Posts Tagged ‘primaries’

I suppose primaries have always been about interpreting numbers, at least as long as polling has taken place and pollsters and pundits have made predictions. But whereas the candidates usually confined themselves to making large, generalized predictions (“I will be your nominee”), those on the Democratic side seem to have let themselves be swayed by a sort of numbers shell game.

According to this new math, you measure something called “the popular vote” even though that’s not the way the primary process (especially the Democratic Party’s version of it) works. Don’t misunderstand me; the primary process is a confusing mess but it works the way it works. The one with the necessary number of delegates wins, whether these delegates are chosen by “the people” or by their representatives in caucuses or they are free-floating super-delegates who make up their minds along the way. Further, if you’re trying to make this “fair” (insofar as possible), you don’t count the votes in states where your opponent stayed off the ballot per instructions from the party leaders. Nor do you insinuate the race is over because you have a majority of delegates.

Anyway, the primary season isn’t necessarily a reflection of the way people will vote in a general election. For one thing, at the beginning of the season, the voters are split among a larger numbers of candidates. They aren’t usually asked who their second choice would be or where those votes might go after their favorite quits the race. They don’t get a do-over because the crowd has shrunk. Further, some voters may cross party lines in states where it’s permitted, to try and shake things up.

I say, if you want to make a case for counting the popular vote, change the process. Same with the general election. Meanwhile, let the games continue. More people are watching – and voting – than ever before. I may be a cockeyed optimist but I’m hoping that, even if the primaries leave some of them feeling bruised and battered, they’ll come around in the fall.


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The primaries are over and we have a semi-clear front-runner on the Republican side, albeit one despised by a wing of his own party and no clear front-runner on the Democratic side. Voters and would-be voters, who seemed to be impassioned now seem to be getting worked up into hysteria. The media has a lot to do with whipping people into a frenzy which frankly whips me into a frenzy; the writing and reporting these days is often as ugly as the candidates’ assaults on each other. But no one is blameless, including voters and would-be voters. So herewith, a list of behaviors and actions which are FORBIDDEN – or would be if I had any enforcement power:

  • To the candidates: You are welcome, even urged to keep working towards the nomination of your party. We know you believe yourself to be uniquely qualified to be the next President of the United States. That doesn’t mean you’re entitled. So don’t you dare get personal or allow your surrogates to do it for you. Don’t incite your supporters to anger; you’ll just jeopardize the enthusiasm this primary season has generated against all odds. Think about what’s best for your party and your country. Know when to say no. If you need a lesson in graciousness, call Al Gore.
  • To the surrogates: Watch your mouths.
  • To the Democrat and Republican National Committees: Okay, it’s still going to be a two-party election. It’s your duty to highlight the policy differences between the candidates and make the case for your person’s stand on issues of concern. However, I don’t want to hear one word about “attack machines” or see them in evidence. I don’t want to see fingers pointing or party officials claiming “they started it!” And don’t let me catch you underhandedly funding outside private groups to run nasty Swiftboat-type campaigns and then claim you didn’t know.
  • To the media: Focus more on what is important, not which candidate cried, which one coughed, who snubbed who and who wore what. Since when is that political reporting? Special note to the editorial folks: stop trying to imitate the tone of the nastiest blogger or most venal radio talk host. A dwindling handful of us still depend on you to observe, analyze and share your insights but we’re not looking for you to gleefully wallow in your skills at being snide.  If I want shrill and nasty, I can hit any number of so-called political blogs or visit a chat room, where you can be exposed to some of the most paranoid, hateful and generally uninformed opinions to be found anywhere. But that’s democracy.
  • To the voters:  I’m not going to argue whether voting is a right or a privilege because what it is, first and formost, is a responsibility. Every citizen of this country over eighteen who has not been convicted of a Federal crime is eligible to vote. I’m already hearing supporters of one or the other Democratic candidates threatening not to support the eventual party nominee and several wing-nuts on the other side are urging their listeners to “stay home” on Election Day if a certain war hero is the standard-bearer. Are you people crazy? We’re halfway around the globe trying to stick democracy into countries where it might not take and you want to sit out an election in a country where it works? Don’t even THINK about it.

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“Who are you going to support?” I asked a prominent Democratic friend who had been backing the recently departed John Edwards. “God only knows,” he replied. “I’ve got a week until the primaries to think about it.”

“Who are you going to support?” I asked a prominent Republican friend of mine who had been backing the soon-to-be departed Rudy Giuliani. “I’m really undecided,” she responded. “I’ll spend this week trying to decide.”

