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Clean Elections

March 29, 2007

I’ve alluded to it in this space before: if you believe that we are so deeply divided along party lines, that our leaders can’t possibly work together successfully, you might take a look at how effectively the two-and-only-two party political system is protected by those in power who were put there by the two political parties.

Case in point.

First Your Montag should acknowledge two — what may seem at first — contradictory views I hold:

  1. The financing of elections is flawed.
  2. Maine’s Clean Election law is flawed.

Indeed, money buys way too much influence with our leaders. However, Clean Elections — Version x.0 beta, isn’t the answer.

Lawmakers are looking to upgrade the Clean Elections system in Maine. Here is the lead paragraph of an article on the debate:

Maine taxpayers gave gubernatorial candidates more than $3 million for campaigns last year. Just imagine what the cost might have been if more than four candidates had qualified for money from the state’s Clean Election Fund. [Portland Press Herald: Election funding may get stricter]

And imagine what the cost might have been if the incumbent candidate, Democrat John Baldacci hadn’t gamed the system by letting donors— (I believe the Democratic Governors Association played a large role here, if I remember correctly) —outside his campaign spend the advertising dollars, thus limiting the matching funds paid out to his Clean Elections opponents. The result of this being that he, the Dem candidate, had plenty of television ads and message proliferation; and the Republican candidate— who was a Clean Election beneficiary but also got help from the Republican Governors Association, (if I remember correctly) —likewise enjoyed decent television ad time and message proliferation; while the other Clean Elections candidates, (a Green and an Independent,) languished with relatively minuscule television budgets and suffered in the name/message proliferation department.

See how that works?

So, yes. The Clean Elections law needs to be overhauled. No, it isn’t because it costs taxpayers $3 million every fourth year in Gubernatorial campaigns. (What’s that amount to in a $6.7 billion/year state budget, really?) What of the changes being discussed now? Your Montag will be surprised if they don’t do exactly what opponents of the proposed changes are paraphrased as saying in the article:

…tougher rules would disenfranchise independent candidates, who lack a party apparatus to help them qualify, and give political parties a stranglehold on the electoral system.

See how that works?

And here’s a little side-bar for you, the grassroots Dems who told me, “A vote for LaMarche (the Green candidate) is a vote for Woodcock (the Republican candidate.)” Or to make this post a little more relatable to the non-Mainers, “A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.” Or to make this post a little more relatable to non-liberals, “A vote for Perot is a vote for Clinton.”

The answer to all three of these statements is the same: “No it isn’t.”

[Rage continued below the fold.]

A two-party political system fueled by money and slick marketing campaigns is not representative of the populous, and let’s be honest, isn’t all that democratic.

[Allow me, Dear Reader to use the weasel-words “some say” here, so I don’t have to hunt down a quote to back it up…]

Some even say that it is unethical to participate in such an undemocratic arrangement, thus legitimizing it as a ‘free and fair’ election.

So, to the extent that the disenchanted-by-the-two-and-only-two party system might not yet be ready to give up on voting altogether, it is important to recognize that: No. Voting for one person is not voting for another person altogether.

Don’t you put that burden on me.

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