Too Many People Only Checking News Sources They Agree With

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We started the Free Voter Blog because we are troubled by too many people getting their news only from sources promoting their political views – liberals only checking liberal websites and conservatives only checking conservative websites. Too many Americans are not speaking to each other about the issues of the day and are not even open to debate. We believe this is bad for our democracy. It’s absurd to think that either the left wing or right wing is correct on every issue. That’s why the goal of the Free Voter Blog is to help stimulate a free and independent electorate. When people tell us they only vote straight Democrat or Republican, we believe this is an admission that they didn’t put much effort into following the issues and evaluating the candidates on the ballot. We can teach a four-year-old to just fill in the circles across only one party’s line on Election Day.

That’s why we found the above chart in the USA Today so interesting. It demonstrates how people are only following the news they politically agree with. The data comes from a thoughtful study conducted by the Pew Research Center, which found that, “When it comes to getting news about politics and government, liberals and conservatives inhabit different worlds.” Here’s the link to this excellent Pew Research Center study:  www.journalism.org/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits

Therefore, the Free Voter Blog, which discusses issues in an open-minded and nonpartisan way, certainly fills an important need in our nation’s political discourse. Please join us for a more independent debate of the issues we face – everyone is invited!

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

Some Advice To President and Congress

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The press events by President Obama and congressional leaders this week after Election Day demonstrate the tension between Democrats and Republicans in DC, not that this is any surprise, yet it was troubling the President still claims he will bypass Congress by using his alleged executive authority to reform our flawed immigration system. While there is little doubt that immigration reform has been delayed too long – including both a path to citizenship for the tens of millions of illegal residents and better border security – serious legal, political and policy questions exist as to whether this is a thoughtful action by the President. He appears inconsistent after speaking throughout the week about the need for cooperation and bipartisanship. President Obama needs to be more respectful of Tuesday’s election results as a New York Times analysis of the exit polls found:

“Just two years after Mr. Obama’s re-election, the midterm results underscored just how far he has fallen in the public mind. Nearly six out of 10 voters on Tuesday expressed negative feelings about his administration, according to exit polls. For every two voters who said they had cast ballots to support Mr. Obama, three said they were voting to express their opposition to him. The electorate was deeply pessimistic about the country, with seven out of 10 describing the economy as not so good or poor and eight out of 10 expressing worry about the direction of the economy in the next year.”

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans should end the victory lap and roll up their sleeves for serious governing over the next two years. Despite the GOP’s success in the 2010 midterm elections, the 2012 elections brought major losses, and they may face similar losses in 2016 if they are deemed to be the cause of further gridlock and partisanship. There is only one path to 2016 GOP election success and that is governing in a bipartisan and cooperative manner, and the GOP must work better with President Obama. Yes, it will be difficult as the President’s record on bipartisan governance is weak. In watching the President over the last 6 years, it often appears that his definition of bipartisanship is that he proposes a law and the Republicans should just vote for it – see Obamacare. Regardless, if the Republicans want 2016 success, GOP congressional leaders MUST govern in an open, inclusive and bipartisan way for two important reasons:

1)  The US Senate map is much more difficult for the GOP in 2016. Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats in 2016 (and the Democrats just 10), and those states include Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Florida – all won by President Obama twice.

2) The 2016 presidential election will be tough for the GOP.  A CNN article explains how both parties now have a “wall” of states that are reliable in presidential elections. The Democrat “Blue Wall” is 18 states and DC equaling 242 electoral votes. The Republican “Red Wall” is 22 states equaling 179 electoral votes. This, of course, is an enormous edge for the Democrat candidate since it takes 270 to win. Republicans will need an impressive record of results and bipartisan governing over the next two years to have any hope of competing in the states included in the Democrat’s “Blue Wall.”

So here’s my advice to the President and Congress – Tuesday’s election results clearly demonstrate that the country wants you to govern together in a cooperative and bipartisan manner. If Republicans or Democrats fail to accept this advice, you will be punished at the polls by the voters in 2016 – they are giving you a two year test, so good luck!

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com

Like. Share. Vote?

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Vote on Nov. 4!

A friend sent me a text today, “If it weren’t for Facebook, I’d have no idea we were having an election this year.”

At first, I thought she was kidding or making a statement about her feed being overrun by political posts.

