Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dean to Obama: move left, boost the base

Former Vermont Governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean recently spoke out about the need for President Barack Obama to reclaim his progressive base.

"You can't turn your back on [those who helped elect you] because if you do, it's going to be hard to find any friends," the former head of the Democratic Party told the AP.

Dean's right -- turning on the base is sure to keep Obama in trouble. Almost half of all Democratic-leaning voters would support a challenger to Obama in the 2012 Democratic primaries. If that happens Obama may seem weak, making it more difficult for him to win a re-election campaign.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oregon mosque burned in reaction to Christmas tree bomb plot

Two tales of religious intolerance in a single community end with two different outcomes, one of them a sigh of relief, the other a tragedy.

On Friday evening, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born teen, attempted to set off explosives at a Portland, Oregon, Christmas tree lighting. The plot failed when Mohamud attempted to detonate the explosives from his cell phone twice, not realizing that the explosives provided to him were part of a sting orchestrated by the FBI.

Many lives could have been lost had Mohamud actually carried the act out with legitimate explosive devices. His capture is something everyone can be happy about.

Unfortunately, the event brought about violent backlash towards the peaceful Muslim community in Portland.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Despite these hard times, we have much to be thankful for. Enjoy your turkey (or any other meal you might have today)!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sarah Palin's importance greatly exaggerated

On the day after her new book release, as well as the day after her daughter got third place on Dancing With The Stars, it seems appropriate to discuss just why it is that former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is so gosh-darn intriguing to millions of Americans.

Of course, "intrigue" can mean different things to different people. There is a positive aspect to being intriguing and a negative one as well. Most Americans fall into the latter: more than half have an unfavorable view of her, and most believe the Tea Party endorsed conservative would be unfit to run the country, an office she has recently made clear she is considering pursuing.

Still, those who have a positive views of Palin do so with stark enthusiasm -- mimicking in some ways how liberals were excited over a senatorial candidate from Illinois in 2004. To truly understand that enthusiasm, from where it stems (and possibly, for us on the left, how to properly contain it), requires a deeper look at the half-term ex-Alaskan governor.

Conservatives see Palin as a powerful/protective mother figure -- indeed, she has embraced the title of "mama grizzly" that some have given to her. Her patriotism, her governing style, and her criticism of the Obama administration all fit this perspective: highly critical of anything left of her beliefs, she is unyielding in her remarks, even if they are sometimes (or more often than not, most times) based on fiction. Think of the mom you've seen during soccer/football/baseball games, who is screaming her head off in support for her son or daughter, who makes the T-shirt with her child's face on it, and who believes that every time her son/daughter falls down a foul should be called on the opposing team, even when her child simply tripped on their own shoelaces.

Palin's politics are much the same -- and the child in this analogy is the United States of America, at least when conservative principles are being applied to it. When Obama was campaigning for the presidency, making criticisms on the past eight years of Republican rule, it was Palin who led the charge of many within her party, making the case against Obama himself and not his policies. "Palling around with terrorists" became Palin's main talking point, encouraging her hard-right supporters to make similar assumptions about Obama's true allegiances based on false pretenses.

Palin's "protectorate mother" attitude appeals to her conservative followers, but it bewilders the heck out of progressives, who, according to neuro-political guru George Lakoff, base their ideology on the nurturant parent model of politics. "Progressive morality, like the nurturant parent model, is based on empathy and responsibility," Lakoff and his colleagues state in their 2006 book "Talking Points."

While Palin is able to come off as a nurturant parent to her base, her politics don't reflect such standards. She shuns anti-Christian belief structures, insisting that America is a Christian nation. She also believes in gutting government programs, including those that benefit the most disadvantaged of Americans, while supporting huge tax breaks to the wealthiest of wage earners.

Her attitude and her positions are exactly what the right is looking for. Conservatives are getting what they want out of any potential candidate: the unbending support of policy based on hard-right ideology and the assurances of protection from Washington liberals, a fear that is oftentimes exaggerated if it exists at all.

The rest of the country, however, is left dumbfounded by Palin. How is it that a supposedly "nurturant protector" can go against increasing aid to families that need health insurance? How can a person who is trying to behave as a sideline referee be austere in her defense of tax subsidies for the rich? How can such vile language emanate from a woman who is trying to come off to millions of Americans as a mother figure? (And is this behavior being repeated by her daughter Willow in an even more extreme way?)

