Commentary By John Paul Culotta
Already, the 2008 presidential campaign is in full swing, and both parties and their candidates are behaving in a manner that is hardly presidential. Our national media is in a frenzy covering the non-issues raised by celebrity campaigning.
Despite the debacle in Iraq, the slowing down of our economy, the increasing gap in the living standards of Americans, the inadequate health care delivery system as appropriate issues for discussion, we are treated daily to personality issues.
Does Ms. Clinton use a faux southern accent when addressing certain groups? Will Americans accept a candidate with a Moslem sounding name? What is the role of a first gentleman? Will Americans elect a Mormon? Can a candidate be presidential if he has $400 haircuts? Can a candidate be married three times and run with the support of evangelicals? Why does a candidate think it is appropriate to sing Bomb, Bomb Iran to the beat of a popular Beach Boys song? Are former television actors appropriate candidates? Was it appropriate for a candidate to announce the health status of his wife? None of these issues shed any light on policy and beliefs of the candidates. Character is always important when evaluating a candidate- not personal, private matters such as religious affiliation, spousal traits, ethnic background or personal spending habits.
Our election season appears to any foreign observer to be too lengthy, fueled by excessive expenditure of money, not concerned with any political policy or ideas, and concerned only with the trivial. Many Americans, including moi, concur.
Are we so sure of our democratic practices we do not understand the importance of elections? Our Democracy is under threat not only from international terrorism but also by corporate financing of elections, voter fraud and intimidation, lack of reform in the Electoral College system, and the use of trivial non-issues in order to prevent the American people to address the serious issues facing the nation. Both parties and most politicians are guilty.
Shame on all who manipulate these lengthy campaigns says the Progressive.
Recently, I read What A Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and Other Wild Animals written by Terry McAuliffe with Steve Kettmann. McAuliffe was a fundraiser for the Democratic Party. The book is amusing and raises many issues for me regarding the political need for excessive amounts of money to run a successful political machine. McAuliffe is quick to criticize Republican chicanery and corruption in their administrations since Nixon. He is not so quick to criticize Democrats.
It is imperative for both parties to have a conference on a bipartisan reform of the election process. Special interests financing of our elections should cease and a system of public financing should replace the present system. Our media should evaluate their reporting and attempt to enlighten the populace of the issues while reporting on the trivial.
Citizens must become active participants in the process and not apathetic. Then, and only then, will our elections ensure that our Democracy will survive and prosper.
Maryland is considering a change in our Constitutional Electoral College. It is proposing that the electors in the Electoral College in that state must vote for the candidate with the highest popular vote nationwide. Our state should consider the same.
Neoconservatives in the Bush administration feel exporting American-style Democracy will resolve the conflicts of the Near East. At the same time, we are hesitant in recognizing the flaws in our style of Democracy. It is noteworthy that more Americans vote for the "American Idol" than in our national elections. It is also ironic that this apathy may be a result of the widespread belief that elections do not resolve problems or settle issues facing the nation.
Money appears to decide the elections, not votes. Our media is interested in which candidate obtained the most funds from corporate and union donors- not their character or their political philosophy. In fact, most candidates do not have a concrete systemic political philosophy.
In France, Great Britain, and Italy the political parties all have a political philosophy and voters are more interested in the platforms of the parties than in the personality cults that exist with American politicians. It is time to make the American election system a thing of American pride and not one of shame.