Monday, November 03, 2014

These elections without substance

When looking at local elections here in New York where we vote for a state assembly representative, for a state senator, for a U.S. house representative, and for governor, there is an amazing lack of substantive discussion about any meaningful issues.  Everyone, it seems, Democrat or Republican has roughly the same opinions, or that is what they claim.  All viable candidates want more job growth, a stronger economy, better schools, less taxes, lower health care costs, and their name in the winner's category tomorrow evening.  That's about as deep as it gets, or that is as deep as it gets.

The most amusing or disconcerting race is the local one here for New York state senate.  It is best described as never ending mailings of personal attacks, raising of petty issues, and unverified claims of what they have accomplished.  The only issue of any substance that the two candidates openly dispute is "a woman's right to choose" with the Democrat clear on his opinion and the Republican speaking in unintelligible gobbledegook.  There is no vision from either candidate, no discussion of actual plans that would help the economy, no ideas on improving education, and not a clue of credible rhetoric on how to cut taxes and pay for all that needs to be done here.

Why should anyone be surprised?  From this vantage point, this is typical of what is going on all over the country, state by state.  Has anybody ever accused Mitch McConnell of having a vision of anything, or having one new idea, knowing much of anything about foreign policy, or doing anything progressive in his life.  He is a "political leader" with a capital P, and he more than anyone has set the tone for this mid-term election, one without any discussion of real problems and possible solutions.  His main argument for re-election is that he is already there so he should stay there.  If his opponent were stronger he would be in real trouble, but that does not appear to be the case.

Across the country almost every candidate, with the exception of some radical xenophobes or undisguised hate mongers, say that they support some elements of immigration reform.  That's odd, as few if any candidates are discussing any new plans or even support for existing proposals in these mid-term elections.  The Republicans would prefer to duck the issue for fear of even further alienating the already legally existing Hispanic vote and the Democrats are happy to duck as well, not wanting to be quoted by the independent right wingers as being soft on immigration.

Every candidate, as always, talks about tax reform, not what to do but how they support it.  Talk about kicking the can down the road and blaming opponents for no action, every election.  The Republicans do have as their "leader" on this subject Representative Paul Ryan, but his ideas could be viewed as too quirky and reminiscent of Reagan's pet Arthur Laffer.  They want to avoid the issue.  The Democrats do as well, as Obama's limited actions on the issue have primarily negatively affected the upper middle class, that's upper Middle Class, the middle segment of our populace that is shrinking.

Speaking of the shrinking middle class, there are few candidates offering any plans or new ideas for fear of taking any risk.  The Republicans can't say enough about entrepreneurship and small business, meaning that they expect that through the beauty of our system people will take care of growth on their own  --- What Me Worry?  With significant structural changes in the economy, a phrase that is ofter slung around by politicians who don't know what it means, and the job training and educational challenges in this country, there is much to be done, but not talked about with any specifics.  That would be too dangerous to do during an election.  So they want people have is blind faith, cast their ballots, and discover what candidates think after the election.  Democrats too are diving for cover on this issue as it always seems to lead to a revival of Obama's anti-business rhetoric, and now Hillary's untimely recent comment in a political speech, "Don't let anybody tell you that corporations and big businesses create jobs."  What a flat out stupid comment.  Big corporations and businesses can bloat easily, so they are always trying to be more efficient and hold job count down if they can, but that just means that they are outsourcing many more tasks or functions to smaller companies that specialize and can do it better.  The big business that Clinton refers to is the originator of many jobs that don't appear on their books.

Last and maybe least, the environment and its protection should be a major issue but since the Republicans mostly stay mute on this and have their heads in the sand, there is not much of a way to have a debate, even informally.  This may be the next major dink in the Republican's armor, an add-on on for 2016, as millennials who have not participated in the bounty of a strong economy look around to determine what's important to them.  The environment is.

Where does all of this lead us tomorrow.  One could think that it leads to an electorate that will vote based on long held attitudes, on single issue focuses like either women's rights or abortion, gay rights, gun "rights" or should one say assault weapon rights, a visceral reflex dislike of Obama that is either long held or acquired as they have tired of his aloof demeanor, retreat into a small inner circle of advisors, and now a retread pep rally approach to large safe audiences, or whatever else is a voter's singular interest or opinion.  One thing we know is that most votes will not be based on any thorough debate over the direction of this country, sound economic actions, or principled governance that takes account of as many of our citizens as possible, since many candidates themselves have avoided anything of substance.  Competence will not even be an issue, as no one seems to have thought about that.

The economy in the aggregate is doing well relative to the rest of the world, but expectations have not been met for many here.  If the economy is the biggest issue, the choice is not clear cut to many voters.




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