So A Third Party Vote Isn’t “Wasted?” Take A Look…It Is

GOP 2016 Trump
With all the turmoil over the 2016 Presidential campaign – and the choice between a duplicitous but highly qualified Hillary Clinton and a raving nutbag of racism, misogyny and xenophobia in the Tangerine Nightmare (that’s right, I don’t even begin to name him – my choice), never in the history of the United States has there been a riper time for a third party candidate to make an impact. Because the two “major parties” have been unable to nominate someone who could, you know, actually LEAD the country, someone like the Libertarian Party or the Green Party could step in and fill the void. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Let’s take the Libertarian Party first. The only other party to actually be on all 50 ballots in the U. S., the Libertarians have reached a crossroads in their existence. Long viewed as the “hippie” party because of their views on legalization of marijuana and policies that put more into personal responsibility than governmental rigor, the Libertarians are actually the only party (other than the two major parties) to actually register a notable percentage of the vote in 2012; in that Presidential election, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson garnered 1,275,951 votes across the U. S. – roughly 1% of the votes in the election (and the best ever showing by the Libertarians).

When it comes to the 2016 Presidential efforts, however, the Libertarians took a page from the GOP playbook instead of…well, being Libertarians. Johnson (who had previously run for President as a Republican in 2012 and, after losing that nomination, suddenly “saw the light” and became a Libertarian), believing that he would be easily nominated again for the party’s Presidential ambitions, instead had to fight off accusations that he wasn’t “libertarian” enough (heard that somewhere before?) and that someone who was a “true Libertarian” needed to be chosen. In the end, however, Johnson and his Vice President pick, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, earned the nomination of the party.

Turning our attention to the Green Party, they have also nominated the same candidate that they chose in the 2012 election. Dr. Jill Stein, a longtime activist with the party, was selected in 2012 and garnered absolutely no attention from anyone whatsoever. How bad was it? In that 2012 election, Stein drew in 469,628 votes, less than the population of Brevard County on the East Coast of Florida.

Fast forward to 2016 and, instead of picking someone who might be a “fresh face” for the party, the Greens picked Stein again. The choice was made despite the factor that she has been viewed by many as anti-science and has tossed her hat in the ring with 9/11 conspiracy advocates (like the Orangutan Mutant). Party officials obviously were looking for someone and, lacking anyone with even the inkling of name recognition that Dr. Stein (who also offered her nomination to former Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders if he would just switch to the Green Party) had, decided to stick with her (these things have pretty much eliminated her from contention, much like Johnson’s Aleppo mistake and, just this last weekend, his contention that “nobody got hurt” during the bombings in New York and New Jersey and the knife attack in Minnesota, dismisses him as a serious contender).

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There’s several problems with looking towards the “third party” option in this or any election, but we will only deal with a few of them here. First, voting for a “third party” option is the waste of a vote (and, as you will see, the statistics demonstrate this); second, that a solid third party has yet to form; and third, that the other parties are not following a path towards success if they are trying to infiltrate the two party system.

First, if you are considering a vote for a third party candidate this year, take a look at the numbers. Of the elected positions in national government – the President and Congress – how many of those seats are held by the Libertarian Party? The total would be zilch. What about governorships in the United States? That, too, would be zero. You have to go to the state legislatures to even find a Libertarian, and that total would be four out of 7383 seats available. In local elected offices (of which there are tens of thousands of elected positions), there are only 145 wielding power.

What about the Green Party? They don’t even register on the national or state scene, with no elected officials in any national or state government. The Green Party does register about the same numbers on the local scene as the Libertarians – an estimated 137 positions – but there’s problems for the party overall. When it comes to actually getting votes, they aren’t even on the ballot in all 50 states FOR PRESIDENT, let alone running in other races.

The second point – that no solid third party has formed in the past 30 years – takes into account those parties that “stood alone” from the two party system, of which none have been successful. The Tea Party was a subset of the Republican Party (in fact, if the Republicans didn’t want to be in the situation they are now, they should have cut the Tea Party loose from the start) and the Dixiecrats were a subset of the Democratic Party after World War II (and they were eventually cut off by the Democratic Party). Those parties that tried to stand alone – Ross Perot’s Reform Party had a nice run in the 1990s before petering out after the turn of the century and there are individuals who choose “Independent” as their party (despite the fact there isn’t a “dedicated” Independent Party) – have never been able to grasp the public’s attention for very long.

The third point – that the smaller parties are taking the wrong approach – is an easy one to correct. Instead of trying to elect one of your members to the Presidency, why not try to make inroads into the local and state realms of government. Remember those numbers presented earlier? The numbers that showed that, of all the state and federal elected positions, that only four seats would be occupied by someone that identified as Libertarian and zero by Greens? The numbers that showed that, of local governments, slightly less than 300 seats were held by someone not affiliated with either major party?

If the Libertarian or Green Party were able to actually make an impact on the local political arena – instead of 300, how about 30,000 elected officials? – then they would be able to spark the changes that they seek on the state and national scene. Even if either Johnson or Stein were elected, do you honestly think that the Congress – dominated by the two major parties – would choose to work with them? It is something that has to grow from the ground up, not from the top down.

