ELECTION REFLECTION

It’s finally over — except for the analyzing, blaming, criticizing, demonizing… I could go on, but will spare you. The 2012 U.S. presidential election campaign was endless, exhausting and much too expensive. It’s obscene to spend billions of dollars that could be put to better use. And I’m definitely not in the mood to speculate about 2016. I really don’t care if Hillary runs again. For now, I’m relieved Obama was re-elected.

Moving forward (whatever happened to ahead?) we need to change the way we choose our presidents and vice presidents — probably all our elected national officials. The process has grown monstrously out of proportion. Meanwhile, the media grows rich with constant coverage and commercial and political ads. In simpler times candidates toured the country by train, speaking from the last car to people who wanted to hear the message. Now we can’t escape the bombardment. Though I admit I was addicted to MSNBC television talk from “Morning Joe” through Chris Matthews and others in the evening. And I relished Comedy Central’s Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart with their bracing, “you can’t make this stuff up” perspective. And found it frightening that so many swallow Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Bill O’Reilly rants as gospel truth.

Full disclosure: I’ve been a registered Democrat since I voted for Adlai Stevenson in 1956, his second run for president. As I pulled the lever, closing the privacy curtain, I was excited and proud to cast my first vote. I’d just missed the 1952 presidential election — in December I’d finally be 21 — then the minimum voting age. But we could drink at 18 — and it wasn’t such a big deal in college.

Speaking of drinking, I prefer a president who’s smarter than I am, rather than one I can drink a beer with –one of George W.’s touted charms before sobriety. Stevenson was intelligent and eloquent, but was mocked as an “egghead” for these fine qualities. Obama is extremely intelligent and amazingly eloquent. I would have enjoyed a glass of wine with Adlai. But I’d enjoy a glass of wine or beer with Barack.

As a senior white woman un-thrilled with Hillary, I was recruited by a young woman at a local Democratic Club to work for Obama in 2008, and was thrilled to be elected a delegate from Nassau County’s CD 4. But, unable to afford plane fare, hotel and other expenses in Denver, I reluctantly gave up my convention seat. By then I was feeling weary anyway, and wasn’t sure I was up to all the hoopla. But I spent a memorable election night at Valdar’s home with her husband, children, and other couples, their children running around in pajamas. As the only pale person present, I was touched to see the joy of these young black professionals, so much like Barack and Michelle, so hopeful for their families.

Conservatives seem more concerned with conserving their own money than anything else — IGM (I’ve Got Mine) and YOYO (You’re On Your Own). We should be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers to some extent. Only so-called “Compassionate Conservatives” don’t want the government showing the compassion with their tax money. They want private charities and churches to help the needy. “A thousand points of light,” George H. W. Bush poetically phrased it. In the real world, as Hurricane Sandy recently proved, only the federal government is capable of coordinating and relieving epic disasters. Just ask New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie, who got in trouble with his party for praising Obama’s quick response.

As for etch-a-sketch Mitt Romney, though he softened his conservative edges near the end, he never showed any empathy for people suffering economic distress, writing off 47% of Americans as moochers bribed to vote democratic by such “gifts” as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Never mentioned Republican gifts of tax breaks and write-offs for corporations and the wealthy. Trickle-down doesn’t work. It evaporates before reaching the parched grass roots.

My family was saved by an “entitlement,” though it was just called Social Security back in 1943 when my dad died. He was a hard-working, tax-paying husband and father of three, and had been fortunate to keep his good job during the Depression. My parents had planned to marry in 1929, but after my dad lost a lot of money in the the stock market crash that year, they posponed their wedding till 1930. When I was born the next year they bought a house in Laurelton, Long Island. My dad said he had his choice of empty new houses sitting on muddy lots. My sister Mary arrived three years later and brother Bill four years after. I remember a close to idyllic childhood till my dad’s death. We couldn’t have stayed in our home without the reliable monthly government checks, my mom thankfully repeated through the years.

