Friday, November 30, 2012

Same-day registration, John Doe, create bad week for Walker

Governor twice thrice contradicted

Gov. Scott Walker isn’t having a great week.

For starters, he’s been thoroughly rebuffed on the issue of eliminating same-day voter registration. Citing concerns of poll-worker fatigue, Walker said it was necessary to do-away with the decades-old tradition.

“[I]t would be much better if registration was done in advance of Election Day, easier for our clerks to handle that,” Walker said.

But the clerks took note of Walker’s statement, countering what the governor assumed about their jobs with the reality of the situation: that same-day registration causes no additional headaches for them.
[N]early a dozen poll workers who spoke with The Huffington Post all had the same message: Same-day registration is not a problem, and Walker should not eliminate it.

“This whole idea that this is somehow a burden on poll workers is just not true, and I can guarantee you it’s not the perception of the vast majority of the people who work at the polls,” said Ruth Irvings, 61, who served as a poll worker in Milwaukee this year with her 24-year-old son.


Kevin Rusch, Lanore’s 53-year-old son who has worked at the polls in Wausau for the last year and a half, was more blunt in his assessment of Walker’s claim: “That’s utter bulls---. I don’t know who he’s talking to.”
After disregarding the concerns of poll workers, exaggerating their supposed “burdens,” Walker moved on to the John Doe investigation. After a plea deal was made between a former confidante of Walker’s when he was Milwaukee County Executive, Walker made the casual observation that he hoped the investigation would be done as early as this week.

“It's gone on for two years. Hopefully, after this week, it will be over,” he said.

But once again, Walker was rebuffed, this time by Judge Neal Nettesheim.

“The John Doe is not completed. It is still open,” he said.

Walker’s woes over John Doe don’t end there, however. It was further revealed that the investigation had gone all the way to Rice Lake, Wisconsin, to a Harley Davidson dealership, over very specific transactions that had occurred there in 2010.

Who from Milwaukee County government made a trip up to Rice Lake as part of a tourism/self-promotion tour? None other than then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, along with several members of his office.

To be sure, that bit of commentary is all conjecture on my part. But it surely has to be on the mind of Gov. Walker, on what the John Doe prosecutors are seeking out specifically. The bike trips, consistently derided as being more about Walker than tourism in Milwaukee, could be the very thing that brings Walker down in the investigation.

And just as you thought it couldn't get any worse...Walker failed to bag a deer this season, too, in a year that saw overall numbers go up by nearly eight percent.

Gov. Scott Walker can’t catch a break. This week was a pretty lousy one, indeed, being contradicted not once, not twice, but thrice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Harry Reid considers changes to the filibuster

Reforms include actually making Senators stand on the Senate floor and speak

Sen. Harry Reid is signaling that he may change the rules of the Senate regarding the filibuster. While such a move would be drastic, it is nevertheless necessary to improve the function of that chamber, and of Congress overall.

Senate Republicans have abused the power of the filibuster. They have taken advantage of a Senate rule that was intended to give minority-party protection, and instead have used it to prevent any action on any bill proposed by the president or his party, which currently controls the chamber.

Or, at least they would, if given the right to do so.

In the past Congressional term, Republicans have used the filibuster to change the Senate from one of representative democratic rule to that of minority control. That is, instead of allowing the chamber to function as it normally would -- with occasional filibusters on matters of grave concern -- Republicans have wielded the power of the filibuster to prevent ANY bill, any policy, government appointment, or jobs plan, that the Democrats put forth, most of the time preventing those things from even being debated on.

The Republicans don’t run the Senate -- the Democrats are meant to. They were put in office by the people across the nation to run the upper house of Congress. But Republicans won’t let them.

It’s no wonder why Congress has such low approval ratings -- when bills can’t even be introduced, let alone be passed, by the party with majority control, deadlocking the process of government itself, the will of the people cannot be addressed.

What Sen. Reid is proposing is doing away with filibusters during the opening stages of debate. That is, when the bill is first proposed for full floor consideration, the vote for consideration cannot be blocked by a filibuster -- a simple majority vote will allow for consideration.

