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Democracy Inaction

skippy the bush kangaroo has a post up about a MoveOn petition that is telling the Democratic Party Super-delegates that they should vote for the candidate with the most delegates and not “swing” the nomination for the “loser”.

When MoveOn made the decision to endorse a candidate prior to Super Tuesday, they forfeited any right to claim impartiality. That’s why I dropped a long-standing relationship with the organization. Anything they have said or done from that point has to be viewed as an action in support of their chosen candidate. You can’t take sides and then claim to be impartial.

Demanding that people vote in a particular way is not democratic, although it is Democratic in a Boss Tweed and Daley Chicago machine sort of way. I bring up the political machine of Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley [father of the current mayor] because Obama and his supporters better get used to dealing with it, given Obama’s multiple references to Chicago politics.

As it stands now, there doesn’t appear to be a candidate supported by a majority of registered Democrats. If we had an instant run-off we would know who the second choice of Democrats who supported someone other than the two front-runners, but we don’t. I have offered an solution to the problem, but it won’t be taken seriously because it doesn’t provide any leeway for “party professionals” to cut deals.

The “rules” say that the Super-delegates can vote for anyone they want. As Obama supporters are fond of saying “we can’t change the rules in the middle of the game”. If the Super-delegates vote for someone other than the front-runner, hey, too bad, those are rules, suck it up, you brought it on yourself by not changing the rules before the start of the campaign. I’ve heard it all from Obama supporters dumping on Florida Democrats, so don’t expect me to care.


1 Cookie Jill { 02.18.08 at 2:46 pm }

Wow…the new “digs” are pretty spiffy!

2 Bryan { 02.18.08 at 2:54 pm }

There were a lot of problems coming to the fore with the old system, so I didn’t have much choice. I like serif fonts for readability and there aren’t that many templates that use them. I was tired of hacking the default template every time a WordPress update came out, so now I am free of that.

3 jams o donnell { 02.18.08 at 3:36 pm }

I like the new look Bryan Very good

4 Bryan { 02.18.08 at 5:42 pm }

I’m hoping it’s more readable and reliable, Jams.

5 hipparchia { 02.18.08 at 9:06 pm }

i haven’t got a problem with telling someone how to vote when it’s “the people” petitioning the superdelegates to “follow the will of the people”. i get the point of having superdelegates, and an electoral college, but i wouldn’t mind abolishing both institutions.

not that that’s what moveon are really asking for here. now that it looks like their chosen candidate is pulling ahead in the popular vote, now they’re saying to the poohbahs “vote with the people.”

otoh, it is contributing to the overall theater surrounding the elections and pointing at some of what in the system needs fixing. all of which will likely be forgotten on nov 5, but none of my candidates are in the race, so i’m just as happy to have this particular election cycle be about the process. if i truly cared about any of the remaining candidates, i’d probably be mad.


6 Kryten42 { 02.18.08 at 9:26 pm }

I like it too Bryan. 🙂 I like the changing head banner.

I only mention this because I have nothing much to add to the topic of discussion (that you haven’t heard before anyway). 🙂

My only comment might be that the majority of Australians, and indeed the rest of the World, don’t understand America’s *brand* of Democracy. As far as we can see, Americans don’t seem to have any real democratic election system. Here, for example, we have none of this pre-election candidate selection. Any candidate capable of running for the Senate or Parliament can have their name on the ballot (assuming they pass the rules governing candidacy), and the voters make their choices known at the ballot box. Our system isn’t perfect (in our eyes) either. Deals are done and we have things called *preferences*, where a candidate or party can give their preferences (redirect their votes) to another candidate or party. However, those preferences have to be allocated before the election so the voters know who gets what. We can either vote for an individual or a party. Most people simply vote for a party as it’s much simpler than ranking 10 or 20 candidates by personal preference. Still, the option is there (and the election last November showed that many more people used that personal selection option).

