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The US Primary Election System.
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Tom
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Location: New Jersey, USA

Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 12:51 pm    Post subject: The US Primary Election System. Reply with quote

I really haven't been able to figure out which is worse: the astrologers lack of understanding of this quadrennial phenomenon or the media's. So I'm going to try to give a brief, but accurate description of this system and where it stands today, January 11, 2008, so that interested astrologers might be able to use it to make sensible predictions.

1) The US government is two tiered, and commonly but inaccurately called "federal" and "state." The state part is accurate, but when people say "federal" they really mean "national." "Federal" is the word that describes the system in its entirety. The federal system has two levels: state and national. I'll stick to the word "federal" because that is the term most people use.

2) The US Constitution, the supreme law of the land, sets out a system of how the President is elected. In the beginning the President was not chosen by a national election, but that changed along the way. The basic method remains the same. Each state is assigned an certain number of electors based on the state's representation in Congress (House plus Senate). These electors vote for President. Each State Legislature is given the authority to determine how the electors are chosen. The word "legislature" is specifically used in the US Constitution. It is this system that planted the seeds for the growth of the two-party system we currently live with.

3) Political Parties are not mentioned in the Constitution. Therefore the rules for the primary elections and caucuses are established by each state (see the 10th Amendment to the Constitution) and actually by each party organization within that state. States are not required to hold a primary election, and not all states do. Some, like my state of New Jersey hold them so close to convention time that the election rarely matters. Why this is so is a whole other topic.

4) It is more accurate to say that we really have 50 different party organizations for each major party, despite their each having a national organization. It is at the state level that things get done. But it is at the federal level that things get noticed and reported upon. So if you want to be President, you have to traipse from state to state to win the nomination of your party. You do that by winning delegates to the convention. These delegates are pledged to vote for the candidate who wins their primary on the first ballot only and some are not even pledged to do that. The Federal Government has no say-so in this. How you win delegates is by getting votes in each of the primaries and caucuses.

For those who look at this askance, and believe there is a man behind the curtain who makes things happen, I can only suggest that you go and work for a political party for a time. You will discover they are not well oiled machines humming along on orders from Washington. They are actually quite chaotic. If you don't want to do this, then sit back and watch the unfolding drama of the Clinton machine fighting the Chicago/Daley machine which is backing Obama. These are two strong political organizations who play for keeps and there is no one at the head of the Democrat National Committee who is going to get in the way. The idea that Barak Obama is the product of a virgin birth, and is this wholesome idealist who is above machine politics is too absurd to consider. He's the product of a rough and tumble organization, and he's no virgin himself

5) Many, if not most or possibly all states are not "winner take all" primaries. In other words if a state has 10 delegates the delegates are not all pledged to the person who gets the most votes in that state. If there are three major candidates, the may be split up 4, 3, and 3. This is key to understanding where we stand today.

6) The goal in the primaries then is to win enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, because after that anything can happen. If this does happen (and it hasn't happened in more than a half century I believe), it is called a "brokered" convention. It is possible in that case that none of the major candidates would emerge as the party's nominee.

7) The mainstream press is reporting the primaries like they are all "winner take all." Therefore it is vitally important for proper understanding and prediction to ignore the mainstream press. For example, the current wisdom in the mainstream press is that Republican Candidate Mitt Romney must "win" in Michigan or he is through. Guess who has the most delegates pledged to him at this moment? That's right - Mitt Romney. And the only thing Romney has "won" is the Wyoming caucuses that no one is even aware of. On the Democrat side, the current leader in pledged delegates is Barak Obama. He has one more delegate than Hillary Clinton and John Edwards is 3 or 4 behind her. So this thing has a long, long way to go.

8 ) Second reason to ignore the mainstream press: despite how it is being reported what happened in New Hampshire was not an upset on either side. This is flat out misrepresentation by the press. Hillary Clinton was expected to win in New Hampshire all along. It was only at the last minute that the press published their own polls that showed her losing, by double digits in some cases, to a "surging" Barak Obama. The late polls were wrong. There was no upset. On the Republican side John McCain was always expected to win in NH and the polls got it right - so how can we call a victory by the favorite an upset? We can't. So stop believing these guys for anything other than time and dates of the opening of the contests and double check that.

