Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Interesting Prospects of Congressional Poverty

Because MeanMesa is located in the beautiful high desert of New Mexico, the announcement that our Senior Senator was resigning this term sent shock waves through our Galactic Command Center.  There is little reason for another effort to eulogize the Senator's contributions.  That task will be well handled in more institutional forums.

Let it be said that Senator Bingaman has been a steady, dignified Democrat for all the terms he has served.  He has been reasonably honorable and reasonably honest.  In a quiet, non-dramatic way, Bingaman has legislated to the benefit of a laudable mixture of New Mexico interests, both the most successful among us and the least.

Now, however, our state faces the task of selecting another Democratic candidate to run in the 2012.  We have already seen the power of out of state (Texas, largely) money during the campaign which elected our new Republican Governor.  MeanMesa cannot avoid assuming that Governor Martinez's political shift --  from the lack luster Democratic candidate in her past to a well lubricated Republican one in the present -- was seriously detached from the new possibilities Citizens United opened to campaign financing.

The new Governor's program since her recent election, one including the dismantling of emission pollution regulation and regulators, a cessation of state investment in the profitable film industry, the revocation of driver's licenses issued to non-citizens and other barely disguised right wing wet dreams, demonstrates the grave necessity of electing a Democrat to fill Bingaman's Senate seat.

With this bit of an abbreviated introduction, let's get right to the title of this posting.

What kind of campaign platform will elect this Democrat to replace Bingaman?

What are the qualities of a Democratic candidate who can perform against a Republican opponent to win the votes?

Citizens United Selling "Up is Down" (image source)

Note:  If we were neo-con wing nuts discussing this topic, our questions would be somewhat different -- a difference which we should, perhaps, consider as something of an early commitment as we consider the design of the platform.  

"Platform?"  Yes.  Neo-cons are obsessed with the design of campaigns.  Since they have a fairly good record of winning elections, but a seriously flawed record of actually being able to effectively govern, neo-cons are inclined to always focus on the "fluff and the fury" of campaigns with little thought to the more enduring task of governing after they win.

"Qualities?" Yes.  The latest crop of Republican candidates, both ossified, traditional GOPCons and the latest lunatic fringe GOPBagCons, who are now seated in governors' mansions across the country as well as nice warm seats in the House and Senate in Washington, D.C., have a deeply resonating, screaming "quality" problem.

They are record breaking Medicare frauds, convicted car thieves, anti-abortion wing nuts, union busters, crooks and a clutch of pseudo-Objectivist government hating saboteurs.

Yet, in election after election, these miscreants emerged victorious.  Worse, unlike the days of the autocracy, most of these losers actually won enough votes to take their seats.  Such a statement is neither wild conjecture nor derived from "secret facts", either.  A realistic appraisal of such an unhappy development must also accompany our issues of candidate "platform and quality."

Oh what can be done?  Well, actually quite a bit.

Because, swamped with a tide of phony promises, the "platform" idea has already been reduced to an appropriately cynical "pile of rags," the "quality" issue seems to be what's left.  Campaign promises seem to mean less and less with every election.

This conclusion leads us to examine the oft touted differences between "politician" and "statesman."  Our candidate needs to honestly face this distinction, openly revealing his "statesman-like" qualities as he campaigns.  The fact that voters may not be familiar with this approach doesn't mean that it isn't the right one.

A Campaign of Personal Quality

Perhaps a good first step would be to address the "millionaire versus non-millionaire" question.  We, as an electorate, have gradually been convinced that "good" candidates have already proved their merit by becoming "successful Capitalists," that is, good candidates have already managed to accumulate -- by essentially any means -- a nice pot of cash.  In selecting our next Democratic candidate for Senator, could we consider a poor man?

If MeanMesa had to run in this election, this is exactly what the first plank of the platform would be.
"I am a poor man.  My entire financial statement is open to the public right now, and it will be open to the public if I  were ever to face the next election.  I intend to leave the Senate as a poor man.  If you want a millionaire to be your Senator, I'm not your guy."

"I am running the campaign of a poor man.  I will not ask for the money to deliver myself or my image with a thousand television ads.  I won't sell my soul or the interests of your state and country trying to raise so much campaign money that I can mask my identity or intentions."

"If you, as a voter, are considering choosing me, the research you need to make such a decision will be left up to you.  Either you care about the country or you don't.  And, when I tell you that, I'm not referring to  just voting for me, either." 

"I am talking about taking the time and making the effort to decide for yourselves how you will make your vote count for more than a pay back for the cost of simply creating name recognition. 
Next, the matter of personal "sainthood versus non-sainthood" should be settled. 

"I have no interest in claiming to be a saint or trying to deceive you into thinking I am a saint.  My history is public record.  I am running for the Senate to do the very best job for you I can.  I pledge to be a smart, competent manager, not your psychiatrist, confessor or baby sitter. I take the role of being a public servant seriously. If my record bothers you, vote for the other guy.  If it doesn't, take a chance and trust me."

"I could promise that I'm the candidate that Washington, D.C. can't purchase, but that promise wouldn't mean any more than other, similar promises have meant when they were made by candidates in the past.  Just remember, if you elect me, I intend to leave Washington just as poor as I was when I arrived there.  That is my promise.  No tricks.  Out in the open.  A US Senator earns a damned good salary compared to what you or I are used to having.  That salary is more than enough, and that's that."

Finally, the personal quality campaign issue should address the "experience" qualification.  

"I have almost no experience at the trade of politics.  Further, I won't debate or hide that fact, either.  I think that the 'experience' brought out to qualify a candidate too often means 'experience' in doing things that voters like the least, especially things which benefit some at the expense of all the rest.  If you insist on voting for a candidate with 'experience,' you probably need to vote for the other guy."

"A Senator must balance the mix of interests.  Not all New Mexico voters are poor, and not all are rich.  Rich supporters would be a great help in a campaign like this one, but that help comes with strings attached.  I claim to be much more like the 'non-rich' voters in this state.  They are the majority here.  They are the New Mexicans who will feel most directly the results of my work as a Senator.  It will be their votes which will either elect me or not."

"Finally, we have all watched members of Congress surround themselves with lobbyists and even become lobbyists when their public service ends.  I can assure New Mexicans that no one in his right mind will be interested in hiring me as a lobbyist when I leave the Senate.  We have all paid too high a price already for what special interests have done in the Senate."


Of course, such a campaign will have many more parts than these.  However, the quality of the candidate should represent the "spine" which holds up the rest of the picture. 

Voters have become accustomed to the idea that elections are decided by how much is spent "force feeding" a candidate's credentials during the process.  Our next Senate election can benefit by publicly displaying the amount of money that  each side has been spent to run it.  Campaigns become so expensive -- and mischievous -- precisely because voters are not expected, or challenged, to handle their side of the work.

Ballots have become a prize which can be taken by the expenditure of enough money.  This is the wrong idea.  Aren't we are hiring a Senator who can be reasonably expected to manage his office at least as well as he managed his campaign?

The voters of New Mexico have more common sense than they have traditionally shown under the heavily moneyed onslaught of recent campaigns.  Our Democratic Senate candidate needs to insist that voters use their common sense  and show their maturity instead of demanding that they be fed mindless -- and incredibly expensive -- campaign drek like children in a high chair.

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