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A Fresh Start

by Mark Koerner

part 2 of 3

A Fresh Start for the Parties

The Fresh Start was accompanied by a massive increase in voter turnout, especially among the middle-class and the poor. Did you have anything to do with this?

I hope so. We strengthened both parties at the same time, and the minor parties, too. I always said that the key to a strong Democratic Party is a strong Republican Party. One-party cities were always pond-scum places. Like Chicago. Or New Orleans.

And how does one strengthen every political party simultaneously?

One abolishes the public financing of elections.

Which a whole generation of Democrats fought for.

And that whole generation of Democrats was misguided.

Be concrete. I don’t know if you’re politically engaged or not, but suppose you are. If the government gives money to your party, why should you give it money? Why go to meetings? Why do anything? The government will keep it alive for you!

The argument we made — and I still think it’s a pretty good argument — is that publicly financed parties are a lot like publicly financed religions. The sole democracy in the Middle East once gave government handouts to Orthodox Judaism — and nobody went to synagogue. When they plugged that little leak, synagogue attendance went up.

Anyway, when President Amaranga was elected in 2052, the political parties had almost flat-lined. Congress was passing emergency appropriations just so the National Committees could pay their janitors. The system was broken. So the Fresh Start was a fresh start for the political parties, too.

And now a few Sugar Mamas finance campaigns again?

No. The Sugar Mama model was just as bad as the Public Finance model. We found a third way: the Legion of Spare Change Contributors.

Today, about 200 million Americans make paycheck contributions to a political party, usually through the IRS Pipeline. We solved 80 percent of the problem just by classifying the parties as charities, so contributions are tax-deductible.

But why on Earth is the IRS involved?

Not just on Earth. From Mercury to Ganymede, no matter where you work, we made sure you could get the IRS to funnel part of your paycheck to the political party of your choice. Did it have problems? Sure, but give me a week to think of one.

Now the parties advertise again. They distribute millions of leaflets. They hold rallies, they own dozens of Echomakers, and they get old cripples like me to the Voting Spots. We reversed “the onward march of party decomposition.”

I take it you had a lot to do with this one. But didn’t employers pressure their employees to give money to the Republicans?

Well, it can work the other way, too, and in any case our Republican opponents were just as much against that kind of thing as we were. If you’re a boss, and do that, you will go to jail. It’s that simple.

So that was the main thing? In terms of getting more people to vote?

No, that wasn’t the main thing. The main thing was having the federal government do interesting things. Like the Wipeout Core. Like the Fingers. Like the Message Ships headed to the Altair system. Like translating the entire Alien Broadcast.

And what’s not—

What’s not interesting? What’s not interesting is a tax credit for corporations to give their aging computers to local governments. Or more drug-rehab funds for rural areas. That’s as dull as it gets. An earlier generation of Democrats never got that message, so they spent all those years in the wilderness...

Anything else?

A bunch of little things. [Pause] First, we moved to finger ink. After you voted, you dipped your pinky finger in orange ink. It wasn’t just to prevent fraud; it was also to shame non-voters.

Of course it didn’t work as well as we’d hoped; you can now buy “Election Orange” [ink] just about anywhere, if you want to skip an election and say you didn’t.

Incidentally, we got that idea — as we got many of our ideas — from democracies considerably poorer than our own.

And we wanted to make elections more in-your-eyeballs. So when the Wipeout Core hauled away all that rubble, they heaped the inert stuff into huge hills, which they landscaped.

Then we named those hills after the artifacts of democracy: Voting Spot Hill and Ballot Box Ridge. Mount Green Party, Mount Single Tax, and Mount Libertarian. Hill Democrat, Hill Republican. Hill Socialist. Reform Party Heights. Election Day Heights, Gerrymander Mound, and so on.

All right. I’m trying to buy a house. Will the only house I like turn out to be on Communist Heights?

Oh. I don’t know. I hope not.

You certainly concretized the abstract, but couldn’t you just improve civic education in the schools?

No. You know the peak years for voter turnout? Just after the Civil War. At that time, most Americans had eighth-grade educations, if that. Then people began to get more schooling, and with every passing decade — well, most passing decades — turnout went down. The school solution turned out to be no solution at all. It was time to make a fresh start.

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Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2009 by Mark Koerner

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