9) The only reason any of the major candidates would drop out now is lack of funds. John Edwards is too close in the delegate count to quit, but it is rumored that he is short of money. If that is the case, he might be forced out prematurely. However, even if he drops out, his delegates are most likely, depending on state rules, are still obligated to vote for him on the first ballot unless he releases them to vote either how he instructs them or he can tell them to vote their conscience. But state rules vary, so he may not even be able to do this. I told you it was chaotic. If he accumulates a lot of delegates, but cannot win outright, he can become a "king maker" by throwing his support to one candidate or the other in exchange for some political favor, say a cabinet post or the vice presidency. So let's say Clinton has the most delegates and Obama is close but neither has enough to win outright on the first ballot, Edwards can make a deal for his delegates. This scenario is possible but unlikely. It is also possible that if three candidates or two are close in delegate count but do not have a majority no matter what, and the convention cannot decide which of the two to nominate, they could nominate a third person who never participated in the primaries at all. Again this is possible but highly unlikely.

10) This may seem like a hell of a way to run a railroad, but ultimately it produces what it is intended to produce: a nominee for the office of President of the United States. At that point the electoral system as outlined in the Constitution takes over, and on January 21, 2008, we will have a new President for four years and three years into that Administration, the whole damn process starts over again for at least one of the parties. When Jan 20, the usual day set for inauguration, falls on a Sunday, as it does this year, the inauguration is postponed one day. At least I think that is true.

I hope this makes some sense, especially to those unfamiliar with what is going on over here. It is confusing enough for most Americans. I can't imagine what it looks like to those living outside the US.

Tom
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###



Joined: 08 Jul 2004
Posts: 1380

Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The idea that Barak Obama is the product of a virgin birth, and is this wholesome idealist who is above machine politics is too absurd to consider. He's the product of a rough and tumble organization, and he's no virgin himself

This is January. Virgin births were December.

Between this and SG Foxe’s very weird post covering anything non-astrological [http://skyscript.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=3091], I’m frantic to find a house for the garbage. Naples needs us. [http://skyscript.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=3089]


Come to think of it – they may be better off without us.
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Mark
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Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Many, if not most or possibly all states are not "winner take all" primaries. In other words if a state has 10 delegates the delegates are not all pledged to the person who gets the most votes in that state. If there are three major candidates, the may be split up 4, 3, and 3. This is key to understanding where we stand today
.

Thanks Tom,

That certainly clarifies an important point I wasn't aware of. Although, I have been watching the better informed UK media coverage on TV on the US Primary votes I am sure they haven't explained that point adequately. We have been very much given the impression Obama 'won' Iowa and Clinton 'won' New Hampshire. Clearly, its not that simplistic.

From further reading on this it appears the Democrats operate a proportional system of electing delegates in every state in the US while the Republicans operate a proportional system in some states and a 'winner takes all' system in others.

http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/politicalsystem/a/delegateprocess.htm

Although the Republicans seem to operate a 'winner takes all' system in the majority of states. Sometimes this is state wide and other times by Congressional district or by party caucus.

http://www.fairvote.org/e_news/gop_sched.htm

Quote:
The goal in the primaries then is to win enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, because after that anything can happen. If this does happen (and it hasn't happened in more than a half century I believe), it is called a "brokered" convention. It is possible in that case that none of the major candidates would emerge as the party's nominee.


The last major party convention whose outcome was in doubt beforehand was the 1976 Republican National Convention, when former California Governor Ronald Reagan nearly won the nomination away from the incumbent, Gerald Ford. Ford went on to lose the Presidential race to the Democrat nominee Jimmy Carter later that year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1976_Republican_National_Convention

Quote:
The only reason any of the major candidates would drop out now is lack of funds.


