Election Hangover


It’s 6am the morning after the election and the democrats have done it. They’ve taken control of the house and the Senate is still up for grabs. Montana and Virginia are too close to call. If the democrats take both of those, they’ll have control of the Senate too, 51:49.
While I’m very pleased with this result, I’m afraid that the Democrats will get the wrong message, that the people of America somehow voted for them. They did not. This election was about turfing out the incumbents and the Democrats were the available alternative. The Republicans are smart. They will re-think and re-tool and in 2008 they will be back with a vengeance. If the Democrats don’t have an actual leadership plan (as opposed to just opposing the Republicans) all those hard fought gains will be lost.

I was pretty inspired by the speech Arnold Schwarzennegger gave at the 2004 Republican convention where he described why he is a Republican and why he thought everyone else should be too. The funny thing is I can imagine how if your initiation to politics is watching Jimmy Carter vs. Ronald Reagan, you’d make that decision too.

The Democrats need to decide the list of things they’re for and then be behind those things even if it means siding with Republicans.
I see three key areas that matter to me. The party that is for these things is the party I will vote for:

  1. Fair, Reality-Based and Success-Driven
  2. Socially Non-Interfering
  3. Sustainable


Fair, Reality-Based, Success-Driven

President Bush has made “faith-based decision making” famous. The Democrats should emphasize reality-based decision making. Democrats should be the party of believing your senses rather than your gut. If abstinence-based sex-education actually reduced teen pregnancy then we should be for it. Some concrete issues:

  • Democrats should favor systems that reward success and punish failure. Teachers unions, and public service employees are great examples of ecosystems that do not adhere to this principle. It seems obvious that better teachers should do better; in salary, in advancement and in praise. Poor teachers should wash out and eventually lose their jobs. Democrats need to support this principle, even in the Unions that have traditionally been a stronghold.
  • The fact that public sentiment was so solidly in the Democrats favor but so few seats were up for grabs is a testament to the power of gerrymandering. Democrats should support fair and impartial re-districting legislation that accurately reflects the will of the electorate. Prop. 77 floated by Arnold Schwarzennegger in CA was something Democrats should have supported but they opposed because they didn’t want a Republican governor to get the political win. This was a mistake. Fair districting will sometimes help us and sometimes hurt us but it’s the right thing to do and we should be for it.
  • The computerized ballot machines rushed into use after 2000 are a nightmare. I don’t know of a single computer scientist who thinks they’re a good idea. The purpose of the election apparatus is to fairly, accurately, anonymously and quickly collect polling data from the electorate. While no system is perfect, a new system must be better than the old one. The Democrats should push for federally developed and certified secure, accurate, fair and anonymous voting equipment, standards, procedures, training, etc… Any county using a non-certified system would be opening themselves up to suits from dis-enfranchised voters.
  • The various voter dis-enfranchisement tactics used to dissuade or confuse voters need to be clamped down upon. Mis-labelled robo-calls, flyers listing the wrong polling place or “backup elections” need to be treated as the criminal acts they are. The only way to dissuade this kind of behavior is to have a “perp walk”. We need to send the message that employing these kinds of tactics will land you in jail.

Socially Non-Interfering

Democrats believe that what two adults do in the privacy of their own home is their own business. Democrats believe that everyone should be free to practice or not practice their Religion in peace. Democrats believe that decisions around end-of-life care, pregnancy, and unorthodox treatments like medicinal Marijuana are best left to the individual.
Democrats should appeal directly to so-called “small government Republicans”. If you believe the government should stay out of people’s private lives and mean it, you should be with us.

Sustainable

As a young person today, I have a hard time imagining how America is going to sustain itself to the end of my lifetime, never mind to the end of my kids lifetime. As grown-ups, we learn quickly that we can only spend a dollar we actually have. We see inumerable investment opportunities that we’re sure would be a good idea if only we had the money. In the end we have to pass. Governments must be run the same way. All our policies must focus on creating a system of government and living that is sustainable not just for the rest of our lives but for future generations. Specifically:

  • Costs MUST be brought into line with revenue. However, focusing on whether to endow the NEA with it’s tiny fraction of the federal budget is a waste of time. We must go after the programs where the money is actually spent including defense and (yes) social security.
  • Long term environmental impact must be considered much more strongly than it is today but in a way that places as little hinderance on the economy as possible. TerraPass is a great company. Imagine something like that rolled out on a national level and enforced by statute. Need to pollute? Pay for it. Got a clean plant? Get paid for it.
  • Our society cannot function without energy, ever-increasing amounts of it. We must get serious about funding energy technologies other than non-renewable hydrocarbons. While market forces will eventually force these technologies to be developed, there will be a long period where these technologies are economically justified but not yet developed. Government research investment can ease this transition time. Geopolitical considerations are further impetus to develop independence from foreign oil.

Democrats should appeal directly to so-called “fiscally conservative Republicans”. If you’re for small government and mean it, you should be with us.
I think these three areas of focus taken together are a winning strategy for either party to assert lasting advantage in governance and to lead America to a better place.