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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

February 25, 2008


McCain Handicaps McCain

As the news today broke that our soon-to-come-home surge troops aren't so-soon-to-come-home, Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain ponders his chances to be elected our nation's new President as it relates to his position on that war and occupation.

"then I lose. I lose,"
-McCain referring to his chances if he can't convince America's voters that the war in Iraq was worth it

The most recent CBS News/ New York Times Poll (February 20-24, 2008) asked this simple question:

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq?"

By a margin of greater than two-to-one (65 to 31), Americans think that the Iraq war is being handled badly by its handler, president Bush. And John McCain has taken up his mantle of "Stay the Course," no matter how off course that course may be.

As so many of our "Coalition of the Willing" flee Iraq and leave us alone in the desert, those on the Right side of the aisle - President Bush; John McCain; and the whole Fox News Channel - tell us we have no other alternative but to keep our troops in Iraq indefinitely. And today we learn that those "Surge Troops" who were all supposed to be home by this Summer are going to be part of that "indefinite plan" for the foreseeable future.

"The transfer of responsibility for detention operations has not progressed as rapidly as we would like to the Iraqis, so there's a need to have that force sustained, as well,"
-Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, the chief of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff

And that's the positive spin.

John McCain's bandwagon is firmly attached to this policy - and he knows it. Perhaps The (Tamed) Maverick is thinks that by stating "Staying the Course", but telling us all that it will cost him the election in November, will somehow get him elected. Maybe it's a sort-of reverse psychology move he's trying on the majority of American voters. Maybe his inside voice escaped.

Who knows?

"If I may, I'd like to retract 'I'll lose.' But I don't think there's any doubt that how they judge Iraq will have a direct relation to their judgment of me, my support of the surge. Clearly, I am tied to it to a large degree."

The truth is that anyone who supports a never-ending war halfway around the world; anyone who thinks that the loss of past American lives is worth the loss of future American lives; anyone who believes that our presence in Iraq is necessary for "one hundred years" deserves to be defeated come November.

And McCain qualifies.

McCain sees the Iraq was as black-and-white. he still believes that this is a war to win militarily. In fact, McCain is right when he says that we could be in Iraq for "one hundred years" and could even mean it when he follows up by stating "and that would be alright with me." But the truth is that it isn't "alright" with us.

We all know by now that Iraq and the Iraqis need to begin to take care of themselves. Just as the Sunnis in and around the Sunni Triangle of Iraq know that it was in their best self-interests to take matters into their own hands and fight for their own freedom and their own rights. Most of the Kurds in Northern and Eastern Iraq knew it way before then. The Shiites will learn it too and we must force their hand.

John McCain, blinded by the dark light of the Bush White House and their inability to ever admit a mistake, is right on their track.

McCain's whole campaign in November now comes down to Iraq. He has already admitted that he knows little about how to fix the economy, and if he takes President' Bush's advice, he'll know even less. Much in the same way former GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani based his whole campaign on "a verb, a noun and 911", as Senator Joe Biden put it, McCain is doing the same with Iraq.

In The Maverick's case, it's "a verb, a noun and 'give it time'".

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

For months the election has been the only real topic of political discourse in the country. Home foreclosures are up a stunning 75 percent, the stock market is in a dizzying roller-coaster ride and the economy is in, to quote Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, in free fall. New jobs are down. Old jobs are disappearing. Inflation is a growing concern. Oil prices are the highest in history. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue. But the media focus remains riveted on the election.

Who ends up in the White House in 2009 will definitely impact the nation. But whomever ends up in the White House will inherit one of the most complex and messy situations since Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected.

Most Americans will tell you that this has been an exciting election and that reality is reflected in the number of people in both parties who have voted in the states that have already held caucuses and primaries. Americans are concerned about what will happen to them. A year ago, the main issue was the war, now it’s the economy.

More Republicans have voted than in any previous primary season. More new voters–joining both parties–have voted since 1992, the last year that saw an influx of new voters. More immigrants have voted. More women–notorious for *not* voting–have voted. More African Americans–like women, notorious for *not* voting–have voted. More young voters–notorious for *not* voting–have voted.

What does it all mean?