I find this point far more disconcerting than the often byzantine system of electing candidates in the primaries. It highlights a fundamental flaw at the heart of the American political system and why the Presidential race could be equally described as a plutocratic as well as a democratic race. That and the modern media obsession with image over substance or issues underlines the dilemma.
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unique_astrology



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Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Charts for all 50 states created with Solar Fire (using noon and located to present day state capitols) may be viewed and/or downloaded here:

http://s46.photobucket.com/albums/f111/unique_astrology/STATES/?start=all&mediafilter=all
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Tom
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Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mark

Quote:
The last major party convention whose outcome was in doubt beforehand was the 1976 Republican National Convention, when former California Governor Ronald Reagan nearly won the nomination away from the incumbent, Gerald Ford. Ford went on to lose the Presidential race to the Democrat nominee Jimmy Carter later that year.


I wrote from memory, always dangerous, and I was thinking about going beyond the first ballot. Ford was the only unelected President ever to serve. Vice President Spiro Agnew had resigned and the 25th Amendment required that a vice President be appointed. Nixon appointed Gerald Ford. Nixon would later resign as a result of the Watergate scandal making Ford the President. Since Ford was not elected to the office, Reagan challenged him in the primaries, but did not have enough delegates to unseat him and Ford, who had more delegates than Reagan, just not enough to win, still managed to win on the first ballot. He lost to Jimmy Carter in a very close election.

Quick, when Gerald Ford took office, who did he name as Vice President (answer below)?


Quote:
I find this point far more disconcerting than the often byzantine system of electing candidates in the primaries. It highlights a fundamental flaw at the heart of the American political system and why the Presidential race could be equally described as a plutocratic as well as a democratic race. That and the modern media obsession with image over substance or issues underlines the dilemma.


Couldn't disagree more. First off John Edwards is filthy rich and can use as much of his own money as he desires. He just can't get support.

While it is true that the system isn't perfect, neither is anything else. The biggest problem with trying to regulate campaign financing is that it can only be done by resorting to those things which the US system is supposed to prevent: government intrusion. If we give the government more power to regulate the campaigns the electorate loses power. The incumbents gain it. The natural power of the incumbency is great enough without also giving them control of the purse strings. And no it is not possible to set up a regulatory board that cannot be influenced by politics. To believe so is naive. And even if it could be so insulated, it would become a power unto itself, almost a fourth branch of government. If you want to get things done you have to go through them.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 1976 in Buckley v Valeo among other things, this is not the place to get into details, that donating money to election campaigns was a form of political speech protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. In a bizarre twist they concluded from that that regulation was OK despite the wording of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech." The result was the creation of Political Action Committees or PACs. In other words donors and politicians found a way around the problem. This is always the case. All regulations ever do is empower the government at the expense of the people.

And think about the logistics of regulation. First off there are 300 million people in the US (that we know of). Not all are honest, and not all are sane. So dreaming up some kind of system where the money is doled out evenly will require (trumpets blare please) a new bureaucracy!! All sorts of people will want to run for office if there is free money to do this. Some will believe they have a chance and others will see this as a way to enrich themselves at the taxpayers expense. So more regulations will be needed to weed out the genuine from the frauds. Do you see the problem now? Who decides who gets the money? So the political favors will be done to get the OK from the department of whatever. And who gets these jobs? Well they jobs will ultimately be filled by those who stand to gain the most from having their buddies in the position of handing out the money - the incumbents.

Limiting the money regardless of source doesn't help either. Hillary Clinton is up to her ears in illegal donations probably from foreign governments to whom she will then be beholding. This has always been illegal, and if money is limited, and the unscrupulous are attracted to politics, this sort of thing becomes more likely.

Note this: all - I repeat - all campaign finance legislation has the same effect: it protects incumbents. If we want to make the election system as fair as possible the best thing to do is get the government out of it.

As for a plutocracy, take a peek at the people who have held the Presidency since WWII beginning with FDR. Roosevelt was born to a wealthy family. His successor, Harry Truman, was not nor was his successor Dwight Eisenhower. John Kennedy was born to serious wealth, but let's look at the next group. At the Inauguration of 1968 we had the following: President Lyndon Johnson, a former school teacher; Vice President Hubert Humphrey the son of a druggist; Vice President elect Spiro Agnew, the son of immigrants; President Elect Richard Nixon, the son of a grocer. Some plutocracy.

