Tuesday, May 08, 2007

That's Debatable (II): On Voting, and How We Should Be More Like The French

I was going to backtrack completely and follow-up with a detailed rundown on the Democratic primary debate, but too many blogs have already hit that, so it's time to move on.

Instead I'm going to bring up for discussion two ideas Haley had while watching (one good, one almost frighteningly bad) and tie them into the recent French election.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first: while I figure she's got the best intentions in wanting to "modernize" the political process, I think dumbing down the level of political debate--especially concerning the man or woman who will be in charge of the country for four years--is a horrible "snap decision."

Yes, more Americans voted in last year's American Idol finals than in the last election: that's not a good thing. But worse, turn the Presidential election into a popularity contest/reality show knock-off and we're asking for the political equivalent of Clay Aiken. And generally, Clay and co. seem like music for people that don't really care about music. It's bland, it's calulatingly the least offensive, broadest appeal. When the country desparetly needs change--major change--bland isn't going to cut it. Plus, my gut tells me that since early polls had too many people saying "well, Romney looked the most Presidential," the 2008 election would result in another GOP President. If soundbytes and style with no substance is enough to get elected, Rudy can sit back and have "9/11" repeating on endless loop from now until he's sworn in. Or, look at John Edwards. He didn't raise his hand at the debate when asked if he believed in the Global War On Terror, and the instant judgement of many: oh no, he's soft on terrorism. Dig deeper than some hand-raising though, and you get a naunced, intelligent answer:

And I don't know how many of you even noticed this or how many of you
watched the Democratic presidential debate from South Carolina, but I suspect
some of you did. But a question was asked whether you agree with the language -
the Bush language, which is what it is - "Global War on Terror." And I did not.
And I said, I took that position at the debate...
This is a
political frame and political rhetoric. They use it to justify everything they
do. They use that language to justify the war in Iraq. They use it to justify
Guantanamo. They use it to justify torture. They use it to justify illegal
spying on the American people.
It is time for us to quit
kowtowing to these people. We have to say what we really believe. Now, are there
really dangerous people in the world? Of course there are. We need to be smart
and aggressive and intelligent, use intelligence - did I say dangerous people? -
we have to use intelligence to fight them and stop them. Everybody recognizes
that. But the one thing that's been proven beyond any doubt as a result of
what's happened in the last six years is raw power alone will never make you a
leader. You actually have to have the moral authority. (HT: DailyKos)

If we go on snap judgements and soundbytes, Edwards is either "out of touch with the reality of the threat we face" (pick a GOP candidate to make that accusation) or "in denial" or who knows. If anything, as the debate is available as streaming video, and the all candidates have speeches all over YouTube and extensive websites/MySpaces/Facebook groups there really should be no excuse for not educating ourselfs about the choices out there--and in depth. I work 40 hours a week while attempting to land a better job, updating this blog, keeping up with UGA football, Red Sox baseball, reading several blogs/websites daily, and working on my book, so there is likely time for most of us to get at least semi-informed. (What I've learned today: Mike Gravel does seem like a crotchety old dude, but some of his thoughts about getting the US out from under the thumb of the Military-Industrial Complex are spot-on, whereas Ron Paul has way too many statements blaming crime on black men to be a "safe" GOP alternative, his progressive stances on the Internet and ending the war nonwithstanding.)

But Haley's 100% right in that our current voting system could use an overhaul. The problem here becomes: who handles it? Ask some Ohio voters how much they trust Diebold, just get your guard up first. For starters (as in, something we could do in time for 2008) is to spread the word about absentee ballots. I voted twice via absentee ballot (in 2000 and 2002) as there were some pressing issues back in the home county and I was struck by how easy the process was. (And why wasn't I registered in Athens Clarke-County? Well, let's just say that my middle years at UGA were a black hole as far as dating was concerned, and up until let's say November 2002 you couldn't get me out of the state of GA fast enough.) If you anticipate a long day at the office for the primary or the election, sign up for an absentee ballot. If you need another reason, claim you have agoraphobia or even whatever Latinate construct would approximate "seeing too many 'Bush/Cheney' stickers on cars makes me vomit" (Ryan, I'm looking in your direction here...just give me a long Latin phrase, then -osis can be added to it and: instant disease.)

Online voting should be the wave of the future (or even texting of voting)...the issue here is security. American Idol had voter fraud issues last year (I think, I'll Google this later to make sure my mind isn't pulling a Geto Boys song on me) and it has big corporate sponsors. Super SSL-encrypted sites and online voting look, to me at least, as the best option. The other plus we could shoot for? No more Super Tuesdays.

France had over 83% turnout in their election, and coincidentally it was held over the weekend, not on a random weekday. Neal Boortz, in a bit of specious reasoning that I surmise was more about radio ratings than truth, claims democrats will never allow this (because, he claims, no one with a steady, demanding job would ever vote democrat) and that a 24-hour Tuesday is the answer. It's better than what we've got now sure...but how do you staff the polling places for 24 hours? Move it to Saturdays, less folks have to work=more volunteers, more time to vote.

So my quick hopes for 2008 and beyond: we all do our damndest to actually resemble and informed electorate (I don't want to hear "he looked cute," "seemed like a nice guy to have a drink with," or "because she's a woman," as reasons for voting unless there's some solid stuff to go with them). We get off our asses, TiVo HOUSE or whatever must-see Tuesday show is on (yes ladies, even if it's Dr. Addison's new show and Taye Diggs is going to be McHalf Naked) and vote in truly record numbers. And then we work towards Saturday elections and secure online voting options. But, even if we get suckered into a Duncan Hunter/Tommy Thompson presidency (the "Hunter S.lash Thompson" stickers fool a surprisingly high--pun intended--number of younger voters) it's probably better than the crap we have now.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

"nexdehumanitasitosis"...literally the sickness caused by the "death of culture": used to describe the vomiting induced by Bush/Cheney bumper stickers.