This is why the rest of the American public (outside of the Tea Party faithful) can't get behind Sarah Palin: her contradictions and manipulation of facts outweigh the image she is trying to convey. While Americans don't want a government that creates a dependent class of people, they also don't want a government that is heartless and uncaring -- and through all the careful calculations, through the reality TV shows she puts her and her family through to gain more exposure, and through the Twitter and Facebook status updates where she puts her extremist views on display, Americans pointedly reject the notion that the country needs someone like her leading them, someone who is by all accounts focused solely on her own political advancement on the national stage.

But Palin is indeed charismatic: ignoring this point would be a mistake. She doesn't need any help working over a crowd, so long as it's full of her supporters. The base of conservative America follows her more intently than teenage girls follow the Jonas Brothers. And as the leader of the supposedly-leaderless Tea Party movement, the media tend to sensationalize her importance on the American political landscape.

Unfortunately for Palin, Americans don't support her views. More supported or wanted more out of the president's health care plan than felt it went too far, meaning that the majority of the citizenry was just as left or more so than the president on the issue. More are for tighter financial regulations on Wall Street. Most Americans support extending unemployment benefits to those who have been without work the longest.

Sarah Palin may seem like a popular woman, may have a strong hold on the media's attention span, but make no mistake: her views contradict the direction Americans want to take this country in. She's likely to receive a lot of attention this week due to her book and her daughter's third-place finish on Dancing With The Stars, but we shouldn't let that distract us from this known truth: America can't survive under the policies Palin is pushing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thoughts on economic regulations, and why they help society

Reasonable people within society can see problems associated with things being left unregulated. Most people don't like to admit it, but they do support regulation of some kind on most everything in life. An unregulated sport can result in massive amounts of injuries, or in illegal drug use to enhance performance on the field. Unregulated speech rights can allow a person to divulge state secrets to foreign enemies without reprimand. Unregulated rights to own any weapon desirable may lead some Americans someday to demand private nuclear arsenal. The examples could go on and on.

So why do some minds in our culture insist upon creating a completely unregulated marketplace? It's silly to believe that, in this singular aspect of life, things would actually be BETTER if left untouched, especially given the historical context of what types of societies unregulated markets create.

It was under less restrictive governments that we saw child labor, inhumane working conditions, unsanitary handling of food, and an extremely long work week without just compensation. Unregulated practices in the insurance industry brought about denial of coverage based on preexisting medial conditions (which sometimes resulted in the deaths of those who thought they were doing the decent thing by purchasing insurance). And despite huge losses, Wall Street investors and big bank CEOs saw huge bonuses the result of taxpayer bailouts, all because the government believed that placing any stipulation on how they could spend them would stifle economic recovery.

This isn't to say that ALL regulatory practices are good. Where regulations truly do inhibit economic prosperity, where "red tape" truly does affect the ordinary person's ability to prosper in a negative way, a remedy should be sought to correct the situation in question.

But the vilification of any regulation whatsoever, the belief that no reasonable steps should be taken to prevent fraud, abuse, or exploitation in the marketplace, is ridiculous. The only thing more insane than the belief that a regulation-free society is best for America is the supposed solution offered by those who believe such a thing: Free-marketers claim that any dastardly actions taken by corporate elitists can be countered by other free-market principles, such as not buying the product/service if you believe it's reprehensible to do so. But that wouldn't be the case, for example, if it were a product like health insurance, a situation where people NEED the product, could get charged a large amount for it, and receive very little in actual benefits compared to the dollar amount they spent purchasing the "product."

In other words, in a completely unregulated marketplace, you're being held at gunpoint. With some regulations in place, there's less incentive for corporate elitists to play the bandit. Regulations are put on the books in order to protect the consumer from corporatists that want nothing more than a profit. The free-market is allowed to stand in place for the most part, with unjust actions by uncaring corporate interests being punished by societal referees (aka the state).

Regulations are helpful to the American public. It's time to stop the nonsense, stop the tirade against the supposed belief that all regulatory practices are bad for the economy. It's a belief that isn't grounded on any factual evidence.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Body scanners at Dane Co. Airport, elsewhere, violate Fourth Amendment

Airports all across the nation are investing in full-body scanners to help prevent terrorists and other criminals from bringing weapons onto planes. The scanners are widely controversial, seen by critics as an invasion of privacy -- the images produced by the scanners allow those viewing them to see airline passengers as they would appear naked.

