Treehuggers International

Treehuggers International 2012 General Election Voter’s Guide

November 4th, 2012

“The only way to change is to vote. People are responsible.” – Paul Wellstone

“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” – John F. Kennedy

“If you don’t vote, don’t bitch.” – Steve Earle

By Tommy Hough

It’s been a strange couple of months. Cory and I recently relocated to Portland, Oregon so I could take a new job handling communications for the environmental advocacy organization Oregon Wild. In doing so, I’ve undergone a crash course in Oregon politics. I’m happy to tell you all about Rep. Peter DeFazio’s terrible timber scheme, Gov. John Kitzhaber’s desire to be known as the grand compromise builder, and the timber industry’s still-tight grip on the state’s low-elevation forest and remaining old-growth, and undue influence with political leaders in both Salem and Washington, DC.

Despite this, when it comes to my vote this election year, I still feel more connected as a California voter.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. Having worked in media in San Diego and Southern California for nearly 10 years, my connection to Golden State politics is not going to be easily shaken. With wonderful friends and family in California, along my ongoing work producing and hosting Treehuggers International and Brunch With Bob and Friends, and Treehuggers’ ongoing advocacy on the part of California State Parks and the San Diego County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, my wife and I retain a tight connection to California, and remain committed to seeing the state’s sometimes ridiculous array of propositions fully vetted, and the best candidates elected to the job.

Not all races are listed. For some races you will need to find the candidate running in your federal or state district. With some exceptions, voter recommendations are pertinent to San Diego County ballots.

For additional help I’d suggest checking the endorsements of the San Diego League of Conservation Voters, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, and the San Diego County Democratic Party (PDF).

Polls open at 7:00 am and close at 8:00 pm, Tuesday, November 6th. For a complete list of state elections offices, from Alameda to Yuba counties, click HERE.

Federal Races

President:  Barack Obama

  • Were you expecting someone else? Scroll down past the Hetch Hetchy photo for my essay on the case for a second term for President Obama.

U.S. Senate:  Dianne Feinstein

U.S. Representative, 52nd District:  Scott Peters

  • I’m hardly an advocate for Scott Peters, and I made my concerns with his candidacy abundantly clear while assisting my friend Lori Saldaña in her primary race against Mr. Peters earlier this year, in which Lori came up short by only a few hundred votes. I still feel Lori would’ve been the more capable candidate in a broad and engaged retail politic appeal to the electorate of the 52nd, from retired military in Clairemont and Coronado to union rank-and-file to progressive activists in Ocean Beach. However, I know a number of bright, smart, earnest, determined progressives involved with Scott Peters’ campaign, and I know they wouldn’t be backing him if they felt he wasn’t genuine or capable of executing the duties of the office. There’s a real opportunity to flip this long-held Republican seat into the Democratic column, and while I don’t see Mr. Peters particularly embracing progressive causes or using a seat in the House of Representatives to move the needle on issues relating to the environment or women’s rights, his vote, as would any Democrat’s vote, be extremely valuable in stemming the tide of consistently awful ideas coming from the Tea Party-controlled House, and consistently voted yes on by incumbent Brian Bilbray. Vote for Scott Peters. Let’s take this seat.

U.S. Representative, 49th District:  Jerry Tetalman

U.S. Representative, 50th District:  David B. Secor

U.S. Representative, 51st District:  Juan Vargas

U.S. Representative, 53rd District:  Susan Davis

  • I had the pleasure of living in Congresswoman Davis’ district for several years, and have always appreciated the kind assistance her staff has lent my wife and I. I was also delighted and honored to be able to interview Congresswoman Davis for a Primary Focus piece my production partner and I produced for the California State Parks Foundation earlier this year.

Other U.S. House Races In California

U.S. Representative, 2nd District:  Jared Huffman

  • A strong supporter of California State Parks, Jared Huffman deserves your vote.

U.S. Representative, 3rd District:  John Garamendi

U.S. Representative, 4th District:  Jack Uppal

U.S. Representative, 7th District: Dr. Ami Bera

  • Despite Dan Lungren’s support for the removal of the O’Shaughnessey Dam at Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park, vote for the Sacramento Bee-endorsed Dr. Ami Bera.

U.S. Representative, 9th District:  Jerry McNerney

U.S. Representative, 11th District:  George Miller

U.S. Representative, 21st District:  David Valadao

U.S. Representative, 23rd District:  Terry Phillips

  • Terry Phillips is running as an unaffiliated candidate, but anyone would be better than the man who wants to dismantle the 1964 Wilderness Act, the dreadful Kevin McCarthy. Vote for Terry Phillips in the 23rd.

