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Single Issue Voting: A Thought Experiment on the 2012 Election

By Rob Hager  Posted by George Flower (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Progressives following the SIV strategy, even more than Ralph Nader did by following a third-party strategy, would alienate Democrats for whom their propaganda-induced partisanship and LOTE fallacy is more important than rescuing democracy from both corrupt parties. But these critics are not the political allies that progressives need to win back democracy anyway. Their continued unreflective support for "vapid, unprincipled hacks" makes partisan Democratic voters an uninfluential part of a corrupt system that they could instead control by surrendering their outdated, uninformed partisanship in exchange for SIV.

To win with an SIV strategy, single-issue progressives need to align on this single issue of money in politics with those who vote on the right but who also, polls show, oppose the merger of big business and big government and therefore, money in politics. Free marketeers understand that crony capitalism and influence peddling obstruct a free market. To them political corruption is socialism. To progressives it is capitalism. Getting past such labels, both sides could work together to stop political corruption by throwing a book as fat as the Patriot Act at it. Who cares if one side thinks they ended capitalism and the other thinks they ended socialism? Both will be saving democracy in order to achive practical policies that will serve voting majorities rather than paying minorities.

This realignment of progressives from being the poodles of liberals will certainly generate heat. On the other hand there would be no need for a unique martyr like Ralph Nader to courageously withstand that heat from both establishment and quotidian Democrats alike, since the whole strategy can be carried out anonymously, online, and without identified leaders, aside from decentralized citizen leadership in grass-roots advocacy.

Finally, if corrupt neoliberalism in different packaging is the only policy on offer from the two parties, it would seem marginally preferable for one party, likely the Republicans, to take responsibility for their own dysfunctional neoliberal policies, rather than have them promoted by a nominal Democrat, so that when those policies inevitably fail to serve the majority, voters could protest by swinging to an opposition party, notionally the Democrats, for a different set of policies, rather than swinging from their current faux opposition back to the Republicans themselves, for an even more extreme set of dysfunctional neoliberal policies.

Supporting Obama "going to China" to betray popular progressive programs precludes progressives from demanding significant concessions for helping to re-install Democrats in 2016. After Obama, the political winds will instead be blowing in the opposite direction against a Democratic administration responsible for carrying out failed Republican policies, causing even greater inequality of incomes and wealth than people either want or think it to be, and more structural unemployment and poverty. These winds will move the Democrats even further to the right, as it has been doing for decades, and progressives will remain irrelevant. SIV would punish both parties until one of them adopted progressive reform of money in politics in order to hold on to power.

To summarize, SIV success would produce triumph by progressives not the Republican right or partisan Democrats, would have ejected an unworthy and likely more effective servant of plutocrats even than his obviously plutocratic opponent, would have established the authority to demand immediate delivery from incumbents on the paramount issue of political corruption as well as attract even more supporters  to the SIV strategy, would have extended an essential overture for a trans-partisan alliance with the democratic right, and finally let Republicans take responsibility for the slate of corrupt neoliberal policies that will be inevitably implemented from 2012-2016.

5. Lab equipment. Progressives need to stop arguing with Democrats whose blind partisanship is ultimately responsible for the inexorable rightward trend in US politics, and instead divorce them. The issue is not what set of policies one would theoretically prefer if the U.S. were  still a democracy. The issue is now about putting the principle of democracy above corrupt party. Since money in politics was legalized in 1976 it has turned Democrats, as Gore Vidal  suggests, into the most hypocritical wing of a single-property party with two right wings. Experiments with reforming the Democratic Party have proven unproductive ever since their first congressional leader in the era of corrupt elections, Tip ONeill, first started chasing Republicans to the right so that Democrats could raise campaign contributions for serving corporate interests, while still posing as the LOTE party to liberal voters.