After that, Reid says, the filibuster would remain in place. The only other changes that might take place is that Reid might make the filibuster become AN ACTUAL FILIBUSTER, meaning senators would actually have to speak on the Senate floor.

Imagine that: filibuster reform that would actually make senators filibuster. I take back what I said earlier: Harry Reid’s reforms wouldn’t be that drastic after all.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Walker goes on offensive on same-day registration

Attacks on same-day voter registration a political ploy

Be prepared: Scott Walker isn’t done making democracy less accessible to the people.

In a speech he gave -- in California of all places -- outlining his plans for Wisconsin with a new, Republican-led legislature, Gov. Walker came out in strong opposition to the Badger State’s 40-year old tradition of same-day voter registration.

The practice allows all citizens, not just those who registered days or weeks before, the opportunity to vote. Registration takes just a few minutes, and requires simple proofs of residency within the ward you plan to vote in.

Gov. Walker wants to get rid of same-day voter registration
Citing the fatigue of volunteer poll workers, Walker stated that “it would be much better if registration was done in advance of Election Day, easier for our clerks to handle that.”

Same-day voter registration, though scorned by the right as somehow a “burden,” is perhaps the largest contributing aspect to our state’s high voter turnout. What’s more, there isn’t a lick of evidence, despite what some conservatives claim, that the practice might be riddled with fraud. Quite the contrary -- same-day registration has been shown to increase democracy, not hamper it.

In fact, in 2008 more than 460,000 voters in WIsconsin registered to vote on Election Day. Disenfranchising a number of the electorate that size would be like telling every voting-age resident of the city of Brookfield, Wisconsin, that they couldn’t vote -- for the next 15 election cycles.

Walker feigns concern that registration of voters should be done well in advance of Election Day. Yet, if Walker were truly concerned about alleviating the workload of poll workers, he’d find a way to lessen the “burden.” Instead, he’s done the opposite -- he and his Republican cohorts in the legislature severely truncated the time in which voters can “early vote,” shortening when municipal clerks can accept ballots, thereby actually increasing the workload for poll workers on Election Day.

The attack on the access to democracy is evident in Gov. Walker’s agenda. Despite claims of being pro-business and pro-jobs, Walker has instead shown us his focus is elsewhere, mostly on preserving a conservative majority in state politics (despite evidence that the voters want something else).

That’s not the purpose of his position in government -- but it’s precisely what Gov. Walker is using his office as a means to accomplish.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A response to secessionists in Wisconsin

An open letter to those advocating Wisconsin's departure from the U.S.

This is a response to the secessionist “movement” in Wisconsin, and directly to the petition posted on the White House’s website:
We the people of the state of WI wish to withdraw peacefully from the Union. We believe in our rights that were granted to us in the constitution our ancestors wrote, and we also believe that your administration is infringing on those rights. As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”

I previously wrote on the subject of the secessionists, who are urging the White House to allow various states to exit the Union, and in doing so are actually defying the Declaration’s intent. I focused more on the overall “movement,” taking a look at the sudden influx of petitions from a national standpoint. But right now, I’d like to talk about Wisconsin, and specifically to the author and signers of the petition pushing for our state’s departure from the U.S.

What you’re talking about -- leaving the Union -- greatly offends me. I grew up proud of our nation, and it’s disturbing that you are so willing to leave it so suddenly on account of a single legitimate election.

What’s more, it’s offensive to those Wisconsinites who fought hard to preserve our nation, who gave their lives up to defend the rights and liberties we hold dear...not only as Badgers, but as Americans as well.

Your assumption, that our rights have been truncated somehow, is greatly flawed. No one, not any person in our state nor in our country, has been denied the rights you describe in your petition.

And your notion, that we ought to “live free or die fighting,” frankly worries me. Though you write you want a “peaceful” withdrawal, your candor suggests otherwise. Without a just cause for your movement, without any actual rights being stripped from you, you advocate a violent response if your demands are not met.

How undemocratic of you. The people of Wisconsin voted for Barack Obama, our president, to have a second term. And now you advocate the removal of our great state from the Union as a result? The idea itself is absurd, laughable were it not so serious.

