The Weiner Component V.2 #20 – The Origins of American Government & its two Major Political Parties

A cotton gin on display at the Eli Whitney Museum.

A cotton gin on display at the Eli Whitney Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To understand the government and the two major political parties in the United States we need to examine assorted economic happenings.  These entities changed the course of history in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.  The first was the invention of the Cotton Gin, from the 1780s on, another was the American Revolution, a third was a rebellion by small yeoman farmers in inland Massachusetts, and the fourth was the Constitution of the United States.  What occurs here is a cause and effect relationship that brings about major historical changes.

************************************

Eli Whitney was an American inventor who developed the Cotton Gin.  The word gin is short for engine.  The problem with cotton is that it is filled with seeds.  It takes a person working diligently for an hour to clean one pound of cotton.  A single cotton gin could clean 55 pounds daily.  Whitney received a pattern for his gin in 1807.  Like the grist and sawmills he expected to charge farmers for cleaning their cotton by getting 2/5 of the cotton cleaned.  The mechanical simplicity of the device and the primitive state of the pattern law made infringement inevitable.  Local carpenters could easily make duplicates of the gins.  Ultimately lawsuits consumed the profits and the cotton gin company went bankrupt in 1797.  Whitney, however, gained national, if not international fame for his invention.

 

Cotton had been very labor intensive and expensive.  The new inexpensive cotton changed the economics of the world by bringing about the Industrial Revolution in England in the early 19th Century and it also made slavery profitable in the new United States.

 

Prior to the 1790s slave labor was a slowly dying institution.  Slaves were employed in the growing of tobacco, rice, and indigo.  None of these crops were particularly profitable.  With the invention of the cotton gin cotton became the chief source of wealth in the American South; it became king cotton or the chief export of the new United States.  In the Southern settlements from South Carolina to Texas cotton became the dominant economic force and slavery became the key institution of Southern society.  This would persist until the end of the Civil War.

 

With the early Industrial Revolution from the late 18th Century, both England and New England became dependent upon this crop.  Their factories buzzed spinning thread and weaving cloth.  In the American South enormous fortunes were produced and the large cotton growers lived regally.  They tended to utilize the large English purchasers as suppliers of all the goods they wanted, ordering furniture, grand pianos or whatever they decided they wanted or needed.  This in time resulted in their spending more than their current crops allowed.  Eventually the large plantation owners owed their future crops to these people.  To the English manufacturers this was good business because it tied these planters and their crops to them.  The combined debt must have been in the millions.

 

With the formation of a new central government in 1788, caused by the Revolutionary War the Southern cotton barons refused to honor their debts to the English manufacturers.  In essence cotton as an export was still “king” and could always be sold in England or New England.  Some of the English manufacturers sued in the New United States.  Not one ever won his case.  The large cotton growers wiped out millions in debts virtually overnight without spending a penny.

**********************************

The American Revolution was fought from 1765 to 1783.  By the end of the Battle of Yorktown it became obvious to the British that it was far less expensive to trade with the American colonies than to gain trading advantages from them by ruling them.  Consequently the colonies gained their independence.

 

The government that the new independent state established was codified under the Articles of Confederation.  This document rested sovereignty with each of the 12 newly independent states with a central elected body have representatives from all 12 states.  The final decision on any measure passed by this Continental Congress had then to be approved by each of the 12 states.  Any state or states that so wished could disregard any measure passed by the Continental Congress.  In essence what existed were 12 independent nation states that had agreed to more or less cooperate with one another.

******************************

In the period during 1786 and 1787 the Revolutionary veteran, Daniel Shay, led 4,000 rebels, called Shayites, in an uprising against economic and civil rights injustices.  Basically the inland area of the state largely consisted of subsistence agriculture.  Mostly where roads existed they were unpaved, becoming muddy and impossible to use during rain, making it impossible for the farmers to bring their crops to the coastal areas where they could be shipped throughout the tidewater areas of the colonies or overseas.  Consequently most, if not all, of the farmers had stills.  A lot of grain made a small amount of whiskey, which was always in demand and could be easily transported.

 

Along the economically developed or older coastal areas of Massachusetts Bay there existed a market economy which was driven by the activities of wholesale merchants dealing with Europe, the West Indies, and elsewhere on the North American coast.  The state government was dominated by this merchant group.

 

After the end of the Revolutionary War the European businesses, for good reason, refused to continue to extend lines of credit to these merchants and insisted that they pay in hard currency, gold.  There was a shortage of such currency.  Also the state government, run by the business class, needed money.  Following a period of taxes not being paid where it could be avoided, the state of Massachusetts passed a whiskey tax on the small inland farmers to be paid in gold coins which were in short supply.

