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A Revolution: Part II - Tools at Our Disposal

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Use of the legal tools at our disposal to get an Amendment to the Constitution which repairs the disadvantages of ordinary citizens against Super-PACS at the election booth.

From http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Constitution_of_the_United_States,_page_1.jpg: Constitution of the United States
Constitution of the United States
(image by Wikipedia)

A- Revolution: Part II-  Tools at Our Disposal
     No doubt there are many potential means for achieving the changes we need to correct the flaws of our electoral system.  Means implies using tools that might be available to us. It would be foolish to think we should focus on only one or two tools available to us, and abandon any other potential tools at our disposal.
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a.) Voting:
     Efforts by voting, to defeat the two major defiant parties and their constituents, who will not give us the Amendments we need: One of the tools we have available is the vote, which, while rarely effective against the two parties and special interests, there are some places and times third parties and progressives have won. (Note, there have been and will be some candidates who are not literally progressives, but may have some of the same goals we have, and should be considered.  We can't forget that Politics often requires skills in the art of compromise.) We must continue campaigning for independents everywhere, even though hope is small in most major elections. How small?
     From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:  ". In the 302 gubernatorial elections since 1990 the criterion [to qualify as a candidate] has been met 49 times (16%) and six candidates have won (2%). Until Lincoln Chafee 's victory in 2010, no third-party or independent governor had been elected since the 1990s. In the 38 presidential elections since 1856, the criterion [to qualify] has been met in eleven (29%) elections, [however] with no third-party or independent candidate being elected president."  It shows winning governors since 1990:  Alaska 1990: Alaskan Independence Party Wally Hickel: Won: 38.9%; Connecticut 1990: A Connecticut Party Lowell Weicker: Won: 40.4%; Maine 1994: Independent Angus King: Won: 35.4% // Green Party Jonathan Carter: 6.4%: fourth place; Maine 1998: Independent Angus King: Re-elected 58.6% // Green Party Pat LaMarche: 6.8%: fourth place; Minnesota 1998: Reform Party Jesse Ventura: Won: 37%; Rhode Island 2010: Independent Lincoln Chafee Won 36.1% // Moderate Party of Rhode Island Ken Block: 6.5%: fourth place.
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     As for the U.S. Senate we have had, since 1990, much less success: Vermont 2006 : Independent Bernie Sanders Won 65.4%; Maine 2012 : Independent Angus King : Won 53.0%;
     Some of the strongest "hopefuls"  should be mentioned here, inasmuch as they might run again and need some support. We must also consider candidates for local elections, not because these people will be directly involved in any constitutional changes, but because they inspire the public and can give a lot of support to State candidates. Here are some interesting candidates from our recent past: Maine Green Party State Representative John Eder, 2002; San Francisco mayoral election, 2003; Richmond, California municipal elections, 2006; Burlington, Vermont mayoral election, 2009; New York City mayoral election, 2009; Alaska 1996 : Green Party Jeff Whittaker : 12.5%: second ahead of the Democrat; Hawaii 1992: Green Party Linda Martin: 13.7%; Virginia 1994: Independent J. Marshall Coleman: 11.4%; Massachusetts 2000: Libertarian Party Carla Howell: 11.9%; Arkansas 2008: Green Party Rebekah Kennedy: 20.5%: a two candidate race; Minnesota 2008: Independence Party and former U.S. senator Dean Barkley: 15.2%; Indiana 2006: Libertarian Steve Osborn: 12.6%. second in a two candidate race;
     We also have had some Democrats who have been strong proponents for election campaign reform, among them John Kerry, Paul Wellstone, et al. For an example, the campaign of Paul Wellstone shows a history of how a progressive might win election with minimal campaign funds.  In fact, since his death his family has established a training camp,  Sheila Wellstone Institute,  for candidates that need help in structuring their campaigns.  
b.)  Campaigns and rallies and petitions to Congress for an Amendment to reform election campaigns:
     Not at all hopeful. Most acts that come forward are watered down, short of what we need to overcome the inequality of voting strength because of the "outspending" by Super PACS.  For example, just as the Affordable Care Act was short of the Single Payer Act we needed, so are the Acts for Campaign Reform always way short of the exclusive Public Funding for Campaigns that we NEED, or at least something close to that. A bill to "amplify the voices of small minorities" sounds good to small minorities, but one that SUFFICIENTLY amplifies those voices is quite another matter and more realistic. And even those watered down amendments we can get through Congress end up defeated by our corrupt electoral system.  It is worth the time to review  the article Have efforts to rein in political donations failed? By Thomas J. Billitteri. Of particular interest on this site is the chronology of events on major campaign issues, and a pro-con debate on the value of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
     THAT was the last and most major effort in this area and I like to begin with Paul Wellstone and a history of his political career. We can get an idea From WiKi: /Paul_Wellstone   on his part  at reform,  showing also how special interests groups were instrumental in having this , the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, small as it was, totally defeated. In early 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited pursuant to the right of these entities to free speech.     
     And so, efforts in Congress were not only unsuccessful, but also led to Citizens United which made matters worse. At least for the present time and in the near future, as long as these "special interests" have a large voting block, we are very, very unlikely to get an Act of Congress that will succeed, no matter how weak it is, and especially if it is strong.  That does not mean we should not keep trying. But there are those who still argue it is our "best hope" to keep using the same old "tools" of the system, EXCLUSIVELY.

