Election Day is always exciting to me. It’s not only the day we may get some new candidates for the November election, but it’s also the day we get our mailboxes back, at least for a while. I have never understood what it is about direct mail that the campaign operatives find so enticing, unless of course they’re also in the direct mail business.
They‘ve told me they like mailers because you can pick your audience, which is partially true. However, opponents know that too, which is why you get a continuous stream of colored postcards extolling the virtue of some candidate posing with their spouse, their children, their dog, their cat, their parents (for the older demographic) and sometimes their car (a souped-up Chevy if you’re looking for the NASCAR voter). Each of those pieces costs 50 cents to $1, and most end up in the trash, which is one of the reasons why elections are so expensive.
Then there are the endorsement cards mailed to tens of thousand of households from official-sounding organizations like “Democrats for Fiscal Responsibility.” Those are nothing more than professional direct mail operations you get onto by writing a check. Finally, Election Day arrives and we actually go to the polls for the primary. After that, things usually get quiet until September when it all starts up again.
This is also a very exciting election because it’s the first test of the new top-two primary rule. In effect, whichever candidates finish 1-2 in the primary get to face off again in the November race. If you’re a sports fan, this primary is the semi-finals. And because it’s so new, everyone is uncertain as to how it’s going to play out. Are we going to have two Democrats running against each other in the final? Or perhaps two Republicans? I know the driving force behind the rule changes was to get more moderate candidates. It remains to be seen if it actually works out that way in practice.
Meanwhile, things keep moving along in Malibu, though the Reiner Initiative may have hit a snag. The initiative would require voter approval of specific plans for commercial projects over 20,000 square feet and more restrictive rules for formula retail (meaning larger national or regional chains). The snag is a lawyer’s battle over whether council must set it on this November’s ballot or whether the council has the right to put it over until April 2016. I for one think we should get to the issue as soon as we can and see no good reason to stall the initiative past this November, even though it may turn out that the council has a legal right to do so. Until this gets decided, this town’s politics are in suspension, which is just not a good idea. Let’s get it to the polls and vote it either up or down.
Nationally, this week’s scandal de jour seems to be problems with the Veterans Administration. Frankly, they’ve known about it for a long time and the issues raised are not particularly surprising. Over the years, Congress has voted and the President has signed all sorts of things for our veterans, particularly those who served during wartime.
Well, the wartime service period in WWII was five years. The wartime service period in Korea was five years. The wartime service period in Vietnam was 11 years. The wartime service in the Gulf Wars is up to 24 years and, as of now, is open-ended. We have 5.4 million veterans who have served in the Gulf Wars since the start date — Sept. 2, 1990. California alone has almost 2 million Gulf War veterans. Is it any wonder that the VA is overwhelmed with veterans? As they age it’s only going to get worse.
So, when I hear politicians say they’re shocked at what’s going on, I’m a little bit cynical. If Congress really wants to fix it, get the older Vets into Medicare and create a program where Vets can use private doctors if there are not enough VA doctors, among other fixes. But in order to do it, you need Congressional action and the House is not about to do anything that would make the President look good, so a gridlocked Washington is going to do nothing but point fingers. So what happens? The President does everything by executive order, the Congress screams about the usurping of power and the game goes on, accomplishing very little.
I wish I could see some sunshine somewhere on the horizon. Perhaps the losses suffered by the Tea Party, and the return of a sensible Republican Party will certainly move us in the right direction. The midterm election will give us some indication of the direction the country will be going in the near future.