 

The rural farmers were unable to meet the demands made upon them by the merchants or the civil authorities and many began to lose their land and other possessions.  This led to strong resistance against the collectors and the courts where the collectors obtained judgements authorizing property seizures.

 

A great many of these depressed individuals felt that they should be able to cancel the debts the same way that the Southern planters had.  This led to open warfare between the two groups, temporarily shutting down the courts, sporadic fighting, and the governor refusing to enforce actions against the small farmers and being replaced by one who would enforce the law.  In 1787 Daniel Shay, leading 4,000 rebels, attempted to take the federal armory in Springfield, which was stoutly defended by state troops raised as a private army.

 

Eventually in 1787 4,000 people signed confessions admitting participation in the rebellion in return for amnesty.  Most of those indicted were eventually pardoned.  In subsequent years the state legislature cut taxes and placed a moratorium on debts.  In 1787 John Hancock replaced the militant governor.

 

As a note of irony it should be noted that at that time the only people allowed to vote were male property owners.  All the small farmers were property owners.  There were more of them than there were merchants.

*********************************

As a result of this and of other effects, many upper class individuals felt that there was a need for a stronger central government that could protect property rights throughout the states.  The most important effect was the call for a Constitutional Convention which would reform the Articles of Confederation, presumably strengthening the central government.  In addition Shay’s Rebellion brought George Washington out of retirement at Mount Vernon to chair the Constitutional Convention and to eventually become President for the first two four year terms.  It also brought two distinct political groups into existence: the Federalists who wanted a stronger central government and the Anti-Federalists who didn’t want this.  It was the merchant, businessmen class against the agrarians and laborers.

 

The people at the Constitutional Convention tended to represent the wealthy and educated classes.  They agreed to hold the meetings in secret and soon discovered that amending the Articles of Confederation could not produce a government with central control of all the states.  Consequently they produced from May 25 to September 17, 1787 a totally new document of government.

 

France has been through more than a dozen Constitutions since 1789; the U.S. has only had one, which still exists and functions.  The reason for this is that the U.S. had two sets of states: One free and one slave.  The elite of upper classes in both ends of the country agreed upon the necessity of a stronger central government.  They did not agree on numerous other issues.  They needed a document of unity but they did not agree upon a host of other issues.  In order to create their document of government they had to compromise upon innumerable issues.  Interpreting these issues, according to the needs of the times, has kept the Supreme Court busy since the inception of the nation.

 

The one issue that the Court could not deal with was the issue of where the basic power lay, with the Federal Government or the States.  That issue was resolved by the Civil War.

 

Although there were different political groups in the United States at that time the issue of political parties was never considered by the Founding Fathers.  Once the new government came into existence so did political parties.  The first one was the Federalist Party, representing coastal business and the educated classes.  They were able to dominate the first three elections, two for George Washington and one for John Adams.  The Federalists were opposed by the Anti-Federalists, who represented the small yeoman farmers like Daniel Shay.

 

The leader of the Federalist Party at that time was not the President but was Alexander Hamilton.  The first dramatic election was that of 1800 when John Adams ran against Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson had organized the Anti-Federalists groups and anyone else who was dissatisfied with the Federalists into, what he called, the Republican Party.  As a put-down the Federalists called the new political group the Democratic-Republican Party.  Eventually the word “Republican” was dropped and this became the Democratic Party, which we still have today.  They represented the interests of the small, or as Jefferson preferred to call them, “Yeomen farmers.”  In fact the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the Jefferson administration in 1803 would provide land for yeoman farmers for at least the next 100 years, according to Jefferson.

 

Initially only males voted who were property owners.  With the availability of cheap or free land the Federalists, after the Election of 1800, were never again able to mount a successful Presidential election.  They went out of existence after the War of 1812, when they backed the wrong side, England.  From 1814 on there was only one major political party in the U.S., the Democratic Party.

 

Other groups across the United States formed small political groups.  The other major party that would come into existence in 1835 was the Whig Party, which more or less carried on the values of the old Federalist Party, they represented largely the growing businesses across the ever growing nation which was blossoming with the new Industrial Revolution.  In addition they were also strongly anti-slavery.  In 1860 the Whig Party and a number of fringe groups coalesced into, what was to become, the Republican Party in the Election of 1860.

 

Lincoln was originally a Whig, He won the Presidential Election of 1860 with less than 40% of the popular vote because the Democratic Party had split into two parts, the South voted for one candidate and the North and West voted for another.  With the exception of Virginia where he received less than 2% of the popular vote Lincoln was not even on the ballot on any of the other Southern states.  In essence there were two elections in 1860: one in the South and a different election in the North and West.

