Does Iran Have an American Voting Problem?

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View image Iran appears to have an American voting problem. They can't seem to use their vote to remove politicians from office. Regardless of how the people vote, the incumbent wins. That is the claim of many in Iran.

In America, no matter how bad public disapproval of Congress gets, Americans can't seem to remove 90+ percent of incumbents running for reelection.

There is however, an apparent and enormous difference between Iran and the U.S. voting problem. In Iran, outright voting fraud, bribery, and blackmail are touted as the reason for Ahmadinejad's reelection. In America, incumbents routinely win reelection in a more sophisticated, systemic, and largely legal manner. America has institutionalized incumbency, regardless of public sentiment toward Congress, in some very clever ways.

First and foremost is known as "bringing home the bacon". If a U.S. representative can lay claim to bringing federal tax dollars back to their district, American voters are impressed by this and will tend to reelect them. This, despite the American voter's disgust with pork barrel spending, and earmarks in legislation with no relevant connection to the bill being passed. Republican and Democrat incumbents alike make this theme central to their reelection campaigns, because American voters respond positively to it. Doesn't speak well of American voters.

Equal in importance to bringing home the bacon, is financial advantage. Wikipedia cites:

One of the main reasons incumbents seem to have such a complete advantage over challengers is because of their significantly better financed campaigns. In the 1990s the typical incumbent in a contested election had somewhere between 83 to 93 percent of what was spent by all the candidates in the district, and these incumbents typically captured about 64 to 67 percent of the vote." (Henderson, Harry. 2004. Campaign and Election Reform. New York, NY.: Facts on File.)

Then there is the time honored American tradition of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering occurs when the Congress and states divide up their congressional voting districts into highly contorted geometric shapes on a map, for the clear purpose of insuring the incumbent's voting district shape encompasses a clear majority of voters who vote historically for the incumbent's Party, and even the incumbent them self. Effective and warranted reforms in the gerrymandering system have so far, been like getting CEO's to voluntarily take compensation package cuts.

In typical American fashion, several differing approaches have been touted to remedy the situation that prevents voters from perceiving more choice on election day. These differing approaches serve to divide the electorate on the issue, and prevent them from mandating true reform. Is it any wonder, these approaches are all commended by some elected representatives in accordance with their reelection needs.

Term Limits. Never to be approved by a majority of Congress of their own volition, term limits requires a majority of Congress to pass such legislation. Holding out for the day that a majority of Congress will vote for their own term limits is like holding one's breath for a mega-lottery win. It's possible, but, so unlikely as to insure death as the nearly guaranteed outcome.

The Bi-Partisan Campaign Reform Act. This humorous piece of nonsense had one design, to make the public think the Congress was seeking reform, while actually reforming nothing at the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is money as speech. And virtually no incumbent in Congress is going to earnestly sanction a Constitutional amendment outlawing money as freedom of speech.

The very core of the democratic election process is one person one vote. That core principle is entirely nullified and voided when money is given free speech entitlement and permitted the power to sway votes and legislation in Congress. He/She who has the most bucks controls the most votes. This is all too often demonstrated in American elections and in the relationship between K-Street (lobbyists) and The Hill (Congress persons).

Lastly, on the list of divide and conquer faux reforms to address incumbency advantage over public approval is what is known as the Congressional Apportionment Amendment. This item doesn't come up very often, but is often bandied about by some State representatives and reform minded groups. This was one of the first amendments to be proposed to our Constitution but failed ratification by 3 votes, and continues to fail State ratification to this day.

In essence, it would require significantly more Representatives in the House per number of persons represented. Anywhere from 600 to 6000 Representatives would be called for in the House, if this Amendment were ratified, depending on how the math algorithm were adjusted and interpreted. From the Wikipedia link above:

According to the Supreme Court's 1939 ruling in Coleman v. Miller, because there is no deadline for its ratification, Article the First is technically still pending before state lawmakers. Today, with 50 states in the Union, the legislatures of 27 more states, for a total of 38, would have to ratify the Amendment in order for it to become part of the federal Constitution. Based on the current U.S. population and the traditions governing the size of the House of Representatives, it is unlikely, however, that the legislatures of any additional states will approve it.

These are the reform measures politicians put forth to the public to appear reform minded. There is however, a reform measure founded by a group of citizens which has vastly more potential than any of the above. It is called Vote Out Incumbents Democracy or VOID, for short. The idea came from Jack Gargin's 1980's campaign called THRO, (Throw the Hypocritical Rascals Out) which bankrupted not long after its second election involvement.

The idea is simple, and rests entirely with the American voters, NOT with the Congress. VOID advocates that voters consider voting for a challenger from their own party, or another, if they are not happy with the performance of Congress at large. VOID postulates that even if voters like their own representative, the fact that the same voters disapprove of Congress' performance, means their own representative is, at least, ineffective in bringing about the changes the voter hopes for.

And therefore, if that voter joins millions of other voters who choose to vote for a Congress whose performance they can approve of, instead of 7 or 9% of incumbents losing reelection in an election year, 30, 40, or even 50% of incumbents could lose their seats. It is only logical and rational to conclude that if 1/3 to 1/2 of incumbents in Congress lost reelection, the remaining incumbents and the new freshman coming in, would have no choice but to commit to producing the results from Congress the people expect or, face their own failed reelection bid in the very next election.

So, reforming Congress comes down to proposals that require Congress to act against incumbent's own interests or, one which the voters themselves control and enact of their own accord. The former has virtually a snowball's chance in hell. The latter, at least, is in the control of the voters. And that means voters are not helpless in the matter, unless they choose to be.

Iran's problem stems from an autocratic and authoritarian regime, against which the people struggle to free themselves through democratic elections. America's problem stems from the people failing to exercise the intended power of the vote, to remove incumbents from office.

Voting, as Iran has demonstrated, is not required to keep incumbents in office. Incumbents will take care of that all by themselves. The vote is required to remove incumbents from office. It is a true and literal shame that so many American voters are both unaware, and unwilling, to exercise that intended power of the vote to remedy their disapproval of Congress. We here at VOID are working as hard as we can to remedy that. But, you have to do your part.

Communicating with millions of American voters requires 100's of thousands of dollars. Your membership, bumper sticker purchases, and donations will help build those funds. Your carrying the VOID message to others where you live, will help VOID grow those millions of voters needed to reform Congress. Together, committed to action to make our common purpose of improving Congressional approval ratings, we really can make this happen.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on June 15, 2009 5:11 PM.

Wise Voting? was the previous entry in this blog.

Health Care, Profit vs. Non-Profit is the next entry in this blog.

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