U.S. Representative, 24th District:  Lois Capps

U.S. Representative, 26th District:  Julia Brownley

U.S. Representative, 27th District:  Judy Chu

U.S. Representative, 37th District:  Karen Bass

U.S. Representative, 47th District:  Alan Lowenthal

California State Races

State Senate, 39th District:  Marty Block

State Assembly, 71st District:  Patrick Hurley

State Assembly, 75th District:  Matthew Herold

State Assembly, 76th District:  Rocky Chavez

State Assembly, 77th District:  Ruben “R.J.” Hernandez

State Assembly, 78th District:  Toni Atkins

State Assembly, 79th District:  Shirley Weber

State Assembly, 80th District:  Ben Hueso


Superior Court Judge, Office 25:  Robert Amador


San Diego County Board of Education, 1st District:  Gregg Robinson

San Diego Community College District Member, Board of Trustees District B:  Bernie Rhinerson

San Diego Unified School Board, District A:  John Lee Evans

San Diego Unified School Board, District E:  Marne Foster

City of San Diego

Mayor:  Bob Filner


I apologize, I really couldn’t make the time to write up summaries for all of these propositions, but if you know me and need a guide, just trust me on these this year:

YES on 30

NO on 31

NO on 32

  • An evil little proposition, this has nothing to do with campaign finance reform and everything to do with de-fanging the power of unions in the political marketplace, leaving them at the mercy of giant corporations, Super PACs, and the Scott Walkers and Carl DeMaios of the world. I cannot emphasize this one enough: vote NO on Prop. 32. “No just no, but Hell No!”

NO on 33

YES on 34

NO on 35

YES on 36

  • Reforms California’s Three Strikes Law for the better. Vote for this

YES on 37

  • This is the proposition you’ve been hearing a lot about from healthy lifestyle advocates which would require labels on foods containing genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs. If companies like Monsanto and Dupont (makers of napalm, among other things) have nothing to hide, why are they resisting this reasonably-worded proposition so vehemently? Vote YES on Prop. 37, and knock back your tomato juice. This is sensible stuff. Namaste.

NO on 38

YES on 39

YES on 40

YES on F (City and County of San Francisco only!)

  • San Francisco is long overdue in embracing water recycling and removing the O’Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park. A YES on Prop. F will mark the beginning of a process which could lead to the dismantling of the dam, the restoration of Yosemite National Park’s integrity, and San Francisco finally joining the 21st Century and embracing their neighbors around the bay (and even fellow Californians in comparatively conservative San Diego and Orange counties) in recycling water. How much water recycling does San Francisco do right now? Zero.This needs to change. Also, the Tuolumne River will continue to be a source of water for San Francisco, but with the region’s series of reservoirs, the city no longer needs the O’Shaughnessy Dam to do the work. Free the Tuolumne and restore Hetch Hetchy. The time is now.

The time has come for O'Shaughnessy Dam to go, and Hetch Hetchy to be restored.

A Second Term for President Obama

I get it. The last four years were awful.

So why would anyone vote to put the people who led us to the abyss back in charge? Or worse, do the bidding of the Tea Party (with Romney, who knows what we’ll get?).

Curiously, the Tea Party still doesn’t understand it’s named for a prank designed to highlight the LACK of a representative democracy among American colonists. And all those “spontaneous” Tea Party awakenings which just happened to coincide with Obama’s first months in office? Funded by the Koch Brothers and other astroturfers. They even got Tea Partiers to believe their taxes were being raised when they weren’t. Not that any of those guys in Bob Roberts-style tri-corner colonial hats ever noticed. It’s just some liberal media plot.

For those who still kind of like Romney (and there’s a Romney nearly everyone can like), perhaps you didn’t notice he has his very own Incubus in the form of Paul Ryan as a running mate? The Ayn Rand fan? Seriously? We’ve got a guy who worships money and called half the country parasites running for president, and a guy mired in teenage political beliefs because he never got past 2112 in the Rush catalogue? Please.

The fact is, I vote for Barack Obama because he offers calm, cool, steady leadership. As much as the Fox News cretins would like to have to you believe otherwise, he’s not an ideologue. He’s not even much of a liberal.