It’s not perfect, but it seems much more democratic than the American system (even allowing for the fact that the USA is not in fact a ‘Democracy’, but a ‘Constitutional Republic’ which should, in fact, be a better system). In a *true* Democracy, majority always rules. In a Republic, a minority can win. The USA system is really neither. You vote and chose, then another minute group of people can decide that they don’t like your decision and choose differently. Americans talk about *Representation* and *voice*, but the reality seems to us that you have neither in fact. It’s a nice theory, practice has proven to be very different.

So, to us, all this discussion and campaigning for popular vote, is at best a placebo. It seems that if you get what you think you want, it’s purely coincidental. The decisions have already been made, and the average American will find out what that decision is when the Presidential election comes around.

Maybe we are wrong (and I have lived in the USA through an election campaign), but that is how it seems to us.

7 Jack K { 02.18.08 at 9:50 pm }

…I guess I pretty much have said elsewhere all I have to say about the whole Superdelegate kerfluffle, but I won’t be signing a Moveon petition quite simply because of the basic argument you lay out…

We Orygonians haven’t been disenfranchised in the same way that Florida and Michigan Democrats have by the dictates of the party, but it is still looking as though – for reasons so perverse that no sharp-eyed expert could have predicted them – our vote still won’t matter, given that there will be so few delegates remaining to be handed out on May 20 and thereafter that the Orygun Democratic primary won’t tip the scales in any direction…

BTW, I like the new look, too, although the first few header photos made me say “Hey, Bryan has some shots of the Florida Panhandle”, so the desert scene took me somewhat by surprise…

8 Bryan { 02.18.08 at 10:21 pm }

Hipparchia, the question would be who gets to make the decision what “the people decided”. Too many delegates were the result of caucuses, which aren’t even remotely democratic, and the votes of independents and other non-Democrats. There is no real metric that can be used to say “this is what the Democratic Party members have decided”.

My solution is a real national primary, as I’ve already said, because then we’d know.

Kryten, every time you point out that some facet of the American scheme is obviously undemocratic, people fall back on “we’re a constitutional republic, not a democracy” which is true but disingenuous. No one is interested in what voters want, because that probably doesn’t coincide with their business plan.

The current non-system is designed to support the election business in a couple of states, and the ad sales of media conglomerates, not to find a leader of the country.

Jack, I wouldn’t count out the importance of Oregon to somebody. You have the same number of electoral votes as Iowa, and everyone knows how vital winning Iowa is to the Presidency.

It’s amazing how freaked out people are over the possibility that the convention might actually mean something. Too bad John Edwards couldn’t stay in, because then we would have some real fainting couch scenes.

Only the beach is local. We have sand, red clay, water, pines, and live oak. There are no rocks on the Panhandle; for years crushed oyster shell was used instead of gravel in building roads. The sand is quartz, not silicon, which is why it is sugar white.

9 Steve Bates { 02.18.08 at 11:02 pm }

Kryten, America’s “democracy” (I agree the term is inaccurate) was a sort of prototype, and as you know, prototypes often suffer flaws that cannot be corrected except by creating a later version, i.e., another nation.

E.g., we can never get rid of the Electoral College because it advantages small states, and there are too many of them ever to allow such a constitutional amendment to pass. And then there’s the matter of winner-take-all electoral votes. Four states (I think) have ameliorated the problem by distributing their electoral votes according to the popular vote in one or another fashion, but the remaining 46 states have no interest in doing something similar, as both major political parties seek the big clumps of votes available if they win a state even by a tiny margin. And if some states switched to distributed electoral votes but others didn’t… well, just read what the Republicans tried to do in California this year for an example of how antidemocratic (and anti-Democratic) that would be.

Some changes would be desirable, but they’ll never happen. It’s all a matter of whose Gore is axed. Um, I mean, whose ox is gored.