That you put so much weight into it -- suggesting that we “die fighting” against what are clearly the democratic preferences of the people you pretend to advocate on behalf of -- speaks volumes towards describing your principles.

You aren’t a patriot. You aren’t a defender of freedom. Simply put, you’re a bully. Your petition demonstrates that.

If you want to secede from the nation, I have a suggestion for you: do so, but on an individual level. Nothing is stopping you from leaving the greatest country the world has ever known -- and arguably, the greatest state the nation has.

Wisconsin made its choice last week on election day. You’ve made it clear you disagree. Either work within the democratic system, or leave it. But don’t advocate the destruction of, through peaceful means or otherwise, the ideals and sacrifices of thousands of Americans and Wisconsinites who came before you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Obama is right to stand up to the GOP

President Obama won't budge on fiscal cliff

President Obama won't back down
President Barack Obama is set to stand firm against the Republican Party when it comes to the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.


The president ought not budge when it comes to the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Firstly, it’d be irresponsible and reprehensible to allow the Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent to continue. Those tax cuts, along with two lengthy wars from the previous administration, have cost trillions of dollars.

Democrats and Republicans alike recognize that a significant budget crisis is looming. The difference between the two parties, however, is stark.

Democrats see that government cuts and adjustments to some programs need to be made, perhaps in some unwanted areas; but they also accept that cuts alone cannot fix this mess. A change in revenue, one that will increase what the U.S. government takes in overall, must take place if we’re going to seriously take on the budget deficit. 
Republicans, on the other hand, refuse to even discuss the issue of tax increases on the extremely wealthy. Cuts and cuts alone, to popular social programs and aid to the nation’s poor, are the only plans they have; and we shouldn’t sugarcoat their plan by describing it as anything different.

A reasonable person would see this fiscal mess and consider every angle possible to help stave off disaster. Indeed, as Republicans themselves oftentimes compare the fiscal priorities of the nation to a family budget, one has to wonder whether the GOP would discourage Americans from seeking ways to gain income themselves as a means to fix their own personal situations.

And that’s probably why more Americans are set to blame the Republicans in Congress than Obama if we fly off the so-called fiscal cliff. If a deal cannot be reached, the president isn’t going to be blamed -- the Republicans are, mainly due to their stubborn refusal to negotiate or unwillingness to read into what the electorate voted for.

The president is right to stand firm against Republicans. The GOP is only considering one half of the equation necessary to fix America’s problems. And their pseudo-math won’t help our real problems.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Secessionists defy Declaration's intent

Obama's re-election victory an example of consent of the governed”

Several citizens from dozens of states have filed grievances on the White House petition website, requesting to secede from the nation, likely in response to President Barack Obama’s victory last week.

Most of the petitions invoke the Declaration of Independence, citing the famous words from Thomas Jefferson, who wrote:

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government.
Those words, brilliant as they are, weren’t intended to thwart the democratic will of the people more than 200 years later. Indeed, the words encourage just the opposite, and the election of Barack Obama to a second term in no way undermines Jefferson’s intent from within the Declaration.

Instead, the secessionist sentiments of those forming these petitions go against the very idea that Jefferson had laid out in our founding document. The results of the election, which is representative of what the people wanted -- Obama won a popular and electoral college vote -- is in no way destructive of the people’s ends. If the people wanted something different, they would have voted for it.

It is unjust, then, to “alter or abolish” the current government, and unwarranted to “institute new Government” of any kind.

A petition requesting secession from the union
The colonies that came to comprise the United States of America seceded from Great Britain for a significant and unifying reason: they weren’t granted the right to self governance through representative electors. Despite all the noise modern-day secessionists are making on the internet, the current state of our nation doesn’t reflect that same grievance -- we still have representative democracy, stronger now than it was even during our founders’ time.

Those who demonstrate a feigned nostalgia for the founders’ words would do well to actually understand them, and to further understand the setting in which they were written. Secessionists act like spoiled children when they threaten departing the Union over an undesired electoral outcome. It's time for them to grow up.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Johnson, Baldwin trade barbs on understanding the budget

Sen.-elect Baldwin has more Congressional experience than "senior" Sen. Johnson

With the election of Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate, Wisconsin now sees an ideological split in their delegation to the upper chamber. Baldwin, a liberal Democrat, joins Ron Johnson, a conservative Republican, who now serves as the Senior Senator from the Badger state.

