“The only people truly bound by campaign promises are the voters who believe them.”
― Christopher Hitchens
There are two types of promises: comforting lies, and those meant to be kept. Campaign promises differ from normal ones only in the choice of subject; where a doctor might tell a panicked child, “Now, you might feel a little pinch,” a politician will promise to end world hunger. The trouble is, when it’s a politician, folks tend to believe them and later end up disappointed.
The 2020 DNC Primary race has begun, and candidates are off to a great start. They’re running on great promises, things like free healthcare for all, free college, universal basic income, criminal justice reform, corporate accountability, ending the Electoral College, gun control, election finance, and balancing the budget. What’s more, some of the candidates actually seem to believe what they’re saying.
Now, I’d hate for you folks to get sucked in by the impossible and vote for change that’ll never happen. So pay attention for the next little while, and I’ll fill you in on what’s real, what’s more-or-less real, and what’s pure imagination. That way, you can make an informed decision about what’s really worth voting for.
- End the Electoral College: In order to do this properly, we’d need a Constitutional Amendment. That would require an overwhelming majority in Congress in addition to a willing president. It’s simply not going to happen this time around no matter how hard you wish for it. Now, there is a half-baked California idea where states agree to cast their electoral votes in favor of whichever candidate wins the national majority vote. That’s all well and good in concept, but unless it’s written into law by every state, it doesn’t have much force in practice. And, again: No presidential candidate can make this happen. Governors, maybe; presidents, no.
- Common-Sense Gun Control: To every complex problem there exists a simple, easy-to-understand, common-sense solution that just won’t work. Gun control is just such a problem. They talk about an “Assault Weapons Ban” and “Universal Background Checks” as though they’re panaceas, but handguns are used in fifty times more crimes than any military-style weapon, and a lot of the recent domestic mass shooters passed their background checks just fine.It’s quite possible to create an effective gun ban, but it won’t be simple or common-sense. It’ll be draconic and will involve mass seizures and not a few deaths as police gun down resisters and vice-versa. Alternately, we might see tiny changes in the law that we can pretend will fix things while ignoring the bigger picture.
- Campaign Finance Reform: This one’s actually possible. The down side is, anyone who is promising it is probably refusing PAC money and corporate donations. That means they’ll have a disadvantage in the general election — so much so that they’ll probably lose. Still, if you’re in favor, vote for it.
- Abortion: No president will end Roe v. Wade; that’s not what presidents do. That’s for the Supreme Court, and it would take an awful lot of justices an awful lot of courage to do something like that. On the off chance it does get successfully challenged, remember: It’s a bad decision made on poor grounds. That’s not just my opinion; it’s that of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Eventually, over the long course of time, Roe will one day be overturned. If at that point society decides that it still needs protected abortions, a new set of laws or even a constitutional amendment will take the place of this fragile judgment. Right now, an overwhelming majority of Americans are in favor of at least some abortion rights, and if it happens tomorrow it’ll be replaced almost immediately.
- Free Healthcare: America wants it. This is an idea whose time has come. However, even with the best will in the world, there is no way we can afford it, and even if we could there just aren’t enough doctors. No one person can change this in a four-year presidential term.Having said that, there’s plenty that needs to be done, and the sooner we start the job the better off we’ll all be. Right now we have a highly inefficient system designed to milk customers for profit, and every step along the way there’s another corporation getting its fair cut. We need to reform first and then start worrying about who pays for what — and we need to start immediately.
- Universal Basic Income: It’s not a bad idea on the face of it; people shouldn’t need to live in poverty. But it’ll take a long time for something as novel as this to penetrate the minds of the electorate, and longer to suffuse Congress. Even then, there are obstacles like universal rent control to work out. In any event, no matter how much you like the idea, it’s not going to happen this time around.
- Tough On Crime / War On Drugs: In case you didn’t get the memo, the War On Drugs has been a complete failure. Fifty years of punitive laws, and we’ve ended up with an “Opioid Epidemic” and 1% of our population in prison. Which should be enough to explain why Tough On Crime doesn’t work either. And yet, each is a consistent vote-winner, and politicians always campaign on these slogans. Either they know better and are lying to you for your vote, or they’re too stupid to be in government.
I could go on at great length; in fact, on most of these topics, I have. You’re welcome to read my articles, some of which will be linked below.
But if your time today is limited — and whose isn’t? — just remember: Most of these are too good to be true. There are some that are possible, but even those solutions won’t work quite as advertised. At the very least, that’s because they’re all, each and every one of them, ten thousand times more complicated than you might expect.
- Electoral College: https://gnerphk.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/discard-the-electoral-college-pros-and-cons/
- Gun Control: https://gnerphk.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/on-banning-assault-rifles/
- Campaign Finance Reform: https://gnerphk.wordpress.com/2019/03/18/campaign-finance-reform/
- Abortion: https://gnerphk.wordpress.com/2019/03/21/on-abortion-as-a-political-issue/
- Healthcare: https://gnerphk.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/my-healthcare-plan-dammit/
- War On Drugs: https://gnerphk.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/there-is-no-opioid-epidemic-dammit/