What Has Five Bodies But No Head?

The last election was not the first time many people felt they did not have a real choice. Of course, “not having a choice”, or rather only having highly filtered choices, is what our system is all about. Occasionally, a minor rebellion to create some serious alternative is beaten back with the programmed responses:  “You’ll be wasting your vote.” “Voting for the lesser of two evils is the responsible thing to do.”  “We have a better chance to change one of the parties from within.” The result of this strategy is to discourage the entrance of new players in the game to begin with.

Obviously there are structural barriers in our system that prevent break outs from below. New parties end up wasting all their “none of the above” political capital on transient candidates who will be moving on long before the first barricade has been breached. Motivated more by rage, righteousness, and indignation than substance, the upstart party then slides into oblivion.

What if a new mindset, disguised as a political party, promoted the heretical idea that this established process needed to be changed first before any challenge on issues can succeed. Agenda Item #1. They would not claim ownership of this goal since it is a premise that all excluded political entities could embrace. It would be a cooperative venture, for if it prevailed, they would all win by having the artificial barriers abolished.

The first filter is access to the voting ballot. The one and only voting ballot, where precious time and money has to be spent for voters to see you. For electoral purposes, you are not even considered a political party until you clear this hurdle. If you file papers indicating you are currently trying to achieve the exalted status of a “ballot qualified political party” you are awarded the provisional title of a “political body.”

In California there are five political bodies attempting to gain ballot status for the June 2018 election. The former Unified Progressive Party dropped out and has decided to work as a caucus within the Democratic Party, where they have had some early success. For the record, the functioning political bodies are California Pirate Party, American Solidarity Party, California National Party, Constitution Party, and the People for Justice.

Some of these bodies have one or more issues in common. So you could say they are in competition with each other. But there are good reasons why they should be working together or at least becoming knowledgeable about what each other is about. The strongest bond they have in common is being effectively shut out of normal political discourse and participation. They are all burdened by restrictions imposed by the two-party monopoly, even though new ideas tend to originate from outsiders. All political bodies should be presenting a common front to roll back this affront to democracy.

The first objection we hear from the average citizen is “we have to have some standards or the ballot will become too cluttered or confusing. This will not encourage democratic participation.” Before the backlash against “foreign ideologies” in the early 20th Century there was no problem. This was because what made a ballot official was not who printed it but the fact that one person turned in one ballot on a specific day with at least one person listed who filed for an office. Why do all ballots have to have a preselected subset of people running? Groups printed and circulated their own ballots which was less ballot restrictive. With the introduction of machines in counting votes, standardization was cited as the reason we have limited ballots.

The irony today is, machines, that is computers and computer programs, have made the restricted ballot obsolete. Secure ID technology has arrived, making voting online practical and inclusive. For people who have limited access, there will be voting stations where they can use official computers, the way we go to testing centers now to take standardized tests on computers. The disabled will still get assistance to vote the way they do now.

The only technology problems with online voting are the same tech problems we have with the present system. Those problems revolve around proprietary software and hardware owned by corporate contractors. Many of these contractors have a vested interest in the outcome of elections. Many anomalies have been noticed in proprietary voting equipment with the most “backdoors.” With state of the art encryption there are no compelling arguments against open source voting software. The popular fraud solution of “paper voting trails” is grossly inadequate.

On the core issue of information security, accessibility, and proliferation the Pirate Party will simply have to take the lead. They are the geeks of the political body front. For other issues they may have to step back and support other political bodies. So how will the disenfranchised political bodies support each other in the competitive world of limited independent voters and even more limited attention spans? They will cooperate in punching through the second filter. This is the filter of entertainment. If it is not entertaining today’s voter will tune you out. The power elite have more money, which is the third filter. They can buy more professional productions, media whores, and ditto time on TV. Knowledge presented in a compelling way will reduce this advantage.

To be brutally honest, none of the five functioning political bodies in California are making a compelling presentation to convince dubious voters to reregister. When approaching people who know little or nothing about you, to not just sign a petition but fill out a personal official document, you are going to have to sell sell sell. That means a schtick, a repertoire of answers, and an environment of entertainment. Most people have to be bought, entertained, or at least intrigued to gain their attention. Since no billionaires or celebrities have appeared, the political bodies are going to have to cooperate with each other to create an energetic scene.

Its hard to imagine anything else working. Just as the insiders stage phony debates, the outsiders are going to have to stage their own outsider debates, produce multi political body videos around common issues, and sponsor spectacles as a gift to the public.The concept of supporting a political body must become mainstream and fun. Mailing lists and social media are still relevant but no excluded wannabe will attract established media attention by themselves. That requires a coalition of wannabes, creating events that have the feel of “fairs.” Any registration defector from the electoral con game is a victory, even if your body doesn’t get all of them.

Going Like 60 – Voting So Far

By Dante DeAmicis

They say ours is a representative government.  So when do I get my representative?  I keep voting and voting and still I have never got a representative.  Oh, someone always gets elected to this gig or that but they never claim to represent me.  Their stationary says they represent the such or such district or the State of California.  None of them have claimed to represent my goals, values, principles, or premises.

A certain number of people come with a district but their standing is less than that of a renter to a landlord.  They are more like the furniture that go with a furnished apartment.  Just as someone normally wouldn’t care what the sofa thinks of the Federal Reserve System no representative of any of my districts has shown much interest in how that or any issue ranks with me in particular.

I’m not a needy citizen.  Under the best system, a representative can’t give everything to everybody.  Just push my top 5 line items.  That’s all I would expect from my legislative representative.  Hollywood agents deliver that much.  But I’m told America has a “winner take all” system that has more in common with a casino than a job interview.

Many other counties have representatives that really are more like agents or personal advocates.  Their system is called “proportional representation.”  On the Federal level, our House of Representatives has 435 casino winners warming seats.  If our country had proportional representation I would only have to ideally share views and basic values with one out of 435 people walking down the street.  But in my 42 years of being a good voting citizen I have only been allowed to play a middleman role for a district.

In school we are conditioned to believe its an honor to be a transient middleman.  We were even forced to recite a kind of middleman pledge every day which never mentions any expectation of reciprocity from the other side.  Commentators regularly editorialize that our low voter turnouts for this one sided contract shows apathy on voters part rather than indifference on the system’s part.  It never occurs to these pundits that if politicians acted toward citizens more like job applicants in a hiring interview voters would have more incentive to show up to the polls.  It never occurs to these finger waggers that people might feel unappreciated as middleman bit players with little influence in show elections, before, during or after the main event.

Is there any way in our system to vote for someone who represents our ideas, even if they don’t get elected, instead of some nebulous district?  Yes.  You can run for office.  You’re sure to get one vote.