Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Party Name Misnomer

“Voting doesn’t make you a better citizen, comprehending the issues makes you better. Voting without that makes us all suckers.”
 —Actor Richard Dreyfuss, writing in PJ Media
While perusing discussion boards like Democratic Underground after the first Republican debate, I was surprised to detect a running theme of envy.

No, of course, the people posting were not the least bit envious of the caliber and quality of the field of Republican primary candidates. Unsurprisingly, they consistently thought they were all losers. But there was a palpable frustration that the Democrats were not having their own debates and that all the political and media focus was on the GOP and its issues.

Now, that frustration has begun to be noticeable to the mass media, with several outlets reporting that Democratic National Committee Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz was heckled at the New Hampshire state convention over the weekend by people in the audience calling for “more debates.” Currently, the Dems have scheduled six debates—the first on October 3—compared to the Republicans’ eleven.

It’s worth pondering why there is such a groundspell for more debates. After all, presumably the top priority for rank and file Dems, like all politically engaged people, is to see their side victorious. And their frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, is not only a virtual a lock to get the nomination but stands a better than even chance of being being elected president next year. In a situation like that, more debates would mainly benefit her primary opponents—which is almost certainly the reason why so few were scheduled in the first place. So what is more important to these people than a sure-as-possible shot at a rare third consecutive White House term?

Maybe these people take the name of their party seriously and would like to see it be more… democratic. They may see the GOP primary field as a bunch of bozos driving around in a clown car, but the fact is that the two debates so far have revealed a wide diversity in many positions among Republican subgroups, which tend to get obscured in mainstream media coverage. Viewers have also gotten a much better sense of the various personalities and character of the candidates. Yes, mostly one in particular, but even he has a silver lining for Republicans. His mere presence has driven up viewing numbers, thereby making more people aware of the other candidates.

As for the more demographically preocuppied among Dem voters, it cannot be going unnoticed that the debate stage for the supposedly angry-old-white-guy party includes a female (the same exact number as in the Democratic field), an African-American and two Hispanics. Three are under the age of 50 (not counting the departed Scott Walker). Only two are over the age of 65. It has to be grating to see the other side exhibiting more diversity than their own side, and the term “token” tends to sound hollow when it gets hurled too many times. The fact is that all of these candidates have their own followings within the Republican party, and that says more than any of the nativist claptrap bandied about by the current frontrunner.

Why is the Republican field so large while the Democratic race seems preordained? Could it be that the Dems happen to have a candidate who is so far above anyone else in the entire country in terms of talent, intellect and experience that there is no point in having primaries? Yeah, right. If that were true, she would have been nominated eight years ago when she was only running against a freshly elected freshman senator. The inescapable fact is that Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite more than a year before the election because she and her husband have exerted their considerable resources and influence to lock potential rivals out of any serious fundraising. Even someone as high-profile as Joe Biden, if he gets in, will have a hard time scraping together enough cash to make a competitive go of it.

Yes, big money donors are crucial on the Republican side as well. But the difference is that virtually anyone currently on the GOP debate stage could actually hypothetically clinch the nomination. Yes, some candidates are more way likely than others, but you cannot say that any of them have virtually no chance. In other words, Republican voters will actually have a say.

Maybe that is why so many Democratic voters are feeling deep down that the way their party works is not all that democatic.

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