Johnson has taken the role quite seriously -- in fact, a little TOO seriously. In an interview with the Associated Press, Johnson has stated that he hopes Baldwin will take the opportunity to learn a thing-or-two from him:
Hopefully I can sit down and lay out for her my best understanding of the federal budget because they’re simply the facts,” he said. “Hopefully she’ll agree with what the facts are and work toward common sense solutions.”
Johnson also added that he felt the only reason Obama won was because people were apparently just too stupid:
Johnson attributed Obama’s win on the heels of those Republican gains in Wisconsin to an uninformed electorate who voted in this election but not in the Walker recall.
“If you aren’t properly informed, if you don’t understand the problems facing this nation, you are that much more prone to falling prey to demagoguing solutions. And the problem with demagoguing solutions is they don’t work,’ Johnson said. “I am concerned about people who don’t fully understand the very ugly math we are facing in this country.”
Wasting no time, Sen.-elect Baldwin responded, explaining she doesn't need any help with mathematics, thank-you-very-much:
I was a double major in college in mathematics and political science, and I served for six years on the House Budget Committee in my first six years in the House,” Baldwin responded in an interview with The Huffington Post on Friday.

“And I am very confident that when proposals come before the U.S. Senate, I will be able to evaluate them as to how they benefit or harm middle-class Wisconsinites. A yardstick of ‘does it create jobs,’ ‘does it lower the deficit’ and ‘does it help grow the middle class’ is an important one. I’m quite confident that I have those abilities,” she added.
Johnson’s assertion that he has to “lay out the facts” to Baldwin is laughable. Besides having served on the House Budget Committee, Baldwin was first elected to Congress in 1998 -- a full twelve years before Johnson even ran for the Senate against Russ Feingold.

What’s more, Baldwin’s career in governance -- she served in the state Assembly from 1993 to 1998 before serving in the U.S. Congress -- demonstrates that she knows the ins and outs of how to work in a legislative setting.

It’s absurd that Johnson believes he has to teach Baldwin something about the budget. If anything, Johnson could benefit from learning a thing or two from Baldwin, who has nearly 20 years of legislative experience, compared to Johnson’s two.

Johnson’s ignorance on Baldwin’s breadth of experience is telling of who the man really is. We’re fortunate to have a figure like Tammy take the second-half of our Senate delegation, if only to cancel out the arrogance and ignorance of our so-called “senior” Senator Ron Johnson.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama on dissent

Barack Obama speaks a simple truth about American democracy

Barack Obama, Nov. 6, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012


Final thoughts on how the races will end up tomorrow night

Let’s be honest: a good prediction is what the people want to hear (or in this case, read). The presidential election isn’t a sure thing yet -- but many media are reporting on the odds of an Obama/Romney win. So with that in mind, I want to share my insights.

Obama will win 290-300 electoral votes, or more. Swing states Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida will swing for Obama. Nevada and Iowa are still too close in my mind, with either candidate in my mind being fully capable of winning both (Nevada's polls actually have Obama likely to win, but I'm still skeptical). New Hampshire is close, too, but will ultimately go for the incumbent. If those states all go as I predict, and Obama keeps Virginia blue, then the president will have a 300+ electoral college vote count. With some of those states being very close, however, the range will be between 290 and 300 for Obama.

The popular vote will be within 5 percent. Even with a strong electoral vote showing, Barack Obama will be hard-pressed to break the 5-percent spread over Mitt Romney. Blue states are strongholds for the president, but the red states are significantly more “redder.” The electoral college isn’t a democratic method of picking our president, and it’s even possible that Obama could win it without the popular vote. Nevertheless, my prediction is that Obama will have a 3-5 percent popular vote win.

The Senate will not change hands. Expect Democrats to hold onto the Senate. While moderate Republicans could have easily helped led the charge to take back the chamber, extremist elements have caused voters to baulk at giving the GOP control. Controversial comments about rape, and the legitimacy of abortions in that horrifying event, have caused many women (and their husbands/fathers) to back away from extreme-right Republicans.

