Arkansans are going to the polls (again), this time to decide on whether the state should do a $575 million bond issue that would repair 400 miles of interstates.
They should say yes, even though it means adding to Arkansas’ state debt, which the nonpartisan State Budget Solutions totals $25 billion counting pension liabilities.
That’s because when it comes to roads, the state is going into debt whether we realize it or not. Every day, the interstates deteriorate. We can pay a lot to fix the cracks now, or we can pay a whole lot more to totally rebuild them, after they have torn up our cars and caused accidents.
Bottom line: If we are going to have interstates, we have to maintain them.
I publish a magazine for the state’s two engineer associations, the Arkansas Society of Professional Engineers and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Arkansas.
These are good folks, they work hard, they are mathematically inclined, and sometimes they are a little nerdy. I wish they would run for Congress.
You won’t see a road-building project stalled because engineers refuse to budge on some side issue. You won’t see a project fail because one faction of engineers wanted to embarrass the other.
Engineers build bridges and roads; our current congressmen can’t even agree how to fund them. In fact, Congress is two years late passing its latest highway bill.
It’s time to replace these rigid ideologues and political game-players with practical problem-solvers who know how to get the job done. That’s why I’m endorsing Arkansas’ engineers for Congress.
When only a small percentage of voters goes to the polls and those that do vote tend to be the most partisan parts of the electorate, guess what happens? Partisan elected officials get elected.
Here’s what turnout has looked like in the past few Arkansas elections:
2010 midterms – 48 percent
2010 primaries – 29 percent
2008 presidential – 65 percent
2008 presidential primary – 35 percent
2008 general primary – 18 percent
That means lots of people are voting in the general election for candidates that were chosen by the most partisan voters on the left and the right in the primaries. The result is a partisan Congress – and the mess we saw on the debt ceiling deal.
Voters can’t complain about their choices if they sit out the primaries. A more diverse Congress would be less partisan. And for that to happen, more people must vote in primaries and midterm elections.
The writer Rita Mae Brown once shared a piece of wisdom that has been used so many times that it’s become a cliche: “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
If that’s so, then if Americans keep electing officials like they have been, then the country truly has gone nuts.
In 2012, there will be a new way. Americans Elect is creating an online nominating process where voters can register as delegates at the effort’s website and then eventually select a nominee. The group is collecting signatures – including 1.6 million already collected in California – to get on the ballot in all 50 states.
Americans Elect is a nominating process, not a political party. Delegates who register at the website are asked a series of questions to determine their political views and will be connected to like-minded voters. Six candidates will emerge from that process to compete for the group’s nomination in June. Each must name a vice presidential running mate who is a member of a different party or is an independent. At that point, Americans Elect’s job is finished and the nominee will run his or her own campaign.
The effort has strong backing so far. It says it has raised $20 million, including $1.55 million from investment executive Peter Ackerman, who’s son, Elliott, is the chief operating officer. Its chief executive officer, Khalil Byrd, is a Republican strategist. Its board of advisors includes former CIA chief William Webster. Its chief technology officer, Joshua Levine, did that same job at E-Trade.
More in my column this week for the Arkansas News Bureau.
Here’s a very informative story in the Los Angeles Times.
And, once more, here is the Americans Elect website, www.americanselect.org.
D’James Rogers, who placed second in the July 12 District 54 special election to represent Crittenden County, said today that he would have joined the Democratic caucus if elected.
Rogers ran as an independent because he wanted an African-American to represent the majority-minority district rather than the eventual winner, newly sworn in Rep. Hudson Hallum (D-Marion). Hallum, who is caucasian, had defeated two African-Americans in the Democratic primary.
Hallum won the July 12 special election held after Rep. Fred Smith (D-Crawfordsville) resigned following a felony conviction.
According to unofficial returns, Hallum received 987 votes, while Rogers received 437. Republican John Greelan received 415 votes.
Rogers said that, if he had won, he would have governed as a Democrat. He has been actively working with Democrats since 2000 and was the regional field director for last year’s coordinated campaign.
Rogers said that running as an independent was difficult in a district dominated by Democrats. Naturally, he received no help from the Democratic Party and struggled to raise money. “I didn’t get any support from them,” he said. “It was like, ‘We’ll talk to you once the election is over with.’”
He campaigned with the help of family and friends and used social media to communicate his message. He said African-American leaders in the district did support him.
He said he would run again some time in the future and would do so as a Democrat.
“I am not a member of any organized political party,” American humorist Will Rogers once said. “I am a Democrat.”
That’s one of Rogers’ most famous quotations, and it is as true now as it was when he said it. It’s one of the reasons Democrats have had such trouble creating a coherent message to counteract the “less government” message Republicans have been preaching so successfully since the Reagan years.
Republicans have a different problem – they are too organized, as Rogers pointed out. He also once said, “Democrats never agree on anything. That’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.”
Now more than ever in my lifetime, Republicans demand almost lockstep conformity on just about every issue – as Newt Gingrich is finding out.
Gingrich, the party’s leader during the mid-90s, is trying to revive his political career with a presidential bid that is going nowhere. On Sunday, he criticized Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan as “radical” and “right-wing social engineering.”
I don’t know about “right-wing social engineering,” but Ryan’s plan is pretty radical. He wants to replace Medicare as it now exists with a voucher program that gives senior citizens $15,000 a year to buy their own health insurance. It certainly deserves a healthy debate – both within the Republican Party and outside it. In fact, a healthy debate would actually help its cause. A new poll shows most voters oppose any cuts at all to Medicare, which shows how little they understand the budget realities the country faces. A healthy debate might educate them on those realities.
But Republicans are cutting Gingrich off at the knees, and, regrettably, he has already backtracked.
Republicans have always talked about being a “big tent party.” If Newt Gingrich isn’t welcome inside, that’s a pretty small tent.
Here’s the poll I mentioned.
A core belief of independentarkansas is that the political system is broken and unable to reform itself.
That’s why the news that the Libertarian Party of Arkansas seemingly has gathered more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot is welcome. The party announced that it has gathered 16,139 signatures, far more than the 10,000 required. No Libertarian has ever run for elected office in Arkansas except for president of the United States.
Libertarians fill a niche neither of the two parties currently fill – they are economic conservatives (like Republicans) and social liberals (like Democrats). Its candidates will be for lower taxes and pro-choice on abortion. Having never had power, they tend to be consistent in their views – and occasionally extreme, to their detriment. They’ll have to decide to moderate their views, or at least their rhetoric, if they want start winning elections.
Regardless, they are welcome on my ballot and might get a few of my votes if they run the right candidates. The best way to reform the two major parties is to make them afraid candidates who are not a part of their duopoly might actually win an election.