Millions of Americans displayed passion and fevered interest in the recent exciting World Series championship. Now it's time to move on to a serious matter of national importance that often suffers from a lack of public enthusiasm. Millions of Americans, many of whom are avid sports fans, are suffering due to low wages, income inequality, and a gridlocked Congress that is obsessed with campaign fundraising and incapable of addressing many of country's most pressing needs, from public investments to fair play for working families.
With Election Day just days away, now is the perfect time to transfer some of that passion and energy for sports into the political realm. After all, there is far more on the line than just a championship and bragging rights. And elections are not a spectator sport -- you need to be on the field yourself!
Just imagine if the majority of eligible voters had the same dedication and diligence as sports fans who know all the stats and figures, the players, and the management hierarchy. Imagine if voters were as informed, passionate and vocal as baseball fans.
Unfortunately, many voters will head to the polls on November 4th and simply vote down the party line. Far too many won't spend a little time to research the various candidates' actual records beyond their party affiliation. Voters won't learn about what their candidates or elected officials have done beyond what they have said they would do. They won't even consider the issues that matter most to them and their families. That's if they even show up at all, of course. It's expected that only 40 percent of eligible voters will even bother showing up on November 4th.
The mass media certainly does not help spark voter engagement. Most network and cable news programs fail to do an adequate job in covering or presenting issues that really matter most to millions of Americans and they certainly do not hold candidates to their words or put their feet to the fire when they have broken their past campaign promises.
And, of course, the election season airwaves are filled with campaign ads that attack, make bold promises, and mislead on facts. They are all expensive noise with little substance.
Here are few serious questions that voters should consider -- no matter whether the candidates on their ballot identify as Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, Independent or otherwise -- before they cast their votes on Tuesday.
Where do the candidates stand on raising the minimum wage?
Stagnant at $7.25 per hour since 2009, 3 out of 4 Americans now support raising the minimum wage. Thirty million hardworking Americans -- two-thirds women and two-thirds employed by large corporations like Walmart and McDonald's -- are making less today, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1968. Millions would benefit from a restoration in purchasing power to 1968 levels and in turn would be able to strengthen the economy by increasing their consumer expenditures. Despite being a winning issue for Election Day, many corporatist members of Congress have remained firmly opposed.
Where do the candidates stand on corporate welfare (otherwise called crony capitalism)?
Corporate welfare forces taxpayers to subsidize or bail out big corporations -- many of which are badly mismanaged or even corrupt. Giveaways of natural resources, taxpayer-funded sports stadiums, free use of the public airwaves, taxpayer-funded research and development handouts, not to mention a plethora of credits and exemptions, grants, loan guarantees and more are just some examples. Each year, tens of billions of dollars are doled out to large, profitable corporations in the United States. This is an issue that both the left and right agree upon, yet many corporatist members of Congress refuse to act for fear of upsetting their pro-corporate campaign contributors.
Where do the candidates stand on supporting Wall Street and the big banks?
Wall Street's actions collapsed the U.S. economy in 2008-2009. Their misdeeds destroyed the pensions and savings of millions and strip-mined the economy and cost 8 million jobs. Despite this criminal recklessness, these "too big to fail" financial institutions were bailed out by American taxpayers. Since then, very little has changed. Wall Street executives are still bringing in huge bonuses and continue many of the same risky actions that led to the previous collapse. Once again, many members of Congress do not want to bite the hand that feeds them, so they are giving them another free ride at the peoples' expense.
Unhappy with your choices when considering these criteria? One idea that I and others have proposed in the past is "A None of the Above" (NOTA) line on the ballot. If the binding NOTA option obtains the majority of the votes cast, the election for that seat would be cancelled, along with the dismissal of the candidates, and a new election would be held. Such an option could counteract the disillusionment that so many feel with their political choices and give them a reason to go to the polls and register a no-confidence vote. (If you wish to obtain a NOTA [None of the Above] Advance Packet with information on the idea, visit csrl.org/nota.)
We can change the direction of this country, and it's easier than you think, especially with emerging left-right alliances. It begins with keeping an open mind, knowing where you stand, and asking tough questions of those who want your votes.
Signed copies of my latest book "Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State" are available to order from Politics and Prose.