 

Here we have the origins of the two major political parties in the United States.  Today, with a so-called Republican President and universal suffrage, the two political parties are at a point where they can barely communicate with one another.

 

Here we can see the origins of our government and our political system.

**********************************

It should also be noted that when United States history is taught as a survey in the schools everything is taught as a group of events which generally are simplified and not related to one another.  Cause and effect relationships are ignored or not understood.  This article generally deals with, on a general basis, cause and effect.  The invention of the cotton gin and the Industrial Revolution, switching from manmade to machine made products, brought about the changes which resulted in the growth of slavery, the Civil War and the country as it is now,

 

If the discovery of the cotton gin had been delayed for another twenty years or so, slavery might have died out on its own and there would have been no Civil War.  If Shay’s Rebellion had not occurred the government might have gone on under the Articles of Confederation and the United States could have eventually developed a Parliamentary System similar to the present day government of Great Britain.  There certainly would have been no immediate need for a Constitution.  There are certainly a lot of “Ifs” available.  Of course we’ll never know the answer to a lot of these questions because they never happened.

The Weiner Component V.2 #20 – The Origins of the American Government & Its Two Major Political Parties

 

To understand the government and the two major political parties in the United States we need to examine assorted economic happenings.  These entities changed the course of history in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.  The first was the invention of the Cotton Gin, from the 1780s on, another was the American Revolution, a third was a rebellion by small yeoman farmers in inland Massachusetts, and the fourth was the Constitution of the United States.  What occurs here is a cause and effect relationship that brings about major historical changes.

************************************

Eli Whitney was an American inventor who developed the Cotton Gin.  The word gin is short for engine.  The problem with cotton is that it is filled with seeds.  It takes a person working diligently for an hour to clean one pound of cotton.  A single cotton gin could clean 55 pounds daily.  Whitney received a pattern for his gin in 1807.  Like the grist and sawmills he expected to charge farmers for cleaning their cotton by getting 2/5 of the cotton cleaned.  The mechanical simplicity of the device and the primitive state of the pattern law made infringement inevitable.  Local carpenters could easily make duplicates of the gins.  Ultimately lawsuits consumed the profits and the cotton gin company went bankrupt in 1797.  Whitney, however, gained national, if not international fame for his invention.

 

Cotton had been very labor intensive and expensive.  The new inexpensive cotton changed the economics of the world by bringing about the Industrial Revolution in England in the early 19th Century and it also made slavery profitable in the new United States.

 

Prior to the 1790s slave labor was a slowly dying institution.  Slaves were employed in the growing of tobacco, rice, and indigo.  None of these crops were particularly profitable.  With the invention of the cotton gin cotton became the chief source of wealth in the American South; it became king cotton or the chief export of the new United States.  In the Southern settlements from South Carolina to Texas cotton became the dominant economic force and slavery became the key institution of Southern society.  This would persist until the end of the Civil War.

 

With the early Industrial Revolution from the late 18th Century, both England and New England became dependent upon this crop.  Their factories buzzed spinning thread and weaving cloth.  In the American South enormous fortunes were produced and the large cotton growers lived regally.  They tended to utilize the large English purchasers as suppliers of all the goods they wanted, ordering furniture, grand pianos or whatever they decided they wanted or needed.  This in time resulted in their spending more than their current crops allowed.  Eventually the large plantation owners owed their future crops to these people.  To the English manufacturers this was good business because it tied these planters and their crops to them.  The combined debt must have been in the millions.

 

With the formation of a new central government in 1788, caused by the Revolutionary War the Southern cotton barons refused to honor their debts to the English manufacturers.  In essence cotton as an export was still “king” and could always be sold in England or New England.  Some of the English manufacturers sued in the New United States.  Not one ever won his case.  The large cotton growers wiped out millions in debts virtually overnight without spending a penny.

**********************************

The American Revolution was fought from 1765 to 1783.  By the end of the Battle of Yorktown it became obvious to the British that it was far less expensive to trade with the American colonies than to gain trading advantages from them by ruling them.  Consequently the colonies gained their independence.

 

The government that the new independent state established was codified under the Articles of Confederation.  This document rested sovereignty with each of the 12 newly independent states with a central elected body have representatives from all 12 states.  The final decision on any measure passed by this Continental Congress had then to be approved by each of the 12 states.  Any state or states that so wished could disregard any measure passed by the Continental Congress.  In essence what existed were 12 independent nation states that had agreed to more or less cooperate with one another.