Democrats won’t take back the House. They will improve, to be sure. Around 10-20 seats will be picked up by the Democrats, many of whom will be winning districts that will be swung by the president or were “over-swung” in 2010 by Tea Party hysteria, which has since died down in those moderate districts. But Democrats need 28 seats to take back the House. It’s not an impossible feat, and if I’m wrong it wouldn’t be that surprising. But it’s more likely that Democrats will have to try to win back the chamber in 2014 rather than in 2012.

Tammy Baldwin will defeat Tommy Thompson. In what has been one of the most grueling back-and-forth contests across the nation, Tammy Baldwin will pull this one out against the well-known former governor. Thompson has alienated far too many people with his comments on Medicare, claiming he’d be the best person to end the program. And extremist comments by his son, who joked about sending Obama back to Kenya, haven’t helped either. These factors, coupled by the amount of time Obama has dedicated to the state, will help bring Tammy to the upper chamber of Congress.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Political Heat endorses Barack Obama

The incumbent president deserves a second term in office

The official endorsement for president from Political Heat goes to Barack Obama.

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; I’ve long-been an Obama supporter, ever since he first announced he’d be running in 2008. Since then, President Obama hasn’t necessarily been my ideal president -- but he has come through on a lot of promises, delivering to America the things she needs as a country in a big way:

He spearheaded a stimulus package that, though pricey, helped invigorate the American middle class and improve the economic conditions of our nation;

He signed a law to help shrink the gender gap, to one day perhaps close the discrepancies in pay between men and women;

He repealed a policy that discriminated against gay and lesbian women serving openly in the military;

He enacted a health care law that not only makes it easier for families to afford decent coverage, but prevents companies from denying their clients the benefits they had been paying into all along based on pre-existing conditions;

He brought an end to the war in Iraq, and a drawing down to the war in Afghanistan, as well as a renewed respect for our nation across the globe when it comes to international diplomacy;

And unlike our last president, he got serious about finding and ordering a strike against Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the largest terrorist attack in our nation’s history and the death of 3,000 American lives.

These aren’t accomplishments to scoff at -- they are significant, and considering the opposition he faced from Republican lawmakers (who filibustered his projects when they were out of power and refused to cooperate on any legislation when they assumed Congress), they are monumental in their scope.

There are many more accomplishments that he achieved as well, such as cutting the interest rates that students with Pell grants face, or expanding hate crime legislation, and so on. Where we are unimpressed with President Obama, we must remember that a lot more good was accomplished in his first four years than bad.

Does it warrant him another four more years? Without a doubt, yes. For, had President Obama been given a more cooperative Congress, one that wasn’t so willing to work against him for political purposes, there’s reason to believe that we could have seen even more from him than what we already have. Like a football coach with an injury-prone team, Obama cannot be faulted for his failure to do more.

He has, for instance, proposed a jobs bill that faced stiff obstruction. The bill would have been fully paid for, and would have added nearly two million more jobs.

Had that measure, and many more like it, been allowed to be enacted, there’d be no doubt that Obama would have cruised to a second term. But because of the GOP’s obstructive tactics, the president has seemingly failed to improve the economy beyond what he had hoped to have done when he took office.

Again, that isn’t Obama’s fault; and in spite of those tactics, unemployment is back below eight percent, with hundreds of thousands of jobs being added monthly.

With this in mind, Obama deserves to be returned to the White House. His counterpart’s plans are the same failed mistakes that got us into this fiscal calamity to begin with. Why should we believe, having enacted tax cuts ten years ago overwhelmingly to the rich and failing to see any real benefit from them as promised, that suddenly that tactic would somehow miraculously work now? The logic is flawed, and it won’t work.

Mitt Romney is a decent person; the personal stories told about him shouldn’t be disregarded, and his character as a human being shouldn’t be questioned. But his record as a politician and as a public servant in the state of Massachusetts, which was nearly last in job creation under his watch, shouldn’t be ignored either.