He’s a technocratic, slightly wonky and occasional over-professorial center-left president, and if it were 1990 he’d basically be a Republican. Obama would work with the Republicans in Congress if the GOP wasn’t seeking to discredit the man at every turn, thereby holding the progress of the country and the ongoing economic recovery in check.

I remember wondering when President Obama was elected how the far right, who had so ginned themselves up into predicting apocalypse and pestilence, would react when they realized Obama the guy was clearly not a demon. The answer? The right wing went right on believing their own reality, making it up as they went along, and as the Tea Party took off to “reclaim America” (from what?) weeks after Obama’s inauguration, the right hasn’t looked back. Conservative talk, Fox News, the Koch Brothers and other billionaires have continued to enable America’s lunatic fringe in order to arrange lower taxes for themselves.

In the right’s rush to discredit the president before his administration had even gotten to work, they missed the fact President Obama is a steady, pragmatic leader, and the right, cool guy to have his hands on the button or take the 3:00 am phone call. If he perhaps is too much of a technocrat, he’s proven himself to be capable of competent and even bold leadership.

Seal Team Six comes to mind. Yes, Seal Team Six was the laudable outfit which ambushed Osama bin Laden, but Obama made a gutsy call to do so. When many in the room said wait, Obama asked the mission commander if the pieces were in place. They were. He said do it, knowing full well if the operation failed it could cost him the presidency. He said do it, knowing full well what happened to President Carter after he called off a mission and thought he was in the clear when disaster struck.

And you wonder why Obama has grayed out the last few years. Every day, this guy is fighting this war, in operations which go unreported and unheard.

At times, yes, Obama’s leadership has been uninspired, and in the case of health care reform, completely out to lunch while legislation was left to flounder too long in the congressional sausage-making machine. Obama needed to deliver additional leadership and direction on health care reform, and while he passed the legislation, he let others define the argument and control the narrative. And he’s learned from that.

Whatever faults one may find in Obama: his lack of environmental leadership, his reliance upon Bill Clinton to explain things to the American public in a pinch, his utter silence on gun control or the Assault Weapons Ban (he’s actually expanded gun rights in National Parks and other federal locales, not that the NRA would want you to know), Obama has amassed an impressive record in the face of a Congress which has pledged not to work with him and hold the nation hostage in order to discredit him. In short order, President Obama has, over the last four years, garnered a record worth running on:

  • Avoiding a Depression of cataclysmic proportions.
  • Saving the U.S. auto industry, and tens of thousands of jobs.
  • Passing meaningful, if imperfect health care reform. I love it when people yell socialism about Obamacare. If only. The Republicans can’t even admit when they’ve won, and on Obamacare, they got their way. Bob Dole’s 1996 health care plan combined with Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan equals no public option and a big, wet kiss to private insurance companies. In return we’re passing the pre-exisiting circumstances hurdle, and kids being able to stay on their parents’ insurance through 26, in this economy, is a big help. And while the plan should be called Romneycare as opposed to Obamacare, over time Obama’s legacy will benefit from having this nickname for the plan.
  • The end of Osama bin Laden.
  • Taking the war against al-Qaeda’s leadership directly, utilizing drones instead of boots on the ground to at last achieve the “surgical” operational capacity military planners had been bragging about since the Kuwait War but had yet to deliver. We can debate the merits and humanity of this campaign and the drone approach, but Obama has been extremely successful in, to put it bluntly, hunting down terrorists and killing them. And anyone else within 50 yards.
  • The end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
  • Two outstanding women on the Supreme Court. You need any more of a reason to vote for Obama? The Supreme Court. Guaranteed there will be one if not two more vacancies in the next four years.
  • Bringing the Iraq War to a close (we never should’ve been there in the first place).
  • Pledging to bring troops home from Afghanistan by 2014 (though they should just come back now).
  • Passed Wall Street reform.
  • “Recapitalized Banks,” i.e. approved a Treasury Dept. plan to lure private capital into the country’s largest banks via a “stress tests” (remember this?) of their balance sheets and a public-private fund to buy their “toxic” assets. This enabled banks to get back on their feet at essentially zero cost to taxpayers.
  • Significantly boosted fuel efficiency standards in 2011 which will nearly double fuel economy for cars across the board.
  • Started a program of competitive grants out of stimulus funds to encourage and reward states for education reform, i.e. investing in America.
  • While student loans remain totally and completely out of control, Obama kicked banks out of federal student loan programs and expanded pell grant spending.
  • Reversed Bush-era torture policies, i.e. if you think you’re torturing someone, you probably are.
  • Improved America’s image abroad by meeting with world leaders and engaging with them as global partners, instead of behaving in a bellicose, humiliating manner telling nations what to do. Granted, America is always going to be a little bellicose, but our dickhead quotient has gone down quite a bit overseas under Obama’s “I’ve got this” leadership.
  • Took the lead in a NATO coalition which assisted Libyan rebels in toppling Moammar Gaddafi, arguably the man behind the 1988 Pan Am Lockerbie bombing. Obama did this not by invading Libya, but by dealing from strength utilizing airpower to level the playing field for Libyan rebels against Gaddafi’s professionally-trained, mercenary army.
  • Delivered the news to Egypt’s Honsi Mubarak it was time to accept the fact dramatic, democratic change had rendered his authoritarian regime meaningless, and go.
  • After years of neglect and cronyism, brought FEMA back as an urgently necessary, effective federal response agency for Americans caught in the midst of disaster, which as we all know can come in the form of an earthquake, volcanic eruption, wildfire, terrorist attack, tornado or a hurricane. Disaster can strike anywhere, but as Hurricane Sandy recently proved, our warming climate will be throwing more violent weather at us, more often, and in bigger, nastier packages.