The media says excitement. I say, fear. Most of us, myself included, are desperate for new leadership to begin mitigating the incredible disaster that has been the Bush Administration. Most American fear that unless our chosen candidate is elected, the country will fall apart.

The good news is that America has weathered far worse than George Bush. That may be hard for us to imagine, but this nation has survived numerous wars, including a Civil War and the end of slavery, two world wars, the Great Depression, the reign of Sen. Joe McCarthy, the civil rights battles and race riots of the 1960s, the Vietnam War and 9/11. We have survived with our democracy somewhat scarred in places, but nevertheless intact.

And we will survive no matter whether the next president is John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

That said, there are still small threats to our democracy every day. Some of them occur at the polls.

In 2000, voters were outraged by problems in the system that ceded the election to George Bush via the U.S. Supreme Court instead of the voters. Al Gore won the presidential election in 2000 by a majority of the popular vote. But voting irregularities in Florida ended in Electoral College votes being ceded to George Bush. A ballot recount was ordered, but Bush petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the recount. And the Court agreed–by one vote–to do so.

Thus although the popular vote–that is, the votes each one of us cast–proclaimed Gore the winner, the Electoral College, with help from one of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices, decided the election in favor of George Bush.

In 2004, there were more problems with votes. This time both Florida and Ohio were in question. Once again, Electoral College votes went to George Bush, and John Kerry lost.

Now, two questionable presidential elections later, we find ourselves in a primary where Democratic voters are once again being disenfranchised. But this time, it’s not the GOP doing the disenfranchising at the behest of George Bush. This time it’s the Democratic Party stealing the votes from the voters. But unlike in 2000 and 2004, there has been little outrage from voters.

Imagine that Democratic voters in your state went to the polls in overwhelming numbers–the highest in 16 years–and yet were told their votes would not be counted. Not that *some* of their votes would not be counted, as was the case in Florida in 2000, where there were several thousand votes at stake, but that 1.5 million votes would not be counted.

Wouldn’t you be outraged? Yet that is what happened in Florida last month. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) revoked the right of Florida voters to have their votes counted in the primary or to have their delegates seated at the Democratic Convention in August.

The same thing happened in Michigan just prior to the Florida vote. Michigan Democrats were disallowed the opportunity to have their votes count by the DNC.
Unlike any other democracy in the world, the U.S. does not have a national primary. Instead, individual states are allowed to hold their primaries or caucuses or conventions (the three types of voting prior to the general election, all different and all rife with problems) when they so determine.

In the 18th century this was to allow states time to get their voting act together. There were no voting machines, no post offices, no faxes, no phones, no email. Every vote was a piece of paper put in a box.

Women and people of color, indentured servants and slaves were not allowed to vote then, either. We rid our democracy of those vile anachronisms, but the problems inherent in the staggered primary season remained.

In nearly all primary seasons, the nominees of both parties have been determined early–in both 2000 and 2004 the nominees were decided by the fourth state to vote.

This season is the first since 1984 where that has not been the case. What’s more, while the Republican candidate was assured to be John McCain after last week’s Republican primary in Wisconsin and caucus in Washington state, the Democratic candidate will not likely be chosen before Pennsylvanians vote on April 22nd and possibly not until the convention itself in August.

For reasons unclear to Americans who favor a one person, one vote system in which the popular vote decides the winner, there has been a lot of grumbling, notably and disturbingly, from the Obama camp and some of his more vocal supporters, over the possibility of re-enfranchising the voters from Florida and Michigan. Obama does not want those votes counted or delegates reinstated.

This would be less problematic if there were not a history in America of disenfranchising voters of color–which more than half of the Florida voters are. That the candidate of color is arguing *for* this disenfranchisement is pure politics–the old, bad kind he argues against in his speeches.

Why is Obama demanding that Florida votes and delegates not be counted? Because his opponent, Hillary Clinton, now the only other Democrat in the race, won the state with just under 900,000 votes.

There was nothing underhanded about Clinton’s win in Florida and Obama won a sizable number of votes and thus would also win a sizeable number of delegates. But the DNC leveled a “penalty” against Florida for moving up their primary as many other states also did. None of the Democratic candidates were allowed to campaign in the state.