******************************

In the period during 1786 and 1787 the Revolutionary veteran, Daniel Shay, led 4,000 rebels, called Shayites, in an uprising against economic and civil rights injustices.  Basically the inland area of the state largely consisted of subsistence agriculture.  Mostly where roads existed they were unpaved, becoming muddy and impossible to use during rain, making it impossible for the farmers to bring their crops to the coastal areas where they could be shipped throughout the tidewater areas of the colonies or overseas.  Consequently most, if not all, of the farmers had stills.  A lot of grain made a small amount of whiskey, which was always in demand and could be easily transported.

 

Along the economically developed or older coastal areas of Massachusetts Bay there existed a market economy which was driven by the activities of wholesale merchants dealing with Europe, the West Indies, and elsewhere on the North American coast.  The state government was dominated by this merchant group.

 

After the end of the Revolutionary War the European businesses, for good reason, refused to continue to extend lines of credit to these merchants and insisted that they pay in hard currency, gold.  There was a shortage of such currency.  Also the state government, run by the business class, needed money.  Following a period of taxes not being paid where it could be avoided, the state of Massachusetts passed a whiskey tax on the small inland farmers to be paid in gold coins which were in short supply.

 

The rural farmers were unable to meet the demands made upon them by the merchants or the civil authorities and many began to lose their land and other possessions.  This led to strong resistance against the collectors and the courts where the collectors obtained judgements authorizing property seizures.

 

A great many of these depressed individuals felt that they should be able to cancel the debts the same way that the Southern planters had.  This led to open warfare between the two groups, temporarily shutting down the courts, sporadic fighting, and the governor refusing to enforce actions against the small farmers and being replaced by one who would enforce the law.  In 1787 Daniel Shay, leading 4,000 rebels, attempted to take the federal armory in Springfield, which was stoutly defended by state troops raised as a private army.

 

Eventually in 1787 4,000 people signed confessions admitting participation in the rebellion in return for amnesty.  Most of those indicted were eventually pardoned.  In subsequent years the state legislature cut taxes and placed a moratorium on debts.  In 1787 John Hancock replaced the militant governor.

 

As a note of irony it should be noted that at that time the only people allowed to vote were male property owners.  All the small farmers were property owners.  There were more of them than there were merchants.

*********************************

As a result of this and of other effects, many upper class individuals felt that there was a need for a stronger central government that could protect property rights throughout the states.  The most important effect was the call for a Constitutional Convention which would reform the Articles of Confederation, presumably strengthening the central government.  In addition Shay’s Rebellion brought George Washington out of retirement at Mount Vernon to chair the Constitutional Convention and to eventually become President for the first two four year terms.  It also brought two distinct political groups into existence: the Federalists who wanted a stronger central government and the Anti-Federalists who didn’t want this.  It was the merchant, businessmen class against the agrarians and laborers.

 

The people at the Constitutional Convention tended to represent the wealthy and educated classes.  They agreed to hold the meetings in secret and soon discovered that amending the Articles of Confederation could not produce a government with central control of all the states.  Consequently they produced from May 25 to September 17, 1787 a totally new document of government.

 

France has been through more than a dozen Constitutions since 1789; the U.S. has only had one, which still exists and functions.  The reason for this is that the U.S. had two sets of states: One free and one slave.  The elite of upper classes in both ends of the country agreed upon the necessity of a stronger central government.  They did not agree on numerous other issues.  They needed a document of unity but they did not agree upon a host of other issues.  In order to create their document of government they had to compromise upon innumerable issues.  Interpreting these issues, according to the needs of the times, has kept the Supreme Court busy since the inception of the nation.

 

The one issue that the Court could not deal with was the issue of where the basic power lay, with the Federal Government or the States.  That issue was resolved by the Civil War.

 

Although there were different political groups in the United States at that time the issue of political parties was never considered by the Founding Fathers.  Once the new government came into existence so did political parties.  The first one was the Federalist Party, representing coastal business and the educated classes.  They were able to dominate the first three elections, two for George Washington and one for John Adams.  The Federalists were opposed by the Anti-Federalists, who represented the small yeoman farmers like Daniel Shay.

 

The leader of the Federalist Party at that time was not the President but was Alexander Hamilton.  The first dramatic election was that of 1800 when John Adams ran against Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson had organized the Anti-Federalists groups and anyone else who was dissatisfied with the Federalists into, what he called, the Republican Party.  As a put-down the Federalists called the new political group the Democratic-Republican Party.  Eventually the word “Republican” was dropped and this became the Democratic Party, which we still have today.  They represented the interests of the small, or as Jefferson preferred to call them, “Yeomen farmers.”  In fact the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the Jefferson administration in 1803 would provide land for yeoman farmers for at least the next 100 years, according to Jefferson.