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It is thought that pulling the lever for one of the non-mainstream candidates will be a form of “protest,” of “voting on principle,” when it will in fact be a waste of your voice. By pulling the handle for either Johnson or Stein (or any of the other candidates who may emerge on your ballot for President), you are saying that, while you don’t like either of the major party choices, you also don’t want to be involved in the process of choosing from the two most likely choices someone who WILL be the next President of the United States (and yes, it can sometimes seem like you’re getting screwed, but at least you made a choice as to who would be screwing you).

Who do you want making the key decisions, not only for our nation but also for the usage of our military men and women, for the conduct of our foreign affairs, for the security of the nation, for the efficient operation of our government and for raising up everyone instead of a select few? By voting for a third party candidate, you abdicate your ability to make the choice – the compromise that our democracy is built on – and choose the future leader of the country.

With all hope, it won’t have an effect on the outcome of the race. In 2000, the Green Party’s Ralph Nader was able to garner 2.9 million votes, with some saying that it doomed Al Gore’s hopes for the Presidency (and remember that, in Florida, Gore is reported to have lost by 527 votes despite winning the popular vote nationally). In 1992, Perot ran as an Independent (he had yet to create the Reform Party) and earned a whopping 19% of the vote, arguably denying the first George Bush a second term in office (Bush lost to Bill Clinton by roughly 5.8 million votes; Perot earned 19.7 million).

The choice may be an ugly one, but it has to be made. A petulant display of “making a point” by choosing a minor party’s candidate isn’t a protest but an abdication of responsibility. Perhaps someday these parties will have worked to the point where they can challenge the current stalwarts of politics, but that time isn’t now. Thus, we have to choose from the two candidates who represent the major political parties and, after the votes are tallied, WILL provide the 45th President of the United States.

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What’s My Problem? It Should Be Everyone’s Problem…

After one of my essays the other day, someone had the audacity to ask me what was my problem with the Republican Party. “Why don’t you go after the Democratic Party the way you go after the Republicans?” the person asked. I offered a quick, Facebook-friendly reply – which wasn’t enough for that person (it seldom is – Facebook is not an essay-friendly arena) – so I thought that I would take the time to fully enunciate what “my problem” is with the Republican Party, at least the way that it is constituted today. When I reach the end, I think that most people might recognize that it should be everyone’s problem.

I came of age in the 1970s, in the post-Watergate/post-Vietnam Era when we questioned everything that made up the government (in fact, it is why I still question it today). Whether it was the federal, state or local offices, none of them were given a break over the conditions in the United States. Republicans back then were not identified by their blind addiction to denial of social norms – abortion was an issue that was just beginning to bubble – but were more likely to be viewed on their business acumen, foreign policy expertise and respect for the military, things that everyone could get behind including their counterparts. Democrats at that time were looked at as the voice of the “people,” the party who would actually stand with those who needed the help the most when the times were the toughest, and protected them sometimes against those businesses that threatened them.

As the 1980s rolled around – and especially after the mixed results that were the presidencies of Richard Nixon (and, after his resignation, Gerald Ford) and Jimmy Carter – the two parties were still somewhat malleable in that they stood for different things but worked together for the improvement of the United States. The election of Ronald Reagan was something the country needed – a new rebirth, if you will – and it did serve to recharge the nation. I served in the United States Marine Corps during Reagan’s presidency and, while seeing him build the world’s greatest military, I also saw the Republican Party’s treatment of its fighting force in decrepit barracks and base housing, inadequate equipment, improper usage in military actions and other various areas of governance, including the denial of the AIDS epidemic and other societal ills.

Because of the success of Reagan, President George Bush – Bush I, as I like to call him – was a natural choice to continue. But Bush was different:  he was practical, he knew that you couldn’t just force the military anywhere for any reason (perhaps because of his days at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency, he had a bit more “intelligence,” no pun intended) and he also knew you had to pay for the military. Thus, when he paid for the First Gulf War (or military action as “war” was never declared per se) by raising taxes, he was doomed as the 1990s began.

The true segmentation of the Republican and Democratic parties (and there is a segmentation, they are not “the same”) – and the reason for my look at one over the other – came about in the 1990s. When Bill Clinton became President in 1992, the nation took off, arguably because he worked with a Republican-led House of Representatives and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 1994 and they maximized the “tech surge” of the mid-1990s. It was the second term of Clinton, however, that put the nail in the coffin for me.

Instead of being pleased with making the country work, the rising “neo-con” movement in the Republican Party – not happy to have a military that was sitting on the sidelines, wanting a bolder and more aggressive foreign policy and willing to do whatever it took to regain not only the power in Congress but also in the White House – seized on Clinton receiving a hummer from intern Monica Lewinsky and turned that into an impeachable offense (ever the opportunist Gingrich, rather than trying to staunch this wave, grabbed a surfboard and rode along with it). Fortunately, a more-rational Senate was able to stave off the slathering idiots that were the neo-con Republicans screaming for Clinton’s removal, but it would only be a momentary pause before the truly shitty schism would develop between the two.

