I think it’s crazy. Some far-away country – a rich one nonetheless – may have elections later this year. And to celebrate that in style they engage in archaic rituals – expensive ones nonetheless – to let people choose among the people who can stand in the election state by state. I am sure all this comes from some ideas that were great democratic ones back in the eighteenth century. But it doesn’t make particularly much sense today.
What makes even less sense is that the ‘news’ about this are spread around the world. Nobody believes that anybody who’d be allowed to stand in those races can bring fundamentally new politics to his/her country or the world at large. Differences in style or personality, sure, but big, fundamental differences? In addition, neither me nor most other people around here will be allowed to participate in the vote anyway. No complaints about that. But it really makes it less relevant to follow all the foreplay of the electoral process, doesn’t it? We’ll have to deal with whoever comes out of it in the end and that’s it.
And as recent elections have shown: neither is the democratic system on the other side of the Atlantic able to necessarily give clear cut or even fair results, nor can the voters participating in it be trusted to make reasonable decisions. Which makes us fear for the worst.
At the same time a presidential candidate is killed in Pakistan and election results are contested in Kenya. That’s also about elections in other countries. It’s current rather than vaguely in the future. And it could affect those countries much more than any of the rituals they currently play Iowa. But it’s already hard to find reports about those other events in the papers because they are already a few days in the past.
It’s not a perfect system, but I don’t think it’s fair to call the primaries archaic and senseless. The results provide an enormously valuable metric of each nominee’s (and, by extension, party’s) chances for winning, not to mention a chance for underdogs to make their cases outside of the even less trustworthy glut of media polls. Which certainly beats what, in the absence of the primaries, could very easily have been a no one-wins race between Clinton and Giuliani.
Yes, there’s a disappointingly narrow range of opinion between the candidates, but to think that there wouldn’t be a huge difference between Obama as president vs. Huckabee as a president is just absurd. Hell, I’ll make it easier: imagine a world where Gore won in 2000.
I can imagine a world where Gore won in 2000, it would not be hugely different. Sure, he talks well now that he’s not elected into public office and beholden to those interests that would augment his political power. People often forget that Gore was quite the Hawk when it came to Iraq, for example. And there were many civil rights violations whilst he was vice-president. I particularly like the Cockburn/St. Clair book on Gore, the User Manual, that goes into some detail about his capabilities and policies.
I think there’s an expectation for a huge change in American politics. It’s all wish-fulfillment and bullshit, smoke and mirrors.
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