Monday, July 6, 2009

The Argument for The Democratic Process

The Argument for The Democratic Process

There are calls from Party insiders on both sides of the fence for a short primary process. This has not been the case in this particular season. The Democrats wasted a huge opportunity and are on very thin ice as the voters demand to be heard. Add your opinions to the end if you agree or disagree with the idea that the elections should continue.

The dominating political discussion is the Democratic primary, and Pennsylvania's relevance in this contest is rather exciting to voters all across the state, Republican and Democrat. Throughout the Republican Primary season and this continuing Democratic race there has been a call from some in the parties expressing eagerness to make the latter contests irrelevant with the underdog ceding the nomination to the front-runner. If one looks at the political party nomination process as party business and not as an exercise in democracy, then the position makes sense. There is more time to stimulate the general election debate, raise funds, and organize constituencies. Therefore the late scheduling of the conventions and disqualifications of some states were party business as well. The parties deemed that the conventions had become more coronations and, it is my guess, that they scheduled these conventions to build momentum for the home stretch of the general election race. However, given the actions of the Florida and Michigan governments, and the almost down-the-middle divide in the party between the candidates the voters and the party leaders are sadly reminded of what the traditional purpose of the convention has been, to fairly and effectively select the party's nominee.

Some have called for Senator Clinton to leave the race and cede victory to Senator Obama. While as a voter, I would love to see Senators McCain and Obama begin their campaigns and the greater national discussion to follow. There are some within the Democratic Party that believe this continued primary season hurts the party. Others say it is fantastic for the party and should continue until the convention is held, (with time adjusted for the effect of 24-hour news media) some half-dozen years from now. Either of these points-of-view could be correct, it depends on the manner in which the campaigns are conducted throughout.

For the past month John McCain has been able to quietly rally the Republican troops, fill in the gaps in his organization, and essentially begin his general election campaign while the two Democratic candidates lambasted each other's character. The question changed from which of these two would be the best agent of change into why the other candidate and, by extension, those they associate with would make for a bad candidacy. This to me was a wasted opportunity and one of the reasons why Democrats are viewed as disorganized and their own worst enemy. When John McCain secured the nomination Mike Huckabee was still gaining a significant percentage of votes building steam seemingly because Sen. McCain was the front-runner. Every media outlet drove into the voters' mind that since there was no way for Huck to win the nomination, that it was time to call the race. When Huck bowed out, both Senators Obama and Clinton should have picked up right where he left off. Sen. Obama had the right idea, identifying their differences but also pointing out why Democrats should be respectful of John McCain and thus appealing to some of McCain's moderate and independent support.

However, his opponent then launched her 3 A.M. ad and he had to turn his focus on his primary opponent. Had she taken the same approach and deftly included why she would be superior to Sen. Obama in challenging Sen. McCain, he would have had to fend off attacks from two directions with little organization to handle such work. This is her current strategy in Pennsylvania. Attacks directly against Sen. Obama have not worked before. However, now that the subject of race has been introduced by her surrogates and the Rev. Wright attention, the notion that "She's the only candidate that can beat John McCain," has a new effectiveness with some of the blue-collar white democrats in the state.

The notion that any election in a democracy is not good for the country is ludicrous. The voters have made this more than simply party business. When there are only two significant parties presenting candidates on a national level, the selection of the nominee is very important. However, if the tones of these campaigns are not dignified and helpful to the party first and the candidate second, then effectively the Democrats make the Republican's workload much easier when it comes time to start raking muck. The differences in policy are not attention grabbing and will not keep the senior election analysts on the news networks talking. Instead they have engaged in snarky backbiting and character assaults that grab headlines but may hurt their efforts in the long run to November 2. The challenge lies at the feet of the Democratic candidates and the steps they take on the road to the convention. Senator Obama, in my opinion has so far done the best job of attempting to elevate the debate and focus forward rather than at sinking the ship sailing along next to him. He is content to make his case rather than be divisive and then let the American voter decide like adults. This week it seems as though Senator Clinton is attempting to lighten things up as well, even engaging in a poorly-delivered April Fool's joke. I only hope that she has the courage to run her campaign with dignity and honesty, not for herself, not even for her party, but for the American people so that we may move towards a future in which we are able to again believe in not only the candidates but the process itself.

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