The Republican neo-cons weren’t happy with skewering Democrats, they also ravaged their own. First they took down John McCain in 2000 with a bogus “black child” scam, getting their hand-picked puppet, George Bush (or Bush II), into the nomination, then they would turn the targeting on Al Gore as the election hinged on the state of Florida (the “swift-boating” of John Kerry four years later was just icing on the cake). Having seated 10 of the last 12 Supreme Court Justices, the Republicans were able to use the U. S. Supreme Court to shut down any further review of Florida’s recount in 2000, with 538 voters being the determining factor in Bush’s 2000 Electoral College win (Gore won the popular vote) over Gore.

Once back in power – and with the attacks of 9/11 – the Republican neo-con movement was given the proverbial golden chalice of opportunity to sweepingly affect the United States and they took full advantage of it. They enacted the Patriot Act of 2001 – with a reluctant Democratic Senate coming along (only Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, voted against it) – arguably the worst piece of legislation in the history of the country. They started first an air campaign against the alleged (true) mastermind behind 9/11, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan, but then for some inexplicable reason transferred most of their attention to an air and ground invasion of Iraq and its dictator Saddam Hussein, in essence starting a two-front war.

While making these mistakes, they also spent money like drunken sailors on shore leave. Instead of maintaining steady tax rates, the neo-cons lowered taxes – apparently thinking that there would be a magical money tree that would just drop $100 bills from the sky – while pushing an extreme anti-everything social policy that impeded on the rights on every person that isn’t a white male in the U. S. If that wasn’t enough, then the fiscal collapse of 2008 occurred – and the resulting “bank bailout” that was started by President Bush – before President Barack Obama came to office.

Now, in my entire existence, the Congress may not have agreed with the President, but they at the minimum did their job and attempted to work with the President. They passed bills, put them to the President and it was up to him as to whether he wanted to enact them. They WORKED with the President and/or his personnel. From the start of the Obama Presidency, however – and epitomized by now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s infamous “our job” speech (“Our job is to ensure that the man in the White House is a one-term President”) – the Republicans have done exactly NOTHING to further the cause of the United States (and please don’t try to say the 60 or so votes to end the Affordable Care Act constitutes “action”).

Where I come from – my core beliefs – is that government works the best when it does keep its nose out of the lives of its citizens. There come moments in a nation’s history, however, when it does require the “voice of reason” to step in and make a determination. Slavery, the right of women to vote, civil rights, abortion, equal protection for women and LGBT persons…these are all moments when the federal government has to step in and say, as a whole for the nation, that there is one rule for one nation. Through this method, one area of the nation cannot inflict its ignorance, giving the country a black eye over something that should be settled (as Alabama recently did over the gay marriage issue).

With these issues, the Republican Party seldom seems to be on the right side (slavery seems to be one of those rare occasions). Rather than embracing the rights of people, the GOP seems to kowtow to a small sect (and I use that term in its perfect religious intentions) of people who consistently chop off their leaders’ arms for not trying to be more accepting of people DIFFERENT THAN THEM.

I don’t want to see leaders blaming people for being disadvantaged or poor, I want to see those leaders attempt to help those people (a great program in North Carolina, started by a Republican, encouraged people on public assistance into a two-year program that eventually saw those people get off the dole). I want to see schools given every tool available for the children rather than hear politicians cry about the tax expenditure (education is the only way to ensure that we improve as a country) of simply providing textbooks. I want to see leaders who try to improve life for everyone rather than improve it for a few. I want to see intelligence praised instead of derided, as many in the GOP do when it comes to science.

As to the military (and as a veteran), I would like to see our troops used less rather than more. I’d prefer to see them used only as a TRUE last resort instead of as a “peacekeeping” force (as they have been since World War II). And, if you’re going to use the military, supply them with the equipment they need, pay them well, take care of their families and, when they come home, take care of the veterans and their medical conditions. The Republicans who say that they cannot take care of veterans – calling it an “entitlement” – shouldn’t ever darken the door of Congress again.

This means you have to have money for everything. Paying for a strong military, infrastructure, improvements overall for people’s daily lives, business and education improvements…it all takes money. While it can be streamlined, it also needs funding to function. Taxation for government is a necessary evil and denying that increase in revenue is a death sentence to being a third world country.

This isn’t to say all Republicans are evil, just as it isn’t to say that all Democrats are saints. But, when the scales are weighed, I see one side doing more for people and the military overall and it certainly isn’t the one that is represented by the heavier animal. I’m always open for presentation of evidence to the contrary but, for the Republican Party, that evidence is rather sparse.

Is that answer good enough?

