Monday, May 7, 2007

A Big Step in the Wrong Direction

The news is, "Earlier is Better," in the world of politics. As the epidemic of early primaries continues to infect more and more states, we get further and further from ever again having a president that can be the leader we need for the time we need. New Hampshire, of course, wants to continue to be the first, and from articles today, we find that the NH primary may end up being this year. Florida has tried to upstage South Carolina by scheduling its primary for the same date, and SC is responding by considering moving its date as well, perhaps also putting its primary in 2007. I haven't heard from the Iowa Caucus people yet, but can they be far behind?

What does this mean to us? I've already written extensively about the damage that the primary system has done to our ability to elect a good president, and invite you to read those earlier entries. Said simply, primaries raise the cost of running for the presidency, they take the candidate away from real life and put him/her on a "road show," and by moving from state to state as the press follows the crusade. The result is a general growth in vagueness of the candidate's platform, prompted by the desire to please each voter in each state of each primary. In trying to be "all things to all people," the candidate compromises himself/herself and backs away from issues of conscience and integrity. Consequently, we can hear Hilary acting like Rosie O'Donnell in New York, and then hear her quoting scripture and using a southern drawl in Alabama. Who is the real Hilary? Will we ever see her? Probably not.

In the classic concept of the political convention, some candidates would have "risen to the top" by campaigning in some -- not all -- primaries, non-binding, by the way. The delegates then would have a general idea of "who's hot and who's not," but no one would have a lock. It is in the heat and smoke of a hot August convention that a candidacy is forged, and real presidential material emerges. Sometimes, the winning candidate is a dark horse who has never won a primary. That's the way it's supposed to be.

So, it's bad enough that primaries have become binding and obligatory. It's bad enough that conventions are now coronations where the candidate with the biggest organization, the most money, and the best press has wiggled to the top. What could be worse? Moving them to earlier dates! What little struggle for excellence was left -- a hot summer full of personal contacts and campaigning -- is gone. What we have left is fund-raising, photo ops, and continual posturing. When it's over (and, for all practical purposes, it will be over before February is, and we will be left with over eight months of campaigning. The candidates of the major parties will be obvious. Instead of the desperate August-November run (usually about nine weeks), we have about 35 weeks to fill with mud-slinging, accusations, and general dirt. If the candidates are governors, senators, or representatives, some states will be left with absentee representation. Let's be honest there are only so many things you can do in a presidential campaign, and none of those things are very productive or conducive to strengthening our republic. In all honesty, a political campaign is a depressing period of negativism and pessimism, only occasionally broken up by an orchestrated "rally" where we can sing "Happy Days Are Here Again," but not really mean it.

Now I'm hearing that at least one party is considering moving the national convention to an earlier date. This will mean that even the cookie-cutter platforms will be in place earlier, depriving candidates of even more issues that should be in a campaign. There will be less individuality; instead, major candidates will be singing the party line.

Simply put, 2008 looks to be a boring, disgusting, useless election year. By January 1, the mud will already be flying; when we're supposed to be enjoying bowl games (which, curiously, are also moving in the wrong direction, timewise), we are hearing campaigning. An activity that was made for hot summer days, band boxes, corn on the cob, and fireworks, will instead be indoors in heated buildings as blizzards rage outside.

What can we do? I don't know, but I'm looking for an answer. We need to diminish the power of primaries, and keep the suspense of which candidate will emerge for the conventions. Put the conventions in the Dog Days of August, and turn the air conditioning up to 80 degrees. Just following these simple suggestions would give us a seedbed to spawn a candidacy that would make our hearts beat with excitement again. Wouldn't it be nice to vote for someone, instead of voting against the "other guy," like we've been doing for nearly 20 years now?

Oh, one more thing. Stop letting the IRS send 3 dollars per person to an "election fund." Make the candidates do something else. Do you really want the government funding presidential campaigns? That may be one reason why they're in the sad state they're in right now.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Time's Sudden Surge of Honesty

I want to be the first to commend Time Magazine for coming clean on this issue. While most current publications and networks continue their wimpy sniveling, claiming to be "moderate" in their views, Time showed its true colors in the "Top 100 Most Influential People" feature today.

