Nov. 5, 2012
Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus
Stop election insanity
That breeze swirling around Quad-Cities' polling places may be coming from sighs of relief from voters saying goodbye to this nasty marathon election campaign.
Decision 2012 was one of the meanest we can remember. And just think, we'll get to do it all over again all too soon.
There may be nothing we can do to make these sessions on the electoral treadmill less angry, but we can do something to make them shorter and, thus, we hope, fairer, more competitive and, yes, more palatable.
One of the earliest proponents of an earlier Illinois primary election was Phil Rock, the Oak Park Democrat who served as Illinois Senate president from 1979 to 1993. "It seems to me if we can make elections less of an ordeal for the voters and the candidates, and reduce the costs as well, we will have greater participation in the process," he said in 1991. In the wake of the 2012 campaign, those words are music to our ears.
Every election cycle, politicians lament the lengthy campaign season and call for a shorter one, and then, once they are in office, do little or nothing to change things.
The reason is simple: These long, costly campaigns favor incumbents and their leaders. It is much easier for them to raise the huge sums of cash it takes to run campaigns lasting longer than a year. Not only are challengers discouraged from running, but the need for big-money contributions ensures many incumbents are beholden to legislative leaders who give unlimited amounts of cash to faithful members.
Additionally, more months between the primary and general election mean more expensive campaigns relying on direct mailing and costly (usually negative) major broadcast media buys, reducing campaigns to sound bites. The marathon negative campaigns which result also depress turnout, ensuring the continued production of campaign sludge.
A shorter campaign season -- we prefer a September primary, but would happily support August -- also could also allow state and federal lawmakers who must stand for election every two years to spend more time governing and less time running.
Why not stop the insanity, at least in regards to the length of campaigns in this state? Whoever is elected today, we urge you to demand that they make an earlier Illinois primary a top priority.
Oct. 31, 2012
A world market
Gasoline prices in Lake County have been on a recent rollercoaster ride. The price of gas was close to $4 a gallon a few weeks ago, then it dropped to $3.45 a gallon and now is trending a bit upward. Of all the misleading factoids tossed around by candidates this presidential election season is the one that presidents can control the price of gasoline. Essentially, no president can do much about gas prices in the short run.
Gas nationwide was, indeed, about $1.86 when President Obama took office Jan. 20, 2009, but only because gas prices had plummeted with the global economic crash. A mere eight weeks earlier, gas prices had topped $4 a gallon — higher than today. Gas prices climbed steadily through all eight years of the Bush administration.
Oil is traded on a world market, whether it's drawn from a well in Saudi Arabia or off the coast of Alaska, making it difficult for any White House to control prices. A new well in America can take a decade or longer to get up and running and, even then, the oil can be sold worldwide. America's dream of "energy independence" is sure to remain just that, a dream, without further development of renewable home-produced energy such as solar and wind.
Truth is, presidents deserve little credit or blame, given that oil field yields reflect corporate and government decisions made years earlier.
Yet, too many Americans, misled by folks running for office, continue to believe that the incumbent in the White House, whoever he may be, is directly responsible for the current price of gas at the pump.