Why I Didn’t Watch President Obama’s Town Hall on Gun Control

Obama takes part in a live town hall on reducing gun violence on CNN in Virginia

Thursday night, I got my sick wife (who has been battling the King of all Colds for the past week) and our son cuddled up in bed together, watching cartoons, before they headed off to Slumberland. I headed back downstairs, looking to peruse the 200-plus channels that Time Warner Cable happens to throw at me at any given moment. It was at that time that I realized that there was something on that I should have been watching but I had utterly no interest in wasting two hours of my solo viewing time on.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama issued Executive Orders – actions that a sitting President can take, without the input of Congress, to clarify and/or adjust how his administration either adjudicates laws or applies them to the citizenry of the United States – to stiffen some of the background checks that are applied when people look to buy guns in this country. As a result of several mass shootings that have occurred across the nation and the continuing inaction by a Congress that, if a vote was to be held on legislation that all days should end in “y” couldn’t pass said legislation, Obama stepped up and announced reasonable changes that could be implemented without infringing on anyone’s right to own weapons. After making these announcements, you’d have thought Obama had pissed on the U. S. flag and run it through the colon of a water buffalo.

Conservatives immediately decried Obama’s actions as an “attack on the 2d Amendment,” “a very threat to freedom-loving Americans,” or “a way to take your guns away from you.” This paranoia was ratcheted up by virtually every conservative hack in print, televised and internet media. Even the Presidential campaigns got into the action, with Senator Ted Cruz literally running a campaign ad saying “Obama is coming for your guns,” with a picture of Obama with a military helmet on and the Cruz campaign asking for campaign contributions.

The problem with this is nowhere in Obama’s statements were any measures to take any weapons away from any owners. There weren’t any laws to prohibit any weapons from being owned, bought or sold. About the most aggressive and invasive action was a movement to increase the passing of information regarding mental health issues between departments to ensure that those with mental health problems wouldn’t be passing the increased background checks to be able to purchase weapons.

Executive Orders have been used by sitting Presidents of the United States since the inception of the United States of America. Believe it or not, even George Washington used Executive Orders to push across things that otherwise wouldn’t have made it past a reluctant Congress (because, logically, if Congress could pass laws for the President supporting his position, he wouldn’t have to resort to Executive Orders). Other things that were Executive Orders include the Emancipation Proclamation, the New Deal and the order to desegregate schools in the South and the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, there are some negatives that also fall under this umbrella, including the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the usage of force against Native Americans in taking their tribal lands from them.

Not surprisingly, the announcement by the Obama Administration of these new Executive Orders came a few days before the broadcast on CNN on Thursday night. CNN went to great lengths to say that they were the creators of the Town Hall, not President Obama, and also went to great lengths to state that representatives from the National Rifle Association (NRA) were invited (and declined) to participate in the program. The audience was made up of those whose lives had been impacted by gun violence and by those who believe in the sanctity of the 2d Amendment and the right to gun ownership.

So what did I do when I passed by this program on the tube last night? Continued on to watch a college basketball game between two teams I didn’t even give a shit about.

I kind of knew how the entire two-hour “discussion” would go just from watching the general shitstorm that had raged across social media when Obama initially made his announcement of his Executive Orders (by the way, you know how many Obama has used as he enters his final year? 226. Know how many his predecessor, George H. W. Bush, used? 291. How about Saint Reagan? 381. The first Bush was pretty good with only 166, but he only served four years). I didn’t really want to watch a replay of that same thing spread out over two hours on television. Still, I couldn’t help but occasionally, during timeouts in whatever game I was watching (think there was a Scottish soccer game on at some point), drop back over to CNN to see just what was going on.

Imagine if you will a room full of people who were simply there for the factor of hate-watching each other. An Arizona sheriff who is running to join the U. S. Congress (for some reason) challenged the President that his actions wouldn’t have changed anything that happened with recent mass shootings; President Obama responded by saying just because something happens doesn’t mean the response is to “do nothing.” Another woman, the widow of the late U. S. military sniper Chris Kyle, berated the President for “trying to take guns away from people” and giving “false hope.” Obama responded by speaking past her to the NRA and why they weren’t there to discuss the issue. All in all, it was a two-hour circle jerk that left no one satisfied, with both sides talking past each other instead of TO each other.

It was even worse following the discussion when the pundits became a part of the show. A former New York City cop who spoke out of both sides of his mouth joined some of the liberal CNN political commentators (Van Jones, Gloria Borger) and some conservative voices (Hugh Hewitt, S. E. Cupp) to basically yell over each other and Jake Tapper for an hour, reaching no new discussion points, basically reasserting that no one actually wants to discuss the issue but rivet their heels to the ground and not yield an inch one way or the other.

Therein lies one of the problems with the situation regarding guns in our society. There are those that take the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights – two of the greatest documents for governmental leadership in the history of mankind – as if they are God-given documents that can never be challenged nor changed. The Founding Fathers gave their descendants a way – yes, difficult, but for a reason…so that it wasn’t overused – to make changes when deemed necessary. They also encouraged their descendants to make those changes as time passed.

This is why a black person isn’t still considered 3/5ths a person anymore; this is why there is liquor to drink (after a previous effort to banish such activity) and that women can have the right to vote. This is why 18 year olds who can die on the battlefields of war have the ability to vote in this country. The 1st Amendment isn’t sacred – there are limitations on how far you can go with your speech and activities – and the 4th and 5th Amendment face constant modification. The 2d Amendment shouldn’t be considered sacred, either. It should have to adjust with the times and, yes, with the will of the people, who currently believe there should be more stringent control on guns (albeit not sure how to go about that) and, by a wide margin, more extensive background checks.