Listen to Paul Wellstone here 1991 on Corruption. Listen to Nancy Pelosi here on systemic problems that corrupt our system.. 

c.) - The Disclosure Act  and Ethics Bills

      Advocating  for more disclosure  and ethics is recommended by many would-be reformers. These are people who obviously do not want very much change. So good luck with that. In any event we have had similar special interest involvement in defeating disclosure acts. See more on that.  Disclosure of some kind will still be a necessary component of any good Amendment giving us  exclusive public funding for Federal and State campaigns.

d.) - Others want to teach voters how to determine how to vote "en bloc" for the best candidates who will bring about the reform we need. 

     "Ask them before you vote," is their suggestion.  Make reform of campaigns a one-issue advocacy.  I'm not sure how this is done, as it seems to be a new idea. I'll be appreciative of anyone who can explain it to my open-ears. As I recommend, we should try everything. But I believe people making this recommendation are using diversionary tactics which would fruitlessly waste our energies and attention. I don't believe they are really interested in true reform.

     e.)  Finally, together with all the above, we must also consider another tool given to us by the Founders of our Constitution -  the Article V Constitutional Convention. 

     I am much a part of advocacy of this option through Wolf-PAC. But not exclusively.  Did you see the latest video on The Young Turks about Wolf PAC?  Cenk was all amped up with some exciting news of the great progress we are making toward the end goal of overturning Citizens United. There are many, many enemies of the Article V Constitutional Convention.  The fear of having one could, by itself, cause Congress to act in a manner to avoid it. The pros and cons will be the subject of the very last part of my article on A Revolution. 

Final note:

     Once we have fair elections, no matter how we reach that goal,  we can  much more easily find candidates to put in office who will help us on all our popular and/or more urgent issues. The best way for Democracy to work, however,  is within the Economy, not at the political level. There are wonderful alternatives to the failures of capitalism, socialism and communism. The best advocate for the right solutions comes from my favorite Economist, Richard D. Wolff, and we should all be sure to listen to this Economist with the most respectful attention, and follow his lead in such advocacy. How comforting it would be to have, in place, a government we can trust while we go out and earn a living independently.
     Learn Macro Economics,  with Richard D. Wolff - two enlightening speeches: http://bit.ly/1iT0wLE and  http://bit.ly/1kwb4hL Whether or not we succeed in getting a remedy for our broken political system, we should turn to the problems of Economic Freedom, Economic Democracy, Economic Equal Opportunity.   I believe this tool for use in achieving equality and freedom in our country could evolve very slowly over time to eventually become dominant, even within our present system. But it could become dominant much faster if we could achieve political reform.

End Part II.  Next Part coming soon, devil in details.


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Palsimon, formally educated in journalism & law, is an independent progressive activist & writer, focusing on guarding integrity of media & government. (.)

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