Friday, August 8, 2003

'The Cancellation of Democracy'

Here's an extremely interesting column by Bob Guldin in the Baltimore Sun, "The Cancellation of Democracy," which, unfortunately, misses some important points.
First off, canceling any election is a bad thing, especially if it is for financial reasons, so don’t get me wrong here. Budgetary times are bad; cancel elections! How insane is that?
However, in most cases, primary and preliminary elections, especially at the local level, have been cancelled left and right due mostly to non-interest – by candidates and voters. So, it isn’t an unusual thing, and we should probably get used to this happening more and more.
Disturbing? Yes. Extraordinary? No.

And just because a few states – with Republican-controlled corner offices and legislatures – think it is a good idea, however, to look at this as a partisan issue misses the point.
Democrats shouldn’t complain about the cancellations. They can deal with the issue by having inter-party caucuses which would galvanize just as much interest as a primary, especially if the candidates take a state seriously and decide to visit it. The article states that Alaska, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming have not planned any primaries and caucuses. Well, why not? Where are the state democratic organizations in creating their own process? Maybe they don’t think it is important because the states are so small. At least Michigan and South Carolina are trying to set something up.
Guldin states,
"… primaries are clearly the most democratic and broad-based way of nominating presidential candidates. In a hotly contested primary, 20 percent of eligible voters may turn out - far more than ever show up at caucus meetings."
Wow, 20 percent, what a turnout.
But let’s be honest: Primaries are barely more democratic than caucuses because it doesn’t take any effort to go and vote for five minutes. The candidates raise millions of dollars and then brainwash the voters with their television and radio ads. The 20 percent will then dutifully march to the polls and cast a ballot. How is that "most democratic?" However, organizing a caucus is much more difficult, and the people who show up at caucuses for the most part, are truly committed to a candidate. Sure, there will still be advertising. But the candidates have to work to gain support; they actually have to talk to people and convince them that they are worthy of the votes. The supporters then have to go out and talk to their friends and neighbors and get support for their candidates. The caucus process isn’t about people aloofly showing up at the polls for five minutes. So, "democracy" is actually more serious in a caucus even if fewer people show up, and this is an important point not to miss.
Here is another good point by Guldin that misses:
"Besides fiscal austerity, an argument many lawmakers make in favor of abolishing primaries is the 'front-loaded' primary schedule. That is, in the race to make their influence felt in the nominating process, more and more states have moved their primaries to the front of the line. A delegate selection process that once ran from February to June is now effectively over in early March. So if your state's primary isn't early, it's irrelevant."
Well, whose fault is that? Not the voters. Not the state legislatures. Not the Republican Party. The blame for the front-loaded primary issue squarely lies with the Democratic Party and its leadership's obsession with making a quick primary decision instead of having a full airing of the process and selection of the best candidate.

Kucinich plays hardball
Rep. Dennis Kucinich came out swinging against some of his rivals, from AP via Common Dreams: ["Kucinich Challenges Democratic Candidate Dean's Positions for Not Being Progressive Enough"].
On Dean, Kucinich said:
"If someone wants to be a fiscal conservative, a good place to start is the Pentagon budget and he's already taken it off the table. How in the world can you be for peace when you won't touch a Pentagon budget that needs war to expand, that needs war in order to justify itself?"
On Gephardt:
"If Democratic candidates will not commit to withdrawing from the fundamentally flawed NAFTA and WTO agreements, then who will protect workers and the environment?"
Soros banking on defeating Bush
You have to love these richies who can be convinced to throw money at the pitch man's attempt to fix the world: ["Liberal groups, financier unite to defeat Bush"].
Frankly, throwing more cash at the election won't do. The money spent on registering voters is basically a way for private interests to hire a whole bunch of unemployed democrats to buy loyalty. Instead, the democrats should be finding a candidate who can bring back prosperity to the working class and encourage voters to go to the polls.

Cape wind controversy ...
The Boston Phoenix has a pretty good editorial on why the beautiful people of the Cape should shut up and deal with the wind project: ["Give wind a chance"]
"Retired journalist Walter Cronkite and Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David McCullough are among those who have lodged their objections. So, incredibly, has Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council. Yes, the high-tech windmills might harm the view from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. But how can he square his environmentalism with his opposition to a clean source of energy?"
Good question. These people are so amazing sometimes.

A seat the Dems should target
Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Vote Fraud, was booed at a town meeting in Bradenton, Fla. last night: ["Katherine Harris Booed at Bradenton Town Hall Meeting"]. I don’t know what the registration component in her district is but there seems to be a lot of people mad at her.