Oh, but if you like Mitt Romney, buck up. Mitt changed his tune after Sandy to say he now supports FEMA, after advocating for it’s removal as a federal agency and privatizing it in one of the innumerable Republican Rainman-style brain damage debates last year:

As my friend and lawyer says, “if you’re making money off of emergency relief, you’re doing it wrong.”

And then there’s this smug-a-thon from the Republican convention which you may recall:

Versus this Romney, who can’t seem to agree with the other Romney:

And sure, I could write all day about what a soulless flip-flopper Mitt Romney is who will say whatever he has to in order to become president, and who will come to Washington with all kinds of Tea Partier baggage, nutty Grover Norquist tax-cutters, and corporate extremists in tow for a secretive administration which will make Dick Cheney look like a chatterbox.

And again, Paul “fastest land animal on earth” Ryan would be Vice President. Do we really want Gabe from The Office as Vice President?

But don’t take my word for it, take it from the Salt Lake City Tribune endorsement of President Obama over their own Mitt Romney, in a piece titled “Too Many Mitts,” which closes with this summation:

In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.

Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.

So now it’s Election Day, and it’s your choice. Who do you want making the tough calls?

Partisan Democrat

Yes, I’m a partisan Democrat. I’ve never made any secret out of it and I’d be a liar if I said my desire to vote Democrat hasn’t colored my electoral conclusions. That being said, I’m not incapable of stepping out of a box to see other sides of an issue; frankly I wish more people today were capable of doing this. But like most people who identify with political parties, I do so because I feel the party’s values are more often in line with the issues I find most important.

I’m a Democrat because I trust the person with the D next to their name to make the best decision on everything from the environment (although, to be quite fair, the Democrats have been asleep at the wheel), to women’s issues, to realistic appraisals of economic matters, to respect for those who work for a living, to greater equality and greater access to health care, to a general desire to make sure too many people don’t fall too far behind the curve, so we don’t wind up with a gap between the rich and poor any wider than it has grown over the last 20 years.

With some unusual exceptions (I voted for John McCain in the 2000 Washington primary), I vote against Republicans because I believe in a woman’s right to choose, the sanctity of the environment as it relates to public health and the common good, and because I don’t think the rich need any more tax cuts. Republicans seem to enjoy running up the deficit, then bolting from the table and blaming someone else for not paying for it. I believe in government, and I’ve seen over my lifetime when people who appreciate government run it, it runs better. It runs the way it should. There are things government is obliged to do, but there are also things government can do, and do so in a manner which is responsible and constructive.

Republicans, especially these days, love to tell you how awful government is, and then, to paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke, get elected to office and prove it. Why would you vote for someone who distrusts or wants to dismantle government? If these candidates don’t have faith in the very office they’re running for, are they only seeking the position to do away with it?

Like Democrats, Republicans like to give jobs to their friends when they can. But after nearly 70 years of corporate welfare in the form of the military-industrial complex (which a career soldier and an outstanding, underrated Republican president named Dwight Eisenhower warned against on his way out of the White House in 1961) has resulted in business-friendly Republicans today ridiculously complaining about the cost of the Children’s Television Workshop or Food Stamps when the cost of one fighter jet could fund several years of PBS broadcasts, and one tank can pay for tens of thoudsands of meals. What do you think the public investment gets the better return on?