So what was the reaction of people following the show on CNN last night? After SportsCenter went off the air and “College Basketball Tonight” was coming on, I jumped on Facebook to check and see if there was a raging flame war between the pro- and anti-gun advocates. I nearly woke the crickets that were there regarding the subject.

With that said, this is a critical issue to try to gain a handle on (we are never going to eradicate it, we can simply only hope to lessen the impact of the next situation). Until all parties can come together and lay aside the radicalism of their political actions (NRA, are you listening?) or we can elect a Congress that isn’t beholden to one industry (not likely either), then discussions such as what CNN aired with President Obama last night will be a waste of time. When the next one comes on, you’ll probably find me watching the Swedish curling team…there’s some drama as to the outcome with that event, at least.

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting…Part One

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It’s beginning to become arduously mind numbing. A delightful office party on a sunny morning in San Bernardino, CA, celebrating the holiday season was suddenly wracked by automatic gunfire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Two people, a husband and a wife with the husband actually employed by the company throwing the party (and plenty of evidence continuing to come out about), came into the gathering with this weaponry, semi-automatic rifles, handguns and bombs, blazing a trail of brains, guts and sinew across the floor of what was once a happy celebration. When the scent of gunpowder was the only thing remaining, 14 people laid dead and 17 others suffered from injuries.

Of course, the usual procedural began before the bodies had even quit leaking blood. President Barack Obama, pulled out of an interview with CBS News as the bullets flew, made his usual commentary (accurate) that we are the only civilized country that has these issues, the same speech given five days earlier when a gunman shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. President Obama also called for politicians to put aside their differences and come to agreement on a plan of action to thwart future potential attacks. Pro-guns advocates threw up the “thoughts and prayers” bullshit (more on this in a minute) rather than take any logical approach to the issue. Meanwhile, those in the middle that might actually be affected by these insane actions feel another bit of our heart, our belief in the good of man, ripped away from us.

The “thoughts and prayers” platitude (just heard President Obama utter it too, not just Republicans) is about the most useless piece of wasted words that have ever been uttered. When people lie dead and injured from situations that are simply too outlandish to comprehend, “thoughts and prayers” aren’t going to do shit for them except to make your little heart feel good that you offered something up. In reality, you’ve offered nothing except empty words that have little actual thought or prayer behind it, a simplistic vagary that has become commonplace instead of actually taking legitimate action.

With that out of the way, how do we actually go about taking care of these issues? Both sides – and why there has to be sides on this issue is completely ludicrous (we enjoy seeing people ripped apart by gunfire, spreading their life essence on the ground?) – are going to have to give on the issue.

First, the rhetoric has to be squelched. As far back as President Ronald Reagan (if not further), the depiction of the President of the United States as a Hitler-esque figure has made the rounds. Back during Reagan’s heyday, however, those photos and comparisons were held in small groups that had a more difficult time in breeding their particular stew of radicalism because of the lack of connectivity.

Those same pictures of President Bill Clinton, President George Bush, President Obama or even Hillary Clinton today can race across the United States as quickly as a fiber optic line can carry them. Along with those photos comes the rhetoric – of the federal government as “jackbooted thugs” (a term used by Campaign for Liberty and I have the e-mails), that the “New World Order” is coming or that several tragic occurrences (including 9/11) were “false flag” operations (situations “staged” by the government to allow them to impede the freedom of the ‘American’ people) – and the ability to meet and exchange radical rhetoric much easier. This leads to radicalization, whether it is on an international level or a domestic one.

No leader of the United States has looked for the destruction of the country or its beliefs. Every leader since Reagan (at the minimum) has been accused and vilified for this, however, and the rhetoric has ratcheted up as people become immune to the last outrageous statement that was made (something we’re seeing in the 2016 Presidential races also). Instead of using incendiary words – yes, words can infuse a thought or action into someone’s mind that they might not have considered previously – try disagreeing on a different level, one where actual discourse about policy comes into play.

This also applies to other aspects of our lives. Tolerance of other religions (ALL religions), respect to a person’s particular thoughts and beliefs outside of a God-based nature, even someone’s opinions on politics or other seemingly insignificant issues can, in an unfettered discussion, devolve into a frenzy of rhetoric denouncing a person to their very essence, if not directly leading to questionable talk that wouldn’t be used if a person was standing directly in front of their opponent. The rhetoric, the speech…it has to be reined in.

Before it is accused, I am all for the “freedom of speech.” I am also all for speech that advances us as a country and as a species. Continually devolving ourselves to the lowest common denominator – or even lower – doesn’t seem to be working out too well.

The next step would be to put some regulation on the weaponization of the United States. In 1994, then-President Clinton passed, along with the U. S. Congress, a ban on assault weapons for a 10-year span. That law was allowed to expire in 2004 and, although there have been attempts to reinstate the law and make it permanent, the powerful gun lobby (re:  the National Rifle Association) has been able to squelch such efforts.