Jimmy Carter was born to a well off family of farmers. Ronald Reagan along with Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson was born to poverty, the only three so born. George H.W. Bush was born well off and his son was born even more well off. Bill Clinton's mother was a nurse - his stepfather an alcoholic (like Reagan's father).

The list of seriously wealthy people, and Buckley v Valeo permits the candidate to use as much of his own money as he wishes, who did not make it to the highest office or in some cases any office, is interesting. H. Ross Perot comes to mind, as does the guy who is musing right now, New York's Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg's chances are a little better than mine. Hint: Don't forget the answer to our question. He's on the list, too.

If we get rid of the regulations, the wealthy will have influence, and some candidates will have more money than others - no doubt about it. That TV has so much influence is the fault of the electorate not TV. But the wealthy always have influence and always will. The idea is to minimize government and therefore maximize freedom to combat plutocracy, and we've done a pretty good job of that. Finally being wealthy is not the same thing as being bad. It always amazes me that some of the same people who sneer at Bush's wealth because he is wealthy, ignore Edwards' wealth and genuflect at the shrine of Kennedy. Class warfare benefits no one.

Speaking of wealth. The answer to the question above, who was Gerald Fords VP is: the man from the family who made the Kennedy's look poor - Nelson Rockefeller. A man whose vast wealth could never land him the Presidential nomination he so badly wanted.

Tom

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sasha_i



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Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Tom

Very very instructive to hear from a native american how things work there.

Please can you make a detailed presentation of the role of the delegates and also the role of the party in the election process
I am curios to know: in the end who is going to nominate the candidate that will be voted by the electors? Does the party have any role in the nomination?

BTW : Why do you say that the process is chaotic?
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sasha_i



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Posted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And another question:

I don't see quite well the role of the american citizens in this process.
They vote for a candidate in the primary elections? If yes, how? there is one list of candidates from both parties and the independents? or every party organize its election?
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Tom
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Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Please can you make a detailed presentation of the role of the delegates and also the role of the party in the election process
I am curios to know: in the end who is going to nominate the candidate that will be voted by the electors? Does the party have any role in the nomination?

BTW : Why do you say that the process is chaotic?


Looks chaotic to me.

I think you’re asking about the Electoral College system. The nominating process is very different from the actual election. We’ll cover both as best we can in a single post.

Once the primaries are over the each party holds a national convention. Remember, this is not required by any law. Political parties are not mentioned in the US Constitution. A political party can nominate its candidates any way it wants as long as it follows the various state laws and does not conflict with the US Constitution.

There are two major events at the conventions. One of course, is to nominate people for the office of President and Vice President. The actual nomination process or “balloting” is a state by state roll call and the chairman of the state delegation announces to the chair and to everyone at the convention and whom ever is watching on TV, how many votes are given to whichever candidate or candidates. Once a candidate receives the minimum number of votes required for nomination they all celebrate. The roll call continues and in a day or so the wining candidate gives a speech to rally the delegates to go out and work hard for victory. Then the campaign begins. The winning candidate usually selects the Vice Presidential running mate and it can be anyone who meets the Constitutional criteria (at least 35 years old, a natural born citizen (Sorry Arnold) having lived in the US at least 14 years) with the sole caveat that the VP cannot be a resident of the same state as the President.

The other thing they do is establish the party platform. The platform is the statement of the things the party says they believe. Each idea or principle is called a “plank” of that platform. In theory every party member promotes the party’s platform. In reality this has little to do with the election, but it has a lot to do with raising money from special interests.

In order to understand the Presidential election system we must go back in time. To be blunt, when the US Constitution was being written one of the goals was to avoid all things English. The English had a fully functional parliamentary system that was to be avoided at all costs, if this thing was going to fly with the American voters. So based on something or another the idea of the Presidency was born. What or why I don’t recall, but it was not to be parliamentary.