Security Hugs and Red Meat

Keep in mind, these are long-standing, pre-Tea Party gripes, when the Republican party could at least be counted upon to be an equal partner capable of negotiating in reasonably good faith (or just negotiating) for the sake of the nation, and when their paeans to God and Country were at least remotely earnest. Things began to change in the mid-1990s with Newt Gingrich’s pointlessly confrontational Congress, which, like the current Congress, was more interested in driving a popularly-elected Democratic president from office (or at the very least discrediting him at every move) than actually working with him to make the country better.

It was around this time on the heels of the Reagan era a bizarre GOP self-delusion began to take root, in which Republicans began to believe things were better before the 1960s counterculture. You know, when we were living under the constant threat of war with the Soviet Union (a threat which only became defused in the late 1980s), when the GOP-fueled Red Scare reached it’s peak with Joseph McCarthy, when women were treated as second-class citizens and aliens in the workplace, when a woman didn’t entirely have control over her own body, and when even stateside German POWs during World War II were treated better than African-Americans in southern restaurants solely because they were white.

Curiously, what Republicans leave out of these rosy reminisces of the late 1940s and 1950s is the fact the corporate tax rate was rather high, as was the tax on the nation’s top earners. In part, the tax rates were high on the rich so the nation could pay for the Cold War.

Read that sentence again: Tax rates were high on the rich so the nation could pay for the Cold War.

In the 1950s, the nation PAID for what it spent. It did this with taxes. Administrations didn’t kick the can down the road and defer taxes, they paid for it with tax revenue, and AT THE VERY SAME TIME built the best schools and infrastructure in the world, including the duly vaunted and venerable Interstate Highway system, wisely pushed by President Eisenhower. This was done by taxing the wealthiest at a higher rate than the middle class, ensuring the middle class had money to buy goods and services and drive the economy, which benefitted everyone, including the wealthiest Americans. Funny thing; you don’t hear many Republicans recalling those fond days when everyone paid their fair share.

The desire among Republicans to revisit the 1950s has today morphed into the silly-if-it-wasn’t-so-tiring positioning statements of American exceptionalism, and a weird, pathological need to pat America on the back at every turn, instead of acknowledging the uniqueness of the American character while also weighing the work which needs to continue in order to make the United States “a more perfect union.” We’re not perfect, so let’s keep aiming for that, shall we? The American character is robust enough to not require a security hug every 30 minutes.

In 1979 President Jimmy Carter delivered his now-famous “malaise” speech, in which he urged Americans to put their differences aside, lace up their boots, not look to the TV and media for idealized visions of success, and instead get to work doing our jobs making America great.

It was the last time an American president actually levelled with the American people, challenged the nation to find it’s confidence, and essentially “stop whining.” And, coupled with the yearlong Iran Hostage Crisis, look at what it got Carter in his race against Ronald Reagan in 1980: a landslide loss.

Despite Reagan’s campaign-ready sunniness and eagerness to tell the American people what they wanted to hear, Reagan’s real attitude, and the attitude of the GOP over the last 30 years, was aptly summed up in 1981, when Reagan had the solar panels Jimmy Carter installed on the roof of the White House just two years earlier dismantled, removed, and thrown away.

It took President Obama to at last return solar panels to the roof of the White House.

Trickle-Down Extremism

By 2001, fueled by the rise of right-wing media, the dismissive attitude displayed by Reagan early in his first term had devolved into the false premise of “I got mine, you can go piss off,” which resulted in the U.S. acquiescing to two tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 at the expense of the first surplus in decades. Lest we forget, the second of those two tax cuts came after 9/11 and the ill-advised invasion of Iraq. It’s still stunning to me the second of these needless tax cuts was passed on the backs of middle class taxpayers while the nation was mired in two (!) wars.

The willingness of the GOP to exploit the nation’s economic fault lines in order to enable economic extremism, sadly, no longer surprises me. If anything, the influence of Wall Street is now far too steeped in the Democratic party as well. But the money lost from public coffers from these two tax cuts is incalculable, and inexcusable when considering the surplus the Bush administration was handed in 2001 upon having the presidency handed to them by the Supreme Court.

