Friday, October 28, 2011

Ten things that are plucking my last nerve

On Facebook, I usually call this "Things I Hate." But I'll try to confine myself to political topics here and we'll just say these are things that are on my nerves, as the 2011 campaign rushes to a close and the 2012 presidential election kicks into gear.

1. The assertion, generally by Republicans, that a requirement to bring photo ID to the polls has something to do with curbing "voter fraud."  One candidate even said in debate the other night that voter fraud was on the rise in Virginia. When asked to provide an example he, of course, could not. Look, you don't steal an election where the votes are cast, you steal it where the votes are counted. Anybody who gave this issue about ten seconds of thought would realize you can't fix an election by voting fake voters. It's too cumbersome, requires too many people to be in on the scheme. It's a silly idea. We've had three presidential elections in this country that might have been stolen -- 1880, 1960 and 2000. If they were, they were all stolen after the polls closed. So, when Republicans get serious about voting machines with computer software that can't be easily hacked and paper trails to allow an accurate recount, I'll believe they care about "voter fraud." Until then, they're just trying to suppress the vote.

2. Stupid campaign charges. I've got to call out Sen. John Miller's campaign on this one. Miller (D-1st), who's been accused of having a conflict of interest for taking a job with a local aviation company after voting for a bill that gave them a tax break, accused his Republican opponent Mickey Chohany of having a bigger conflict. The issue? That Chohany twice voted for street improvements on the street where his restaurant is located. Look, I've been in that business, I understand "Deny, deny and make counter accusations," but make them sensible. The street improvements were included in packages of citywide street projects that were recommended by the city administration, not Chohany. It's like saying a City Council member has a conflict because he votes to repave every street in the city, including the one he lives one. For the record, the allegation against Miller is more serious. I don't think it rises to the Phil Hamilton level of a violation of the conflict of interest laws that needs to be prosecuted. There's no evidence of quid pro quo. At the same time, it looks bad and -- if in my opinion -- he shouldn't have done it.

3. Republican presidential debates. The only person more exhausted than I am by the multitude of debates is apparently Rick Perry. I might join him in his resolve to ignore some of them. Of course that won't have the consequences for me that it will for him. If you can't win a debate against Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, you aren't going to stand much of a chance against Barack Obama.

4. The way some people who cheered on the Tea Party rallies last year, mock the Occupy Wall Street rallies this year. And, I suppose, vice versa. Before the Tea Party got co-opted by the Republican Party, it expressed a lot of the same populist outrage that Occupy Wall Street does. In my view, this is a country long in need of a little healthy populist outrage. The nightmare of the powers-that-be is that the Occupy Wall Street folks and the Tea Partiers might realize that they're mad at some of the same people. That graphic going around the Internet isn't a total joke; there is an intersection of interest between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street around the too chummy relationship between government and business.

5. Michele Bachmann. Voice like a razor blade, crazy eyes and crazier ideas. Come back, Sarah Palin, all is forgiven.

6. The Super Committee. This is a joke and might as well fold up its road show right now. Tasked with finding a way to cut the budget and reduce the debt, this group was never going to get anything accomplished. Because the Republican half of it doesn't want anything accomplished. They don't want to give Obama any kind of victory before 2012. If truth be told, they don't want the economy to improve by 2012 because they see beating Obama as more important. So there's not going to be any deal unless Obama and the Democrats are willing to accept a totally Republican deal, all cuts and no revenue. I can't see where there's any point in doing that now. Obama's better off running as Harry Truman against the "do-nothing" Republicans.

7. Eric Cantor. Since I've recently moved, the House Majority Leader is my new congressman. He recently cancelled a speech when he found out the event was open to the public. I guess "The Champion of the Overdog" can't be expected to consort with the riff raff.

8. The Virginia Associated Press. They scheduled a 2012 U.S. Senate debate and only invited Tim Kaine and George Allen. Look, I don't have any doubt that Kaine and Allen will win their respective nominations. But it's not the job of the press to declare that the case more than six months before Primary Day. We're not allowed to decide "Hey, we're bored with all this primary stuff, let's just move on to the general elections now." It's our job to report the news, not to make it.

9. Campaign finance reports. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we have them. Virginia Public Access Project does a great job of organizing them and getting them out there. I'm just sick of looking at them. And writing about them. And I'm beginning to think we don't learn that much from them. Except for pointing out the candidates who totally have no chance, ("I'm going to run a grassroots campaign and not worry about how much money I raise," means "I'm not really trying to win."), I'm not sure the time reporters spend pouring over them, like shamans pouring over the entrails of the sacrifice looking for wisdom, is justified.

10. Gerrymandering. We've got 140 seats in the General Assembly up for election this year, and I could have told you 120 of the winners a month ago. There are too few seats being contested between the two parties and too few of those are serious contests. That's because we've decided to let the politicians pick their voters. That's not the way our Founding Fathers envisioned the system. Republicans will gain the most from that this year, because House Republicans drew a more competent gerrymander than Senate Democrats. But it won't always be that way. Politics, particularly in the Old Dominion, are cyclical. What goes around comes around. That applies to swings of the partisan pendulum and swings of the gerrymander ax. Maybe one day the majority party will be forward thinking enough to go for non-partisan redistricting before the cycle swings back around on them.

Cross posted to All Politics Is Local.

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