Confession: my last post was half-assed. Like the candidates themselves, I wasn’t really into it, and even though I figured out a direction to go in, I could have done it better.
I know. You’re devastated. You feel let down. You don’t trust me anymore.
I guess I can run for office now.
Going forward, though, I’m starting to gel some things that I’d like to see the candidates discuss… things that either aren’t asked about or aren’t probed enough.
The Constitution vs. the Bible (not as in “pitted against”)
I am a lover of history and a pretty patriotic person, but I’m struck lately by all the talk about what is in the Constitution and how it alone contains the answers to how the country works… no ifs, ands or buts. I think the founding fathers had an amazing thing going. To be brave enough to sail off to a “new world,” found colonies, organize societies, work the land, build a home… that takes guts. To start a country that disowns the King of England… that takes serious guts. And smarts. But somehow, over the course of the next 235 years, some parts of the nation have come to believe that the founding fathers were demigods. Infallible. That the Constitution they wrote and ratified on parchment somehow set in stone the values that they would have had even 235 years on, the things they would have said or believed or stood for even after 235 years of societal change, growth, and the onset of a global marketplace and a global interdependence to maintain peace. I am not saying that we need to rewrite the Constitution, that we need to make dramatic changes, that we need to create a new flurry of amendments to add to the 27 we already have, that we should in any way disregard what the Constitution says. I think it is the most solid foundation we can grow from, and I find most modern calls for new amendments to be calls for the implementation of one group’s values as federal law. But I believe that the Constitution does not hold the key to every lock. I believe it is intentionally vague sometimes, and all the fighting we do over what it really says is sometimes silly, because it might not really say anything that determines the answer to a question at hand. We cannot ignore that the nation has changed, her people have changed, the world has changed. To insist that a strict interpretation of the Constitution is the only way the nation can be properly governed lends that amazing document the same heft, the same authority, that fundamentalist Christians give to the Bible. Christianity is a religion. American government is a political concept. There is only one Bible. The Constitution is not it.
Unless you believe a black person is merely 3/5 of a person, and a Native American is not a person at all.
The true effect of eliminating the Department of Education
I don’t know the true effect of eliminating the Department of Education. I genuinely have to ask the question, because I have this concern: if we send total responsibility for educational standards and practices back to the states, doesn’t that mean we will be condemning the children in poor states to a lesser quality of education? Doesn’t it mean that there would be an under-representation of certain states in colleges and universities? Wouldn’t that result in the children from those states, on average, earning less, thereby perpetuating the relative poverty of states, thereby perpetuating lackluster education? And doesn’t that mean, if we extrapolate it out, a risk to national security because of a lack of competitiveness in intellectual property?
The effect of the super-PACs on campaigns and campaign ads
Super-PACs are essentially the product of two rulings: the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision in the Supreme Court and the Speechnow v. FEC decision in the DC Circuit Court. These are the rulings that led the way for corporations to be considered people and for them to be subject to no limits in what contributions they make, provided they do not make the contributions directly to the candidate’s campaign itself (because federal election law limits the amounts that can be donated on each occasion of donation and does not allow general funds from organizations like labor unions, etc., to donate to a given candidate). And they can say and show whatever they want; the FCC does not allow television stations to in any way censor or alter political ads.
Already, there have been several ads released by groups in support of one candidate or another that launch nastier-than-usual attacks at opponents. And by law, the candidates these ads purport to represent cannot interfere with their production; they are not allowed to communicate with the super-PACs. This has already resulted in candidates getting questions on whether they really support the accusations presented in the ads.
The effect of the super-PACs may, to some, not seem any different from any other PAC campaign ad (the ones that are paid for by any group other than the candidate’s campaign itself). But the fact that it is unlimited money from corporations means companies will play a bigger role than ever in electing the next president… and candidates will spend much more time talking about ads they, by law, cannot control.
Why Ronald Reagan is so constantly invoked
No one does it more than Newt Gingrich, who tells everyone with every chance he gets
that he worked with President Reagan in the early 80s. One of the things that frustrates me about the current campaign is how much it hearkens back to the 80s. President Reagan left office 23 years ago. It doesn’t sound like that long ago, but a lot has changed since then, and I am afraid the American people will believe that things now are just like things then, so the fixes should be the same. Mentioning President Reagan reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in The American President (yes, a liberal president): “You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character.” Sounds fine, right? But it’s a bait-and-switch. It’s the poison cup that feels all warm and fuzzy going down. There are plenty of people who could remind us of the struggles and hardships of the Reagan Era, and plenty of them would invoke a different phrase: “trickle-down economics” – the idea that the top echelons of income are job creators and if the government gives them tax breaks, the money will eventually make its way down to the lower echelons. Sound familiar? That was Reagan’s economic approach. I don’t know how many people truly believe that works – maybe you do, but I have always thought that if you give a company more money, it will not give the money to its lowest-level employees, and it will not necessarily hire more people with it, either.
The real reason some candidates vow they’ll run a “positive campaign”
It’s not about principle. It’s about money. The people who say they won’t run negative ads are the ones who don’t have the funding. Negative ads are expensive. When you hear a candidate say they won’t run negative, it doesn’t mean they’re virtuous. It means they’re broke.
That’s my whole-assed post for the day. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch part of the HBO series John Adams. Who — memo to Newt Gingrich, Historian — did not write the Constitution.
By the way, even though I didn’t see the NBC debate the morning after the ABC debate, I did listen to it on C-SPAN radio during my commute. (Have you not figured out by now what a total geek I am?) You can watch it here.