Secession Silliness And Voter Disinterest

The BBC reports that more than 100,000 Americans have posted petitions asking to secede from the union to a White House website.  The petitions apparently quote the Declaration of Independence, which speaks of when it “becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,” and cite “blatant abuses” of citizen rights such as overly intrusive screening by the Transportation Security Administration.  The most popular petition, from Texas, has attracted more than 25,000 signatures.

I suppose the would-be secessionists recognize they can’t really secede — hundreds of thousands died in a bloody Civil War to establish that principle — and are merely hoping to make some kind of symbolic statement.  But for what purpose?  Saying that you want to secede because your candidate lost is as stupid and mindless as dim-witted celebrities like Cher threatening to leave the country if the Republican candidate wins.  In both cases, the sentiment expressed just reflects negatively on the speakers as juvenile sore losers who want to take their ball and go home.  What rational American is going to be persuaded by a petition that posits that overly aggressive TSA pat-downs justify secession from the United States?

Rather than submitting silly and counterproductive petitions, people who take their politics seriously would do well to consider the fact that voter turnout fell sharply from 2008 to 2012 and determine why that occurred.  I think the answer is simple:  Americans turned out to vote for change in 2008 and turned out again to vote for change in 2010 — and no change occurred.  They watched an endless Republican primary season that blended into an endless campaign.  They suffered through a barrage of negative ads and outright demonization and distortion of the opposing candidates, and they decided they had had enough and just weren’t going to waste their time any more in a process that seems to occupy huge amounts of time, attention, and money without achieving anything.

Thirteen million fewer Americans voted in 2012 than in 2008 — and voter turnoff affected both candidates.  President Obama won, but he received almost 10 million fewer votes in 2012 than in 2008 — and in fact received fewer votes in 2012 than John McCain received in 2008.

If our political leaders of both parties don’t figure out how to work together to address our looming problems, and we see only more years of pointless partisan bickering, don’t be surprised if the 2014 and 2016 turnouts continue the downward trend.  Americans not only won’t vote, they won’t care.

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No (TV) News Is Good News

During the run-up to the election, Kish and I watched increasing amounts of TV.  To be an informed voter, you need to watch the conventions and the debates and the post-debate coverage — but it got to the point where we spent far more time with the TV on, flipping from network to network, than we do normally.

With the election behind us, we’ve sworn off TV news for the foreseeable future.  Last night we had a quiet dinner at the kitchen table, then spent the evening in the family room, reading.  It was such a pleasure to enjoy each other’s company in the peaceful comfort of our home, without the blare of the TV!  Tonight we’ll do it again.

We’ll use the TV to watch some OSU basketball and football, a few treasured shows, and perhaps an HBO movie or two, but we’ll be going newsless, focusing instead on the approaching holidays and the impending return of Richard and Russell to the family homestead.  At some point, I’m sure, we’ll reengage with the world, but for now no TV news is very good news, indeed.

What Does It All Mean?

We’re hours into the election coverage, and the results are on the razor’s edge. The President leads and looks like he may well win the Electoral College tally, but Mitt Romney remains within striking distance if the cards fall his way.

States have been called as predicted, and other states — those damnable “Battleground States,” like Florida and Virginia and oh-so-fickle Ohio, that swing from party to party from election to election and delight in confounding the experts — are too close to call.

Interesting, isn’t it?  This vast country, with such diversity, geographical and demographical, sends millions of people to the polls over a vast area thousands of miles across, and the election nevertheless remains excruciatingly close.

There will be a winner and there will be a loser, but is there really a message?  With such a close election, after months of campaigning and billions of dollars spent, we are left to ask: What does this election really mean?

Ohio Goes To The Polls

I arrived at the New Albany, Ohio church where we vote a few minutes before 6:30, when the the polls officially opened.  I walked past the American flags and the signs marking the outer boundary for any campaigning, but there were no campaign workers or pamphleteers to be seen.

The parking lot was already almost full and more than 100 people were waiting in line, stamping their feet against the below-freezing temperatures on a bright, clear morning.  It was the largest crowd I’ve seen at my polling place in New Albany.  Some people said they had tried to vote early, but the polling stations were just too crowded.

We waited patiently to get inside, found the correct alphabetical lines for our last names, and waited again.  We chatted about how glad we were that the campaign was finally ending and watched the “Youth at the Booth” kids working to get the voting machines up and running.  The line moved slowly up to the registration table, where we received our vote authorization slips and then we moved to another line for the voting machines.  From beginning to end, the wait was about 45 minutes — well worth it for the opportunity to exercise our most important civic right and duty.

When I left, one of the kids gave me my “I [heart/Ohio] Voting” sticker.  I got in my car, turned on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and resolved not to listen to any pundits on my drive in to work.

As We Reach The Finish Line, Time To Get Out And Vote!

To every American — Democrat, Republican, or Independent, Romney supporters or Obama boosters, male or female, Red Stater or Blue Stater, regardless of your ethnic or demographic group — here’s your chance to ignore the media, the polls, the pundits, the yammering talking heads, and the incessant horse race prognostications that we’ve been hearing for months.

Today, on Election Day, let your voice be heard!  Exercise the most important right we have!  Confirm that you care about your country enough to go to your local polling place if you haven’t voted already, spend however long it takes to wait in line with your fellow citizens, give your information to the blue-haired ladies behind the registration table, and push the screen, pull the levers, or fill out the ballot for the candidates of your choice.