There is some evidence to state that semi-automatic weapons and their availability have little to no effect on the numbers of mass shootings. It is obvious, however, since the law expired in 2004 that there has been a rise in the usage of the weapons for that purpose. From 2004 to the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, 27 mass shootings (the definition of a mass shooting is a minimum of four people either killed or injured, including the shooter, through the usage of guns) occurred; this leaves out those that have drawn attention in 2015, including this most recent shooting, the Colorado attack or the college shooting in Oregon earlier this fall.

Semi-automatic rifles are used in the military to give troops the rapid fire that is necessary during warfare to defend themselves and fight battles. The weapon is NOT meant for use by civilians; there is no practical purpose – hunting, target shooting, etc. – that these style of weapons would be necessary to find in the hands of the Average Joe. If you’re argument is that “you’re defending the country against the fascism of our government” then you need to go back and read the first part and reexamine your mindset.

Next, there needs to be some changes to other areas of our “gun culture.” People are supposed to have insurance on their vehicles that, in the event of an accident, can help to provide compensation for any victims. The ownership of weaponry needs the same treatment as this is part of responsible ownership. It would also provide for someone to report when their weapons are stolen or sold to another party because that would alleviate any responsibility for the weapon.

Finally, the left has to get used to the factor that this is a country that was built on the ownership of guns and that, treated responsibly, this isn’t a problem. In recent mass shootings three-quarters of the weapons used were legally purchased, hence back to the tightening of what weapons are available and the need to put controls in that area. But the complete eradication of guns from the U. S. society isn’t going to happen.

Through an amalgamation of some of these previous thoughts – our country’s overall rhetoric, control on some weapons, penalties for usage of weapons in serious crimes and the understanding that every situation doesn’t call for the banishment of something you disagree with – we might start to clamp down on the overall malignancy that is festering in our soul. The inability to implement some if not all of these suggestions will just continue to lead us down a road until drastic actions take place that no one will be pleased with.

Will it happen? If you see this same article again, with a different “Part” number and a different lead paragraph, then obviously it hasn’t…

Why I Currently Don’t Support Bernie Sanders

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When it comes to my political stance, I am an independent with liberal leanings. This makes sense as, when there is that proverbial blue moon (or, as some might put it, Hell freezes over), there are some conservative candidates who are the better choice for office and I have voted for said candidate. As I’ve stated another time, I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984, Bush I in 1988 and Bush II in 2004, feeling that every time I did they were the better candidate for the office. On a number of state ballots I have also pulled the lever with an “R” by the name. Those tendencies lately, though, are becoming fewer and farther between.

That doesn’t mean that my vote is automatically going to the Democrats. I’m not pleased with the leading choice there, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, due to a wealth of baggage that she would bring into the office of the Presidency with her. Hell, she’d probably be the first President elected who, on the day after her inauguration, would face the potential of impeachment (remember, this Congress isn’t going to change out of the GOP hands due to the House gerrymandering that has basically set up Republican strongholds in states; before you say it, yes, the Dems have the same thing in the cities, but not nearly to the same extent).

Thus, the only other logical choice for the Democrats is Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator who is proud of the fact that he is a “Democratic Socialist,” and whom immediately sends conservatives fleeing to the hills instead of a political science textbook. A Democratic Socialist, according to my research, is someone who believes in the policies of democracy but believes that the fruits of said democracy should be shared among all people and not concentrated in the hands of a few (if I am wrong here, please let me know in the comments…hopefully I can learn as well as you). The genial Sanders, who may remind you of a kindly Uncle or a Grandfather, is a firebrand who is giving Clinton all she wants and more, hence his leads in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

About a week ago, I was taken to task by a friend over something I wrote. In that article, I looked at the Democrats and only mentioned Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden as viable candidates (and Biden is looking less and less likely as time goes by). “What about Bernie?” my friend asked. Over the course of the discussion, I detailed out my reasoning for not being able to support Sanders at this time…but that still has the potential to change.

Sanders is doing a great job in drawing in potential voters to hear him speak at his rallies. In Greensboro, NC, on Sunday, Sanders drew in a crowd of approximately 9000 people at the Greensboro Coliseum. It was at this rally (unfortunately I couldn’t attend as I had to watch my son…political rallies, contrary to popular belief, are not a great place for kids) that some of Sanders’ issues came to light.

One of those in attendance, a black woman from Charlotte, noted that there was little diversity to those that supported Sanders. “It’s a very white crowd,” she said in the local paper. “Right now, at this point in the campaign, maybe that’s not a surprise.” There is one of the areas that I’ve noticed with many a Sanders rally is that it isn’t the most diverse cast when it comes to support and Sanders isn’t alone with this problem. I’ve seen the same for many of the Republican candidates on the stump (Donald Trump, I’m looking at you). I have problems with any candidate who cannot at the minimum give me the impression that they have a wide base of support across all people…white, black, brown, green with purple polka dots, you name it.

