK, maybe I DID, a little bit, sleep with or sexually harass every woman I laid eyes on” Cain
  • Rick “Three things, what was that third thing?” Perry
  • Newt “Keep it civil, you lying, liberal, tree-hugging, Obamacare-supporting SOB” Gingrich
  • Ron “My foreign policies hark back to the Monroe Doctrine” Paul
  • Rick “Ban contraception, environmental policy, and logic” Santorum
  • And, of course, Mitt “The dog on the roof was a long time ago” Romney

Now the field is narrowing, and we’re down to a manageable number of lunatics who actually want to be President, running around slinging mud at each other as hard and fast as they can. It’s dizzying. For now, the accusation “You’re not conservative enough” is the filthiest accusation they can toss around. Each one is trying to outdo the others proving that he is the most conservative, and therefore most worthy of winning the candidacy.

I would humbly submit that these efforts by candidates to out-conservative each other may, perhaps, be a little shortsighted. After all, in the general election, are those on-the-fence undecided voters going to want somebody who’s just spent the last few months beating his chest and proving his uber-conservative credentials? Is somebody who’s gone to great lengths to disavow any relationship with level-headed environmental, energy, foreign, and domestic policy; who’s made darn sure that everybody knows HE won’t change his mind, regardless of the evidence; who’s guaranteed that HE won’t compromise, even to the very bitter end — is this guy going to appeal to people who are, by nature, compromisers?

When I vote, I look for somebody who’s going to examine the evidence on all sides of an issue, who will listen to the advice of advisers from a variety of viewpoints, who will make an informed decision based on the best information at hand.

I don’t want somebody who’s never going to compromise: Compromise is crucial to a working democracy. I take the accusation of a politician being a “flip-flopper” as a good thing, proof he’s willing to change his mind if the situation or evidence changes.

I don’t want somebody who stands alone, convinced that he and he alone knows the best way: No one man can know the best way to run this incredibly complicated country.

Most of all, I won’t want somebody who’s going to make stupid, un-keep-able promises just to appeal to a certain segment of voters (note: It’s true, all candidates do this. It’s depressing).

No individual, not even the President, can magically fix our economy and get unemployment back where it belongs, and certainly not solely with tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

No individual, not even the President, can guarantee energy independence, and certainly not by drilling more here in the US.

These issues require an entire government working together as a unit, not some heavy-handed proto-dictator passing down decrees from on high. Americans admire independence, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and firm, definitive, and unswerving confidence in leadership — all things that I would humbly suggest make terrible Presidents.

I hope that whoever ends up the Republican nominee turns out better than any of them look right now. In the meantime, I’m spectating avidly, always wondering: What can they come out with next?

‘Tis the Season for Polling

Day’s Verse:
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.
Ephesians 6:13-ish

Robo-poller: This is the National Marriage Organization for Marriage calling to poll you on your views of marriage.
Me [Thinking to myself]: Hang up? Nah, what the heck, I’ll be a statistic.
Robo-poller: Do you believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman?
Me: No.
Robo-poller: Are you male?
Me: No.
Robo-poller: Are you over the age of 50?
Me: No.
Robo-poller: Thank you for your time. [Click]

And that was the end of that conversation.

Another robo-poller wanted to know my opinions on the national debt crisis (even this wording screamed “Republican poll!”), and said I would get a FREE two-day cruise in the Bahamas just for answering 30 seconds’ worth of questions. I declined to participate by hanging up, but really I need to just take the phone off the hook, because by the end of the day it’ll be six more polls or political ads.

I am grateful that our lack of TV spares us from the worst of the TV ads, though. And listening almost exclusively to NPR insulates us from nasty radio ads. Some people would suggest that it also insulates us from the “fair and balanced” views espoused by those worthies to the right of us on the political spectrum. Maybe so, but most of the NPR shows work to get real, serious experts from both the Republican and Democratic camps when evaluating the political situation.