They key to all this is to remember the name of the country: The United States of America. The states had far more autonomy then than they do today. The idea was that the states picked the President not the voters. In fact when the Constitution was adopted and until the early 20th century, members of the US Senate were selected by the state legislators, not by the voters like they are today.

The smaller less populated states were justifiably afraid of being left out of the process and being dominated by the larger more populated states. So it was decided that each state would select a slate of electors, the number of which would be determined by the state’s representation in Congress. For example, my home state of New Jersey has 13 members in the House of Representatives, and like every other state, we have two members of the US Senate, therefore New Jersey is allotted 15 electoral votes. So in the beginning the state legislators selected the electors and the electors voted for President and Vice President. The person who received a majority of all the electoral votes was the President.

To make a long story short, along the way this system was changed to pretty much what we have now. When the voters go to the polls, they are not voting for the candidate. They are voting for a slate of electors pledged to that candidate. The “body” of these electors from all the states is called the Electoral College. It never meets as a group. On the appointed day in December following the election, the electors meet in their respective state capitols and cast their ballots and send them to the Congress. The votes are counted by the sitting Vice President and the individual who receives more than half the electoral votes is declared the next President.

In some states the electors are required by law to vote for the person to whom they are pledged. In others this is not so. The general rule is that the candidate who receives the most votes in a state gets all the electoral votes, i.e. winner takes all - but not always. I recall the 1960 election when an elector from Alabama voted not for John Kennedy who received the most popular votes in Alabama, but instead cast his vote for Alabama Governor George Wallace. This was legal and had no effect on the outcome. But this brings home the point that it is the votes in the Electoral College that select the President not the voters. If no person receives a majority of electoral votes, then the matter is decided in the House of Representatives.

Someone with a Virgo nature will quickly note that it must be possible to win fewer popular votes than a rival and still win the election. Yes that is true and that is exactly what happened in 2000. It is also possible to have a tiny percentage of popular votes and win the Presidency as was the case with Abraham Lincoln.

To those who instantly run to what I call the “teenage girl position, “That’s not fay-yur (fair).” Remember the name of the country and the title at stake. He is the President of the States not the winner of a popularity contest dominated by New York and California. By a strict popular vote one could win the White House by dominating four or maybe five states. This is precisely what the Constitution was established to avoid. On the other hand one could win a small percentage of the popular vote but by winning a few more key states win the White House, but this is a more difficult task than bribing New York and California with everyone else’s money.

Periodically some disgruntled politician introduces in the Congress an amendment to eliminate the Electoral College, but it never goes anywhere.

The problem with understanding all this is that there have been significant changes in the relationship between the states and the national government since 1789 and particularly since the Civil War. The colonies become states were primarily interested in economic survival and therefore wanted as little intervention from the national government as possible since intervention in the beginning was largely collecting taxes and sending them to the national treasury. Today there are 50 states each economically viable and there is a national strength and stability that simply was unimaginable in the 18th century. On the other hand these little checks and balances are still necessary to accomplish what the Constitution set out to accomplish, a national government that kept the states united but was sufficiently limited to allow freedom and growth. The struggle between the political parties today is a struggle between those that wish to expand the role of the national government and those who wish to limit it. That will always be a tug of war.


Quote:
I don't see quite well the role of the american citizens in this process. They vote for a candidate in the primary elections? If yes, how? there is one list of candidates from both parties and the independents? or every party organize its election?


The American citizens register and vote in the primary elections. Exactly how that is done and what they can do varies from state to state. A typical experience is this: a voter must register to vote and usually only once as long as he resides in the same place. This is done to prevent voter fraud. In New Jersey, my home state, on primary day, the registered voter goes to the polling place and declares himself or herself to be a member of one of the major parties or a minor party if that is part of the system. Let's say Joe Voter goes in and declares himself to be a Democrat. His preference is noted and he goes to the voting machine. The machine is set so that he can only vote for Democrats. If he tries to vote for a Republican it will not register on the machine. He made his choice. The idea is that the members of the party select the individual they want to represent the party in the general election.

