Monday, March 10, 2008

My "Idiot's Guide to American Politics"

I can't help myself - I just have to write about this again.

As a Canadian, I can't believe how fascinated I've become with the American election system, particularly the Democratic circus that's happening right now.

I never understood how their system worked, but now have a basic grasp of what happens:

1. People vote in caucuses or primaries to elect the person they want to run for president. There are several parties in the USA, but the major players right now are the Republicans and the Democrats.

2. Each state has a number of delegates that a candidate must win in order to become their party's nominee to run for President. If the race is too close, then a group of people called Super Delegates get to choose who they want to represent their party in November.

3. The states must vote only in a pre-determined order. Any states breaking that rule are penalized. Right now Michigan and Florida are both being penalized for allowing people to vote early and are not allowed any delegates right now to represent them. So basically those people's votes don't count.

I've already said that I hope to see Barack Obama win the election. He's mobilized the youth of their country in a way that I've never seen or experienced. I don't want to make a generalization, but most of the people in my age group (based on those I know) are not interested in politics and will vote half-heartedly based on their parent's affiliation. There are some who feel strongly about one politician or another, but I've never seen such widespread fervor over a politician before Mr. Obama.

In an article by Newsweek (found on, it was revealed that Hillary Clinton thinks Obama would be a great Vice President. This after saying he's not ready to be President yet. As he is currently leading her in delegates, I can't believe she would be so arrogant as to suggest that the person beating her (for now - who knows what's going to happen) would be her second-in-command. It's a brilliant trick though - "vote for me and you'll get BOTH of us!! We'll unite the whole country! But remember - I'm better than he is, so don't vote for him!"

Even more shocking to me is what's happening with the Florida / Michigan fiasco. Back when it looked like she'd be ahead, Hillary didn't utter one word about those states. Nothing about all of those people who's votes wouldn't count. Then she found herself losing contest after contest and is now openly supporting the idea that those votes DO count. Guess who won those states?

Interestingly, Obama's name wasn't even on the ticket for Michigan - so people could vote for Hillary or "undecided" for him. Florida apparently supports Hillary very strongly - which makes sense as it's full of her key demographic: boomers, elderly, white people and Latinos. What I really find fascinating is that people are reporting that that group, along with blue collar workers support Hillary, while Obama's group are highly educated" people and the majority of the youth.

So even though he's winning right now (by a small margin at this point), if they overturn their own party's rules and count those votes, then Hillary will win.

Some are pushing for a re-vote, but many say it isn't fair. I don't understand how this is even POSSIBLE at this point. Honestly? How does this make any sense?? How can a country first deny people's votes based on the day they were cast, and then change their minds a couple of months later? Do they let the candidates re-campaign in those states? What do the people who live there think about this? I'd be super-pissed if I took the time to vote and somebody said it wouldn't count because politicians I don't know angered their national committee. Add the fact that you couldn't even vote for Obama in Michigan - and Clinton's people are saying it didn't matter because if you didn't want her, you could say "undecided" or "other" or something - which I guess they believe is equivalent to voting for him.

Even more dodgy is the fact that the "Clinton machine" seems to be very much involved in this mess, making me question the reasons behind it. Does she want true democracy and every vote to count or does she just want to win and is willing to change her own party's rules to get there? Also, if Obama had won those states, would she even be talking about this at all?

They had a great thing going: two highly electable and appealing candidates who both appeared to be just what the USA needs to help fix the damage that's been done by Bush. Then one of them started calling the other's qualifications and skills into question, started subtly tearing down her opponent, who then retaliated with similar actions. Now it's back to negative vs. negative in politics again. Totally disgusting. If I could say just one thing to both of them, it would be that this negative bullshit is a TURN OFF for most people. Attacking another person to build yourself up is not the kind of behaviour I'd like to see in a leader. In addition, Hillary's negative comments are dividing her party, and make it seem like she's only trying to find a way to advance herself at any cost. They should just run their campaigns, be civil, have their debates about their differing policies, etc. and the let people decide who's best. Every little thing they say against each other right now is free ammunition for their Republican opponent. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot...

I'm also fascinated by the fact that most Americans are against the war in Iraq, and even though John McCain (the Republican candidate for President) supports the war, even claiming he saw another 100 years war (sorry, no source for this, but I think it's possible to find online) happening over there - people are still voting for him? Is this due to the fact that they are Republicans and hate the other party so much that they go against their own beliefs and vote their party even when it's the wrong person? This makes no sense at all to me.

Why can't people have a couple of days - even a week - to vote for their Presidential nominee, figure out who wins, then have the election for President? Why the red tape, the money, the hassle, the headaches, the name-calling and back-door dirty politics that we'll never hear about? Why do certain states get to vote on certain days, which most definitely would affect the rest of the country's voting.

Think about it: you're undecided. Or maybe even leaning mildly towards one candidate. Then you hear about Clinton winning in Texas or Ohio or New Hampshire or wherever. Maybe that swings you vote in her direction, just based on the popular vote. Same goes in the other direction: Obama went on quite the winning streak and some are saying people just jumped on the bandwagon. If the average person doesn't take the time to learn about both sides - then they're either voting with the popular choice or on a biased opinion. If you do just one big election, then maybe it would be less about the media and more about which candidate is actually better.

I'd absolutely love to see what would happen if they asked every American right now who they'd choose as their leader: McCain, Clinton, or Obama. Regardless of their party affiliation. Just who's the better choice. I wonder who they'd choose?

Personally I would choose the candidate who can inspire something like this:

*** Please know that anything I've written here is a result of observations made over the past couple of months. I certainly don't claim to know better than those who created the American electoral system - just that I don't understand why it is the way it is. It's confusing and I don't understand why the voting can't be more simple.
I hope in the end that everything works out for them because they deserve the change that Obama speaks about (even if it comes from somebody else). ***


  • At 10:48 AM, Blogger Suldog said…

    Well, I'll give you this much: You certainly know more about our system than I do about yours. You people have an emperor or something, right? Oh, wait a minute! Now I remember! The Ross Trophy winner gets to be P.M., and the Lady Bing winner is The First Lady, right?

  • At 3:27 PM, Anonymous PollWatcher said…

    This is a well-written post. Relevantly, there is a growing consensus in the media, and among experts, that Obama is not a Boomer, nor an Xer, but instead is a member of Generation Jones (born 1954-1965, the heretofore lost generation between the Boomers and Xers).

    Just in the last month or so, several top media outlets, including The New York Times, Newsweek Magazine, and NBC, have all made the argument that Obama is specifically part of Generation Jones. I also heard a panel of generations experts recently on a national radio show discussing this specific issue, and four of the five experts concluded that Obama is, in fact, a GenerationJoneser…that his bio and political worldview closely match the GenJones archetype (the one dissenting expert argues that Obama is a Boomer).


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