What’s more, the inconsistency in Romney’s positions gives us reason to question whether the real Mitt would govern this way or that way. Without fully knowing where he stands, how one can support his candidacy on any factual basis? The true base of support for candidate Romney rests upon those who oppose Barack Obama, which is hardly a reason to support anyone.

We know where President Obama stands. We also know what he’s accomplished. For those reasons, he deserves our votes, and a second term in office.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The political "blood sport" needs to end

Civility and respectful debate are sorely needed in our discourses again

We live in interesting times, indeed. Our democracy is in grave danger, and not from any extraneous threat, but rather from elements within our own nation. When people’s decision-making can be altered by the biases of rumor and innuendo -- when a good portion of the populace is easily convinced that the president’s birth was a fabricated event -- we’re in serious trouble.

The aforementioned deception mentioned above is but one example of what is wrong with politics today. There are many more similar in nature to it, derived from the extremes of both sides of the political spectrum. Most of us scoff at these laughable assertions, understanding that, with a little bit of research and some common sense, they don’t hold a weight of truth to them.

Others among us, however, fail to conceive that what is written in some media, what is portrayed as truth by some but is factually inaccurate when held up to valid scrutiny, could possibly be wrong. They inherently believe what is written in the headlines, failing to go beyond the title of articles or listen to speeches beyond the sound bytes they hear on television, to truly understand what it is they’re seeing, hearing, or reading.

These people aren’t stupid; rather, they’re willing to believe what they want to hear. A liberal mind that doesn’t delve into the depths of articles willingly believes that Mitt Romney didn’t pay any taxes for the past ten years before the years he did release publicly; conversely, a conservative mind that similarly refuses to dig deeper willingly considers President Barack Obama to be a communist, or better yet a non-citizen, though both assertions are false accusations.

Such sensationalism is despicable, and though most of the fault belongs to those refusing to go further than the byline, much of the blame lies within the media itself. The press and other opinionated media have a responsibility to provide the citizenry with the truth, and when applicable to let people know the difference between a newscaster’s opinion and fact.

This responsibility that the media has ignored is vitally important, especially during this day and age of extreme partisanship. When the people see the president or his opponent as being “the other,” rather than as human beings (fully capable of having some character flaws), it becomes a competitive blood sport, a game of sorts over who can make the other guy look worse.

This isn’t politics; it’s gossip. It’s worse than that even, because it affects all those who will be governed by the king of the bull-manure-laden mountain. The people deserve more than that -- they deserve meaningful dialogue and contentious debates over policy positions, over what the candidates stand for, and what they’d do if such-and-such situation came about.

We don’t need to know if the president ate dog as a child; we don’t care about what kind of underwear his GOP counterpart wears. What matters is what they will do if elected, and how it will affect the individual considering voting for them.

A return to civility is sorely needed. This doesn’t mean that argument needs to stop completely; indeed, argument is healthy in a democratic society. But some ground rules need to be established, some base of support erected, in order to ensure that all candidates will be given serious consideration when it comes to our elections. Without that base of support, we risk turning our politics into a dramatic theatrical performance, no better than the daytime soap operas or entertainment news magazines seen on television.

Our politics and our discussions should focus on what matters most -- what is possible and what will happen should this or that candidate assume office. Anything beyond that is simply a ball of fluff.

"Promoting the general welfare" -- it matters this election year

Only one candidate, Barack Obama, understand the necessity of promoting a healthy, prosperous populace

The founders of our nation had in mind a government that would be very minimal in scope of its powers. They saw fit, for a time, to enact a national charter that would limit what those elected to serve could obligate the states and the people to do, and if a state disagreed with a certain law, enforcement at the national level would be loose, at best.

That government was scrapped after less than a decade. It was replaced by the Constitution.

Few remember that the United States started out with the Articles of Confederation. Granting individual states veto powers seemed like a great limit on the national government, but in practice it wasn't feasible. For one, it granted smaller states with smaller populations unreasonably strong powers. In short, it was an anti-democratic, anti-representative ideal of limited federal powers.