The audience in attendance for the Sanders rally in North Carolina (later, Sanders would become probably the first Socialist to ever set foot at Liberty University in Virginia) was also very young. I don’t have a problem with the youth of today being politically active, I actually enjoy it more when those 18-25 are involved in their future because it inspires me to examine what is drawing them out to support a candidate. But with many of these younger voters, it isn’t about any particular policy decision that the candidate supports, it’s about the factor that they feel like the candidate was personally involved with them. All one has to do is look at how social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, have changed campaigns; do you really think Rand Paul would have an App for your cellphone that puts you in the picture with him if it weren’t for trying to capture the “youth vote?” (This has been used for other more hilarious reasons, too.)

When the youth get involved and their candidate goes down in flames, they normally don’t move onto another candidate to support, though. They get disgusted, disillusioned and disinterested in any further processes if their candidate isn’t the winner and refuse to continue to drive for their philosophies. With all the talk about Republicans supporting their eventual nominee for President, why hasn’t anyone looked at how many of those supporting Sanders would be up for supporting another Democratic nominee?

Sanders is a great speaker, especially when it comes to deriding the current state of government. Sanders doesn’t take it to the point of “America is doomed,” “America has lost its way,” or “America is in the shitter,” like Republicans do, but he does come pretty close. The thing that Sanders does well is emphasize the problems with issues such as college student debt, income inequality, the budget, the decay of infrastructure and treatment of veterans, all things that are key domestic issues that we face.

Part of pointing out the problems, however, is that you also have to present solutions. That is where Sanders comes up a bit short. Either the solution that he suggests has no earthly intention of ever being put into use (Sanders has talked about upping the tax rates for the uber-rich to 90%, raising the minimum wage (he called $15 an hour “reasonable” but suggests $10.10) and breaking up the largest banks into smaller subsets a la AT&T’s Bell system in the 1980s, among other things) or he doesn’t bring up a solution at all. Sanders is quite deficient in foreign policy, something that is critical in our global world and, at least to this independent, is important as I believe we should have a strong military, just not a wasteful one.

If Sanders were to become President, he would definitely have to curtail his “Socialist” agenda in favor of a more “Democratic” solution (otherwise he wouldn’t get anything done as President), which would alienate many of his supporters. How many of Rand Paul’s supporters ditched him as soon as he showed any inkling that he was moving towards a Republican philosophy on anything over the Libertarian route of thinking? Sanders, I fear, would fall into that same trap in that his vociferous supporters would immediately hold his feet to the coals for anything less than the entire reformation of financial distribution in the United States.

There’s plenty that Bernie Sanders talks about on the campaign trail that is dead on correct. You can also hear the passion that Sanders has, whether he is giving a speech at a large rally such as Greensboro or when he is a guest on Bill Maher’s “Real Time.” Unfortunately, there is also no chance that the solutions he proposes would stand a chance of being put into action by a Congress that can’t decide if water is wet. I’d like to consider Sanders for my vote but, at this time, he’s an option that I cannot embrace.

It’s Tough to Give the GOP the Benefit of the Doubt

Here we are, six months from whence the primaries for the 2016 election of our next President will be taking place, and I’ve yet to find some candidate to get behind. In the past, that person was pretty much self-evident and I could step into the ballot box on Election Day with a clear conscience as to whom I was voting for. Recently, however, it has been a difficult road when it comes to picking that one candidate.

When it comes to the Democratic side of the equation, it looks more like the Republican side has looked like for most of my life. In the past, the GOP normally had a hierarchy that ran as such:  if you lost to a Republican who became president in the previous election, the next time the office was open without a Republican incumbent, it was your turn to take the nomination. This has happened in the Republican Party for virtually the last 50 years.

In 1968 it was Richard Nixon (defeated by Kennedy in 1960, won nomination in 1968); 1980 brought us Ronald Reagan (a half-hearted try in 1976 to topple incumbent Gerald Ford, who took over after Nixon resigned) and 1988 brought us George Bush (or Bush I, lost to Reagan in 1980). In 2000, George Bush (Bush II) was an outlier in that he didn’t show any interest in running in 1996, but John McCain (defeated by Bush II in 2000) and Mitt Romney (defeated by McCain in 2008) picked up where he left off.

On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats normally throw a donnybrook when it comes to choosing their own nominee for President of the United States. 1968 saw a reluctant Hubert Humphrey step up after the incumbent, Lyndon Johnson, decided not to run for a second term (by law, he technically could have; he served the remainder of John Kennedy’s term from 1960 and only was elected once himself in 1964) and another bright star from Camelot, Robert Kennedy, gunned down in Los Angeles just as it looked as if he were to win the nomination. 1972 saw six different candidates enter with George McGovern capturing the hearts of Democrats over Humphrey, George Wallace, Edmund Muskie, Henry Jackson and Shirley Chisholm. This occurrence of multiple choices – and viable ones, not half-assed efforts – has repeated itself pretty much every time over the Democratic Presidential nominations since…except for this one, where it seems the parties have flip-flopped.