 

Initially only males voted who were property owners.  With the availability of cheap or free land the Federalists, after the Election of 1800, were never again able to mount a successful Presidential election.  They went out of existence after the War of 1812, when they backed the wrong side, England.  From 1814 on there was only one major political party in the U.S., the Democratic Party.

 

Other groups across the United States formed small political groups.  The other major party that would come into existence in 1835 was the Whig Party, which more or less carried on the values of the old Federalist Party, they represented largely the growing businesses across the ever growing nation which was blossoming with the new Industrial Revolution.  In addition they were also strongly anti-slavery.  In 1860 the Whig Party and a number of fringe groups coalesced into, what was to become, the Republican Party in the Election of 1860.

 

Lincoln was originally a Whig, He won the Presidential Election of 1860 with less than 40% of the popular vote because the Democratic Party had split into two parts, the South voted for one candidate and the North and West voted for another.  With the exception of Virginia where he received less than 2% of the popular vote Lincoln was not even on the ballot on any of the other Southern states.  In essence there were two elections in 1860: one in the South and a different election in the North and West.

 

Here we have the origins of the two major political parties in the United States.  Today, with a so-called Republican President and universal suffrage, the two political parties are at a point where they can barely communicate with one another.

 

Here we can see the origins of our government and our political system.

**********************************

It should also be noted that when United States history is taught as a survey in the schools everything is taught as a group of events which generally are simplified and not related to one another.  Cause and effect relationships are ignored or not understood.  This article generally deals with, on a general basis, cause and effect.  The invention of the cotton gin and the Industrial Revolution, switching from manmade to machine made products, brought about the changes which resulted in the growth of slavery, the Civil War and the country as it is now,

 

If the discovery of the cotton gin had been delayed for another twenty years or so, slavery might have died out on its own and there would have been no Civil War.  If Shay’s Rebellion had not occurred the government might have gone on under the Articles of Confederation and the United States could have eventually developed a Parliamentary System similar to the present day government of Great Britain.  There certainly would have been no immediate need for a Constitution.  There are certainly a lot of “Ifs” available.  Of course we’ll never know the answer to a lot of these questions because they never happened.

The Weiner Component #118 – Republicans & Democrats

(I’m averaging about 250 to 350 comments each day. Among these I get numerous requests for information. Most of these are answered in The Weiner Component #114  – Responding to Your Enquires.)

Will Rogers, in a lecture he gave sometime in the 1920s, said something to the effect of “All Congressmen”, and I’m sure he included the President, Calvin Coolidge, in that group, “are like small children carrying hammers in a china shop. You just hope they will not do too much damage.”

In the case of George W. Bush his “hope” did not work. Bush naively and stupidly got the country involved with an invasion of Iraq believing that he and Vice President Dick Chaney could turn the country into a small version of the Democratic United States. The failure of this idea and the cost in human lives, both of American soldiers and Iraqis, and the billions of dollars wasted in this pointless search for “weapons of mass destruction” was inexcusable. What Bush accomplished was to destroy the balance of power in the Middle East and stir up terrorism and civil wars which still exist today.

To the best of my knowledge he has never admitted responsibility for his actions. In a manner of speaking he destroyed the china shop Will Rogers was talking about. The irony of the situation is that the Democratic candidate for the presidency in the 2000 Election got a much higher popular vote than the Republican, Bush, but problems developed with the ballot in Florida where his brother was governor and in addition the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court invalidated the problem making Bush the President Elect.

In the 2008 Election, if John McCain had won the presidency instead of Barak Obama the probability is that this country would have fallen into a depression deeper than that of 1929 and that we would still be fighting in Iraq and have full forces in Afghanistan. Bin Laden would still be alive planning new atrocities for Al-Qaida to carry out. We might even have gone to war with Iran. Affordable Health Care (Obama Care) would never have happened and on an overall basis the country would be going through a period of great misery for a very large percentage of the population. He might have saved the banks that generated the Real Estate Crisis by continuing the bailout that the Bush Administration had begun but he would never have done so for the auto industry.

And if Mitt Romney had been elected President in 2012, as he had so avidly wished, then the United States would probably have continued full scale war in Afghanistan and currently be at war with Iran. Affordable Health Care (Obama Care) would today in early 2015 be in the process of just holding out by being filibustered in the Senate by the Democratic minority. In addition his economic policies would most likely follow the principle of the less government the better. This would lead us in the direction of a recession with an increase in unemployment. The decrease in government regulations that he promised in his 2012 campaign would bring the country back to or below the state that existed before the 2008 Economic Debacle with the Market running the country businesswise and profit wise. Most economic decisions would be made by the marketplace.

