Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    Monday
    Sep122011

    Democracy Isn't Sexy 

    I didn’t vote in a proper voting booth for the first time until 2008. Until then I had relied on paper absentee ballots that only required a writing utensil and a mailbox. The very first election I voted in (2002) I readied myself with a pen to make my mark on the democratic process. I was finally able to put my two sense in. I got the paper, filled it out, mailed it back and that was the end of that. My first non-midterm general election took place in 2004 where I voted for doomed Kerry-Edwards while working at their headquarters. I voted for them not only because I believed but because I was sure that there were cameras abound watching my every pen stroke.



    My first voting booth experience left much to be desired. I was excited and nervous. What if I did it wrong, is what went through my head. What if for some reason my ballot was thrown out and Barack Obama lost by one vote in Albany country? What if. It was fine. Boring and uneventful but fine. There were retirees to point me in the right direction. Baked goods for sale. A father gripping the hand of his daughter. I pulled the lever and it was done.

    It’s the lead up to Election Day that gets my heart pumping. Of course millions of people chant and burn sage while crossing their fingers just to get the first Tuesday in November over with. These days both on and off year races start two years in advance with ad buys, fundraisers, the daily email with a personal subject line making the recipient think that it’s a real email when in fact is just another ask for money by the filing deadline. This can all lead to weary voters who would be happy with just a brief fact sheet and one debate a month before the election. But the 24 hour news cycle and laptop pundits - I will add myself as a pain in the ass in the latter category - make it next to impossible.

    It frustrates me when people don’t follow politics or care. When the act of living in a representative democracy turns into a royal non-stop pain in the ass full of mudslinging across the aisles, spin cycles and speculation. Unfortunately we have yet to find a happy medium. With our great fortune of a two party system and the first amendment come months - nay years - of in your face candidacy. Even I get sick of it and thank my lucky stars that I don’t live in New Hampshire or Iowa.

    There needs to be a middle ground - or people need to find their middle ground. Somewhere between being an informed voter and being completely apathetic. I, personally, would like for you to be informed and I am going to be that annoying person who writes and tweets about debates and candidacies and why I would totally vote for Jon Huntsman. More importantly I think living in this democracy gives us an opportunity to ask those questions and talk about things in a candid - non-threatening and non-menacing - way.

    Democracy isn’t the most exciting thing around but it's the weeks leading up to standing in front of the ballot box that are the most important. And I just want to talk about it.

    Related:

    The Fix has a breakdown of tonight’s CNN Republican debate
    (follow on Twitter #cnnteaparty)

    BlogHer Moms has a piece on why moms should get involved to make their schools better
    Wednesday
    Aug312011

    We're the Ones You Want

    My strong, unwavering passion for women in politics is sometimes called into question. Why are you so passionate is what is often asked. Why am I so adamant about political engagement when it comes to women? If I want women to run for office so badly, then why don’t I just run myself?

    In my mind the answer is pretty clear: Because we, as women haven’t been politically engaged. Because so many of us say that we just don’t care. Because we are an apathetic bunch. This concerns me greatly as I watch two 50 year old men duke it out on national television over one of the smallest increases of the debt ceiling in history. I grow concerned when congress prepares to end federal funding for planned parenthood and in a time when men are in control of both houses of congress and the White House, I find that women are sitting back on their laurels as the cuts happen. Right now everything is on the chopping block including education funding for your children, health care for you and pre-existing condition called ‘pregnancy’. Essentially services that affect us most are the first to go and yet we don’t care. Correction; we do care but not until it’s far too late.

    No party is immune from viewing women as an afterthought but since right now there’s a 2012 primary of the ages happening on the right, I figure I’ll look at them and their track record for thinking of women as blithely and blindly following along. Oh, but Heather, at least the GOP has women running for President, what does the other side have? True. But have you seen the options for women? Sarah - I gave up the other job I was elected to half way through but now I want to try out being President. Maybe. - Palin. And Michelle - Earthquakes and hurricanes are Gods way of sending a message to politicians - Bachmann. It’s like the lesser of two, possibly three, evils and neither have stood up for things like the need for women focused health care services and their views on education and most domestic policy are non-existent. To date, the only GOP contender prepared to offer any sort of jobs plan is Jon Huntsman.

    It isn’t fair of me to categorically summarize all women in politics as the Palin, Bachmann lot because there are plenty of others on both sides of the aisle who are focused on issues pertaining to those of us who make up a majority of the population. That doesn’t keep looks of deep concern from creeping on my face. I question every single day how do we change this? What can we do to get the conversation started?

    Quick digression to say that the reason for this post and deep sighs from me this morning was thanks to a piece by Patrick Gavin at Politico. He wrote about the number of political/2012 focused panels being proposed for the upcoming SXSW interactive festival in Austin. If you are unfamiliar with SXSW it is a festival exploring what’s up and coming in music, film and interactive media. While the number of proposals on politics in 2012 is large he makes reference to the following:

    "How Social Media Imperils Political Parties," with The New York Times's Matt Bai and political strategists Mark McKinnon, Joe Trippi and Nathan Daschle.

    "Reporters & Evangelists: Politics of Online News," featuring Roll Call's Shira Toeplitz.

    "Poli-Sci-Fi Punditry: Nerdy Political Bloggers," featuring Slate's David Weigel, The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, the American Prospect's Adam Serwer and the Center for American Progress's Alyssa Rosenberg.

