Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Democratic Party, Putin-Style

The more I learn about the American voting system -- and it takes several election cycles to cut through the murk -- the less "democratic" it seems.

Get this, forty-percent of the delegates currently at stake for Democratic presidential contenders are "super-delegates." The voters don't vote for these 842 people; they're high-ranking Democratic Party members: governors, leaders of the Democratic National Committee, former Presidents, like Bill Clinton. And they all go to the National Convention, just like the delegates the voters send, and pledge their vote to a candidate during the nominating stage.

This came as a surprise this morning, when I went to go check the delegate count, and, instead of seeing a field just now getting started, discovered Clinton way out ahead.

She has 159 "super-delegates," dwarfing the number she's received in Iowa and New Hampshire so far, and more than 100 more than the next candidate, Barack Obama.

Apparently, this isn't a centuries-old tradition in the Party either. As this MSNBC report states, it just a generation ago, when grass-roots movements, including those calling for women's rights, began to shake up the old Guard. The Democratic Party needed something to keep it stabilized through this volatile time, so the system was born.

“There was a belief that they would not want candidates who were dramatically out of sync with the rest of the party — particularly if these were people who were going to have to run on the same ticket with them,” says Northeastern University political scientist William Mayer, who has written extensively on the nomination process.

There were, Mayer says, two motives in giving elected officials a big voice in the nomination.

“One was not to get (ideologically) extreme candidates; the other was to avoid the Jimmy Carter phenomenon — where you had a guy who was not very experienced and not very well regarded by most of his fellow governors, but nevertheless managed to win the party’s nomination,” Mayer said.

Now, one of my favorite hobbies is questioning the American press' demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is not because I'm a Putin man. It's because I don't know why the American Press refuses to question anything in its own country, from the faulty intelligence and fear-mongering of the Bush Administration in the lead-up to the war in Iraq to the very things the press sees as problematic abroad. Such as President Putin's decision, in 2004, to directly name his country's regional governors, rather than leave this to the voting public.

Now, if it's undemocratic for him to do this -- something I constantly am told in the slicks and dailies -- isn't it also undemocratic for the Democratic party to give itself 4 out of every ten votes in the nominating process for its candidate for the President of the United States? The Republican Party doesn't do it. And the blessed Greens would sooner cut down a tree.

But I suppose Putin, Time Magazine's Man of the Year, would be proud.

A Tsar is Born indeed.

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