There’s very little choice in 2016 if you examine the Democratic nominees. While everyone might grouse over Hillary Clinton and the Titanic-load of baggage she has, the other candidates lack the ability to forge a way past her as Barack Obama did in 2008 (there’s also the instance that this is the Democratic Party’s payback to Clinton for being a “good soldier” in losing to Obama in 2008, something as shown previously to be something the GOP did often). Even the person most likely to have some power to go against Clinton, incumbent Vice President Joe Biden, doesn’t seem to have the heart for a drawn out campaign battle (understandable after the death of his son). Anyone thinking that Clinton won’t be the nominee when the Democrats hit Philadelphia next summer would be considered out of their mind, even with the problems hovering over her.

The 2016 GOP field is the one that is reminiscent of the Democrats in the “come one, come all” approach they’ve used in throwing the door open and allowing anyone to come to the party. In total there are 17 candidates as of September 2015 and, in theory, there should be something there for anybody in the election even if the candidate themselves aren’t viable. The actions of the candidates since the campaigning has begun full bore this summer hasn’t exactly shown that “something for anyone” feel and makes it very difficult to give any member of the GOP the benefit of the doubt going forward, however.

Over the past week, there were a couple of instances where members of the Republican Party could have made great inroads into showing that they were someone who could lead all citizens of the U. S., not just those from one party or the other. First there was the shameful assassination of a police officer in Houston, TX that, instead of being a chance to not only unify people behind law enforcement but also a chance to have a moment of commiseration with their Democratic opponents, some members of the conservative movement chose to attack. These attacks were picked up on by some of the Presidential nominees who, in trying to make inroads into Donald Trump’s lead, came up just short of insinuating that the “Black Lives Matter” groups were the spearhead for the number of police shootings.

If you are going to piss off about 35% of the population (and their supporters), that seems to be the way to do it. Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly stated, “Every time there is a controversy about an officer shooting a black person, they’re out there stirring the pot.” Conservative radio “host” (I’ll be nice here) Rush Limbaugh has out-and-out called the “Black Lives Matter” organizations “hate groups.” Meanwhile, some on the GOP slate of candidates are following this lead with their rhetoric as a way to get back in the good graces of the Trump-mad acolytes. (And this doesn’t count Trump’s previous insulting of the Hispanic community, which he continues to do; count another 15-20% of the electorate out there the GOP can’t count.)

While there have been some tremendously stupid rallying cries heard during these “Black Lives Matter” rallies (anytime you advocate for the killing of a segment of society, your rally should be shut down), there has actually only been one proven and one possible case where a black person gunned down law enforcement individuals due to prior grievance against law enforcement’s treatment of blacks. In December 2014, two New York officers were executed in their squad car by a maniac who actually stated that was his goal (the proven case) and the Houston case mentioned previously, where Shannon Miles “allegedly” (I say that for legal reasons; when you have videotape, it’s tough to debate) executed Deputy Darren Goforth while he fueled his squad car (the possible case). That is two out of the 85 deaths of law enforcement officers in 2015, not exactly an indicator of rampant incitement of the masses against law enforcement.

Second, there was the controversy regarding Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue ANY marriage licenses due to her religious objections to same-sex marriage. If there was a point for the GOP to demonstrate that they weren’t beholden to religion or religious groups, the opportunity to point out that Davis was violating her duties and should be jailed or fined was the one to take. Instead, the GOP fumbled over itself trying to placate the Religious Right.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was the worst, calling Davis’ jailing the “criminalization of Christianity” and the latest attack in the “War on Christianity,” insisting he will go to Kentucky next week to hold a rally/campaign stop at the jail where she is currently incarcerated. Senator Ted Cruz stated he stood with Davis “unequivocally.” There were some surprises such as former Senator Rick Santorum, who stopped short of criticizing Davis’ arrest but commended her stand on her “principles” and Scott Walker, who hemmed and hawed on both sides of the issue, as did Trump. No one on the GOP slate, however, held up following the U. S. Constitution, a familiar battle cry for the Republicans, instead kowtowing to the small religious wing of their party.

If they were to have shown some chutzpah, the GOP had a chance here to capture someone in the center, the “independents” that have to be captivated in order to win an election. If the GOP candidates had just stepped away from the religious question – as they are supposed to do with the separation of Church and State in the U. S. Constitution – they would have stated outright that Davis was violating the laws as they are on the book. They could have said, “Despite (my) personal feelings on the issue, the law of the land is the Constitution and, as such, she has to follow it.” How many did that? Exactly zero.

Instead of demonstrating that they are a party with 21st century ideas and people who can bring those ideas to the forefront, the candidates for President from the GOP instead fell back on mid-1900s (at the minimum) philosophy, when blacks “stayed in their place” and the addition of “In God We Trust” to our currency and the Pledge of Allegiance was allowed to fight off the “godless” Communists. Unless they can actually demonstrate that there are some original ideas left in the party, that there are those who can embrace the future and attack its problems with science, education and thought – and they have people who aren’t afraid to leave those that cling to the past with the intent on bringing it back – the GOP will not encourage me to pull the handle for them.