I’ve got my preferences in this election, as we all do — but I also think we would all be much better off if more Americans were involved the process, paying attention, and holding our political leaders of both parties accountable for the course of our country.  The first step toward doing that is to vote.  — and that’s what I’m going to be doing today when the polls open here in Ohio at 6:30 a.m.

A Last Dispatch From Battleground Ohio

The soldier, winded and hunched, ran the last few yards before leaping into the Foxhole that had been dug behind the carcass of Big Bird.  “Sergeant Jones, I’ve got bad news,” he said.  “I think we’ve lost Nesser.”

Dammit!  What happened, Private Ujay?”

“He was trying to weave through that field of empty chairs when he was knocked down by a fusillade of negative TV ads.  He wasn’t wearing his ear plugs or a gas mask, and he started retching after hearing about the President’s economic record.  The last I saw of him, he was being dragged away by a team of pollsters to participate in a focus group.”

What the hell!  I’ve told everyone that they need to keep the masks on, because the noise and poisonous messages are more than any man can bear.

“He said he wanted to breathe free and watch the Buckeyes game on TV, sir.”

Well, there’s no saving the poor bastard now,” Sergeant Jones said.  She peered over Big Bird’s soiled yellow feathers, scanning the terrain.  “Get down!” she barked, as a fusillade of binders full of women rained down.

“I’ve got more bad news, sir,” Ujay reported.  “Some of the members of the platoon are saying there’s nothing to worry about and no need to get ready for the next attack.”

Blast!  Didn’t they watch that first presidential debate and see what happens when you start to take things for granted?

Another soldier appeared and saluted.  “Message from Captain Duhamel, sir.  He says the Bain Capital Brigade is approaching from the east.  He thinks they’re hoping to outsource us all to China.”

Thanks for the warning, Private Jeff — but we all know that those briefcase-carrying Bain bastards are ruthless.  They’ll stop at nothing once they’ve decided to downsize.”  The sergeant paused for a moment.  “Well, we know that we don’t have enough horses and bayonets to make a stand here.  Time to move out.

“But Sarge — if we move we’ll lose the cover we’ve got here in this Foxhole.”

You didn’t build that, Mack!  Now move!

The bedraggled platoon scrambled out of the Foxhole, past the hulk of Big Bird.  Nearby, hordes of “ground game” campaign workers were dragging reluctant Ohioans to the polls for a final day of early voting.  A black motorcade barreled past, hurling campaign literature about a five-point plan at passersby trying to dodge the Obama volunteers talking about how a 7.9 percent unemployment rate means the economy is on the road to recovery.  A crowd of “campaign surrogates” traded punches on a street corner, and a phalanx of Jeeps carrying members of the 47 Percent Regiment were advancing from the west.  Overhead, the voices of pundits filled the air, raining invective and talking points on the few remaining civilians not under cover.  And Bill Clinton and David Axelrod were spinning like tops, knocking people down as Joe Biden’s Cheshire Cat grin blinded the soldiers and his maniacal laugh echoed off the downtown office buildings.

“My God!  It’s carnage,” Private Ujay shouted, as he ran after Sergeant Jones.  “We’ll never survive this, never!”

Yes we will,” Sergeant Jones bellowed.  “We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again.  It’s what you get when you live in Battleground Ohio.”

The Walls Around Benghazi, Starting To Crumble

Every day, new revelations come out about what happened at the American consulate in Benghazi on September 11.  Each revelation makes the incident more troubling and paints the Obama Administration is an increasingly disturbing light.

We now know that, in the months before the September 11 attack, there were multiple warnings and incidents, at the consulate itself and elsewhere in Benghazi, that made it clear that the area was dangerous and that consulate lacked sufficient security.  Why didn’t our government take steps to either significantly beef up security at the compound or remove our Ambassador and the consulate staff from the unsecure area?  Given the turmoil in Libya, protecting the security of Americans serving there should have been a high priority, but it obviously wasn’t.  The failure to act in response to repeated warnings and prior terrorist activity is astonishingly irresponsible.  Why hasn’t anyone in our government been held responsible for the failure to protect our people against a painfully obvious threat?

In addition, the information that has been dribbling out about the incident makes the initial “spontaneous mob” explanation offered by the Obama Administration especially inexplicable.  The people involved in the incident itself — from the State Department people who were following the incident in real time, to the people who received the frantic phone calls and messages from consulate personnel, to the military personnel and intelligence operatives who apparently tried to respond — understood that the incident was a planned and coordinated terrorist attack, not a reaction to a YouTube video about Mohammed.  Indeed, there was no apparent factual basis for believing the attack was an angry response to an obscure video.  So why did the YouTube video ever get blamed for the incident?  Who pushed the YouTube video story, instead of telling us the truth?

Today Kish and I watched Meet the Press, and we shook our heads when the Obama Administration spokesman tried to reassure us that the investigation of the incident is proceeding.  Really?  It’s been two months since four Americans were murdered, apparently needlessly.  Does it really take so long to figure out why warnings weren’t heeded, and who made the decision to ignore them?  And how can it possibly take two months to determine who came up with the phony YouTube video explanation for the carnage?  If our government can’t move more nimbly than this, what does it tell you about the capabilities of our government?

I hate to think that, with the election now only two days away, the Obama Administration is stonewalling and trying to run out the clock on a terrible failure that produced four dead Americans.  However, I’ve heard no other reasonable explanation for the fact that the Administration has not moved aggressively and quickly to figure out what happened, tell the American people the truth, and take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.  Is there another explanation?