Thursday, April 3, 2008

112. But we've always done it this way

Nothing seems as ridiculous as the Democratic Primary accounting of delegates, super delegates, and caucuses- not to mention Super Tuesday and the unapproved elections in Michigan and Florida. In fact it is so ridiculous that if I knew of a word more ridiculous than ridiculous, I would use it.

I appreciate history and tradition, as much, maybe even more so, than the next guy. Thus I respect that much of our political history dates not only back to the earliest formation of this country, but also into the history of democracy itself.

However, there is no purpose of holding a Democratic nomination other than to decide whom the Democratic voters want to represent them and their party in the national election. Ask the voters their choice and record their selection- it is as simple as that. Why do we need delegates and super delegates? Why do some states vote in February and others in May? Why do some states have primaries and other host caucuses?

The current situation in the Democratic Party exemplifies the absurdity, as it appears somewhat likely that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barrack Obama will have enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination. We are then left to leave it to the super delegates, whatever they really are. And all of the campaigning, debating and voting will put into the hands of a few- just as the founding fathers envisioned it- leaving the "real" voting to the privileged and educated, not the "general public."

The easiest answer would be to hold the primaries in the same manner that one would host the national election. The current process which has lasts several months is time consuming, exhausting and wastes millions of dollars. Just hold the primary as a semi-final event, and score it similarly to the general election, or by using some other scoring system that would ensure that the best candidate, with the best chance of winning in November, is selected. The states can be winner take-all, by proportion, or the entire country can be scored with a popular vote. One day, one nation-wide primary, one candidate. But it is not the system that matters, for there are many other fair systems that could be considered. It is about changing the current, seriously flawed, system.

At this point, I could go on and describe how we got to this position, and describe in detail (based on an Internet review) how the thing actually works. But that is not the real question and the process is so obviously illogical that it would be a waste of time and effort to describe a system that needs to be changed.

The real question is why do people just accept it, why do people not reject the system and fire those that do not fix it? Granted this year is a bit of anomaly, for most elections carry on the way the Republican Primary played out, with a candidate emerging long before now (although, it makes the system no less absurd, as, for example, every Republican Primary from this point forward is meaningless, and these voters have had absolutely no say in who represents them).

Tradition often outlives usefulness or fairness, and nowhere is this more evident than in the process in which the Democrats select their presidential nominee for president. It is amazing how long stupid systems, which are confusing, unfair, and inefficient, survive in American politics- among other places. At some point, someone needs to stand up and proclaim the obvious, "this is ludicrous- there must be a better way."

The problem that occurs, even when such a proclamation is agreed upon, is that "the fight has just begun." The arguments from across fifty states, each battling their interest, securing their tradition and stroking their ego, quickly become an irreconcilable mess of ideas, theories and postulations. Add to that mix those that actually benefit from the current system- whose only goal is to divide and conquer any reasonable idea so that none are ever realized.

A common misconception is that any change that takes place needs to be the absolute best solution to the problem- one that is completely considered through every hypothetical and every sense of justice. While certainly any change should proceed with due diligence, the truth is that the new system needs to simply be better than the previous system. It does not need to be the perfect system; additional changes can be made throughout time. The best systems are those that evolve, not those that hold on with white-knuckles to the ropes of our pasts. Tradition becomes transparent when it becomes unjust and meaningless. Just because it is "the way we have always done it," is not a good enough reason. In the case of the Democratic Primaries, it would be hard to present a worse system- one that is actually less fair, less understood, or less efficient. This is stupid; it is time to move on. Why do we make everything so difficult?

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