I hope I’m not burying my head in the sand too much, but realistically, studies have shown that we choose to believe what we want, and then find evidence to support that belief. Contrary evidence may crop up, but often contrary evidence actually reinforces a belief. So I have to accept that my views are biased, that I’m seeking news outlets that fit my worldview, that I can’t make a truly bias-free decision, and I have to try my best to overcome that by deliberately being open-minded. Which is not to say that I’d choose to vote for Newt — but that’s a whole different ball o’ wax.

Wait, Representative Government Works?

Day’s Verse:
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
1 Corinthians 13:3-7

Yesterday I read an article in The Seattle Times about how close Washington State is to passing a gay marriage law. In the article, Senator Rosemary McAuliffe was described as undecided, but likely to support the bill. I double-checked my legislative district, and sure enough, she’s my state Senator. What the heck, I figured, Why not throw in my $0.02 to tip the balance? (And I might as well mix metaphors, while I’m at it.)

The Internet handily provided direct email to her, so I sent off a very brief email. I said:

Dear Senator McAuliffe,

I know that you are a busy person, so I will keep this brief: As one of your constituents, I am writing to encourage you to vote yes on the upcoming gay marriage legislation. It is the right thing to do, and I believe will make life better for many Washingtonians.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

[My Full Name & Address]

Not my most eloquent, but at least I said something, right? And I figured I’d either hear nothing, or I’d get a canned reply from her office that told me the six dozen ways she’d done this, that, and the other excellent thing that related to my interest. Nice enough, but nothing interesting.

Instead, within 24 hours, I received the following reply.

[My Full First Name],

Thank you for sharing your support for Marriage Equality. Below I have shared with you a letter I am releasing to the public tomorrow. Thank you again for involving yourself in the legislative process and lending your voice to such a vital cause.


Okay, yes, it’s somewhat canned — almost certainly she had a template pertaining to this topic, and handily inserted my name at the top. But it’s not obviously templated, and it’s definitely a real reply, so I know that my representative heard my view. Attached was the following letter:

The governor recently announced her support of marriage equality. For decades our country has struggled with discrimination in many forms. I am proud that our state has a past of joining together to support equality for women, racial minorities, people with disabilities, and religions — now is the time to support all families with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Separate but equal is yet another form of discrimination. For many people, I know this is a very sensitive issue. I have received many letters, emails and phone calls for and against marriage equality legislation. An overwhelming amount of constituents have sided with my own belief, that all Washington citizens deserve the chance to be equal under the law. We are free to believe whatever we choose however we live in a state and world where our laws protect human rights for all.

A main concern I have heard is the right to religious freedom. This bill includes an important exemption for religious organizations and clergy to continue to exercise religious freedom.

In the past, I have supported civil unions, domestic partnerships, and the efforts of Senator Ed Murray to stand up for equality for same sex couples. We as legislators must be vigilant about protecting all of our citizens against discrimination. I support marriage equality and have signed my name onto this long overdue legislation to ensure all of our children grow up in a society that truly promotes equality.

Rosemary McAuliffe
Senator Rosemary McAuliffe
State Senator 1st Legislative District

Well, hey. How cool is that? I am unexpectedly pleased about this whole exchange. Probably my email made no difference in her decision, but just having said something and knowing it got heard — that’s pretty great.

Mostly, to me, the government feels like some vast ship steaming along, unable to stop or change course quickly, driven by momentum to very slow changes even if the rudder changes direction. Politicians are the crew members of the ship, and we’re the passengers. Sharing my views may make one of the crew members pause for a while, or nod and smile, or say something inanely polite, but the ship will just keep chugging along its course, regardless. But in this case, something I — and a bunch of other people in the 1st Legislative District — said influenced the behavior of one of the crew members. That’s how it’s supposed to work, of course, even though it doesn’t always. But I’m pleased it worked this time.

And, of course, I’m hoping to soon celebrate marriage equality in Washington by making some rainbow-colored cake or something.