The document that came replace the Articles most Americans are familiar with -- the U.S. Constitution. Yet, for all that it's been celebrated and heralded for, few have truly studied the document to a great extent. We hear many ideas about how it's supposed to limit the scope of federal power, about limitations that are placed on those who are meant to govern. Yes, those are a part of the great document. But refusing to accept that the government has powers, too, is a futile argument, one with serious consequences.

A libertarian might argue, perhaps, that the federal government doesn't have the power to help victims of storms like we saw hit the east coast this past week. Indeed, there isn't any mentioning of natural disasters in the Constitution.

Such strict interpretation of the document relies on ignoring a very important power that our founders left to us -- the "general welfare" clause, which is a broad but necessary provision for allowing lawmaking to be carried out in our nation.

In fact, the phrase "general welfare" is mentioned twice in the Constitution, within the preamble itself and within a provision granting Congressional powers to promote it.

The preamble:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
 And Article 1, Section 8:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

This historical lesson is necessary for what I'm going to discuss next. This election is about more than two men from distinctly different backgrounds. It's more than the out-of-context sound bytes, the radical notions that one is more extreme than the other, the belief that there is "class warfare," or the claims of patriotism or birthright that have come to make a mockery of our electoral system.

It's about whether we truly believe that there is a power in our governing for the promotion of happiness, a promotion of "general welfare" that's necessary to bring about the successes of our nation.

"General welfare" shouldn't be construed to mean welfare by the definitions the word holds today; rather, "general welfare" is understanding that we hold in our power the ability to promote a better life for the general public, to make even the poorest among us to have certain safeguards and protections.

Within a civilized society,  the promotion of "general welfare" means we cannot accept that we are separate from one another, recognizes that when disaster and tragedy strike (either from a horrific storm or unfortunate economic events that cripple everyone's wallets), something has to be done. It's the belief that, when we're able to do so, we must take care of those who are in peril, facing hardships, or other discriminatory prejudices due to their positions in life.

We have a political candidate in Barack Obama who recognizes what the promotion of such an ideal should look like. It doesn't mean trampling upon the rights of the wealthy to get your pet projects done; but it does mean asking them to contribute a little more when things get tough for American citizens. From health care, to the stimulus package, to education, and on a myriad of other issues, Obama has been on the right side of the issue, has promoted both the welfare of the people and the prosperity of the nation through his actions.

The opposing side has a candidate that doesn't find prosperity or the welfare of the people to be wrong, but rather sees no need to include a role for the government to contribute to society's needs. If an economic collapse occurs, if a hurricane devastates an entire region, or even something as simple as a young person facing challenges affording an education they have earned, guess what? Mitt Romney doesn't want taxpayer dollars contributing to any of those needs.

His solution? Let the market fix it. Or ask for money from your parents. Or let the states deal with it.

Those solutions have failed in the past, and they will fail again in the future. "States' rights" was a great moniker for conservatives this past decade, but it also served as a fabulous phrase in the 1850s plantation South. Borrowing money from your parents to go to school would work, too, if your parents could afford to do so. Many families simply cannot take on that challenge head-on. And while the marketplace is the main generator of everything great in our country, there ARE challenges it is simply not equipped to take on. It was the market, after all, that failed to do away with the practice of denying care to ailing patients with pre-existing conditions.

Promoting the general welfare doesn't mean we should spend money like a teenager with their parents' credit card -- but it does mean recognizing a significant role exists for the government to interject itself occasionally into the affairs of its people. When hardships abound, when people are in pain, when communities are destroyed by cataclysmic events that cannot be overcome by their will alone, something must be done.

The founders recognized this; and even in their own time, a great debate took place on the scope of the "general welfare" clause. But even they understood that promoting the welfare of the people, by supplying certain goods and fulfilling certain needs, was in the best interests of the people. Whether the evolution of general welfare within the federal government took 10 years or 100 years, it didn't matter. That provision was put in for a purpose: to relieve the people in times of hardships, and to aid those in need when they had nowhere else to go.

One candidate gets that; the other scoffs at it. Who you choose to vote for come November 6 will determine the direction our country goes, and whether we recognize that we're all in this together, or it's everyone for themselves.

Vote for President Obama. He deserves a second term in office for what he's done for the American people, both those in need and those without hardships.