Though most Americans support the use of the scanners, a growing number of airline passengers are starting to have doubts about the machines.

Dane County Regional Airport is likely to get the scanners sometime soon, and General Mitchell in Milwaukee already has them. If Wisconsin travelers refuse to do the full-body scan, they must be patted down before boarding the plane -- a practice that is getting more invasive for many airline passengers across the nation, who often describe the pat-downs as "groping" or as coming close to what many consider sexual harassment in any other context.

Most believe the scanners are necessary -- but do they meet the standards set by our laws, and most importantly by the Constitution? Hardly. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The question before us is this: is the use of scanners a violation of a person's privacy rights, an unreasonable search of a person without just cause? If the scanners are being used on every passenger, then yes, it is. Checking the bags of every person boarding the plane is one thing -- even metal detectors make sense to an extent.

But these invasive searches -- allowing airport personnel to see its passengers in the nude or to be nearly groped in order to fly, is an unreasonable approach to trying to figure out if anyone flying that day is carrying a weapon. If there is reason to suspect a person might be carrying a weapon, a reasonable search of that person might be using these scanners. But until there is a just -- and reasonable -- cause to do so, the use of these scanners on all passengers violates the Fourth Amendment.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Earmark moratorium not even a dent in federal spending

GOP leaders this week announced they will push for a moratorium on all earmark spending -- the little bits of spending that appear in bills that have little to do with the actual bill in question. (Think "bridge to nowhere")

Commonly called "pork" by insiders, the ban on earmarks by the GOP plays right into the hands of Tea Party proponents, who voted largely for candidates that promised to end the practice of sliding unwanted spending into important bills being voted upon by Congress.

Any cuts to spending should be celebrated, especially if they're cuts that aren't necessary. Pork spending can be voted upon separately, can be created through bills on their own and, if believed to be important enough, passed by Congress and signed by the president, making them into law.

But while we can look at this moratorium as a good deal, it shouldn't be celebrated TOO much: earmarks make up less than three-tenths of a percentage point of federal spending.

This chart symbolizes how small a dent the moratorium will be, with the blue symbolizing the amount of earmarks currently part of the federal budget:

Just food for thought on the whole earmark debate.

Trending left: Americans continue to abandon conservatism

More signs that the American people are shifting to the left, and that the recent election results favoring Republicans are just a blip in the long run.

A new poll released last week shows that, while most Americans favor keeping the Bush tax cuts in place, a sizable number (44 percent) favor repealing them outright, or at the very least repealing the tax subsides for the top one percent of income earners -- those making over $250,000 per year.

On the issue of health reform, Americans are even more liberal: less than four in ten Americans want to repeal the bill that Obama and Democrats passed, while 58 percent of Americans want the reforms to either stay in place or go even further in changing the health industry.

Opposition to the health reform law is only strong among Republicans -- 61 percent of those in the GOP want its repeal. But both independents and self-identified Democrats want the reforms to stay in place or to do more to change health care in the United States, with two-thirds of independents voicing this opinion and 85 percent of Democrats concurring.

On gay and lesbian rights, the country is moving towards liberalism as well. More than three-in-four Americans favor repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the outdated military policy that forbids gays and lesbians from serving openly.

As I've stated in other posts before this (1, 2), the country is trending towards liberalism despite the resurgence of the Republican Party in the midterm elections and the media's concentration of the Tea Party's antics. The turnout for this election year was largely conservative voters who were upset with Obama and Democrats in general, while those who normally support progressive policies were uninspired this time around to vote (only half of the state of Wisconsin, for example, voted in 2010, compared to nearly 70 percent who did in 2008).

Expect a resurgence of the Democrats come 2012, with Obama winning reelection as well. Though it will be likely a long, hard-fought election season, American demographics suggest that Obama won't lose, at least to those who have suggested they will run against him.

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Open Letter to Governor-elect Scott Walker

I wrote the following letter to Scott Walker, the governor-elect for the state of Wisconsin:

Dear Governor-Elect Scott Walker:

When I first heard about the proposed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, I was pretty excited. As a Madison native who also has ties to Milwaukee, I knew that I would frequent the train several times a year as a passenger. I could visit friends, go to a few Brewers' or Bucks' games, take my son to various museums and events, and maybe even enroll in a once-a-week class through my Alma Matter, UW-Milwaukee.

