Monday, July 6, 2009

Big States, Little States, United States.

Big States, Little States, United States

An article discussing the dangers of the "big-state" theory of campaigning that has turned all of our national elections into a matter of winning Florida or Ohio into winning the nomination or an election. Do read and comment, thanks!!

While watching the twenty-four hour news networks form a narrative for the elections, most specifically this current primary season, I have noticed a disturbing trend that threatens to marginalize the democratic process in these United States of America. The pundits and talking heads dismiss the primary and even general elections in states such as Idaho, Mississippi, Utah, and others. The way the primary system is set up, my state of Pennsylvania is typically irrelevant in the nomination process. Sure, our voice is heard to the tune of possibly 21 electoral votes in November, but in that election we have rarely had any say about for whom it is that we are casting our ballots. Today, our primary election is seen as the next significant battleground for the Democratic candidates and I am surprised at the small amount of attention we have been getting from these candidates.

Senator Clinton made her play for the state early, riding her momentum from the victories in Texas and Ohio. She appeared at my native Pittsburgh's St. Patrick's Day parade and wracked up significant endorsements from politician delegates and local officials alike. Senator Obama has conducted some town hall meetings in the outlying areas of the city and had one rally in the Oakland area of the city around a number of the largest colleges in the area. I had hoped for some more vigorous campaigning on his part, but the politics of race have been played rather heavily in this area, and I think the rural folks across the state need a little more time with the candidate than those of us in the city. We shall see what the final weeks leading up to the election bring in terms of campaign appearances.

I wonder, though, how many people in Mississippi would have liked the opportunity to have a town meeting with the candidate of their choosing as the Iowa or New Hampshire constituencies enjoyed. I wonder if the people of Delaware suffer less from the effects of this crippling economy than those in big "important" states. The disenfranchisement of the American Voter seems to continue in an a day and age when technology is as such we no longer need these antiquated contrivances that served their purposes in their day but should be pushed to evolve into a more pure version of this experiment called democracy.

After all, this is simply the party nomination process and we tend to forget that the political parties are organizations that should be allowed to make up their own rules. Yet, the two-party system we have in place limits the ability for all of the voices in the population to be heard. However, given the arguments made by this particular party during the resolutions of the 2000 and 2004 elections, the party that dares to call itself democratic should ensure that their nomination process is as democratic as possible. The delegates should be bound to vote as the voters which sent them to the convention directed. We are in a day and age where we can move towards a more popular vote.

I do not believe that we should get rid of the Electoral College, it actually promotes fairness in that it protects states that are outnumbered in population maintain a voice in the democratic process. However, I do believe that we need to bind these representatives in both the Electoral College and amongst the ranks of the delegates elected in the primaries to adhere to the wishes of the voters in their districts. I also believe that a party calling itself democratic should remove the politician delegates they so adorably adorned with the moniker "super." While I am not so keen on the notion of only a two-party system, this is what we are stuck with. Thusly I believe the party should be bound by the will of its members not of its bosses and top elected officials.

Barack Obama has effectively ignored the type of "big-state" strategy that Senator Clinton has employed. He has taken the opportunity to campaign vigorously in all states sending a message that transcends simple delegate tallies and exit polls. He is sending the message that every vote matters to him and that he is running for President of the United States not President of the Blue States. I believe his opponent's logic is fatally flawed and his current status as front-runner is the evidence of that. The opposing candidate herself has said that despite which of them will be the nominee, the Democratic Party should align itself behind the nominee and truly be a unified party for a change in the current Washington scene. Senator Clinton's campaign messages of late, and to a lesser extent the responses of Senator Obama's campaign, have not carried that harmonious tone. However, are we to believe the solid blue states will not toe the line and fall in to support Obama were he to win the nomination? The swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and some of the south hang in the balance and will require attention from both candidates in the general election as none of these candidates are like anything that we are used to.

I am sure that John McCain will run a dignified campaign and I believe Barack Obama has shown that he too wants to change the timbre of political campaigning for the betterment of the process. There are a few contests left in the primary season, will there be substantive debate on the differences between these candidates or will they rip each others' characters to shreds and in doing so destroy their own effectively doing the work of the Republicans for them when it comes to exploiting the weakness of these candidates? And what of the message Senator Clinton is sending to the voters of the states she ignores on the campaign trail while at the same time speaking up for the "disenfranchised" voters of Florida and Michigan because she desperately needs them now?

On a side note, the Florida and Michigan debate also causes me to scratch my head in bewilderment. Back when this was first decided, no one seemed to care that the voters' voices had been silenced because it was supposed to be over before 50% of the country had voted. The voters however, have retaken ownership of the process. It seems disingenuous that there is such an outcry now, when the offenses were committed so long ago. It is not a concern for a constituency to be fairly represented bur more political positioning in order to either regain or maintain an advantage. Senator Clinton is almost out of it, I believe, but she will not go down with out a fight. My only hope is that she does not take half of the party with her. The time has come to make a change: a drastic change of what is considered politics-as-usual; a change that allows us to look beyond skin color or gender; a change to the myth of political experience equating executive qualification; a change that allows us to see past the partisanship that should represent a foundation for ideological debate instead of vicious infighting that strangles our government and renders it ineffectual. The largest indicator in my mind that someone represents that change is when they break from the mold, do something unexpected, and take the road less traveled by.

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