In foreign affairs remember that Mitt Romney visited Europe for three days during his 2012 campaign. It initially had to do with an equestrian activity with which his wife was involved; a dancing horse contest. Within the first twenty-four hours Romney publically stated something that turned every British newspaper in the country against him. One London paper called him a twit. Other dailies were equally as unenthusiastic about him. He did not rate quite as low in the other two countries he visited, but in each he generated a negative image of himself. With this level of non-achievement just think of how he would have done as America’s chief diplomat. It would have been an unmitigated disaster.

*****************************

Of the two major political parties that exist in the United States today the Democrats constitute the majority or largest political party. They were first organized by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the U.S., whose object was to get himself elected President. He saw himself as representing the small, independent (Yeoman) farmer, as opposed to the Federalist Party which represented the seaboard city business interests. The Federalists ceased to exist after the War of 1812; they supporting the wrong side in the war.

The Republican Party came into existence for the Election of 1860. They sprang from the Whig Party and numerous other small groups including the Abolitionists. The Republicans won the Election of 1860 with about 43% of the vote. The Democrats had split into two parties, a Northern and Southern Democratic Political Party, each running its own string of candidates. Neither had as many votes as the Republicans.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President with under 50% of the vote. In fact he did not even appear on the ballots of any Southern state. When Lincoln ran for a second term it was under the guise of the Union Party, with a Southern Democrat from Tennessee Andrew Johnson, as his Vice-Presidential candidate.

Outside of the issue of slavery the Republicans have always represented the business interests, while the Democrats, following Jefferson, have always held the welfare of the general population as primary. During most of the history of this country the two parties have generally cooperated. In fact up until relatively recently most people in Europe and Asia saw both political parties as two sides of the same entity. During the Cold War Era many, if not most Russians did not understand our criticism of their being a one party state since the United States, in their view, was also a one party state.

The polarization of the two political parties began early in the 21st Century with the emergence of the Tea Party onto the political scene. They and the evangelicals somehow gained control of the finances within the Republican Party and have been able to force their will over all Republican Party members, making them hue to what seems to be the party line, which among other things is limiting free medical decisions for women.

It’s questionable as to whether this will continue or to what extent it will continue in the 2015-2016 Congress. Assorted splits are occurring within the Republican Party. As to cooperation with the Congressional Democrats that is also questionable. We could end up with total gridlock with some compromises occurring on nonpolitical issues.

It is interesting to note that on March 9, 2015 forty-seven Republican senators sent a letter to the religious head in Iran stating that any agreement signed with President Obama will last just through his current term as president; that they will take over the White House in 2016 and the new Republican president will invalidate the agreement. They also stated that they expect to be in control for a long period of time and that they will not sign any future agreement. It seems that the 47 Republican Senators are now undertaking foreign policy agreements; that they are attempting to undercut the President with their own foreign policy. This is something new. It has never happened before in the entire history of the United States. This unprecedented act itself may be illegal. It will be interesting to see what happens.

*******************************

As a result of the lowest voter turnout in years in the Midterm Election of 2014 the Republicans have a majority in both Houses of Congress. However to get a bill passed in the Senate they need a super-majority, and sixty votes to avert a filibuster. There are 54 Republican Senators and 44 Democrats and 2 Independents. This means they need the cooperation of a number of Democrats to pass any legislation that the Democrats generally oppose. They also need a 2/3 majority in both Houses of Congress to override any Presidential veto.

It should be interesting, if not tragic, seeing what happens over the next two years.

************************************

Years ago Will Rogers said: “I don’t belong to a political party. I’m a Democrat.” In essence that sums up the Democratic Party, It stands for everyone else who’s not a Republican. They place less emphasis on business and attempt to give the common man an honest deal. With so broad a field of representation the Democrats in Congress seem to have a problem verbalizing many of their objectives or accomplishments.

The Republicans do not have this problem. Actually they seem to come to conclusions before the facts are in and also many times by constant repetition feel their conclusions are true without any factual evidence, repetition of a statement makes it true in their estimation.

As a result of this, and for other reasons, we now have in the United States a fairly large number of people who have grown disgusted with both political parties. They have become Independents. The result is that they don’t give any impute to pre-election ballots, allowing a not true picture to emerge during and after the elections. In addition a large number of these people as well as many Democrats don’t vote in midterm elections, but only in Presidential ones.

