Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Super delegates aren't the problem

Lately I’ve heard quite a few people complain that super delegates subvert the election process, that their vote unfairly counts more. That's oversimplifying it.

First, while Democrats have the super delegates, Republican votes are magnified too by the "winner take all" philosophy toward state contests---this is what has allowed McCain to take the lead. Thus, a minority of voters and/or a minority of states can dictate the nominee, provided that nominee wins states with large numbers of delegates.

On the Democratic side, super delegates or no, everything is still up for grabs between Clinton and Obama, as the Democrats count delegates proportionally--meaning a candidate can lose a state while still gaining delegates. [This primary may well need to be resolved at the convention---and there's nothing wrong with that.]

I also dislike the super delegate system, and frankly, the party itself didn't mean for it to work the way it's playing out and may scrap it in the future. Still, it's not as simple as certain people getting extra votes.

80% of the process is the popular vote. The thinking was that such a majority would decide the nomination. The other 20%, the super delegates, were created to make sure Democrats got to the convention with a clear nominee, all battles settled--NOT to hand pick a winner.

We also need to remember that democracy in America is representational, not absolute. Further, these delegates didn't just appear--they've been elected, over and over and over (that's how they rose so high in the party), and were chosen by others elected over and over and over. Consequently, they were indirectly chosen by the voters. I don't like it when Bush vetoes a bill because he personally has a different ideology (in fact, I find it an abuse of his power, one that defies the will of the American people on such issues as stem cell research), but clearly one could argue he was elected to wield that power (and Congress can still override him if support for the bill can gather a 2/3 majority).

Super delegates aren't the only way people get more voting power. Remember all those candidates who have nice dropped out of the race? Their delegates can now vote however they wish---technically unguided by the voting public. They might follow the recommendation of their former candidate--giving that person considerable voting power, but then, one could argue that power was earned via the state primary elections. And what of the caucus states? Those elections are FAR from over--the caucus is only the first step, and again, many of those delegates now find themselves free to pick new candidates.

And finally, all we've done is elect delegates to represent us at the convention. We can't force them to vote as pledged. Yes, they almost always do--but not always. [The same is true of the electoral college, incidentally.]

More problematic in terms of fairness is the mess created by the Michigan and Florida contests. Since those states broke the party’s rules by moving their primaries before Super Tuesday, leadership stripped those states of their convention delegates, and the candidates agreed not to campaign. Hillary Clinton won those states anyway--but then her name was the only one on the ballot! Not exactly fair--and now that the election is close, she wants those delegates seated.

Unless either she or Obama pull ahead significantly enough to decide the contest, this will be the real mess for the Democrats.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Heroes & Patriots, Bullies & Cowards—and Christians

Last week a small town near here laid to rest John Sigsbee. More than 2, 000 people filed past the casket of this popular young man, just 21.

Sigsbee joined the army just after high school and was sent to Iraq. He was sent back, though, when an explosion burned him over most of his body, to heal.

And heal he did. Then he went back to Iraq, where he was killed Jan. 16 during a gun battle, along with a few of his fellow soldiers, trying to liberate the Iraqi village of Bichigan. [That liberation was completed later in the week.]

Brigadier General Todd Semonite spoke at the funeral. He presented Sigsbee’s parents two medals awarded posthumously—Sigsbee’s second Purple Hear, and the Bronze Star for heroism in battle. Sigsbee was buried in the Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville.

If only that were the whole story.

Sigsbee’s death also attracted the attention of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, who announced they would send members to the funeral to protest what they see as America’s permissive attitude toward gays, claiming God is killing our troops to punish us. This group carries signs and shouts slogans at military funerals such as “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Thankfully they didn’t show—a group of 60 Patriot Guard Riders did instead, with plans to (after the family had safely entered the funeral) form a blockade between the Westboro protesters and the mourners, and if needed, shouting “God bless our troops!” and singing the national anthem.

“We got a lot of media…so our message got out,” explains a spokesperson for the Topeka group. Instead, they protested another military funeral at Camp LeJuene in North Carolina. Well, bullies do typically stand down when challenged.

Local clergy denounced the group, saying, “They’re not Christian,” and that they weren’t affiliated with local Baptist churches or the Baptist Conference.

But here’s my question.

I hear incessantly, year after year, “Christians” crying, “They’re stealing our Christmas!” just because someone wishes people “Happy Holidays,” or “This will destroy marriage!” when any concession to same-sex unions might appear.

Where were these “Christians” when this Kansas group undermined their faith? Local church groups should have been at the funeral too, ready to stand for something.

Thank God we at least have patriots.