My trips to Wisconsin's largest city would no longer be constrained by time restraints -- it would be as easy as hopping on a train and getting there without the hassle of preparing for a semi-lengthy car trip (no gas to purchase, no lunches to pack, etc.). I also learned the project might eventually tie Milwaukee and Madison up to the Twin Cities area, making it easier to visit family I have there as well (no more six hour mind-numbing car rides -- my family and I could relax on the train, read a book, and have very little to worry about).

As I looked beyond the impact that the rail line would have on my life, I began to realize that this project was more than a convenience for myself but also an investment in Wisconsin. The federal government established this project because it felt Wisconsin could capitalize from it -- jobs to create the rail line would number in the thousands, revenue from those jobs would be injected into the state, and commercial interests would develop around the rail, especially at the various stops the train might have made.

It was a shock to me when I read about how Gov. Doyle had ceased work on the project, citing his soon-to-be-replacement governor's insistence that it be canceled. I further read how you wish the money could be spent elsewhere, on Wisconsin's crumbling roads, and how the dollar amount for other projects the state was facing would number in the billions.

While I agree with you that our infrastructure needs require attention from all levels of government, passing up this opportunity would be a grave mistake. The project is going to happen, but whether it happens in Wisconsin or not is up to you and your incoming Republican legislature.

The future of our state is in your hands, Mr. Walker; and while I didn't vote for you myself, I am pleading with you, as my new governor, to make the right choice. Don't let thousands of jobs and potentially millions of dollars in revenue leave our state, go south of the border to Illinois or elsewhere in our country.

I don't view you as a villain, Mr. Walker -- I believe that you truly care about Wisconsin, and though we may disagree on some issues, I know your heart is in the right place. Thank you for your consideration, and may you make your decision with clarity and rational judgment.

Sincerely yours,
Chris Walker

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A few thoughts on Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. Many will overlook its importance, will forget to even think about it, or might not even pay attention to the many observances going on around our country.

But today is an important day nonetheless. We must not ever forget the important sacrifices our Veterans made in order to defend our country. These sacrifices included separation from loved ones, extended stays in lands not familiar to them, and in some cases perishing on the battle lines defending America from her enemies.

We may not always agree with the wars our country has waged. We may not always agree with the policies our leaders have established, the doctrines they have put in place that don't necessarily coincide with the values that Americans have long respected.

But this day isn't about our leaders; it isn't about political figures that have created wars, about lawmakers that have sent our soldiers into battlefields, whether justified or not.

This day is about those who served our country, who did what was asked of them, who defended our freedoms hoping they may last longer through the sacrifices they had made. This day is about those Americans who could have led a life of comfort, who could have said, "This duty is best left for someone else to handle," but who instead took on the role of defender so that their sons and daughters may see a better future. This day is about those who did what was asked of them, whether popular or not, because it was important, in their eyes, to keep America safe from danger whenever possible, and to fight its enemies whenever necessary.

So honor a vet today. Thank someone wearing the uniform. Tell a friend or family member of yours who may have served our country just how much you're thankful for their sacrifice. And if you can, give to the USO. It's an organization that does tremendous work for our soldiers, both abroad and at home.

God bless our veterans.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's in store for WI come 2012?

Originally posted at Dane101.com:

With the political defeat of Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, we're left to wonder: what's next for Wisconsin come 2012? First, we're going to see a larger electorate. This year's election was crippled by the fact that just under one-half of eligible voters bothered to show up. In 2008, nearly 70 percent of Wisconsin voters who could vote did.

Those voters were widely influenced by the presidential election -- and their votes for other offices trickled down respectively. Democrats running for federal as well as state offices cleaned house, riding on the coattails of Barack Obama as he coasted easily to electoral victory.

In 2012, strong Republican districts held by Paul Ryan, Tom Petri, and Jim Sensenbrenner will likely stay Republican. The same can be said of strong Democratic seats held by Tammy Baldwin and Gwen Moore. But expect Wisconsin's 8th Congressional district to once again be up for grabs -- and to be influenced by whichever party wins the presidency.

