12 May 2008

Obama v. Clinton

For some time now, I have been awestruck by the shear insanity, complexity and magnitude of the US Presidential election process. Coming from Canada, where we don’t even have a vote for our executive branch (he or she is merely the leader of the Party that wins the most seats in the House), you can’t understand the disconnect between our two countries systems. The Americans feel as though a long drawn out process is the best arena for choosing their leader – an argument that has its merits. However, this creates a situation that seems to simply lack common sense, when measured against the magnitude of time and money that it involves.

The theme that should trump all is of course, democracy. As the birthplace of the modern Constitutional democracy (with respect to France, where the spirit of democracy began), Americans love to flaunt the sheer democratic rule of their system. Democracy is inherently based two mutually reinforceable attributes: 1) a legal framework based on a sense of justice and 2) the populaces’ rights to free speech, thought, and participation. As I see it, each of these attributes has led to the issues at hand in the current Democratic nomination process. Most notably, the process seems to be lacking a critical ingredient: common sense.

The first and most important ingredient that has caused this Clinton/Obama mess is the rules and regulations of the entire process. Let me start by stating my prejudice: in my own opinion, the primaries should all be on one day. I understand the benefit that campaigning has on individual states. My problem is that it is simply not fair: in most cases, a bunch of corn farmers in Iowa have an inordinate unfair saying in the process, to go along with a bunch of granite statesmen whose motto is “live free or die”. If the democratic process should allow everyone a say, how is it that this is the first primary in 40 years where Indianans (why isn’t it Indians…oh right) get a say in the process?

Barring having the entire process on one day, why is it that you need a PhD in thermonuclear poll counting to understand the freaking process? Remember a few weeks back in the Texas voting where Clinton won but then when they got to the caucuses the next day Obama had actually won? I’m guess you don’t remember. Even to those voting the process is too complex. Try telling the 1.7 million Democratic voters or the 600,000 Michigan voters that the process is in the fair interest of Democracy. The Gore/Bush process of 2000 was bad enough, here you have a second major example of awesome voter disenfranchising. How is this process democratic? You tell states to vote one day, they go and organize a vote another day, and you are left with a huge flop. Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan and neither candidate were allowed to campaign in Florida. Back then another guy named Edwards was involved in the race, remember him? Candidates present themselves for President of the US, but given the primary system, they are actually presenting themselves for Iowa, New Hampshire and a few other states candidates. If they get past these, they should be a shoe in for the nominations.

Yet, here we are with two candidates, both with hopes of representing their demographics first hopes of Presidency (African American and woman respectively), who have nearly identical platforms. Nearly 90% of democrats would accept either candidate. So why the big argument? Well, you have probably read it by now: Obama has the most votes, but Clinton has one the important states. Since the Democrats have a proportional system, neither candidate can secure the needed votes.

In the end, this is a process-based system that pretends to represent the democratic ideal. It most certainly does not. Should Florida and Michigan not count – which they won’t – you have a huge legal issue on your hands. The fate of the Democratic candidate lies in the hands of “super delegates”. I this a Marvel comic story line? I’m afraid not.

The fact of the matter is that the general election should be the embodiment of democracy. However each party chooses their candidate should be entirely their own decision. If as a member of the Democratic party you have an issue with the situation, you should bring it up to the party brass. If I learnt anything from West Wing it is that the policy advisors behind the President have the real control, and not the man or woman for whom you check an X (or punch a chad).

But don’t kid yourself. All the criticism in this election is a direct result of the process. If the Democrats had a winner take all system, Hillary would have been the candidate long ago (she won the big states of New York and California early on). Since they have a proportional system, it seems as though Obama will win. But if the super delegates reverse this situation, it will simply be a matter of the process determining the candidate. I guess in the end, you have to ask yourself if you are happy with the processes that are in place.

2 comments:

Josh said...

Well put Rich.

It's ridiculous, it really is. Not even considering the failings of a 2-party system.

I think a lot of democrats are to the point they don't care anymore, lets just get Clinton or Obama in the White House. I don't care which one, lets just be done with all this.

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