Election field notably shallow

November 2, 2010


Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet brave individuals fighting for democracy in many lands.

I talked to women in Kuwait who for years fought what seemed like an endless and futile struggle — but ultimately proved a successful quest — for the right to vote. I have encountered Burmese people in and out of that desperate country, yearning for release from a brutal military tyranny. I have met men and women in Tibet whose Chinese rulers might imprison them for as little as owning a picture of their preferred leader, the Dalai Lama.

At different times, I have interviewed Haitians, Saudis, Cubans, who have risked their freedom and even their lives for their democratic ideals. That’s why watching people in other countries vote always touches me. Maybe that’s the reason I have never taken my own right to vote lightly. In fact, I confess, I have always found the very act of walking into an election site and casting my vote a deeply moving experience.

That’s why I find the recent turn of electoral politics in the United States so disheartening.

Perhaps the hard economic times bear the blame for the strange, almost surreal turn the midterm election took in the United States. At a time of crisis, I had naively expected a mature democracy to produce serious candidates with bright, creative, responsible ideas.

Instead, the electoral circus offers a veritable menagerie of weirdness. Admittedly, the candidates include some highly amusing characters. It would be easy to sit back and enjoy the show. Except that the outrageous, idiotic and plainly strange ones have already made it so far in their races that they have diminished the level of the conversation. At a time when Americans should be hearing an intelligent discussion about the difficult decisions ahead, we are treated to what in many cases amounts to an insulting collection of candidates.

The New York Times’ Gail Collins has chronicled the developments hilariously, holding an unwinnable contest to decide “which state is having the most appalling campaign season.” Was it South Carolina, where the mysterious Democratic candidate for the Senate promises to create jobs by having the unemployed make action figures of his likeness? Is it the Aqua Buddha debate in Kentucky, the “I’m not a witch” candidate in Delaware? The list is depressingly long, and a number of readers complained that Collins had ignored their state’s outrageous race.

There’s a little of everything, from New York’s thuggish Republican candidate for governor, whose entire campaign consists of declaring he is really, really angry, to candidates claiming Muslim Sharia is already the law in parts of this country. In many races, None of the Above could probably win by a landslide.

This is probably not what committed pro-democracy activists in troubled parts of the world, trying to free themselves from dictators, have in mind for their country. If times were better in America, I would write off the election circus as a sign that the stakes are low, that optimistic Americans think the United States will be OK no matter who wins. I still think there is some of that at play. But the lack of seriousness is really troubling.

At moments like these, we should hear candidates discussing exactly what the U.S. leaders should do about the painfully high unemployment rate and the truly alarming budget deficit. A serious plan to cut the deficit — spending cuts and tax increases — will surely come in the future, but honest and constructive talk on the subject are in astoundingly short supply. By now, it is an accepted feature of America’s democracy that you don’t talk about such things if you want to win an election. But this is the time when voters pay attention. It’s the time to present them with the true choices.

Nobody discusses the options on Iran — would America rather live with a nuclear-armed Islamic republic or risk another war in the Middle East? The issue matters greatly, but discussion is largely absent.

We can only hope that voters will prove them wrong and start demanding serious, responsible candidates. If America wants to remain an inspiration to the world, voters must make sure this country has a democracy worth imitating.

— Frida Ghitis writes about global affairs for The Miami Herald. Her e-mail address is fjghitis@gmail.com.


cato_the_elder 7 years, 2 months ago

Yet another liberal columnist crying in her beer. So sorry that serious, responsible citizens have stood up to stop the lunacy of Obama and his cronies. Live with it.

gudpoynt 7 years, 2 months ago

The financial crisis is lunacy. Too-big to fail is lunacy. Financial reform to separate commercial and investment banking makes sense. It was passed by Democrats, and opposed by Republicans across the board. Why was that? Explain the Republican logic that thinks mixing commercial and investment banking -- one of the factors that lead to the Great Depression -- is a good idea?

cato_the_elder 7 years, 2 months ago

Bill Clinton signed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act on November 12, 1999.

Direct your complaints to him, badpoint.

gudpoynt 7 years, 2 months ago

I know. I'm not defending Clinton. I'm congratulating the current administration.

The bill Clinton signed btw was introduced by a Republican, and one of the main arguments for allowing it's repeal is that we were losing to competition from overseas, and that we could pass additional regulation to mitigate risk. Which didn't exactly happen in time.

cato_the_elder 7 years, 2 months ago

Repealing Glass-Steagall was a very bad mistake, a point on which members of both parties agreed after the Freddie/Fannie debacle had begun to cause serious damage to our economy in 2008. What was ultimately passed by the Democrats, however, was and is an abomination, creating over 20 new federal bureaucracies, establishing forced minority hiring quotas, and enormously expanding the involvement of the federal government in our financial system. Moreover, it was hypocritically named after Dodd and Frank, the two members of Congress most directly responsible for the severe recession that was inflicted on this country and is still with us.

gudpoynt 7 years, 2 months ago

I agree. The removal of that regulation (part of FDR's new deal) was a big mistake. Now there are new regulations to replace those repealed.