And which party might that be? Believe it or not, it's likely to be the Democrats. Barack Obama should have a relatively easy re-election campaign, especially considering who his GOP rivals might be. The further to the right the GOP goes, the more likely Obama will win -- especially if the GOP picks Sarah Palin, who very well could win the nomination (she has a favorable rating among Republicans of 82 percent, the highest among all GOP contenders). But Palin's favorability among voters overall is dismal -- more than two-thirds of Americans don't think she's qualified to be the next commander-in-chief.

With that in mind, let's return to Wisconsin: Herb Kohl, Wisconsin's other senator, will have to face re-election himself come 2012. Rumors abound that Kohl might retire rather than face another election (the aging senator will be 77 when the 2012 general election rolls around).

Incumbents generally do better than challengers, so if Kohl stays in it's likely he's going to keep his seat if Obama carries the state as well. If Kohl drops out, it becomes a tighter situation, and depending upon how far left the Democratic candidate goes versus how right the candidate for the Republicans is, it could be anyone's game in my view. In short, the senate seat will lean Democratic, with it favoring the Democrats more if Kohl stays put and/or if the Republicans field extremist candidates in both the presidential and senatorial campaigns.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A short absence...

I've had a short hiatus from this blog (my last post was about five days ago). In that time, I've been taking a break, working on some other writings (a book among them!), and overall just relaxing after what was a pretty stressful election season.

Tomorrow, you should expect a blog. And Veterans Day is Thursday -- don't forget to thank a Vet. Expect a blog on that day, too.

Ok. Bye now.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How Russ lost

Originally posted at Dane101.com:

Democratic incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold lost his bid to convince voters that he deserved another six-year term serving the state of Wisconsin. In his place come January will be a pro-corporate, anti-government conservative who has no political experience whatsoever in his lifetime.

How did this happen? Many of us are asking that question, some of us out loud to family and friends. Feingold was a champion of progressive causes, but also a staunch defender of the U.S. Constitution, so much so that his defense of gun rights went further than what Ron Johnson ever articulated during the campaign. Much of what led to his loss, however, transcended what people thought about Feingold himself and involved the national outlook, disregarding what candidate Johnson would provide for the state and focusing entirely on misidentifying factors in Feingold's career as Senator.

There are four main reasons as to why Feingold may have lost this race. First, Johnson represented a fresh face to Wisconsin citizens whereas Feingold was considered a part of the "Washington establishment." No matter how wrong that assessment was, the fact that Feingold had been in DC for nearly two decades didn't help his image as a true independent voice within the Senate chambers. Johnson, on the other hand, was a relatively unknown candidate, entering the race considerably late in May of this year. The people of Wisconsin never got to really know who Ron Johnson was (including the fact that Johnson opposed extending rights to victims of sexual abuse in the state).

Which brings us to the second reason why Feingold lost: he had to defend policy positions while Johnson was able to get away with saying little-to-nothing on what he'd do as Senator, outside of simple ideological beliefs he'd espouse. Feingold was proud of the many votes he cast, including for health care reform and against the big government bailout to banks and Wall Street. But few people took note of the latter, lumping Feingold in with the rest of the Democratic Party who mostly voted for the measure. With health reform, Feingold's vote made sense to those who would listen to him speak, but many Wisconsinites had already heard all they wanted to about the issue, and therefore despised Feingold for his pro-"Obamacare" vote (oftentimes lacking correct information on the subject in the process).

Needing to explain yourself in politics is never a good sign -- it places you in constant defense mode, making it difficult to get your message above the framing that others have placed you in. In other words, if your stances aren't "common sense" enough to stand on their own, you'll fail to convince the people to pick you instead of your opponent.

Feingold's stances were legit and reasonable, but became difficult to defend when framed in the context of the national discourse. Imagine having a great defense in soccer, but never being able to kick the ball beyond midfield. Even if the game ends in a 0-0 tie, soccer analysts will agree that your team was vastly outplayed. Johnson never scored any "goals" with anything he said, but the Feingold campaign didn't come close in their reasonable discourse to explain the Senator's positions versus Johnson's characterization of Feingold as just another "Washington liberal."