Two did anyway: Obama and Dennis Kucinich.

The Republican Party granted *its* candidates delegates in Florida, despite the state’s moving its primary up in the schedule. But the DNC decided the state–and the 1.5 million Democrats who voted–should be punished.

According to the DNC, they no longer exist.

So *this* political season, the DNC disenfranchises their own voters before the GOP gets the opportunity to do so–and we don’t care?

So those are the stolen delegates. Rather than objecting to this disenfranchisement, as someone who consistently quotes civil rights leaders in his speeches should do, Obama has demanded that the ban be kept in place.

Does anyone think if Obama had won in either Florida or Michigan, he would have the same perspective?

Then there are the super delegates. Obama and his campaign are also in a tizzy over the super delegates, acting as if they never existed before this election. Well, they have. It’s just that in most of our primary seasons, they never come into play because the nominee is chosen by February.

Super delegates are primarily elected officials or former elected officials of high standing in the Democratic Party who will, if the situation warrants, act as tie-breakers if neither candidate has the required number of delegates to become the nominee. That means if there is no decision before the convention in August, super delegates would choose whichever candidate they feel would be best for the party.

A Democratic candidate needs 2,025 delegates to win the nomination. Obama currently has 1,366 delegates and Clinton has 1,274–a difference of only 92 delegates with many more delegates from state elections as well as super delegates to be chosen.

On March 4, four states will have primaries and caucuses: Texas, the second most populous state in the country, which has 228 delegates; Ohio, with 161, Vermont with 23 and Rhode Island, with 32.

Even if Obama won every single delegate in all four elections, he would not yet have the total number required for the nomination. But in Democratic primaries, unlike Republican ones, the delegates are apportioned according to district. Which is why when Clinton won the Nevada caucus in November with a 17 point lead over Obama, he still got one more delegate than she did.

Clinton is pressing to have the DNC reverse its ruling on Florida and Michigan, a ruling that never should have been allowed to stand, regardless of the winner in either state. No voter should be disenfranchised in America–not by a U.S. Supreme Court vote in favor of a GOP candidate nor by a DNC closed-door decision. Had Florida and Michigan *not* been disenfranchised, Clinton conceivably could have already been the nominee.

The complaint being made by the Obama campaign regarding the stolen delegates is that the DNC rules should be followed. Yet they also argue that the super delegates should not be considered. Not surprisingly, both situations favor Clinton.

But Obama cannot argue that DNC rules should be followed in one instance and overturned in another.

There is only one argument to be made by the Democrats that makes sense–reverse the ruling on Florida and Michigan, award the delegates to Clinton and Obama (and Edwards and Richardson) that were won and move forward. The race might take a little longer to determine a nominee, but not at the expense of disenfranchising voters and not at the expense of enraging half the Democrats who have already voted for Clinton by favoring Obama when she won the states. The idea that Democrats can continue to call themselves the party of fairness and equality (which having an African-American and female candidate seems clear evidence of) and also disenfranchise over two million of their own voters in Florida and Michigan is unacceptable.

Reverse the ruling, let the election play out and if we reach the point where super delegates are asked to make a decision, demand that they do the right thing and nominate the winner as presidential nominee and the incredibly close runner up as vice presidential nominee.

A united party is the only way to defeat the GOP in November, while a fractured party will ensure a GOP win. It’s up to the voters, now. Or should be.

In response to, "Allowing anyone to opt-out of health care, whether it be by a system of private insurance and government-funded programs or a true Single Payer Health Care Plan assumes that all of our people know what's best for them all of the time. We don't," Robert Scardapane writes:

Since you are saying "we" I have to differ. This is the most overblown issue I seen. It's a shame that the candidates are quarreling over something that won't lower the price of health care one iota. If we really want universal health care at a lower cost, there are only three possibilities:

1) Highly regulated insurance (a multi-payer system) for all.
2) Single payer system where the government is the insurer.
3) Socialized health care where Doctors work for the government and the government is the insurer.

The candidates have NOT proposed any of the above. This is just a Band-Aid and I refuse to be drawn into a debate over Band-Aids.

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-Noah Greenberg