This is not the case in every state and some states make provisions for those who wish to register "Independent," a concept I will never understand. The independent voter is somehow limited to voting for members of one party otherwise voters leaning towards one party would vote for the weakest members of the other and the whole thing would be meaningless. Remember we are not voting for political office here - only candidates for the office. US citizens have a right to representation in government. There is no right to a particular political candidate.

In the general election no one asks which party the voter wishes to declare. You just go and vote for whoever you wish. So if Joe Voter is a registered Democrat, there is nothing to prevent him from voting for some Democrats and some Republicans or all Democrats or all Republicans in both. He can vote against the guy he voted for in the primary if he wants to. All votes will register. In this case he is voting for his government representatives. He is not voting for his candidates.

The primaries are run by the parties within state law. The general election is run by the government to select members of the various governments. Keep in mind every state does not do this the way New Jersey does. I'm just giving you a general view of a typical state.

Hope this helps.

Tom
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sasha_i



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Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 8:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks very much Tom!

A last question (please don't get angry):
How are these electors (memebers of the Electoral college) choosed?
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Tom
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Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,

Quote:
A last question (please don't get angry):
How are these electors (members of the Electoral college) chosen?


Why would I get angry? Very Happy

Each state has its own government called a legislature. The state legislature chooses the electors. This is in accordance with the US Constitution Article II, Section I which says:


Quote:
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold the Office during the Term of four Years. and together with a Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected as follows

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States shall be appointed Elector.


So it is up to the state legislatures to determine the Presidential election laws in each state. The only limitations are that no member of Congress (House or Senate) or anyone holding national office can be an elector.

Think of it this way because in only the rarest of circumstances is it ever different: whichever candidate gets the most votes in a particular state wins all the state's electors or receives all the state's electoral votes. Whichever candidate receives a majority of the total number of electors wins the Presidency. By doing it this way each state, no matter how small has some say in who is President. And the large states' desires can be overruled by a group of small states. It prevents what the smaller states feared in 1789 a tyranny of the majority, yet preserves the wishes of the majority by preventing a tyranny of the minority.

The 12th Amendment to the US Constitution changed the method of selecting the Vice President a bit, but that takes us well beyond this discussion. Right now a Vice Presidential candidate is chosen by the political party, usually for political reasons, i.e. how he or she might help the President get elected. The person's name is placed before the convention and is always nominated. As I said earlier, the Vice President and the President cannot be from the same state.

If there is anything else, just ask.

Tom
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sasha_i



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Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Tom!

And no further questions your honor Very Happy
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Mark
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Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for the delay replying. Been a bit busy.

Quote:
Couldn't disagree more.


Well glad to see all is right with the world. I would be a bit shaken if you had said anything else.

Quote:
As for a plutocracy, take a peek at the people who have held the Presidency since WWII beginning with FDR. Roosevelt was born to a wealthy family. His successor, Harry Truman, was not nor was his successor Dwight Eisenhower. John Kennedy was born to serious wealth, but let's look at the next group. At the Inauguration of 1968 we had the following: President Lyndon Johnson, a former school teacher; Vice President Hubert Humphrey the son of a druggist; Vice President elect Spiro Agnew, the son of immigrants; President Elect Richard Nixon, the son of a grocer. Some plutocracy.


Your point about the humble origin of many past Presidents is correct and not something I would dispute. My point was about the current political situation in the USA so the nostalgia for honest Abe and Harry Truman is somewhat misplaced.

Moreover it really doesn't follow that just because some recent Presidential candidates have come from a poor background the system is sound , meritocratic and free from the influence of wealthy individuals and corporate interest groups. If that is what you were trying to suggest I find your perspective quite naive.

The issue is rather what financial status a candidate needs to run successfully at the time they seek election and/or what vested interests are backing them. Am I right or wrong that all recent successful Presidential candidates in the last few years have either been millionaires when running or had the backing of other millionaires and/or large corporate lobbies to sustain a run to the White House?