A third reason why Feingold lost is the all-important "money game." With Feingold being the number-one enemy of special interest groups in Washington, he became the biggest target for many to defeat on the left within the Senate. With those outside groups spending large sums of money, as well as Johnson himself spending more than $8 million of his own cash, the people of Wisconsin were barraged with anti-Feingold ads for the better part of the campaign. Before even the final two months of the campaign, Johnson outspent Feingold by nearly three-to-one. It topped that margin by election day.

Finally, Feingold's loss was due largely to voter fatigue, as some outlets have pointed out. People who were uninspired to vote stayed home, people who were annoyed by campaign ads ignored them, disregarding the importance of this race, and some people just flat-out refused to vote because of how crazy politics have been lately. A lot of those voters were first-time voters in 2008, who had supported the "Change" Obama and Dems had stood for but were disenchanted by the outcomes over the past two years.

It's important to note that beyond the main reasons why Russ Feingold lost his Senate seat, none of them include his being an ineffective leader. Quite the contrary: the reason Feingold even got close to Johnson in the closing weeks of the campaign was probably because of his stances, because of his ability to stake out progressive beliefs, keeping Wisconsin's interests in mind. Russ's liberal streak isn't to blame here -- he's been just as liberal in the past with no problems. The perfect combination of voter frustration, voter apathy, and misidentifying/purposeful negative framing of Feingold as "just another Democrat" beat him, not any new conservative ideals espoused by Ron Johnson. Despite the loss, we that to keep in mind that the people themselves aren't shifting more to the right, but rather those in the middle failed to understand who the real Russ Feingold was.


Still, it's disheartening to see such an important figure in our state's political history go down like this. It's a hard pill to chew, and though we may have learned more lessons through his loss on how to better defend our state against radical right campaigns, it's terrible that Wisconsin and the nation-at-large had to lose such a courageous legislator in the process.

Don't rule Feingold out of making a political return -- he will remain dedicated to pushing our state forward no matter what his future brings. And don't let his loss ruin your motivation to keep fighting on yourself. That is the worst thing of all to take from this election. Besides, Russ wouldn't want you to do that -- he'd want you to stay involved, to tackle the next big battle that we will face in the coming years. Wisconsin is red, for now. But with people like Russ leading the way, and with 100 Russ Feingolds right behind him, there's no telling what the people in our state could do, what great things Wisconsin can accomplish.

Forward. Always Forward.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Whatever the outcome, be proud of our democratic tradition

Despite anything that happens today -- whether Democrats pull off an upset or Republicans take over total control of Congress -- we cannot fault the system of democracy, nor of the system of governance that was guaranteed to us by the founding fathers, the U.S. Constitution.

Every two years, we are afforded the opportunity to select our representatives to be our voices in national government. This tradition has gone uninterrupted since our nation's inception, unaffected by wars, extreme poverty, or national disasters great and small. There aren't many countries on this small planet of ours that can make that claim, can say that their tradition of democracy has consistently worked for over two hundred years.

Yes, we've had some problems in our past. There have been a small handful of presidential elections chosen on the basis of the outdated Electoral College system, which doesn't always respect the democratic will of the people. There have been scores of people, over the course of many decades, who have been refused the right to vote on the basis of their skin color alone. There have been countless efforts, in recent years as well as the past, of fliers promoting the wrong election day, or warning citizens that if they vote they will face dire consequences. And there have been times where a majority of citizens have chosen not to exercise their democratic rights as citizens, have sat at home instead of taking part in the process to choose their representatives.

The process itself, as well as its outcomes, can at times be disheartening. We often rail against the number of political ads, the phone calls we receive during dinnertime, and the strangers who walk up to our houses in order to ask us a few questions about whom we prefer in this year's elections. But these minor annoyances are democracy in action, a citizen-led and citizen-run effort to determine the course our country will take, and should be celebrated even if they do cause us to roll our eyes once in awhile.

We also wince at the representatives we sometimes choose. A lot of people I know aren't going to be happy, one way or another, with the election's outcome in the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin, for example. But whatever the outcome, democracy works. In races all across the country, incumbents will remain in place, and those who lose will peacefully step aside in order to preserve the democratic will of the people.

Few Americans acknowledge that point. While I may later write today of the losses that burn my soul, that cause me to be upset with the outcome of the process, I still CELEBRATE the process itself. I thank God every day that I live in a place as great as the United States, which allows me the right to have an equal voice in determining who should and shouldn't take part in our government's highest and most honorable offices.