Saturday, August 30, 2008

Obama's To Lose

After quite possibly the oddest vice presidential pick since Dan Quayle, the presidential race is now Obama's to win or lose. McCain has effectively silenced his greatest criticism of Obama by selecting someone much less experienced as a running mate. Palin has been the mayor of a city of 9,000 and is now the governor of Alaska, a state of only 680,000 and is run largely at the expense of the U.S. federal government. She has no foreign policy experience and is even younger than Obama. The fact that McCain has put her one step from the presidency shows that he is not as truly concerned with experience as he claims. A vice president needs to be ready to take on the job of the president from day one. It is hard to see how that is possible with someone like Palin.

I hear many people say that McCain is trying to reach out to disaffected Clinton supporters with his choice of Palin. While this may seem plausible because of the fact that she is a women, I would hope that McCain would be smarter and realize the women that supported Hillary are much more savvy than that. The fact that Palin appears to be an arch-conservative and opposes fundamental rights for women (anti-choice, against federal funding for family planning) doesn't lend itself to many Clinton supporters switching sides.

The choice of Palin is likely to raise this issue of the extreme sexism that still exists within the Republican party. The traditional and essentialist roles that are ascribed to women in Republican talking points only show how out of touch the party is with changes in society. I would also not be at all surprised if having a female VP hurts McCain among southern white males. It will also be interesting to see if the media continues its sexist tirades that were so common while Clinton was still in the race.

After a couple rough weeks in the polls, it looks like smooth sailing till November now (don't prove me wrong, Obama!).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

An Election Without End

As the U.S. presidential election draws near, I am increasingly disgusted by what passes for journalism and democratic participation. It is hard to fathom how such a corrupt and despicable system is not challenged more widely by Americans. Most Americans, liberal and conservative, agree that our government has serious problems. However, instead of addressing them through collective movements, we choose to pick at each other on "hot-button" issues. Responsible and accountable government is not something anyone would oppose. The steps that would need to be taken to create a responsible system are neither easy nor straightforward. Many argue that the presence of massive amounts of money in American politics is the largest source of its problem. While I would argue that money plays a part in making the problems worse, the structure of the legislature and elections also has significant negative effects on representation and public policies that come to be instituted. The current structure enforces the two-party system and the personalization of campaigns. It also greatly hampers the ability to implement reforms. The lack of benefits of voting combined with the lack of risks of not voting create the situation where only around half of eligible voters turn out on presidential years, and even less than that on non-presidential years (let alone the paltry sum that appear for purely local or county elections).

While, for me, some form of proportional representation and changes to the amount of elections we have would be a good start; it is important that other people get engaged with this process. Having people come to understand that democracy requires much more than just voting is important if sustained, realistic change were to be enacted. This isn't something that will be accomplished through a spontaneous uprising of national consciousness. It must be facilitated by groups that people engage with in their daily lives (employers, religious communities, civic organization, NGOs, and the government itself). We as a society have learned to be apathetic, but this social apathy can also be unlearned. Giving people a reason to vote and significant benefits for electing your particular chosen party would create a more vibrant and engaged democracy.