That is what I meant by the plutocratic tendencies in American politics.

However, lets return to the definition of plutocracy:

Plutocracy: (1) government by the wealthy, (2) a controlling class of the wealthy. From the Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos, wealth, and kratia, advocate of a form of government.

Your right being a millionaire doesn't guarantee you will be elected to office. Although, considering how few of them there are they do seem to make up a disproportionate share of those seeking high office in the USA these days. Clearly, a plutocracy can operate just as well with powerful financial interests controlling matters behind the scenes.

Even when the candidates themselves are not millionaires we see the increasing power of corporate lobby groups offering funding and influencing the stances of politicians.

The role of Oil companies behind the election of George W Bush and its reflection in his cabinet and his global warming denying policies are well known. However, the problem is far more widespread. Corporate domination of the democratic process by means of campaign contributions often blocks the emergence of independent voices willing to defend the public interest. Lobbyists subvert the integrity of the , Congress and of state legislatures throughout America by buying influences and votes. Big oil, media, pharmaceutical, tobacco, gambling, insurance, and financial companies thus dominate the legislative process.

For example look at the sub prime crisis now hitting the American economy. The influence of the Banking lobby was intrumental in blocking legislation that would have curtailed these unscrupulous selling methods to low income households.

On a national level we see a similar phenomena with Presidential candidates often becoming hostages to their funders to allow them to support the astronomical costs of a campaign to the White House.

As for social mobility in the USA the statistics seem to support the view that the USA is becoming a much less meritocratic society economically than it was in the past.

It seems clear income and wealth inequalities are rising in the U. S. For example, in 2005, chief executive officers (CEOs) in the United States earned 262 times the pay of an average worker, the second-highest level in the 40 years for which there is data. In other words, a CEO earned more in one workday than an average worker earned in the entire year. This was not always the case: In 1980, a CEO earned 42 times the average worker’s pay, and the ratio was 85 times in 1990. Wealth concentration and poverty follow income inequality. Today, the richest one percent of Americans own 40 percent of the nation’s household wealth. On the other hand, one in five American children lives in deep poverty, while economic opportunity and the chances for social mobility are reduced for an ever-growing proportion of children.

The likelihood that a child born into a poor family will make it into the top 5 percent of income earners is just one percent, according to "Understanding Mobility in America," a study by economist Tom Hertz from American University. Even for children born in middle-class families (family incomes of $42,000 to $54,300), their chances of one day attaining the top 5 percent of income earners are only 1.8 percent. This is lower than in most other democratic countries.

I accept no system is perfect. Here in the UK we have been having a mini-political funding crisis all of our own. However, that is due to evidence revealing politicians breaching legislation on party funding. To allow a laissez-faire situation only hands more power to vested interests and corrupt politicians.

As for your insider information on Hilary Clinton's illegal
funding sources from overseas I suggest you get on to Republican party headquarters asap. Seriously though the failure to apply laws is not a reason for not having them.
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Tom
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Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sorry but I"m not the one who is being naive.

Quote:
The issue is rather what financial status a candidate needs to run successfully at the time they seek election and/or what vested interests are backing them. Am I right or wrong


You're factually correct about the candidates being financially successful, but how else could it be? The President of the United States is not an entry level position. It's the top of power and prestige in this country. So if your point is that the system is a plutocracy because rich, successful people are the only ones that become President I would wonder just which democracy in the world could make it possible for a poor, unsuccessful person to get the top all at once? My point is that the Presidency is obtainable from origins in lower social status - it's not easy, but you don't have to start at the top. The fact that you can't do it as an adult with little or no financial success or career success is hardly a surprise or even a problem.