You will find people of real influence. There's Justin Timberlake. Ask most people about this bastion of American Excellence, and you will get an answer that includes the phrase "wardrobe malfunction" and a reference to The Super Bowl and Janet Jackson. And then, of course, there's Rosie O'Donnell. My, how my life has been influenced by her. So much so, that I won't even watch "The Flintstones" anymore -- in any form -- because she once played Betty Rubble.

Talk about influence. Every night, before I go to bed, I pray that Angelina Jolie will make the right decisions that determine my own national security, the price of gasoline, and the availability of health care in my local community.

Let's not forget Al Gore. He made the list under the heading "Scientists and Thinkers." No doubt the man is an accomplished scientist; after all, he invented the Internet. But thinker? He still thinks he won the 2000 presidential election, and he didn't even win his home state. Not many candidates can say that.

Now, let's see who did not qualify. How about George W. Bush? That's right. The President of the United States did not make the top 100. Never mind that he can, with the stroke of a pen, veto something by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barak Obama, or Hilary Clinton (they are all on the list), or send Osama Bin Ladin into hiding in a cave somewhere (OBL is on the list, too), I guess he just doesn't have any clout. Maybe it's because the office of president is merely ceremonial, just a figurehead, and the more important issues are handled by congress. No, wait a minute, that can't be it. Queen Elizabeth made the list, and that's all she is. Maybe it's because his Dad was president before him, and Time doesn't feel that relatives of national leaders should qualify. Oops, forget that as well. Raúl Castro is on the list.

Maybe it's because they left off the purveyors of inflammatory party rhetoric. Nope. George Soros made the list. Maybe the people of the U.S. didn't want Bush on the list. That can't be it, either. In Time's listing of popular vote, we see George Bush comfortably in the top 100, but then again, maybe Time, thinking about poor Al the Thinker, wanted to let George see how it feels to win the popular vote and still not "get in."

Seriously, the list is a sad one. Oh, there are some people who deserve to be there, all right. Love her or hate her, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be on the list, since she will be in history books as the first female Speaker of the House. Condoleeza Rice is there, as well. But the list is sadly overbalanced with entertainers, athletes (is soccer really a sport?), actors and pretenders (George Clooney is there), and rock stars. It sends a message to the world: America is by far the biggest consumer in the world. We expect and think we deserve to be fed, filled, and entertained. If one of those fields is lacking, we expect to be subsidized. Do you know why nothing you buy at Wal Mart is "Made in America" anymore (that buzzing sound is Sam Walton spinning in his grave)? Because the rest of the world is kept busy making things for us to consume and throw away. We import everything. It takes the other 6 billion people in the world, working in manufacturing, just to keep up with the Black Hole that is America.

And we only have three exports: Politics, Sports, and Entertainment. I remember a few years back, living on the coast of South America. They had no Dr. Pepper or Dial soap, no USA Today or Snickers Bars. But they all knew who Michael Jordan was. I could walk the streets and hear Madonna singing "Daddy, Don't Preach" to uncomprehending ears (except mine). When the President of Peru decided to clean up congress and threw out the whole corrupt bunch (he was a good president, even though he himself had been made in Japan), the US thought it necessary to denounce the infringement of democracy in Peru. Anyone who has lived in Latin America knows that when God made automobiles and democracies, He did not have Latin Americans in mind. We go around the world trying to impose our narrow political viewpoint on countries who have neither the cultural nor the spiritual background that is a necessary seedbed for the processes of government that we have in our own country.

But back to Time. No hem-hawing on their part. They showed just how liberal and left-leaning they are. I am not a fan of Bill Clinton, but when he was president, in spite of his many flaws, I would never have been stupid enough to say that he did not deserve to be in the Top 100 Most Influential people in the world. He was President of the United States! Come on!

To the people at Time: we know you hate Bush. But your snub was childish and ill-advised. You don't have to like him to recognize his influence. Your idiocy was showing when you omitted him. If the blogged responses to your list are any indication, you obviously are tired of publishing a magazine, and hoping it will silently go away. But you have your pride. We know of your left leanings, of your sympathy for extreme causes. And you weren't afraid to admit it. I hope that major networks and other major publications will come clean as you did, and quit pretending to be "objective." You have helped us all.