But she went on to explain that she doesn’t watch a lot of television or get the local paper and most of her day is spent transferring kids from school to activities (read the Monster of Youth Sports here on Free Voter). Checking Facebook on her iPhone is an easy way to spend her waiting time. And, apparently, it’s where she’s learning about these off-year elections.

A few things interested me about this:

1. As a female voter living in a highly contested seat for NY State Senate, she said that she didn’t receive  mailings or phone calls. This is odd because many other people have stated just the opposite – too many calls and too much mail.

2. She also said that she likes the mailings and always reads them. Hmm. Go figure. So many people tend to complain about the mailings, not only the sheer volume of them, but also the content.  Maybe the whole world isn’t as cynical as I thought. Maybe people really do still read….

3. ….just not any local papers. This is a huge issue not just for political campaigns, but for everything that impacts our community.  The local paper used to be the hub. The source. The thing that bound the neighborhoods and created a sense of community.  It’s harder and harder to get the word out about issues or events (not just those of a political nature). So many wonderful community initiatives and resources go under-used and under-funded because the local paper is dying.  And no single online website is “the definitive” source the way the local paper used to be.

So, where does this leave us? Let’s go back to her original statement about Facebook. Can social media really be the new source?  It’s sort of terrifying, but it very well may be true. As someone who often posts or shares political information on Facebook, I have to admit that around election time, I become highly annoyed by the number of political posts as well as the tone of them. Don’t get me wrong: if you want to share facts and information, I’m good with that; I’m not good with the petty or mean posts that seem rampant.

Just today, I saw a post: “Vote Democrat. It’s better than the alternative.” What does that even mean? How is that a thoughtful commentary on what is really one of the most awesome and overwhelming rights we carry as Americans?  Should anyone blindly vote strictly for a party and not spend even a minute doing research on the issues? Let’s face it, each party has its own share of less-than-stellar candidates. Having a party affiliation doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate subscribes to each and every doctrine of the party (but I suppose we are all naive enough to believe that if THE PARTY nominated the person, they must be good. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you). In the past elections of my husband, if people voted for his opponents strictly based on party affiliation they chose: a pedophile, a Democrat that was a hard-line right-to-lifer, and a man who, if you did a Google search on his name, would promptly direct you to mugshots.com.  Vote only for the party? I don’t think that’s always the wisest thing to do.  Actually, I can probably train my dogs to just fill in the circles across only one party line – it doesn’t take much intelligence.

That kind of only-one-way-is-right post is irresponsible, narrow-minded and shows that there’s no reasonable perspective left in American politics. It’s part of the concern about the connection between social media and politics. People will click and share a witty but thoughtless, utterly meaningless and most likely vastly untrue status update because it’s easier than actually spending the time to learn what’s going on.  Raise the bar. Have a debate. Talk issues, not parties or personalities.

Remember: you get the kind of government you deserve. The vote is in your hands. Use it wisely.

Jean Maisano
Jean@FreeVoter.com

Eliminate Hate – Bipartisanship and Cooperation Always Work Much Better!

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At the Free Voter Blog, we work from the premise that hate is a bad emotion which clouds your judgment. It’s usually a mistake to make statements or decisions based on hate. But on Friday night, I was working on growing our Twitter followers for this blog and found so many left and right wingers that even expressed hatred for political opponents in Twitter profiles. These hard-liners made similar accusations – the other side is “evil” or “dumb,” and they were (self-righteously) trying to save our nation.

As evidence of this overly partisan trend, I noticed this week that a Stanford University study found that political animosity now exceeds racial hostility. In some ways, this finding shows progress since we now dislike each other more for political viewpoints than the color of our skin.

See study: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/october/dems-gop-polarized-10-08-14.html

However, as an elected official for 17 years, it’s been clear to me that the best legislative moments at the Westchester County Board of Legislators were always the result of bipartisanship and cooperation. I can’t think of a single issue where harsh partisanship was helpful in the decision-making process. I find it difficult to be overly partisan because I have worked with some excellent Republican and Democrat legislators. The talent on our Board of Legislators never broke down on party lines.

Therefore, join the Free Voter Blog in our effort to support and promote an informed and independent electorate that votes for the best candidates instead of the party line. The result will be better government.

Jim Maisano
freevoterblog@gmail.com