Minority groups, particularly Hispanics, have been strongly affected by non-action or negative action being taken upon immigration reform. They stayed away by droves in the 2014 Midterm Election. What they did was to inadvertently reinforce the political party that most opposes them.

Perhaps the major reason for the disinterest and disgust in the United States about politics and political parties is: What do the political parties do?  As we’ve seen it takes a lot of time and effort to understand what is or is not being done by Congress, particularly since the Democrats are relatively quiet about their successes and failures. Most people are too busy to try to concentrate on Congressional actions. This is particularly true with the confusion generated by the different news media, both liberal and conservative. Generally many people consider both political parties equally inept.

**********************************

One of the major problems concerned with politics in the U.S. today is the price of running for office and of remaining in office. In addition the Supreme Court has decided that the spending of money in political campaigns is an expression of free speech as stated in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights. Consequentially they have allowed almost unlimited contributions in any kind of political contest. This does not only affect Congress but also state and municipal government elections.

Imagine a contribution of $300 million such as the Koch brothers seemingly are willing to spend in a Presidential Election or $100 million that Sheldon Adelson did spend on the Republican candidate in the 2012 Presidential Election. What influence would that give these individuals over the President and Congress?

Everything involved with political campaigns cost money, much more money than most candidates have or are willing to spend. This includes signs, buttons, radio and television time and productions or personal communications with constituents to mention just some of the costs. We can also add that their staffs and all the commuting they do during an election is quite expensive

All of this gives large donors in particular unlimited access to their candidates and to the candidates, if they are elected, an affinity to want to satisfy their large contributor’s needs and desires. All this, of course, are not bribes but putting useful measures up as laws, or so we are told.

For example the Koch brothers have been pushing in Kansas, laws that limit or forbad the use of natural sources like light or wind to produce green energy. They earn much of their money from the use of oil. Sheldon Adelson, who owns casinos in Las Vegas, wants laws that forbid the use of the internet for gambling.

Whether you agree or disagree with these men’s actions the question remains: How do candidates remain honest? When does a contribution become a bribe?

If we look at the Pharmaceutical Industry, specific medicines cost more in the United States than in any other nations. It is less expensive to have your prescriptions filled in Canada or Mexico, or for that matter in any European country, than it is at your local pharmacy. And this includes the price of shipping it to you. How can this be? You get the exact same medicines, manufactured by the same company in all cases. The answer, of course, is that Congressional laws fix the price in the United States but all other countries have contracts with the drug companies lowering the cost of these same pharmaceuticals.

It’s interesting to note that these companies are one of the major contributors to political parties, particularly to the Republican Party. Most medicines, particularly new ones fresh out on the medical market have high prices that are fixed by law and their price cannot be legally reduced in the United States.

The Republicans tend to loudly disbelieve in climate change; in fact it is illegal to mention that term on any official document in the state of Florida. Companies run by the Koch brothers make multi-millions each year selling and transporting oil and oil products. They are adamantly against the concept of climate change and their millions strongly fund the Republican Party. It is convenient if you are a practicing Republican to not believe in climate change.

There are innumerable other examples of this type of behavior. Isn’t it time that simple principles of funding were established for all elections. In both state and federal elections, radio and television stations can by law be required to grant a certain amount of free time as a public service. Legally limits can be set for all different kinds of elections. Government services can be set up for a fixed amount of written material and TV commercials keeping an even amount for each candidate so that the playing field is the same for all candidates depending upon what office they are after. Limits can also be set as to how much can be spent on each type of election. Even though this would take a Constitutional amendment contributions can again be limited. It is time to take all elections out of the hands of the millionaires and the billionaires. It is time for fairness for all Americans in elections.

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

English: Seal of the President of the United States Español: Escudo del Presidente de los Estados Unidos Македонски: Печат на Претседателот на Соединетите Американски Држави. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Weiner Component #101 – Democracy & The Vote

English: Logo of the Democratic Party of the U...

On Tuesday, November 4th the people of the United States will vote in the Midterm Election of 2014. What they, as a majority, decide in each state will determine what happens in the country over the next two years and even possibly beyond that time.

The Founding Fathers, when they established the United States set aside the funds from a section of all government land sold to be used to set up public schools. They believed that an educated electorate would vote intelligently and elect the best possible people for public office. Unfortunately over the years life and politics have gotten quite complicated and many people do not have the time and inclination to delve into the issues and vote intelligently. As a result of this we have the thirty second or less adds on TV, both being generally a fountain of misinformation and also telling people how to vote.