Many Republicans want to dump Social Security as we know it, privatize it and allow people to invest as they choose. Way back in the ’50’s a college classmate annoyed me with this notion, saying “you’d be rich if you put the money in the stock market.” Sad to say, this idea is still alive and thriving today in some circles. At a recent family gathering in Pittsburgh, my daughter-in-law’s uncle opined: “You’d be a millionaire if you invested your social security money.” Deja vue all over again.

We were sitting at a kitchen island, drinking wine, and I had a flashback to my mother’s going grocery shopping when the checks came, rather than calling a broker. I started to enlighten him, setting my glass down firmly for emphasis. Apparently too firmly — the stem broke off on the counter. I held the top of the glass, still talking, careful not to spill a drop, as Uncle hastily left the room. The next week I sent a humorous/apologetic note with a set of wine glasses with sturdier stems.

Re raising taxes on the wealthy: $250K isn’t a fabulous income for couples today, especially in places like New York. It’s reasonable to raise taxes on incomes over $1,000,000, which probably doesn’t seem like a lot to millionaires. Better yet, a flat tax for all, eliminating deductions, write-offs and shelters is an excellent idea. CPA’s would be upset, but we don’t have to care.

Republicans and Democrats will never agree on many issues. I’m convinced we need a strong third party somewhere in the middle, since the two major parties are now controlled by their extreme right or left. In fact, I don’t go as far as some liberals on birth control,abortion and gay marriage. Birth control shouldn’t be an entitlement, paid for by those whose beliefs oppose it, but should be available. Roe v. Wade shouldn’t have been necessary since terminating pregnancy shouldn’t be illegal, but a woman’s private, safe choice — even if the wrong one.

Those in a committed loving relationship with someone of the same sex are entitled to the same respect, civil rights and benefits as heterosexual couples. But the word marriage belongs to the latter. Remember Gertrude Stein’s “A rose is a rose is a rose?” It’s not bigotry. It’s biology. And why shouldn’t two people of any gender living together as a family unit have civil and financial benefits, even if not in a sexual relationship? Change the tax and inheritance laws. However, I have a dearly loved gay nephew — and I’d dance at his wedding if it made him happy.

Now for some reasonable/radical suggestions for presidential elections:

No campaigning until May 1st in election years. Six months is plenty to get messages across. The rest is deja vue all over again. Conventions in September in cooler climates. Two months is long enough for nominees to polish their plans. esides, an incumbent, if running again, needs to mind the store more.

How come, since I hear that citizens own the air waves, we don’t demand that the FCC allot free media time for speeches and ads? The media won’t like that, but we don’t have to worry about their feelings either.

Reverse “Citizens United,” the misguided Supreme Court decision allowing corporations the “free speech” of donating piles of money to candidates of their choice. We all know that “money talks,” but this is ridiculous.

Voter photo ID isn’t a bad idea at all, but give people enough time to et one, and make it free and easily available so it’s not a hardship.

Establish standards for federal voting dates and times so that all citizens have the same fair chance to cast ballots. National elections are too big a project to be managed differently, even capriciously, in various states. This isn’t a states rights issue — it’s a national one.

Obama and his administration have made a good start against inherited burdens and bitter opponents who did their best/worst to discredit his first term and deny him a second. The country’s in a deep ditch after eight years of reckless government policy — most disastrously the unnecessary, unfunded Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Digging provided by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove. It’ll take more time to lift America out of what’s called a recession, but which sure feels like depression to the unemployed and those who’ve lost their homes.

Now there’s hope for improvements in affordable health care, just civil rights, sensible immigration policy, sane gun regulation, renewable energy, fair taxes and well-paying jobs. If those out of work or homes are suffering, think of those who’ve lost limbs or lives in mindless wars. There’s hope, too, for better international relations through rational diplomacy rather than hawkish nation building. We’re looking forward, as well as ahead, with glances back to see where we’ve been — we dont want to go there again.

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