Which of the 20 do you think should have been left out?

Alexander Smith 7 years, 2 months ago

To let the banks fail would of brought economic disaster. People that support that they should fail have not idea of the magnitude of who would be affected. Go do research look at all the business that would collapse, thousands of people would have no money, bankruptcy would go through the roof causing more loss money to the country than you can imagine. People say the auto bailout was bad idea? Really? GM dies, thousands of people at GM become unemployed. Welfare expenses shoot through the roof. Now we look at the suppliers, they lose money, lay off people go bankrupt. MORE money loss. Prices to fix GM cars skyrocket as parts are more costly to get.. you all get the picture??? Thats the problem with Republicans.. they look at the NOW and not down the road.

gudpoynt 7 years, 2 months ago

Setting a $75 million cap on oil company liability is lunacy when a single oil company is capable of causing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage.

A Democrat-lead House has passed a bill to eliminate that cap. Where's the lunacy in that?

cato_the_elder 7 years, 2 months ago

It's "Democrat-led." Passing legislation to benefit plaintiffs' lawyers is lunacy, badpoint.

gudpoynt 7 years, 2 months ago

The Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to contribute more or less anonymously to campaigns is lunacy, paving the way for more undisclosed campaign funding than ever in history.

The Democratic-lead House has passed the DISCLOSE act as a measure for accountability. It died in the senate at republican hands. Why is that?

The bill has exceptions that would allow the NRA to be exempt, yet forces corporations and unions (yes unions too) to identify themselves as contributors.

The Republican logic for oppositions, to quote Mitch McConnell: "[The bill is] riddled with special advantages for Democratic-leaning groups and punishment for Republican-leaning groups."

Um..... by Democratic-leaning groups, I suppose he means the NRA?

cato_the_elder 7 years, 2 months ago

Again, it's "Democrat-led." You obviously oppose the right to exercise free speech in America, including political speech. Bad point, badpoint.

gudpoynt 7 years, 2 months ago

yes. you win. i oppose free speech.

i tried to hide from you, mastur debater, but you have seen through my guise, and exposed me for the fascist i am. i am humbled by your superior tactics of repeating yourself and making broad generalizations.

down with free speech.

Alexander Smith 7 years, 2 months ago

cato, the biggest problem with America is the Republican with this HOly CRUSADER idea that we have to defend the world and we are the only ones that can do it. MAYBE, just MAYBE if we didn't do this the countries like Iran and others would not be out to get us. We have a lot of friends from that country and you know why they are after US? Its because of my eariler statement. The Liberals KNOW what the U.S Constitution is about.. its WE the people. The Republicans version is "I" the people. Also if the Republicans are SO geared to the Constitution and speraton of Church and State? Why than do they alwasy bring in religion and God into it? They are so quickly ready to condem other faiths. Repos (not all) but many need to go back to school and learn what the USA is all about. They don't at the moment

cato_the_elder 7 years, 2 months ago

Theironmouse, having read your semi-literate post the immediate question is who in fact needs to go back to school.

gudpoynt 7 years, 2 months ago

Pure disgust, but that seems to be about all.

I'm afraid it's like one of those situations, where you're trying to get some electronic device to work, and in your frustration at not being able to understand it, you smack it and break it even further.

We've made progress in the past two years, whether frustrated voters want to read about it or not. The efforts from Republican campaigns (and lack there of from those of the Democrats) have done an exceptional job of keeping awareness of that progress out of the media.

But I'm curious, which of the following laws that have been passed, or bills that are currently being considered, would you like to see flushed down the toilet first, and why?

gudpoynt 7 years, 2 months ago

1) Jobs for Main Street Act -- to create and save jobs through investments to hire more teachers, police officers, fire fighters, rebuild highways and mass transit systems, and boost small businesses.

2) Small Business Jobs and Credit Act -- to establish a $30 billion lending fund to help community banks provide loans to small businesses. Main street taxpayers helping main street banks lend to main street businesses. What's wrong with that? Oh yeah, Barney Frank was behind it.

3) The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act -- to close tax loopholes that reward corporations for shipping American jobs overseas.