    "Big Data: Powering the Race for the White House," with The Winston Group's Kristen Soltis.

    "2012: Social Media's New Role in Politics," with The Huffington Post's Mark Blumenthal.

    "Election 2012: Campaigns, Coverage & the Internet" with Time magazine's Michael Scherer.

    The thing is that I am at least a fan or a follower of many of the proposed panelists. The one key politics and 2012 that Patrick managed to miss? The one that gets the conversation how women can involve themselves in politics and how politicians can get them on board? It’s this one:

    “We are the Ones You Want: Women online and politics”

    Women: 51% of the population who control 80% of the spending. We are naturally passionate and immersed in our respective communities. We rule the online world and have drawn the attention of marketers and PR companies, when it comes to politics and government there is still a tremendous lag. Those in the political arena still approach women as an afterthought and because of the disengagement, women feel ignored by politicians and develop a sense of apathy. Women and politicians are avid users of social media; this conversation will explore how both groups can engage each other over the course of the next election and beyond.Things across the country are heating up and it is important for women and politicians to engage with one another at all levels of government.

    Full disclosure: The panel was submitted by me along with Joanne Bamberger and David Wescott.  But more importantly it is a conversation that I and many others are dying to have. How do we get women involved in politics? How do we get women to realize that what happens politically on the local/state/federal level does, in fact, affect them? I don’t think we’ll answer my favorite question “How do we get women to care?” but at least it’s a start and just 14 months before one of the most watched presidential elections in our history, it’s a conversation that needs to happen. Sooner rather than later.
    Friday
    Aug192011

    Debt in Past Tense (Part II)

    I kind of left you hanging there didn’t I? There was travel and now a sinusy mucousy thing going on and making me want to remove my ears, nose and throat. No doctor necessary. I’ll just do it myself. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, the President decides to take the debt debacle to us, the American people and then I realized that this shit was getting way too long and could be like a novel as opposed to a blog post and here we are! Part II!

    I become uncomfortable yet deeply enthralled while watching people argue. It’s a flaw of mine. I’m that person who doesn’t mind a train-wreck. So while it was entertaining to watch two grown men duke it out on national television there was still a fair amount of wincing. You guys? We got to see the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House fight over who has the biggest YOU KNOW WHAT (another reason to have more women in office. Just saying). And yes, I realize that I am speaking about two of the most powerful men in the country and probably the world but their behavior during Debt Debacle 2011 left much to be desired. You should be less alarmed by my referencing their ‘swimsuit spots’ and more by the fact that they brought there dirty politically driven laundry and aired it in public. They both stood up in front of billions to point fingers. “It’s HIS fault” could be the slogan of a five year old or 50 year old.

    As a person with a soft spot for congress (probably because my fontanel never closed properly) I was embarrassed and while I get on my high horse and tell people that they need to pay attention because what is going on in Washington is important, this? The bickering, the evils of party politics, this is not what I meant. In fact the entire month of July did nothing but give the American People - whose approval was so sought after - a reason to dislike Washington even more. The President and Speaker Boehner both took their cases to the American people in an evening of special reports and speculation via talking heads. At the end, Speaker Boehner asked that God bless America then promptly walked out of his ceremonial chambers to say that he did not sign up for this; to go mano-a-mano with the President of the United States. In hindsight it fairly reminiscent of fights with my younger brother where we raced to tell our mother our side of the story. We were too busy devising talking points and finding fault instead of seeing the error of our ways. In short; Washington became the world’s largest daycare center.

    What happened next is what is now par for the course in DC: After weeks of deliberating up until the last second - White House meetings were held, backroom deals are made and suddenly there wass a ‘compromise’ of sorts. ‘Compromise’ is a word best used loosely because it was anything but give and take. More push, pull and a possible threat of doom should default actually arrive or the threat of the 14th amendment. An even darker cloud loomed over Washington; not over the vote mind you because with those backroom deals also come an assurance that leadership will be able to deliver the votes needed to get a bill to pass. The dark cloud that was over the nation’s capital was the knowledge that despite bringing This to the American People, it did nothing but make the American people more apathetic than they already were. There was no good will and pats on the back for those who represent but instead a shadow of resentment within capitol and a public wholly disengaged and scratching their heads wondering if all of that really just happened.

    It was the above that caused the credit downgrade. One would think that a last ditch effort slide into home base would have kept us from this cruel fate, alas not. As we watched Washington at its most childish so did the rest of the world and credit agencies. What the S&P saw was a representative democracy not able to keep their shit together enough to do something for the people who got them to where they are today. Constituents were quickly forgotten about as was the money. It was a me game, plain in simple. Two men vying to prove just how powerful they could be and in the end one was forced to surrender.

    Now what? Is the question that remains. Congress returns after Labor Day, a Super Committee has been formed to find an additional $1.4 trillion in cuts and if they do not, if there once again is no compromise and blatant ignoring of the American people, then a trigger is in effect to cut Defense, Medicare and Medicaid. It’s waiting for a return and votes and meetings and partisan bickering. It’s watching a vicious cycle continue while congress remains at an all time low. That’s what.

    I'm having technical difficulties but here was the greatest moment ever in congress especially after two months of hardcore bickering. It makes you think of what's truly important when it comes to representing us - the people. And watching two grown ass men fight isn't that: Gabby Giffords on the floor of the House