10 Kryten42 { 02.19.08 at 6:39 am }

Thanks Steve, & Bryan. 🙂

Don’t misunderstand me, whilst you may not be a ‘Democracy’ in the ancient Greek meaning of the word, your system *should* in fact be better (as I stated). The problem is (as I see it) that your system has been corrupted (some might say hijacked) and made so complicated almost no person can understand it. It’s taken a long time to get to the state your system is in today, and perhaps Bush & co should be given some minor recognition for showing how flawed it is. 🙂 It’s difficult to find any solution if one is unaware of the true nature of the problem. 🙂

It has taken a long time to corrupt the system, it will probably take a long time to fix it. At least now you can see the problems and begin the task of fixing them. You have one advantage these days, mass communication. The two things any despots fear above all else are knowledge and communication.

And, believe it or not, and in spite of everything, you do have friends out here. 🙂 Possibly more than you might imagine. 🙂 (You also have a lot of enemies, but that’s the way of the World sadly).

The history of the USA is littered with examples of minorities winning. Slavery, the suffragettes (womens rights), and many other inequalities have been changed by what were seen as minorities. Don’t get too hung up on the technicalities, the most important point is that change is possible and has happened before. 🙂


11 Bryan { 02.19.08 at 12:46 pm }

Kryten, US-ians suffer the arrogance of locals everywhere – the way we do things is obviously the best way. It makes no difference how screwed up it is. The US political “system” is painful for a systems analyst to look at because it is such an obvious patch job. In computer terms it is all kludge and no program.

In Florida, for example, there are 67 counties, and each of those counties conducts their elections for every office in a slightly different way. There is no consistency as the state election law keeps inserting “at the discretion of the county” at critical points in the process.

Looking at a US election, few realize that the 50 states are using 50 separate systems, and some of those 50 systems, like Florida, have a layer below, so you end up with thousands of different election procedures. These are the joys of the Federal system and “states rights”.

12 LadyMin { 02.19.08 at 1:21 pm }

Re: MoveOn … The purpose of the superdelegate, as I understand it, is to give more control to the active politicians and party leaders. If they don’t like the rules, they should work to get them changed. Sending the mob after individual superdelagates that don’t support the candidate of their choice is not the answer. And now they have alienated a good chunk of MoveOn members. Their spam goes in the trash now.

US Democracy certainly is a prototype. And I don’t believe it’s fixable on the election level anyway. It’s not so much the fact that it’s corrupt (and in many ways it is), it’s the fact that it needs a total rewrite. Election rules/laws need to be Federal for a Federal election. Or it just isn’t fair. States can have their local laws, etc., for city/county/township. We need a national primary and national rules. After the revolution, maybe.

13 Bryan { 02.19.08 at 2:45 pm }

Consistency has never been an American trait, but we really do need some sanity in national elections. At this point the Florida legislature could just decide to hold a special session and select the Presidential electors without regard to a vote “of the people” – they were ready to do it in 2000 if the Supreme Court hadn’t intervened – it it would be perfectly legal.

14 Kryten42 { 02.21.08 at 3:01 am }

Hi LadyMin. 🙂

The fact that the USA is a ‘Constitutional Republic of States’ is a major reason Federal Gov has never had a lot of control over anything outside of what the Constitution (and amendments) says it has. Hell would have to freeze before the States would relinquish any control over anything they don’t have to. We currently have a similar situation here. Most Aussies (who for the most part don’t really understand how things work) thought that now we have the ALP controlling the states, territories and Federal Gov, we could finally centralize all those things that should be. The phrase “No way in hell!” pretty much sums up the chance of that happening any time soon! 🙂 One change that *may* happen now is that perhaps we can finally become Republic, completely independent of the UK. But, that can only happen with a National referendum.

‘Common sense’ and ‘common good’ have nothing to do with Politics. (and I don’t just mean in the USA). There is a reason that history is littered with civil wars and revolutions.

15 Bryan { 02.21.08 at 12:53 pm }

You always have to preserve “states’ rights” or many political jobs will become redundant and unavailable for patronage.