American Elephants

Can’t We Improve the Electoral Process? by The Elephant's Child

Please, can someone explain why the Iowa Straw Poll is a big deal?  It doesn’t mean anything—it’s a straw poll. It means nothing.  Predicts nothing.  Confirms nothing.  For the media, it’s a chance to compare and contrast the candidates, encourage gaffes, look for awkward stories at a time when most people are more concerned with their vacations.

Surely we can develop a better campaign process.  How do people decide who they will vote for? Some decide on a candidate’s looks. How many actually read a candidate’s speeches? How many attend rallies or go to hear a campaign speech in person? How important are a candidate’s videos? How many rely on the pundits to decide for them?

I really hate debates!  They are completely artificial.  They tell you nothing about a candidate. The reporters are there to play “gotcha,” hoping to make news with questions that will be awkward for the candidate to answer. The desirable outcome is a huge gaffe that ruins someones’ chances, fairly or unfairly. Think of Howard Dean’s scream, Al Gore’s heavy sighing,  Michael Dukakis in the tank. This is what we base our vote on?

We’re supposed to make decisions based on how well a candidate answers questions —questions that seldom address directly the things that we really want to know. Debates encourage voters to make decisions about candidates on superficial things, when they should be making decisions based on deep knowledge about what kind of a person a candidate is and how he/or she sees the problems that face the country, and what they would do about them.

I’d like to see something more like a one-on-one intelligent conversation about America between each candidate and a studiously non-partisan interviewer.  Maybe a series of 3 such conversations, per candidate, each with a different interviewer.  Could studiously non-partisan interviewers be found? Choosing a president should be more than who has the best advertising campaign.

What do we want to know about a candidate? What is their understanding of America’s place in the world, our allies and those who oppose us.  What experience do they bring to the office, and how do they think it qualifies them for the office they seek? How do they evaluate the American people and what they want?  How do they see the responsibilities of the office?  Who do they listen to as serious advisers?

I’m not convinced that campaign finance is nearly as important as claimed. I suspect that there is a lot more electoral fraud than is generally understood, but that view may be influenced by some very fraudulent elections here in Washington State.

Elections are important, and the nomination process and the electoral contest should reflect that importance.


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