Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The party, or the people?
Barack Obama stands within inches of clenching the Democratic presidential nomination thanks to his victory in the Oregon primaries on Tuesday. Nipping at his heels is, and will continue to be, Hillary Clinton, until perhaps the June 3 primaries - or the Democratic Party's superdelegates - finally settle the score.
While many believe Clinton should just accept defeat and step aside, Clinton presses on, vowing to ensure democracy has its day over impatience and worries of polarization within the Democratic party.
And I agree with her.
I am one citizen who, despite my Democratic leanings, still doesn't know who I'd vote for. And I believe Hillary should be allowed to run for as long as it makes sense. And right now, it does make sense. The race is razor-close, and she continues to win primaries. The people are speaking.
The only downfall: without a clear winner, the fate of the nomination could inevitably lie in the hands of "superdelegates," comprised of elected Democratic officials and other party big-wigs. Despite the fact they have just as much right to vote as the rest of us, their "superdelegate" moniker suggests one of their votes counts more than one of yours or mine.
And that's where the taste in my mouth starts to go sour.
I'd never heard of superdelegates until this year. It sounds like a miniature version of the electoral college suited to Democratic needs. Why do the votes of these select party elite potentially trump the people's choice?
In Colonial times, the electoral college formed because our nation's founding fathers felt America's citizens were too ill-informed and under-educated to make competent decisions about the country's leadership. While we could still argue the same holds true today, there's a stark difference: those who are too ill-informed or under-educated to make such decisions chose to be that way.
We don't get our mail by horseback anymore. We don't have to wait days to receive word - in fact, these days we get miffed if "word" arrives in minutes rather than seconds.
So why is the system used to select party nominees and president-elects still designed for horse-and-buggie times?
It makes me think of an episode from the HBO miniseries "John Adams," in which Adams receives the second-largest amount of votes for president, and thus becomes Vice President behind George Washington. It made me long for those simpler times.
Just tally up the popular vote from the primaries, and give the nomination to whoever receives the most votes. A superdelegate's vote shouldn't hold any more weight than your next door neighbor's. The same should apply to the presidential election.
Furthermore, while those who hold the same core political beliefs will inevitably align and conspire, I fear John Adams had it right when he said the formation of political parties scared him. He feared party members would forget the interests of the people, and instead focus on the interests of their party.
In that respect, I applaud Hillary Clinton for her tenacious choice to continue in the race despite all who say she should gracefully bow out for the good of her party. Her actions suggest she just might have the interests of the people, not the party, at heart.