Now it gets interesting. Watch the polls and the pols but whatever you do, VOTE!

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Change Is Loose

Change is good, especially if you get it back after laying out for gas or groceries, an increasingly unlikely proposition these days. It’s also good if it means you’ll get up off your couch and engage in some positive activity to improve your life or the lives of your loved ones or even complete strangers. True, the prospect of change can weigh you down, both literally and figuratively. So what does change mean in this volatile election season, what with the politicians presenting themselves as change agents and pundits scrambling to decipher the effectiveness of the word on various voting segments?

My favorite commentary on the “change” issue so far comes from Michael Kinsley, formerly from “Crossfire” (in its earlier, more civilized incarnation) and founding editor of Slate Magazine and  now a columnist for Time Magazine. He questions, in a recent Op-ed piece, what the candidates are actually promising but also asks us to consider how much change we really want.  If it means we pay more, involve the government more, find ourselves more restricted in order to accomplish some big-picture goals, or if it turns out some of us make less, keep less or do with less, is change good?

Polls show a majority of the American public want at the very least an attitude change at the White House; that is an Administration that practices diplomacy, respects our civil liberties, protects our environment, does not serve special interests, gets its priorities straight when it comes the economy, education and yes, how best to make America secure, and one that operates with as much candor and openess as possible. With most of feeling as if anything will be an improvement, we have a number of candidates who ought to be able to create the feeling of a fresh start. How they’ll translate goodwill into policy decisions  will depend not only on the vagaries of Washington politics but also on how much change we really want.

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Iowa, as everyone not living under a rock knows, is just the beginning of the long primary season that now starts in the dead of winter. The results are in and Barak Obama and Mike Huckabee seem to have captured the imaginations of a handful of a handful of voters nationwide in what has got to be one of the more arcane voting systems in the country. CNN has a succinct explanation of the difference between primaries and caucuses, but essentially we’re talking not about voting booths but about meetings in which the party faithful show up to help select delegates favoring this or that candidate to show up at the convention.  Throw in the fact that, notwithstanding its leap to the head of the pack, the Iowa caucuses can’t be described as a surefire predictor of our next President and you could question the fuss.

Nevertheless, we live in a brave new world where well-paid political analysts on mainstream media and their underpaid (or unpaid) counterparts in the blogosphere have endless opportunities to analyse, editorialize and generally opine about what it means for a bunch of mostly white folks in a predominantly rural state to lean towards a folksy preacher from Arkansas or a bi-racial newcomer preaching change and hope.  It’s worth noting that the coveted demographic of traditionally disenfranchised voters under thirty appeared to turn out for Obama. At least Rudy was a no-show, which gave us a break from hearing 24/7 about 9/11. Anyway, Dodd and Biden are out and Richardson and Thompson are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. One can never underestimate the strength of the Clinton or Romney money machines, nor for that matter, Edwards’ or McCain’s determination. Besides, New Hampshire isn’t Iowa. Then there’s Ron Paul. Saddle up, y’all. It’s gonna be quite a ride.

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The primaries are upon us (on top of us really) and the pundits are getting whiplash trying to follow the bouncing polls. Maybe they deserve twenty lashes for bouncing the pols from frontrunner to has-been and back again. Somehow these early primaries and the hooplah that surrounds them seem as divorced from reality as possible. We have commentators asking candidates to raise their hands if they believe in evolution or agree that global warming is a threat. I mean, come on, is this a kindergarten class or a debate? The Democrats’ race is tight and bringing out the trump card gets more challenging. I figured being married to a former President beat all but now comes the power of O, which could really change the landscape. Who would have predicted Mike Huckabee as the front runner, that the sly, maybe-not-so-nice Southern preacher with the simple (some might say simplistic) world view. Actually, we don’t know much about his view of the world except that evolution has nothing to do with it. For simple visions, there’s Obama’s expectation that he can bring even greedy pharmaceutical executives and self-destructive dictators to the table and Rudy’s conviction that the world is divided into them and us and “them” probably deserves to be bombed into oblivion.

One event that struck me as strange and prompted this post was the endorsement of Republican John McCain by former Democrat and now Independent Joe Lieberman. Then again, maybe it’s not so strange. Ignoring a history of differences over a range of issues, they’ve bonded over their shared belief that we can and must stay the course in Iraq. Their conviction that the present policies work may well place them uniquely within their own alternate reality.  Still, I couldn’t help but shake my head in amazement. Lieberman Endorses McCain. Wow, you can’t make this stuff up.

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