Garlic & Grass No. 1: The Vote
WITH GREAT DELIGHT I present to you the first issue of Garlic & Grass, a new political web magazine. Every month Garlic & Grass will bring you views of the American political landscape from a diversity of interesting writers. It will be available in two formats: as a convenient e-mail, and formatted live online.
Garlic & Grass seeks to enliven our political discourse without trumpeting an overarching viewpoint. Its founding is inspired by a desire to understand and counteract the new repressive trends taking hold in American politics.
Our elected leaders favor war when the people favor peace. Our natural environment is disintegrating around us. Our corporations steal millions from their own employees. Security has overtaken liberty as America's creed and now our leaders use us as soldiers to create and maintain a global empire, attacking fellow nations without provocation. Tremendous greed in a few makes tremendous poverty in many, and the politicians and corporations that wield power over our lives show little interest in solutions.
Change is necessary and Garlic & Grass seeks to be a forum for effecting progress. Let's start with questions: What state of our democracy has led to this? What do conservatism and liberalism mean today? Are our two old political parties corrupt? How much reform is needed? Or is it time for revolution? Has our economy failed? Does capitalism fail to recognize the value of the environment? Does capitalism create cycles of Great Depressions? Do corporations or governments have more power today? Do the diverse segments of our population view the problems differently?
Welcome to Garlic & Grass
This first issue is entitled The Vote. It focuses on the state of our electoral democracy: How and why do Americans vote? Why do so many choose not to vote? Does low voter turnout constitute an emergency? How can we improve our elections?
Personally, as a child growing up in the cold war, I remember being aware of an ominous foreign them. I also remember shouting: "This is a free country -- I can do what I want!" Yes, I had absorbed it all: they were bad and didn't have a free country because they had communism; we were good and had a free country because we had democracy.
It took me years to notice the first error of my childhood logic -- that I
had been comparing apples and oranges since communism is an economic model
and democracy is a political system. It's only taken me a few more to look at
the connection between free country and democracy. Does democracy really ensure freedom? If so, how is our democracy doing?
Well, as far as participation goes, our democracy ranks dead last in the
'free world.' When the not-so-free world is tossed in, we
come in 134th
out of 172 countries. Half of us don't even bother to vote, and many others
don't vote for whom they believe in for fear of 'wasting their vote.'
So it's time for change, and this issue of Garlic & Grass examines our democracy.
Sven Eberlein opens up the discussion by comparing our electoral system with Germany's, and then Steven Hill and Rob Richie of the Center for Voting and Democracy analyze the 2002 elections and call for fundamental election reform. Hill goes on to offer a look at what an election might look like in 2011 if we resist reform, and I offer my take on electoral reform in "How to Hit 90% Turnout by 2010," claiming four bold but sensible steps could do the trick.
Jonathan Trager offers a Libertarian perspective on necessary electoral reform, and then Rob Arnow of the Green Party touts serious grassroots voting and organizing as the best ways to create a better society.
While it would be difficult to blame Ralph Nader for the Democrats failures at the polls a few weeks ago, some haven't yet let him off the hook for 2000. In "Spoiled? Ralph Nader's Campaign and the Voting Patterns of the 2000 Election," Columbia University Professor of History and Political Science Manning Marable looks at the 2000 election and provides an African American perspective on statistics.
Finally, in a G&G Wellness Special, I take a look at voting from a mental and spiritual perspective, suggesting that truthful, heartfelt voting can be a model for an assertive and healthy relationship with others as well as with one's own mind and spirit.
I hope that this and all issues of Garlic & Grass will spark new conversations and catalyze new examinations of politics.
*Statistics taken from the International Institute on Democracy and Electoral Assistance
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