4) The DISCLOSE Act -- to respond to the Supreme Court's decision on Citizens United that allows anonymous unlimited campaing contributions from corporations. The measure requires CEOs to stand by the political advertising funded through their corporate treasuries, expands disclosure requirements, and prohibits foreign countries from exercising influence in the funding of U.S. elections. (NOTE: The act makes an exception for the NRA, but requires that unions still identify themselves. And somehow Mitch McConnel justified the "No" votes from senate Replicans because the bill is "riddled with special advantages for Democratic-leaning groups and punishment for Republican-leaning groups." Yeah Mitch, democratic leaning groups like the NRA.)

5) Home Star Jobs legislation -- to incentivize consumers to make their homes more energy efficient, create 168,000 jobs, reduce energy bills for 3 million families, and reduce America's dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.

6) Financial regulations that separates commercial and investment banking.

7) Children's Health Insurance legislation to provide affordable health care coverage to 11 million children, who would otherwise go without coverage.

8) The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act to extend 1st-time home buyer credit and adds more tax relief for small businesses.

9) Statutory Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) that requires all new policies that reduce revenues or expand entitlement spending be offset over five and ten years in an effort to NOT add to the deficit. A strategy proven to lead to budget surpluses during the Clinton administration.

10) Credit Card Bill of Rights that limits late fees (to a mere $30 or so), requires a fair distribution of payments to the balance with the highest rate (rather than the lowest which used to be the norm. You know, you'd think that the CC companies, looking for a competitive advantage, might have offered payment to the lowest APR balances as a way to increase their competitiveness in our free market. Hmmm.... wonder why none of them did? Wonder why it took regulation for them to be fair to the consumer. Weird.)

Richard Heckler 7 years, 2 months ago

Today, November 2nd, is Election Day! Make sure to get out and vote. Voting is pretty simple, but if you have any questions, here's an outline of helpful information. Please share this information widely--forward this email, and post it on Facebook and Twitter.

(Reading this on your mobile phone? You can get voting info here: m.google.com/elections)

Where and when do I vote?

* Find your polling place, voting times, and other important information at http://pol.moveon.org/votinginfo2010.html, using an application developed by the Voting Information Project.

* You can also get your polling location by texting "where" to 30644 from your mobile phone.

* These resources are excellent, but not perfect, so to double-check information, you can use the Voting Information Project application to find contact information for your state or local election official.

What do I need to bring?

* Voting ID laws vary from state to state, but if you have ID, bring it. To find out the details, check out your state's info at http://www.866ourvote.org/state.

* You can also find more information by calling or checking out the website of your state election official. Look up their contact information here: http://pol.moveon.org/votinginfo2010.html/

What if something goes wrong?

* Not on the voter list? Make sure you're at the right polling place, then ask for a provisional ballot.

* Need legal help? Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE or email help@866ourvote.org.

On your ballot

* The League of Young Voters has put together a site where groups and individuals can post do-it-yourself voter guides. Check out your state here: http://theballot.org/

How can I help get out the vote today?

* Make calls to voters right from your home: http://pol.moveon.org/2010/call/start.html

And a quote to remind us all how important it is to vote today... "Because if everyone who fought for change in 2008 shows up to vote in 2010, we will win this election, I'm confident that we will." --President Barack Obama

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

Anybody who thinks this vote will be some sort of massive appreciation of Republicans, if they gain some seats, is just not paying attention.

The truth is that many people in this country are fed up with both major parties, and with the way politics is conducted in Washington.

Obama was elected partly due to his promise that he would change that, and he hasn't.

Personally, if we had a viable third party candidate that combined conservative ideas of balanced budgets, smaller government, personal responsibility, etc. with liberal ideas of fairness, equality, and compassion, etc. I'd vote for them in a second.

think_about_it 7 years, 2 months ago

You can't legislate fairness, equality, and compassion with a small government. That is where the personal responsibility comes in.

Just when I think you are about to get it jafs you lose me with the fairness and equality crap. Life is not fair. Work hard and take care of your own and don't worry about what others have.

Give to charities and churches so that they can help the truly downtrodden in society and stop forcing the taxpayer to provide for the lazy who could work but find it much easier to collect a government check than providing for themselves. Give them a hand up rather than a hand out.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm sorry that you think that fairness and equality are "crap".

I think they are vital and important issues when deciding how we want to structure our society.

Should we go back to when black people were enslaved? Or when women didn't have the right to vote or own property?

think_about_it 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm not talking about black people and women and you know it.

I am talking about the financial fairness and equality that you are always on here promoting.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago


So, do you think it's ok for women who do the same jobs as men to get paid less for them?

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

And, if "life isn't fair" is your fundamental principle, on what grounds are you against slavery and few rights for women?

think_about_it 7 years, 2 months ago

How in the world did you get from talking about people getting hand outs and not working for what they receive to discussing women and blacks?

