I remember asking my father as we rode in his cobalt blue pick-up, what he thought of the primary season, the candidates, the economy, the war in Iraq and in general, American politics. An avid reader of history, well educated in the nature of world governments and American values, he responded quite frankly: “Democracy is a nice idea, but give me a benign despot any day.”
No doubt after revealing this fact, the wire tapping of his home phone is well underway. I’d call and warn him, but that seems rather counter-intuitive. Best of luck, Dad.
But is he right? Should every voice count, as Hillary Rodham Clinton has begun to profess while her popular vote continues to trail without the inclusion of Florida and Michigan delegates? Should the 15 percent of Americans who believe that Barack Obama is both a Muslim and has an anti-American Christian pastor, as a recent AP-Yahoo poll reveals, be able to choose the next leader of the free world when they can’t seem to straighten out their own incongruous, even somewhat inane, logic? For my own sanity, I could say that old white racists use Yahoo.
This season, one question in particular seems to remain at the forefront of the minds of the Democratic National Convention officials and the party as a whole. Should the democratic super delegates, about 800 in count, be permitted to override the popular vote of the masses? I answer with a resounding yes. And then immediately after, with a resounding no.
The whole notion of “every-vote-should-count,” which should really have been shortened to one word by now for quick use (hence forth I will be saying ev-ote-ould-nt), is the cause of the proportional voting system which has elongated the Democrat’s process of choosing a nominee while the winner-takes-all system has allowed Republicans to end their fratricide early.
Professor of law at Florida International University and prolific contributor to the New York Times, Stanley Fish reminded us in his March 16 blog that “control was lost in the McGovern reforms of the 1970s,” the blunder that created the ev-ote-ould-nt’s proportional voting system, “and in reaction the party regulars came up with the superdelegates scheme in the early ’80s,” in order to better moderate the newly created chaos.
Perhaps it was not enough.
Columnist Bob Herbert reminds us, “There is no such thing as a can’t-miss year for the Democrats. They are truly gifted at finding ways to lose.”
Jimmy Carter couldn’t hold the keys to the White House for two terms, while Bill Clinton made an impressive attempt at losing his presidency through sex scandals. The reason there is so much excitement about young Democrats like myself is that the older ones have either become Reaganite independents or are so “psychologically damaged,” as Herbert puts it, that they have difficulty standing up to an angry, illogical and incredibly loud conservative far right.
And yet, simply because Democrats have put the fickle winds of politics against their sails, does not mean that we are wrong in our efforts to sustain ev-ote-ould-nt.
The enemy of actual democracy is not the multiplicity of voices, but the grenade lobbing of party individuals who demoralize their own troops as they compete for command. It is not the debate over universal health care or the withdrawal of troops from Iraq that hurts the Democratic party, but ludicrous statements about flag pins and quotations of candidates taken so far out of context that they have begun to orbit the moon. And with certainty, those who profess ev-ote-ould-nt are not the ones who should be condemned for the outcome of the most recent political debate hosted by ABC, who wrapped their pretentious and divisive questions in the thinly-veiled excuse, “we wanted to ask character questions.”
In a time in which any Democrat should be able to waltz into the White House and plant their blue donkey flag in the Oval Office without hindrance, they have instead begun to throw each other down the Hill as an old man in his seventies, popularly named McBush, begins to slowly hobble past them.
If Democrats could simply have a fair and honest foot race, perhaps ev-ote-ould-nt would have a shot at sticking around.
If not, let’s just hope my father’s benign despot is the next American president.