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So, this is democracy?

Fri, Dec 14th, 2007
Posted in Commentary

The unfortunate thing about living so close to Iowa is the spillover effect of the presidential primary which is held every four years. The white noise emanating from south of our border has been deafening and will only get louder in the next few weeks.

All of this is played out at full volume in the media, which has the tendency to turn election politics into a contact sport.

Have you ever seen NBC's Tim Russert any happier?

"See if Mitt and Rudy will be able to fight off the rising Huckabee storm? Can Barak and Oprah steal Hillary's thunder?"

It seems an unfortunate way to elect a president, trying to convince 100,000 people in a mid-western state that you deserve the right to run for president from your party.

The primary system is a political free-for-all, a migration of big money and organization, that goes from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina and Nevada and all points in between that will climax in late summer at a party convention.

I much prefer the parliamentary method, where one has to win a seat from a constituency and then convince your party colleagues, all of whom are elected members of parliament as well, that you should be their leader.

It makes for a short campaign season which displaces the impact big money and the national media have on the election. It also fosters a multi-party system where, more often than not, coalitions must be formed with other parties to get a majority to form a government.

There are 175 registered political parties in England. While the Conservative and Labour parties dominate, several other parties play a major role in British politics. It takes the edge off of partisan politics.

Our founding fathers, while leery of the abuses of the parliamentary system in the 1700s, with its elitist House of Lords, would be astounded as to how we elect a president in America nowadays.

Approximately 38% of registered voters in America are independents. Not Republicans, not Democrats. They are an amalgamation of voters - socialists, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, liberal progressives - voters with no affinity for either of the two major parties.

And while the two parties will decide who runs for president in November, it will be independents who decide who the next president will be - they are the tipping point in any election.

Politicians and pollsters have broken down voters into demographics by age, gender, race, rural, urban, religion, and income so they can manipulate their campaigns and message to target white evangelicals, soccer moms, twenty somethings, Nascar dads, and baby boomers.

But after seven years of Bush, everyone - Republican, Democrat, or independent alike - want dramatic change.

A recent Pew Research Center poll found that among Republican voters nationally, 60 percent want a candidate who will take the country in a different direction rather than one who will continue Bush's policies. Some pundits believe this is why no one Republican candidate has emerged as the front runner, as no candidate other than Ron Paul has clearly broken away from the Bush legacy.

In a country that has set the standard for democracy throughout the world, how we elect our president has been coopted by big money, media spin and the two parties.

When we swear in a new president in January 2008, our president over the past 20 years will have been named Bush or Clinton. This in a country where 50 percent of those who are eligible to vote, choose not to.

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