Today we have two major parties and a number of minor ones that may or may not exist in all 50 states. The largest political party is the Democratic Party. It has the most members but is not as aggressive as the Republican Party which also is better financed and represents mainly the upper echelon of the country. The Republican Party includes a good percentage of the top 20% of the population and also tends to contain the evangelical element within the society. They can be at any economic level going from poverty to super-rich. Together they are well less than 50% of the population, probably from 30 to 40%.

In the states where the Republicans have been successful, controlling both the legislature and the governorship they have both gerrymandered the voting districts in 2010 and attempted also to pass voter restriction laws to limit the voting of non-Republicans. They have been partly successful. The probability is that if the electoral process had been truly democratic President Obama would have gotten a much larger vote in 2012. As it was, in that year, the Democrats cast 125,000 more votes than Republicans for members of the House of Representatives but the Republicans were able to win the majority in the House through gerrymandering, adjusting the voter districts in the states they controlled so they would come out ahead.

The third largest group is the independents; people belonging to no political party. These people don’t trust any of the political parties. Then, but not necessarily in order of size, there are the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and the Peace and Freedom Party. There are also the American Elect Party and the American Independent Party. We probably have a few more that are limited to a small number of states.

Not all political parties are represented in all 50 states. In the United States we have 50 plus separate elections. One in each state and in the territories and other areas the Federal Government controls. Each state sets its own general rules for the elections. They are not always fair and reasonable.

People vote for candidates and referendums and initiatives. The candidates are easy. One votes either by party or for the candidate he or she prefers. The referendums are propositions passed by the state legislature, whereby the legislators want the people to assume responsibility for particular measures or for amendments to the state or Federal Constitution. Initiatives are potential laws that have been issued after a voter signing process. They are done by individuals or groups. An example in California would be Proposition 13, passed in 1979, which lowered all property taxes in the state. This was put through essentially by a landlord’s association.

The meanings of these referendums and initiatives is another matter entirely. In many cases one has to take time reading them to fully understand them. Sometimes a No vote can mean yes or a yes vote can mean no. One has to be careful and read them thoroughly.

The ballots tend to be long, particularly on Presidential Election Years. For example: being a Midterm Election the current California ballot is only five pages. It contains thirty-nine items. The first ten deal with political party entries, starting with the governor and ending with who will be a Member of the State Assembly. Here the political party each person belongs to is listed with their name. Nonpartisan offices follow. There are twenty-four of these, going from different levels of judges through the Director of the Municipal Water District. We have the Governing Board of the local school district and the City Council of the local city. After that comes the referendums and the initiatives. On this ballot there are six of them, two referendums and three initiatives. There is also one Legislative Constitutional Amendment. The last three items deal with county issues.

The Referendums often deal with long term financing and taxing issues. The legislatures wants the public to approve state financing and their own tax increases. The initiatives deal with issues deemed important by specific groups.

There is a pamphlet that was sent to the voters explaining Proposition 1: State of California Water Bond, Funding for Water Quality, Supply, Treatment, and Storage Projects. It explains the referendum and ends with an argument for the proposition and one against it. These pamphlets are sent out several weeks before the election with a sample of the ballot.

Proposition 2 is a Legislative Amendment to the State Constitution: State Budget. Budget Stabilization Account. This referendum requires the state to set up a reserve fund in good financial years that can be used in lean times. This has been a pet project of Governor Brown since he was elected to office.

Proposition 45 is an initiative statue: HealthCare Insurance Rate Changes. This will require among other things approval from the Insurance Commissioner for insurance companies to facilitate rate increases. It gives state officials the authority to deal with the issue.

Proposition 46 is also an initiative which deals with drug and alcohol testing of doctors and raising the current fixed rate in medical negligence lawsuits to $250,000.

Proposition 47 is an initiative that deals with Criminal Sentences and Misdemeanor Penalties. My position on this initiative is expressed in The Weiner Component #92 – The American Prison System.

Proposition 48 is an Indian Gaming Compact. A   Referendum that requires the approval of the voters of California. It allows two tribes whose reservations are on unusable land to open their own casinos outside of the reservation. The legislature has approved the referendum; the voters have to make the final decision by a yes or no vote.

There are also local city and county matters that need to be voted on.

Registering to vote can be done online with the online form Register to Vote.(list your state abbreviation).gov). Voter registration applications are also available at most post offices, public libraries, city and county government offices, and from the State Secretary of State’s office. In order to receive the voter literature a person should be registered at least a month prior to the election.

A democracy is supposed to be a society where the will of the majority determines what the government does. Each vote should be, more or less, equal. This has not happened over a number of years. The wealthy have been able to predominate. It is time for the government to again become the instrument of the majority.

VOTE.