Saturday, June 7, 2008

Does The Democratic Party Really Stand For Democracy

Well, the two year Democratic primary appears to be over. I say appears because as I write this, we are waiting for Hillary’s press conference to suspend her campaign. The word is that she will suspend, not quit her bid for the White House. This will give her wiggle room if Obama blows it (not impossible), lets her continue fund raising to retire some of her debt, and finally lets her keep her delegates as bargaining chips.

With the campaign done, it is time to reflect on the curious way the Democrats select a candidate. The entire system for selecting a candidate that the Democrats use is, in my mind, un-Democratic.

First we have caucuses. This is a system the Republicans use also and it flies in the face of Democracy. Basically they get together in meeting places and have a series of open votes for candidates in the party. Eventually some of the weaker candidates are eliminated by the process and then the caucuses of the remaining candidates go after the voters who supported candidates that were eliminated. This continues until one candidate is chosen. While on the surface this appears to be the epitome of Democracy, what ultimately happens is voters are bullied and cajoled to vote for someone who, given a chance to make a private, reasoned decision, they would not have supported. This system awards the candidates who have set up a better organized and louder group of supporters, not the one viewed as the most qualified.

This is more of a concern because of the disproportional relevance given the Iowa caucus. It is often the scenario in which a candidate wins the Iowa caucus and comes out as the ‘front-runner’. This gives them considerable play in the press and has a tendency to sway voters in later states. I am not entirely sure why, I never put any stock in Iowa and New Hampshire but it is a phenomenon that is well documented.

A strong case can be made for explaining why Barrack Obama, though not the most experienced or qualified Democratic candidate, managed to survive the nominating process and win the Democratic nomination. While I don’t think any of the Democratic candidates are worth their weight in cow manure, Obama was not even close to the most qualified. You could go down the list of every single Democratic candidate that started the process (ok, except Dennis “I see flying saucers” Kucinich), and make a case for them each being more qualified on most issues. Give him credit though, he has used the Iowa caucus win more to his advantage than any other candidate that I can remember.

Finally we have the “Super Delegates”. This is a system unique to the Democratic party in which a group of elected and unelected Democratic officials get a vote in the nominating process. This group comprises approximately 20% of the votes in the nominating process. They are not in any way obligated to vote for any specific candidate. The reason they were started in 1982 was to be a check against primary voters selecting a candidate that would be weak in the general election. This process gives the party leaders a measure of control over the selection process and an ability to ‘correct’ a poor choice by voters.

This is an incredibly arrogant and condescending opinion of the voters. The party bosses are essentially saying that the voters may need their guidance and occasionally, their intervention, to select an appropriate candidate. This doesn’t just fly in the face of democracy, it dive bombs it and then dumps a big bird turd on the shoulder of democracy.

These arrogant know-it-alls can literally reverse the will of voters and change the Democratic nominee to someone they view as the “right” candidate. The real idiots here though are not the party leaders, it’s the voters who allow this kind of system survive and flourish. It is inevitable that voters will favor another Michael Dukakis type candidate and the “Super Delegates” will rightly decide he does not have a chance to win the general election and will over-ride the will of the voters. This will be fun to watch.

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