Published by Jane Devin on 15 Feb 2008 at 05:53 am
I hate politics. Yes, I know I write about the subject frequently, but it’s out of desperation, not love. Truly, I was happier back in the Bill Clinton years, when I had health insurance, the cost of living was decent, housing was affordable, jobs were plentiful, and I gave much less thought to what was going on in Washington. Even the evils of professional scandal makers like Ken Starr and Karl Rove didn’t get under my skin — much. I felt confident that there was enough common sense and judicial integrity left in Washington to absorb even the most cunning and strategic shock of dirty politics.
That confidence has gone the way of gas that cost $1.05/gallon and mortgages that averaged 25% of a family’s income. Moreover, I’ve become convinced that common sense is a rarity, and that judicial integrity has been irretrievably pitted by loopholes.
I doubt I’ll ever get over the fact that the United States Supreme Court forced George W. Bush on America, despite a contrary popular vote. It was more than a slap in the face to voters — it was, and has been, a brutal, long-term assault.
However, we’re now in a new election season, and supposedly this time around, Americans are clamoring for justice. They want their voices heard, and they want their votes to count. They want a turn-around for a country that’s been led as if it were a dictatorship rather than a democratic republic.
Yet the 2.4 million voters of primary elections in Florida and Michigan may not have their votes counted at all based on the timing of their votes, which was something State officials, and not the voters, controlled. Clinton won Florida handily, but Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. 366 delegates hang in the balance, and at this point neither state seems willing to hold another primary. Florida and Michigan officials not only subverted their process, knowing that early elections were against DNC rules, they rendered their voters mute and powerless in one of the most important elections in history.
Then we’ve got the superdelegates. The whole delegate system has been called into question before, and rightly so, but this year the stakes are really staggering and the process needs to be revisited. Is the role of a superdelegate to vote with their state’s majority, or is it to choose the candidate they believe is best suited to the role of President? Are they to act as followers or as more objective jurists? If they are merely to follow, then what is the need for delegates at all? Why not just cut out the middle man and count the popular vote?
If, instead, they are to be conscientious and objective in their decisions, then what guarantees does the public have that they arrived at their decision cleanly, intelligently, and without undue influence?
I was a little shocked to read an interview with Christine “Roz” Samuels, a superdelegate from New Jersey, who says that she doesn’t have to answer to anybody but God and her own conscience for her vote. She also, according to the interview, “explained that her adult children (all Obama supporters) influenced her decision to join the Obama delegate count column.” Samuels, who seemed distressed that she had not been courted by the Clinton camp after declaring her support last year, is now mimicking the quickly tiring, vacuous screed of “hope” that is part and parcel of the Obama campaign.
“He energizes the younger people and gives them hope,” Samuels says. Substance, experience, and plans be damned, Samuels has hopped on the glory train. Sure, the train might not have enough steam to actually go anywhere — and it’s chief engineer might be better at giving inspirational speeches than navigating the twisted tracks of politics — but that won’t stop Samuels, or others from jumping on the train. Especially when there’s ego involved. Or the opinions of adult children. Or popularity. Or whatever other reason or excuse, convenient or elusive, that a delegate or superdelegate may use — because quite simply there are no enforceable standards under which they operate. They can choose to go by God and their conscience, the will of everyday voters, or whatever candidate best strokes their ego.
The system is broken, and there are no perfect solutions. Just as superdelegates may choose the flimsiest of criteria in making their decisions, so may many voters. The principle of “the majority is always wrong” exists for a reason. No, of course that principle is not always true, but it does speak to the disenchanting fact that people are easily swayed by rhetoric — proven not just by by the rise of historically tragic figures like Adolph Hitler and Ayatollah Khomeini — but by lesser things, such as the heavy proliferation of right-wing media in 1990’s America.
Lest we take too much pride in the savvy intelligence of the American public, we might also remember the thousands of Americans who supported Jim & Tammy Faye as they paved their bathrooms with gold, or the thousands more who heeded Oral Roberts’ request to send him millions of dollars to stave off God’s impending thunderbolt. Of course, these readily obedient and believing patrons of television religion are not the majority, but add in those who strongly adhere to other belief-informing creeds — like neocons, far left liberals, and single-issue voters — or those who vote based solely on name recognition or celebrity status, or those who vote strictly along party lines, regardless of what they know about a candidate, and the picture becomes more dangerous, at least among those who feel that logic, and not blind adherence to a dogma, should be the standard by which decisions are made.
What do you think? Do you believe delegates should follow the lead of voters in their area, apply their own reasoning, or use some other objective criteria? Is it time to let the delegate system go in favor of the popular vote?
Are the majority of voters in this election truly informed, or are they jumping on the most popular bandwagon crafted by the media? Will the end results reflect the will of the majority, the choice of the delegates, or both?
Will there be integrity in the 2008 elections, or is it already too late?