Sooner or later liberal LOTE voters will wake up from their partisan dreams. But by then peaceful reform may no longer be an option.  New equipment is needed now, while reasonably free and fair elections still exist, to empower progressives and others to change the experiment to SIV, which at least could be no worse for progressives than the current failed experiment supporting the best government that money can buy. Progressives enhance their influence by departing to SIV from a process whereby the lesser-of-evils party becomes steadily more evil.

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Efficient execution of the SIV strategy requires a secure website where voters can easily and transparently aggregate their mutual pledges to vote exclusively for the single issue by voting against  any incumbent (either in a primary or general election) who refuses to either take, or at the very least promise to take, before the next election, the specific transformational legislative action that pledgers demand on that single issue. For the money out of politics issue such a website is already set up for demonstration purposes and continued development. 

The specific action necessary from Congress to get money out of politics is not an ineffectual and dilatory constitutional amendment proposal, but rather comprehensive legislation to immediately abolish money from politics, a concept draft of which is posted at the website. A wiki-laws approach allows people who pledge their vote to also help fashion the comprehensive legislation that they will demand from incumbents in exchange for their pledged vote. The legislation will use not just some, but every constitutional means to keep all interested money out of politics -- which includes all the political propaganda, lobbyists, voter suppression, as well as the politicians, that money can buy.

Such legislation need not accept those most responsible for aggravating the problem -- the plutocratic justices that make up the Roberts 5 majority that has controlled the Supreme Court since 2006-- getting the last word on what are the "constitutional means" for abolishing money in politics. The same legislation that assures government has the consent of the governed -- by guaranteeing election integrity -- can also strip the Supreme Court of jurisidiction to decide the political question of whether Congress has the constitutional authority to enact such legislation. The people have the constitutional power to force the plutocratic judiciary out of the business of their self-entrenching election-rigging for plutocrats.

6. Experimental Results. As Obama proceeds with his trademark practices of losing negotiations with himself, appointing Republicans to high office while conceding Republicans veto power on appointment of moderate Democrats, and generally advancing neoliberal anti-majority policies in deed while opposing them with glittering cliches, the reader can conclude this thought experiment by determining whether it would not feel better to have helped begin building an organized SIV process to change the system that produces an Obama than it now feels to have ineffectually perpetuated the problem through yet another wasted election season that brought no prospect of change for the better.

Enabling, one way or another, the 2012 reelection of an undeserving, right-wing, lame-duck who will now be influenced mostly by his future employers will not leave the country more equal or more democratic in 2016. Obama's next employers are unlikely to be much different than the less than 1% who gave most of the billions for his campaigns, and whose retinue he appoints to high office. He will no doubt follow even more effectively the path that helped his role model Bill Clinton, before him, get comfortably rich from political office by selling out the public's interests, especially toward the end of his second term, as Clinton did.

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After concluding this thought experiment the reader may wish to consider performing the real-world experiment of preparing to use SIV in the 2014 midterms.

Rob Hager is a public-interest litigator who filed a Supreme Court amicus brief in the 2012 Montana sequel to the Citizens United case, and has worked as an international consultant on corruption issues.

1 Use of "progressive" in this article needs to be thoroughly explained, since the term has been coopted by partisan Democrats as a synonym for the New Deal term "liberal." Many progressives dislike this usage of the term. Others use it in this murky coopted meaning. But "Progressive" also precisely denotes a late 19th-  and 20th-Century movement that voted for either of the two major parties (e.g. Bryan, or LaFollette), ran some of the most successful third-party campaigns in history, and gave its name to an era of structural reform well before "liberal" acquired its contemporary meaning. T. Roosevelt claimed that 'the Republican party" in the days of Abraham Lincoln was founded as the radical progressive party of the Nation." The Progressive Party Platform that Roosevelt ran on in 1912 includes programs that many would consider desirable for implementing progressive principles today. The 1912 Platform, written by another former Republican, included planks for "strict limitation of all campaign contributions and expenditures" and for "restriction of the power of the courts ... to determine fundamental questions of social welfare and public policy." That both these key "progressive" proposals remain to be accomplished underlies the resurgent plutocracy addressed by this article.

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