american society, politics, USA

Watching America’s Game

IowaPolitics.comObama Campaigning in Iowa

It’s chaos. It’s a circus. It’s a money parade. It’s undemocratic. It’s pointless. It’s cheap drama. It’s the real American Idol.

That’s right everyone, it’s the middle of America’s presidential politicking season.

I could make a list, but I doubt I need to. You know that many people–in America, but especially in stable parliamentary systems–find this whole mess in which America is now submerged mildly absurd. Myself, I fluctuate between hearty agreement with their bafflement and tut-tutting consternation with the foolishness of the critique.

First, a few points. The way the Democratic party’s contest is held in Iowa is absurd, perhaps even undemocratic. The priority given to Iowa, New Hampshire, (now) Nevada, and South Carolina is, at best, unfair. The rush to have the earliest nominating contest has, this year, been harmfully chaotic but is a direct consequence of the truth of the last sentence. Too much money is raised and spent in the quest for a party’s nomination.

Having made all the necessary concessions to critiques, I’ll now heartily and blindly defend America’s system.

The most important point is that the system I defend is open. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim it’s always democratic, but it usually is. And open and democratic are better than most parliamentary systems can claim in nominating their candidates for leadership.

It’s no secret that Gordon Brown was to be Tony Blair’s successor from the first day that Labour took power in Britain. And it’s also no secret that only politicians determined that point. Lay members of the party had no say in who would lead the party. It’s like the way American Vice Presidents are selected–behind closed doors with unknown calculations being made.

But that’s also the way that parliamentary parties pick their leaders, and thus their analog of President. In America, a candidate has to win the support of a plurality of his party’s members, and then a plurality of the country’s electoral college voters (a chastisable system in itself, but not our topic here). This seems to me far more democratic than a system whose candidates are selected by a small group of full-time politicians whose party is than approved by the people.

In America’s system, a candidate must be liked and chosen by normal people. They can’t merely call in a small number of favors within the party, they must be chosen as the best candidate by a lot of non-politicians. And I don’t see how that’s a bad thing. This circus may be a dislikable result of a system that tries to give people–normal people–a say, but it gives people a say.

And then there’s this: I find this game we’re playing–however over-moneyed, shallow, and pointless–at least a little bit exhilarating. The result may not always be perfect, but it’s more exciting and democratic than any other system I’ve seen.

personal, politics, USA

From the past: Vote for me in 2024

Considering the merits of my former blogs while working on my current one, I went back and looked at some of what I’d written. To call most of it a little embarrassing is probably understating the truth. This piece, however, was something that I thought still had some slight personal and public merit. It is by no means perfect, nor is it necessarily in line with my current feelings. But I just can’t resist revisiting a piece of personal history. [This and many other embarrassing pieces of work can be found online, but for my own sake, I’ll leave you to find them.]

Written 18 January 2005 (nearly 30 months ago):

Dear America,

Few things confuse me more than politics. At least in the United States, they seem to be the most completely useless thing ever. Sure, the election of George W. Bush may mean that a few more animals lose their habitat, but John F. Kerry wouldn’t have stopped the inevitability of that animal losing his home. Sure, he may have delayed it for a while, but what’s needed isn’t minor change that the two party’s we have offer. What we need is real change. What we need is people who are only willing to focus on [more than] three issues per debate. That’s not solving the worlds problems any more than going to the polls is.

What we need here, and soon, is someone who will face up to what needs to be done, and do it. And there’s a lot more than need to be done than Iraq and social security reform. Those were syptoms of the problem, not really issues that should have been debated any more than the price of coffee.

This is why I want you to vote for me in November 2024. I know its a long way off, and the issues will have changed a lot by then, so I’m not going to talk about them here. They’ll be far more relevant later. I’ll most likely be running indepent, and unless Nader can make some real changes, will be fighting hard just to get my name on the ticket on all 50 states. But at some point in my life I think I really should be the president of this country. We were once the best in the world. Revered by the good guys, and hated by the pinko-commie-bedwetters. We’ve fallen far from that pedestal, but my administration will change that, have no fear.

I’m not a career politician. I’m thinking about becoming an Industrial Designer, and making a lot of cool [stuff] that people love to use. Or maybe I’ll become a philosopher. I could answer all of people’s problems. That might help the run to the White House a little more. Maybe I’ll be a Chemical Engineer. I’ll make Hydrogen possible, and end our dependence on foriegn oil. That should win me some votes from Republicans. Maybe I’ll become a historian. And look at all presidential races in history, see what it takes to win. That could be the best of all.

And although my path to the presidency is far from clear, I’ll run sometime. I really think I could help the world, and so I want to do it. I know its a lot of pressure. I know its one of the most dangerous jobs, because its so easy to anger people. But I think I need to do it, for the good of society.

So, I’ll see you on the stump, and remember to get out and vote for a better America.

With love,
David Hayes