Saturday, November 17, 2007

Democracy in Action (2)

So a major political party held a debate and bread and circuses broke out. The American Spectator gives us scenes from behind the scenes at the Democratic debate in Las Vegas:

Didn't these kids get the memo? CNN is cool, Daddy-O. Would a farce show up on campus in a tricked out sleek silver Airstream trailer to hand out free temporary tattoos, allowing students to decorate their bodies with bolder-than-Joe-Biden statements such as Independent Thinker and Express Yourself!? Or play bass heavy techno remixes of Charles Wright's -- yes, we have a motif -- "Express Yourself"? Or a progressive politics-friendly magnetic poetry wall allowing them to ponder both simple (Be Yourself, Pro-Truth, Peace Me, Everybody Hope) and slightly more complex (Want Love Not Republican, I Am a Proud Educated Minority) philosophical ideas?

Of course not! All these kids had to do was read the flashing words on the video screens around the Airstream: Politics=Your Future. Picture of Wolf Blitzer. CNN=Politics. Add it up, slackers. CNN equals your future. So what if hardly any of you can actually get into the debate or the masses of police, Secret Service agents and heavily armed SWAT men kept the candidates safely insulated from you and turned your campus into something resembling a scene from The Kingdom, minus the turbans?

Maybe some free T-shirts would win the crowd over? Two CNN employees climbed atop the Airstream. "Who loves this song?" one of them enthused into the mic, "Express Yourself," endlessly looped, blaring in the background.

"This song sucks!" someone shouted back.

Fine. Onto trivia for T-shirts. Which two presidential candidates are in favor of same-sex marriage?

"Ron Paul!" someone said -- too confidently, it turns out.

"Hillary!" No. "John Edwards!" Nope, you're thinking of his wife. Someone blurts out Kucinich and gets their shirt. No more guesses. "Sorry, guys, it's Mike Gravel," the CNN emcee says.

The article, which is well worth reading in its entirety, goes on to recount how CNN, seeking to brand itself as the hip place to get political news, tried to persuade the crowd that politics is cool and CNN is too. The crowd reacted mostly with angry indifference. It goes on to describe an assortment of professional protesters who also showed up at the debate, even as it is now turning out that the entire debate allegedly featuring actual questions from real citizens may have been scripted, yielding canned answers to canned questions. No candidate was in any danger of revealing anything to the American people about how he or she might govern.

Along the same lines, Jonah Goldberg argues that people who want to vote should have to pass a test, similar to ones that immigrants have to pass to become citizens, before being allowed to do so. He is irritated that “Every election year, the race comes down to ‘the undecideds,’ many of whom are undecided because they don’t pay attention, don’t much care, and are still vexed by the task of discerning the difference between Republicans and Democrats. These are our kingmakers?” I’m not sure I’d go as far as testing, the history of exam requirements to vote in the American South being what it is, but I understand the sentiment.

Efforts to increase voter turnout are now a staple of American politics among people who view democracy – elections – as the only component of the American civic model, ignoring the truly critical piece, limited government. Motor-voter laws, the
misguided efforts on campus to promote civic engagement, the opposition to voter-ID laws are all part of this. But this misses the bigger picture. I frankly don’t want people who have to be cajoled, entertained or led by the hand into the voting booth to vote. A good rule of thumb for a healthy society is that anyone who doesn’t actively seek out the vote probably shouldn’t be wielding it. There is no future for democratic governance if people have to be nagged into caring about it. What went on in Las Vegas is disturbing in more ways than one.



Blogger ryanshaunkelly said...

Colbert gravel kucinich paul nader perot carter [conyers?rangel?] united for truth elicit fear smear blacklist.

The people know too much,
democracy rising democracy now.
Rage against the machine.

Honesty compassion intelligence guts.

No more extortion blackmail bribery division.
Divided we fall.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Libertarian Jason said...

There is a very simple way to expand voter participation: Loosed the ballot access laws and let more parties compete in the system on a level playing field.

Voters know who their candidates are. They aren't stupid. The reason they may not care is because neither party represents anything close to what they want. No matter who gets elected - D or R - the same crap continues to happen.

9:46 AM  

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