You see some of us are truly enlightened when it comes to that sort of thing. To be honest you truly floored me with that one. The fact that the first thing you see when discussing welfare handouts is race and gender does say a lot about you jafs.

On what grounds am I against slavery? You should ask yourself that one my friend.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

"Fairness and equality are crap".

I thought we were discussing your philosophy.

Apparently you can't do that.

think_about_it 7 years, 2 months ago

You see jaffy old boy, what you put in quotations above is not my quote at all. What I was stating is that you lose me with "your" fairness and equality crap. You are the one that is always on this board railing against the "rich people" and that it is the governments job to make things more fair and equal by taking it from the producers and giving it to the non-producers of society .

Not a word about race or gender. That was you projecting your racism onto people that do not see race as an issue.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

I'll just respond once more on this one.

I have never advocated taking from "the producers" and giving to the "non-producers".

I am not racist or sexist.

If you're interested in explaining how a "life isn't fair" philosophy is a good one for structuring our society, please do so.

I think it is not - the question isn't about "life" as an existential issue, it's about how we decide to structure our society and our laws.

If we remove concepts of fairness and equality from our system, we do in fact justify all sorts of abuse.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

Capitalism does not allocate financial rewards solely on the basis of "productivity." As a matter of fact, although being productive is certainly an asset in any economic system, in capitalism, "productivity" is well down the list in determining what your level of income or wealth may be. Greed, narcissism, dishonesty (combined, you'd probably call these "ambition,") and family connections are at least as important in determining your income level.

Obviously, this is blatantly unfair, and I assume it's why you say that fairness shouldn't matter.

think_about_it 7 years, 2 months ago

Precisely bozo. Capitalism is not fair. Is that why you and jaff are anti-capitalists? Well I have news for you. This country was built on capitalism and with Gods blessing it will always be a freedom loving society. Taking from one to give unwillingly to another is not freedom.

At least you guys are willing to show your true colors so that real Americans can see you for what you truly are.

I'm going home now to watch the election results and hopefully see your type of fairness be beaten back down into the sewage where it belongs. Have a nice evening and God Bless America.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

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Flap Doodle 7 years, 2 months ago

The whiney little sing-along-with-mitch that lives at 1600 Penn Ave is about to get a dose of reality.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

She could have included the Kobach campaign, whose sole issue is eliminating a problem the doesn't exist.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

I had a bit of an epiphany last night. I admit I have been harboring a fair amount of resentment towards GWB to allow things to get to the point where he was so hated that we got this administration. (I must admit when I saw him with his family and he throwing out the first pitch like a real man, I missed him just a little.) I also held a lot of anger towards all those who voted for a blind date. What is amazing is that there are still cheerleaders for this guy. But, for those who regret what they did in electing the socialist, I think I can forgive them because I feel they so desperately wanted a change that they were willing to take a chance that just didn't turn out so well. They can make up for it by voting against the Obama agenda today.

kthxbi 7 years, 2 months ago

That's part of the problem. I don't want to vote "against" anything. I want to vote FOR some good ideas, some good policies. Someone with the abilities needed to fix the problems we are facing.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

"But, for those who regret what they did in electing the socialist, "

That little bit of fiction (which talk radio show are parroting?) discredits anything else you might have said. His policies have been straight out of the Clinton/DLC/Republican-lite playbook.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

AS if - you ever give anyone with opposing views credit. How absurd can you be?

But I get it that BO has fooled even the great boozo.

"As Norman Thomas said, "The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of ‘liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened." http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/10/president_obama_and_the_radica.html

"Obama's immersion in socialist organizing, and his mastery of the tactics of infiltration and disguise, explain both his agenda and modus operandi as president. He has relentlessly advanced the incremental strategy of his mentors -- vastly expanding state control in the health care, energy, environmental and financial sectors. Cronies from his community organizing days have advised his campaign, crafted his grassroots strategy and lobbied for his programs, according to Kurtz. We see Alinsky's ghost in Obama's tactical ruthlessness, and his ferocious, unprecedented demonization of opponents.

Over the past two years, Americans have grown increasingly angry that Obama's governance has differed so starkly from his campaign rhetoric. Kurtz reveals that Obama was intentionally deceiving us all along." http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentary/105550623.html?page=1&c=y

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

Yea, all that capitalist/Republican-lite stuff that has dominated his term so far is merely a feint to distract the masses from his evil master plan. What an evil genius!! It's sure a good thing we have you around to cry Wolf!!!

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Tom, in the past you have said you hate liberals. How can you hate good people? Make up your mind.

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