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Opening Arguments

Vote! he commanded

Just when you think President Obama couldn't possibly be any more extreme, he gives another signal of  how deep his totalitarian instincts go:


How do we offset the influence of big money in politics while fixing the country's abysmal voter turnout rate?

President Barack Obama suggests it might be time to make voting a requirement.

[. . .]

"It would be transformative if everybody voted -- that would counteract money more than anything."

[. . .]

At least 26 countries have compulsory voting, according to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Failure to vote is punishable by a fine in countries such as Australia and Belgium; if you fail to pay your fine in Belgium, you could go to prison.

At first glance, this seems sort of breathtaking. But, hell, we can already be required, under penalty of a fine, to buy health insurance we don't want. For the life of me I cannot understand how liberals get the reputation of being on the little people's side. Their first instinct -- the first -- is to use government to push people around and make them do what their betters think they should.

As awful as political campaigns are now, imagine how bad they would be if the candidates had to find the lowest-common-deminator message to earn the votes of all those ignorant, uninterested knuckleheads who had to be dragged screaming and kicking to the polls. To vote Democratic, no doubt.

Oh, wait. I get it now.


Fri, 03/20/2015 - 9:01am

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a piece implying Obama wants mandatory voting.  It was total clickbait that went nuts on Facebook and the right wing media.  No doubt where Leo grabbed the ball to run with.  And it's pretty provocative, right? I mean, what sort of dictator would take away your hard-earned patriotic right to not vote? We didn't send men and women to war for that! Here in the greatest nation on earth we have the liberty and freedom to not exercise our franchise and no dictator is going to take that away from us. 

 Unfortunately, it's a complete misrepresentation of what President Obama actually said, gee imagine that.  He was, in fact, responding to a reporter's question about limiting the amount of money spent in our elections and the corrosive effect of money in politics. Special thanks to the conservative Supreme Court and their Citizens United ruling the Koch's paid for.

This is what he actually said, taken directly from the official White House transcript of the President's remarks.

REPORTER: Hi, Mr. President.  You speak about the dysfunction in Washington, partly because people are trying to be reelected every so often.  What about Citizens United, and overturning that, and getting some limits on campaign spending so that we bring some reality back to this situation?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there’s no doubt that among advanced democracies, we are unique in the length of our campaigns, the almost unlimited amounts of money that are now spent.  And I think it's bad for our democracy.  (Applause.)  

And I speak as somebody who has raised a lot of money.  I'm very good at it.  I'm proud of the fact that part of the reason I was really good at it is because we were the first sort of out of the gate to -- not the first, but we really refined using the Internet for small donations, and to be able to pool a lot of ordinary folk’s resources to amplify our message.  But I also got checks from wealthy people, too.  So it's not that I'm not good at it.  I just don’t think it's a good way for our democracy to work.

I think, first of all, it makes life miserable on members of Congress, particularly those in competitive districts.  There is no doubt that it has an impact on how legislation moves forward, or doesn’t move forward in Congress.  It’s not straightforward, I'm writing the check and here’s my position.  But there’s a reason why special interests and lobbyists have undue influence in Washington, and a lot of it has to do with the fundraising that they do.  And the degree to which it’s spent on TV and the nature of just the blitzkrieg -- you guys here in Ohio, you just feel it, right?  It’s just -- every election season, you just got to turn off the TV.  It’s depressing.  And it’s all negative because we know -- the science has shown that people are more prone to believe the negative than the positive.  And it just degrades our democracy, generally.

Now, here’s the problem.  Citizens United was a Supreme Court ruling based on the First Amendment, so it can't be overturned by statute.  It could be overturned by a new Court, or it could be overturned by constitutional amendment.  And those are extraordinarily challenging processes.  So I think we have to think about what are other creative ways to reduce the influence of money, given that in the short term we not going to be able to overturn Citizens United.

And I think there are other ways for us to think creatively, and we’ve got to have a better debate about how we make this democracy and encourage participation -- how we make our democracy better and encourage more participation.

For example, the process of political gerrymandering I think is damaging the Congress.  I don't think the insiders should draw the lines and decide who their voters are.  (Applause.)  And Democrats and Republicans do this, and it’s great for incumbents. But it means, over time, that people aren’t competing for the center because they know that if they win a Democratic primary or a Republican primary, they’ve won.  So they just -- it pushes parties away from compromise in the center.

I think that -- now, I don't think I’ve ever said this publicly, but I’m going to go ahead and say it now.  We shouldn’t be making it harder to vote.  We should be making it easier to vote.  (Applause.)

And what I haven’t said -- I’ve said that publicly before.  (Laughter.)  So my Justice Department is going to be vigorous in terms of trying to enforce voting rights.  I gave a speech down in Selma at the 50th anniversary that was incredibly moving for me and my daughters, and the notion that this day and age we would be deliberately trying to restrict the franchise makes no sense.  And at the state and local levels, that's -- you can push back against that, and make sure that we're expanding the franchise, not restricting it.

In Australia, and some other countries, there’s mandatory voting.  It would be transformative if everybody voted.  That would counteract money more than anything.  If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country, because the people who tend not to vote are young; they're lower income; they're skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups; and they're often the folks who are -- they're scratching and climbing to get into the middle class.  And they're working hard, and there’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls.  We should want to get them into the polls.  So that may end up being a better strategy in the short term.

Long term, I think it would be fun to have a constitutional amendment process about how our financial system works.  (Applause.)  But, realistically, given the requirements of that process that would be a long-term proposition.

Nowhere in his discussion of mandatory voting does he suggest that we should adopt Australia's policy (which, by the way, fines you $20 if you don't vote.) He saying (a) it would be "transformative" if everybody voted, (b) if everybody voted, it would change our political map, and (c) the best way in the short term to get money out of politics isn't to pass laws changing campaign finance rules but to make it easier for people to vote instead of harder. That's what he meant when he said, "So that may end up being a better strategy in the short term."

I know that it's titillating to suggest that the president wants to pass a draconian law compelling everyone to vote but, come on. Barack Obama didn't fall off the apple cart yesterday. He's way smarter than that. He knows as well as anyone that a bill like that wouldn't even make it out of committee much less get passed by the House or Senate. But the News Sentinal isn't above a provocative headline now and then to throw red meat to the base.

I would have hoped Leo, that you would have done just a little research before spouting untruth's verbatim but after all, it's about selling papers the truth be damned.  The News Sential is a business after all.

Maybe the real uninterested knuckleheads are the one's that believe posts like this without verifying the info.

Leo Morris
Fri, 03/20/2015 - 11:38am

Actually, I did see the whole transcript as you did, and realize he was responding to a question. But just because it's not something he's actively planning on, that doesn't mean it isn't very revealing of his liberal mindset, which is that if something is good it must therefore be required. Nothing to see here, move along, move along, nothing going on here. Until, of course, there is.