The idea of Plutocracy is not simply that financially successful people get to be President. It's the idea that no one can get in the group, if they are not born to wealth and prestige (and that is accomplished through regulation), which is the purpose of my examples. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were not part of a wealthy plutocracy at birth. Jack Kennedy was; Johnson wasn't etc

That one needs great financial resources to run for the office is true, but given the expenses of travelling to 50 states, placing the only kinds of ads that people pay attention to (TV and radio), and the fact that stump speeches to try to reach 300 million people probably isn't too effective, how else could it be? Have the government pay for it on the grounds that they are non-partisan? Puhleeze. Government workers and agencies are among the most partisan in the country. Don't they favor the candidates who protect their jobs? Increase their numbers and power? Should we limit the spending? That is an encroachment on citizen's rights to petition their government and yes influence elections. Pesky things those citizens and their rights.

There always has been and always will be money in politics. We can huff and puff about how it is not "fair" (i.e. it doesn't favor me or my guys), but it is a reality, and to believe that it otherwise can be regulated without the power of government favoring one candidate or another or limiting the freedom of all Americans is well, naive.

Is there another country in the world where laborers commonly toss their picks and shovels aside one day and run for and obtain the highest office of their land? Has there ever been? Does it happen in Cuba? If it is possible at all, it is more likely to happen in the US than anywhere else. You can cite one example of a financially unsuccessful man obtaining the Presidency - Bill Clinton (but he did have a financially successful wife who is a one-time major player in futures markets don't you know) never made more than $30k a year until he became President a job that pays $250,000 - chump change to a CEO of any mid sized company.

But Clinton is as crooked as a corkscrew. Because of his amorality the seriously wealthy, like the guy who owns Tyson foods who financially supported Clinton since he was governor of Arkansas. A major compeitor was forced out of business by high handed tactics of the FDA (for the public good no doubt). They were forced to sell the company to Tyson for a fraction of what it was worth. Rich guys can't be bribed. But it wasn't just lack of great wealth that forced Clinton's hand. It's his lack of morality.

Oh and don't forget Loral Space and Communications who loaded up Bill Clinton with cash. They got to sell a missile guidance system to the Red Chinese as part of a payoff to Clinton's campaign, but not to worry. The Chinese who couldn't aim a missile anywhere but up now can potentially knock out communications satellites with Loral technology or was that a coincidence? Oh it must have been coincidence; they wanted to use the technology to forecast weather. The State Department and Pentagon were just wrong when they protested Clinton's decision. And you worry about rich guys and oil companies? Wealth doesn't equal dishonesty any more than poverty equals nobility.


Quote:
The role of Oil companies behind the election of George W Bush and its reflection in his cabinet and his global warming denying policies are well known.


Ahhh now we get to the crux of the matter. I'm sorry but this is largely myth and global warming has nothing to do with it. Besides it's being denied for good reasons - the idea of man made "global warming" is a hoax; no wonder they deny it (see anyone can practice "hit and run."). If you look at the campaign donations you will find that most major corporations in the US donate and raise money for both parties. In legal circles this is called extortion. For example, Microsoft and Bill Gates: Gates scrupulously avoided giving a dime of his money or his company's money to either party and after many years of wild corporate and personal success the Democrats came after his company via the justice department and the Republicans looked the other way. Gates threw a big party, everyone came to his house and now he donates - mostly to Democrats.

I'm sorry I do not engage in class warfare, class envy or bogeyman explanations of how things work. And I'm not rich or politically influential. You want a bogeyman in American politics? Check out George Soros a rich man whose influence in dwarfs Exxon-Mobil's because Exxon Mobil exists to make money (do you have any idea how many Americans of modest means (ahem) have the financial security of their retirement years vested in the success of American Corporations? It's tens if not hundreds of millions) and Soros wants to run things - but he can't because he was born in Hungary.

Our system isn't perfect. Nothing is, but it works well enough. It provides stability, prosperity, and a remarkable amount of freedom, which is the goal. Regulating it, the only way to "balance" things, on the pretense of being "fair," but with the objective of obtaining advantage is neither healthy nor desirable nor possible. Some one or some group will always have an advantage over others. Freedom limits that and can change it. Regulation stifles freedom. The system maximizes freedom, and that is a good thing.

Tom

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Tom
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Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kirk's right. This is not a political forum
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Posted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have given us a good resource to help us wade through ‘the season’ that is now upon us. Thank you.
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