Friday, November 30, 2007

Primary Derby

With only a little over a month left until the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary and seeing as I've yet to shut up about how I'm from NH yet this semester, I thought I'd keep with the trend and relate my favorite political event to Texas politics.

Being a loyal Granite Stater and as big a fan of Bill Gardner as the next one, I would never propose a state try to move in front of NH in the nominating process, but living the better part of the last 7 years outside of NH has gotten me to thinking, maybe the world doesn't revolve around it and maybe other states ought to get a little more excited about primaries. Texas has a primary in March right now (see irrelevant). Just guessing but I would expect turnout somewhere around 10-20% give or take. When I cast my vote in 2004 I think the turnout was 80-90% on a day with a high of 20 degrees. People know when they matter and that's why New Hampshirites always make it out to vote. Seeing the disinterest in the process when all they're doing is rubber-stamping a nominee makes me think Texas ought to try and have an early primary and get more candidates to come here.

Right now the candidates do all come to Texas, to be fair, but they're not kissing babies or having town-hall meetings. They're flying into Houston and Dallas for $2300 a plate fundraisers and using the proceeds to tell Iowans how much they love their corn on TV. I think it'd be a little fairer if they let us ask them some questions and participate in the vetting process. I mean I'm not the biggest Texas pride guy there is, but this is the 2nd largest state in the union by either measure and you'd think that'd be good for some input in the presidential nominating process.

I wasn't wild about the idea of other states moving up but since they did and I don't live in IA or NH right now, I kind of like the idea of doing something more binding than slapping a bumper sticker on my car. I'd like to go out and cast a vote and have the feeling of not knowing who'll win until the news does results that night. The kind of excitement that everyone gets wrapped up in and follows and participates in like a football season or something. The difference is that people are getting excited about government and more people are participating in it. That's the goal. I think that kind of excitement of an important, binding election where your choices are more than A vs. B might be just the thing to cure some of the apathy here in Texas. It's the reason this average 24 year-old watches MSNBC like it's the superbowl everytime there's an election.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Bible as Our Constitution

In response to my colleague's blog, blueoasisaustin , I wanted to offer my whole-hearted agreement to his assessment of the issue of stem cell research. Lucky for me I haven't been directly affected by any such disease or disorder as my colleague has been, but it doesn't mean I don't have strong feelings about it as another human being in the world.

For years people have been going into doctors offices everywhere and some of them get the terrible news that they have a disease or disorder like ALS, Alzheimers, Cancer, etc. That list goes on forever. These people are being told, in essence, that are in the descent phase on a trail that leads to death. Until very recently there was scarcely a glimmer of hope. Medicine doing as it always has is now discovering drugs and other forms of treatment that are literally stopping death in its tracks in some cases. One of the most promising areas of research is in embryonic stem cells. This stem cell research has provided the exciting possibility of cures for diseases that have long been virtually untreatable.

This offers a great hope for people who are, as my colleague put it, "...waiting for nature to run its course." Oh but it's not so easy, both here and across the nation religious zealots are campaigning against this research because it "kills innocent life." In this case innocent life is microscopic cells in petri dishes that will be destroyed anyway if they're not used for this research. I'm pretty sure by this definition of innocent life masturbation ought be tantamount to murder according to those who would crusade against stem cell research. And their ignorance might be funnier if it wasn't such a formidable roadblock to this promising research that may well lead to the cure for so many diseases and other conditions that are taking away lives.

I'm not saying the cure is right around the corner, but you never find out without doing the research. What that research offers might be just as important for those afflicted and their loved ones... hope. You can't put a price on that and no one should have a right to take that chance at hope away from someone because of their chosen religious scripture.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What's the Deal with Texas Elections?

I hate to seem like I'm always railing on Texas' politics but this is my blog, so I thought I would call into question the way elections go here in celebration of this coming Tuesday's elections. At the risk of sounding like Dennis Miller, Andy Rooney or some horrible hybrid of the two I will proceed.

First of all, who are we voting for? I understand electing the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor but some of the other stuff is absurd to me. The Attorney General? I don't really feel great about entrusting the selection of the state's top law enforcer to what amounts to a fund raising and popularity contest. Then when he or she gets elected it's only to build name recognition to run for some higher office. I didn't even know what a comptroller was when I moved here as we didn't have one in NH, but once I found out it seemed kind of foolish to be electing someone to be in charge of our tax dollars. There are a bunch of other examples but the most heinous to me is the idea of electing judges. All of these positions I mentioned require education and special skills that would seem to make selecting people for them better suited for a meritocracy than democracy. Don't get me wrong, I like being able to influence my government but I don't trust many average joes or even myself to be picking who is the best person to decide court cases, try them or manage public accounts. It's not just that... the more things people have to vote for, the less they research each one and just pick the nicest name or something equally random.

Second thing is that it seems like people try to keep the election a secret here and the paltry voter turnout is evidence that speaks to that. I hardly so any ads in the recent elections save for presidential ads in 2004. Back in NH elections - and not just the "world famous" primary election - were veritable holidays. I ask people if they voted on election day here and they look at me like I'm crazy. They either have no interest or no idea that elections are taking place. I just don't know how people can't know or aren't old an election is coming up and how important it is. I remember people standing out in 20 degree temperatures just to hold their candidates signs at the polling place or waiting in lines in that cold to go vote. Here I see no people with signs and I can scarcely find the polling place and it's usually empty when I go in. It boggles my mind.

One thing I like about the elections here and that might be skewing my evaluation of turnout and interest is early voting. I understand how a lot of people can't get out of work or get transportation to a certain place on a certain day, so stretching it out into a window of time like Texas has done is a fantastic idea to me. Anything that gets more voters to the polls is a good thing in my estimation. That way we're coming closer to a consensus on who we've elected.

So in review, I think Texas would do well to follow the model of the federal government and give the Governor the levity to appoint people to jobs that ought to be based on merit rather then have us elect them. Also I'd like to see a little more promotion of the elections, whether by the state or the individuals' campaigns. Lastly, I commend Texas on the early voting system and admit that it could be why turnout looks low to me. Overall though, I think elections could be more voter friendly here.