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Being Aware
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Justifiably Angry But Will Voters Do The Right Thing?

By James Donahue

The results of some of the first state primary elections confirm what most of us already knew. Voters in America are mad as hell and they are in a mood to “throw the bums out.” Consequently incumbents in both parties may face an uphill battle this fall to win re-election to expiring Congressional and Senate seats.

While the people’s anger at the shenanigans that have occurred in Washington is justified, and we share the belief that there is a need for a good housecleaning, we also see a danger in blindly casting votes for anybody other than the people already in office.

The strange choice by Kentucky Republicans to nominate extreme right-wing candidate Rand Paul over Kentucky’s Secretary of State Trey Grayson appears to be an example of what may happen if voters don’t start using their heads. When grilled by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on May 19, Paul criticized parts of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. When pressed, Paul said he disagrees with the part of the Civil Rights Act that makes it illegal for private businesses to discriminate on the basis of race.

Paul, the son of popular Texas Congressman Ron Paul, was strongly supported by the Tea Baggers in his district. The Tea Bag movement, which appears to have no party ties but consists of people expressing anger and distrust in government about just about everything, is an example of the strange way of thinking bubbling up in the nation.

There is a growing frustration over the inability of the elected legislators in Washington to do anything about massive deficit spending, the bailouts of big banking and business interests while millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes, the growing threat of terrorism, the war in Afghanistan, the immigrant problem at the Mexican border, the inability to do anything to stop the Gulf oil spill and a list of issues that seems to grow with each passing week.

Charmed by his rhetoric and his fresh ideas, Americans elected Democrat Barack Obama to succeed the failed Republican presidency of George W. Bush in 2008. They also gave Mr. Obama a Democratic majority of members in both the House and Senate. Everybody had high hopes for change when Mr. Obama was sworn into office in January, 2009.

But strange things happened. While Mr. Obama jumped right into his job, he did not count on a bank-created budget crisis and the Bush Administration’s decision to drain the treasury just weeks before Bush left office. He may not have expected tricks by the remaining Republican Senators who successfully blocked many of his appointments to key administrative positions, or their use of the threat of the filibuster to stall action on legislation for such major issues as Health Care and Wall Street Reform. He was confronted by military generals who attempted to test his leadership abilities. And Obama has been coping with an army of lobbyists, their pockets brimming with money, which has literally stormed the halls of the Capital. He did not expect the overwhelming number of elected legislators that have been caught misbehaving and leaving office in disgrace. Washington took on the appearance of a den of corruption and incompetence.

This did not happen overnight. And all of this misbehavior and corrupt slipping of money and gifts from lobbyists to elected legislators has been going on for a very long time. It all appears to be getting exposed in a bright new floodlight since Obama and his staff came into office.

From where we sit, this cannot be blamed on Mr. Obama, but rather on a system that has been operating under a shadow of corruption that has been going on for a very long time. It never became as blatant has it has been since the Republicans lost their majority in both houses.

Indeed, we agree with American voters that it is time to throw the bums out and clean house. But we need to do our homework and be ultra careful in making sure we know the difference between the “bums” and those elected incumbents who have been dealing honestly. We believe there may be quite a few of them in the mix.

Because a recent Supreme Court decision now allows large corporations to dump money into campaigns, and with the Republicans reportedly hiring the notorious trickster Karl Rove to create a new organized infrastructure and campaign plan for recovering legislative power this fall, we can expect a barrage of well-financed mud-slinging in television campaign advertising and a lot of dirty tricks designed to leave voters confused as to who to trust.

Also with 100 Senators and 435 Congressmen in total, choosing the good guys out of the pack may seem at first glance like an impossible task. The task, however, may not be as difficult as it may first appear.

There are three simple rules that will help us all make the right choices:

--Every voter lives in a district that elects one Senator and another district that picks one member of Congress. Each party will have no more than one candidate’s name on the ballot for each of these jobs. That means we must carefully study the credentials, former voting record (if one exists), and personal messages offered by all of the candidates. For help, go to the candidate web sites. You also may get help going to neutral political web sites that also are looking at the candidates. A site that usually offers good and objective overviews is Wikipedia.

--Turn off your television sets especially during the week prior to the election. If you must watch something, make popcorn and spend your evenings watching rented movies. And if you have to submit to the television to watch a favorite show, totally disregard all political advertising. It will usually involve severe mud-slinging and will be packed with false allegations. Among the more popular dirty tricks has been to use ads to spread malicious rumors about an opponent on about a night or two before the election. The accused candidate has almost no chance to respond and counter the charge.

--Remember that President Obama has another two years in office. If he is going to have any chance at achieving the goals he set when first elected, he will need a strong party backing in both the House and Senate. That means more Democrats with backbone are needed to fill the vacancies of incumbents who lacked with spine or the will to do the right thing this time in office. Of course, if you liked the status quo, vote Republican.