Were Democrats party to some of the bad ideas from the last dozen years, like the needless tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and the advent of the Iraq War? You bet. But more often than not, they were not the originators. Granted, a legislator not voting their conscience, and instead cowardly voting for what they know to be bad legislation is sin enough. But proposing it, putting it forward, and using the most cynical political machinations in order to pass it is unforgivable. To my eyes and many years of awareness and experience with the politics of this nation, this approach has more often than not fallen at the feet of the Republican party.

And while the GOP was once home to at least responsible voices of moderation like Gerald Ford or Hugh Scott, over the last 30 years it has grown more economically extreme and more cruel, especially since President Reagan enabled the end of the Fairness Doctrine on the public’s airwaves in 1987 in favor of “letting the free market decide” (as though what is most popular or lucrative is the best, most responsible use of airwaves which belong to each and every citizen). The rise of conservative (even though it’s radical, not conservative) AM talk radio and the ancillary industry of right-wing noise has effectively pushed the nation further and further to the right since 1992.

In doing so, it has also pushed the Democratic party to the right. Evidence of this is the absence of any kind of Democratic party position on a renewal of the assault weapons ban or any form of gun control, as well as an abandonment on a leadership role on environmental matters, particularly in the realm of Climate Change, which only five short years ago in 2007 was considered to be a non-controversial matter. In fact, before his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, Sen. John McCain included climate change as a part of his stump speech, and advocated reasonable, centrist positions on the matter.

The Phony Left/Right Dynamic and Third Party Pipe Dream

While the outdated nature of traditional American center left/center right models for the Democratic and Republican parties were becoming clear as early as 1994, and certainly since 2002, the Tea Party’s rapid rise in 2009 (fueled by the Big Money of the Koch Brothers and similar Astroturfing organizations) and the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling the following year unleashed a major transformation upon the U.S. political landscape. These two events helped complete the transformation of the Republican party from any semblance of center-right standard-bearer where extreme elements were kept in check, into a full-borne radical right-wing machine.

It is clear from the political spectrum of today there is an enormous moderate party which comfortably caters to business and progressive interests alike. This is called the Democratic party. And there is an extremist, far-right party in which nearly all the voices of moderation (or good sense) which could have gained traction in centrist races just four years ago have been driven from the ranks in favor of any candidate who signs a Grover Norquist (who?) pledge not to raise taxes, and which will embrace even the most extreme aspects of Obama Derangement Syndrome. Anything goes for these low-information, logic-defying voters, save for actually coming to terms with their uglier impulses, be it racial, class-driven, class shame, or partisanship at the expense of national identity. Republicans claim to love this country, but seem to hate a lot of the people who live here. They’ve enabled the ugliest impulses of some Americans, and coddled some of the most hateful, extreme positions.

We are today dealing with a conservative element in this country which is not conservative, and which eschews even the moderation such conservative heroes as Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater (in his later career) were capable of, in favor of right-wing political, religious, and xenophobic extremism wrapped in shouted, bullying, star-spangled tones. As far as Fox News goes, they and AM talk radio are responsible for the logjam in Congress today, and the resentment-fueled, conspiracy theory-driven mania and extremism of one of the nation’s political parties.

The cumulative effect of 20 years of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et al, is clear, as many Americans can on longer tell the difference between sensational, ratings-driven monologues designed to make sure you tune in tomorrow, and responsible public policy. The congressional careers of Michelle Bachman, Joe Walsh and Allen West are prime examples of this disconnect, and embrace of an absurdly cruel, selfish, and phony religiosity.

What’s missing is a genuine progressive party and a real party of the political left.

I don’t know if I see myself as an emissary or member of this party, but I do believe the voice is desperately needed. While many in this country believe we need a third party as a “middle” party, they’re mistaken in believing this would somehow be a moderating influence between Republicans and Democrats. The Democratic party IS the party of the political center in American politics. The Republican party is the party of the right, and every day, becomes more and more a party for the fringe and far right only.

What’s needed is the activism of the left and Occupy Wall Street funneled into political action and constructive policy. Greens have had limited success in a few races since the mid-1990s, and Libertarians are occasionally capable of reaching around to meet a left-leaning, progressive position, but the great power vacuum in American politics is on the left. There is an absence of a party there, but not an absence of ideas to populate this vacuum. This is where Third Party advocates need to focus their efforts, and where a third party will most likely take root in the U.S. political landscape. We need it.

Now vote already.

Seriously, let's not go here again. VOTE already, people.

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