'Tis Only My Opinion!

July 1999 - Volume 19, No. 7

The Problem with Presidential Elections in America.

First, the campaign is way too long.

An election cycle which is almost two years long is stupid. Neither the electorate nor the candidates can stay enthused about a campaign of this length. Almost every other country with a representative form of government limits its political campaigns to under six months and most to less than three months.

Second, what debate?

The issues are not carefully discussed and televised political debates soil the good name of debate. Rehearsed answers to known questions is not a debate. Party hacks populate the so-called news shows and political discourse tends to become spin. The media spends way too much energy focusing on the past and hardly any on presenting the candidates views for the future.

Third, money dictates the election choices.

Campaign finance reform is needed but the demand for cash to run these long and tedious campaigns prevents any meaningful reform. As a result, we have money from overseas sources, PAC money, limitations on individual contributions, so-called "soft" money, all of which come with strings attached.

Fourth, to John Q. Public, the Democrats and the Republicans are just politicians.

There are only two major political parties and between them, there is not much difference in the eyes of John Q. Public. Democrat or Republican, they both stand for larger government. Since 1994, has the size of the federal deficit gone down? Does the federal government employ less people? Have you noticed any reduction in regulatory enforcement? Has the IRS code become more understandable?

Some cynical people even point to Perot's run in 1992 as the reason Clinton was elected to office. True conservatives split their votes between Perot and Bush allowing Clinton to be elected with a minority of the votes cast.

And finally, less than half of the eligible population even votes.

The primary elections and the so-called "straw votes" in Iowa, and New Hampshire are all attempts to narrow the field without issues being clearly raised by the candidates. When less than 1/2 of 1% of voters in Iowa participate in the straw poll, many potential voters are disenfranchised.

In one recent poll, prospective voters were asked which contender they preferred but were also given the choice of voting for none of them. The result should make the political establishment worry.

Candidate Percent
George W. Bush 21
Al Gore 13
Eleanor Dole 16
Bill Bradley 8
Dan Qualye 3
None of the above 39

Imagine - Almost twice the number of voters want someone other than the front runner, George W. Bush.

Clearly, this says something about the state of politics and Presidential elections today.


Independence Day

July 4th, 1776, a small group of American citizens came together and pledged their lives, fortunes and honor to build this country. They were seeking independence from a country which was not responsive to their needs. The document they signed was the Declaration of Independence which is now 223 years old.

It might be helpful to learn about the fate of those founders of our country.

Have We Earned This? Remember on the Fourth. These Men of Conscience and Principles!

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and
properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his
headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were
laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few
weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: "For the
support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives,
our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

They gave you and me a free and independent America. The history books never told you a lot of what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn't just fight the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government! Some of us take these liberties so
much for granted .

We shouldn't.

So, take a couple of minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the price
they paid.

Have a great 4th!

Perhaps, another revolution is in store for the Colonies. Certainly, there is more unrest in the nation today with the political system than in recent times. Remember a successful revolution can occur when you only have 7% of the population deeply committed to your cause. A quarter century ago, I would have thought a revolution was impossible in this country. Today, I am not too sure.

But then - 'Tis Only My Opinion!

Fred Richards
July 1999

This issue of 'Tis Only My Opinion was copyrighted by Adrich Corporation in June 1999.

It is intended to provoke thinking, then dialogue among its readers. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.


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July 1999 - Volume 19, No. 7