Tribune : The U.S. Primaries and the Illusion of Democracy

Never before have the American primaries stirred up such a strong and sustained interest throughout the rest of the world. The media coverage that stood by for the very first vote cast in Iowa pulled the trigger on a frenzy that does not give [appropriate] measure to the importance of the event. The candidates themselves [their personal attributes] do not explain why there is such infatuation with the process. [One has] two heterodox candidates on the democratic side in Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama, as well as John McCain representing the republicans.

Public Fatigue

Would the American primaries be as “addictive” as the Super Bowl or the World Cup? Nothing is certain here. The BBC website recently took and onslaught from members complaining of “primary fatigue.” Exasperated, they asked why the BBC felt it had to bring such wasteful attention to all the [state primaries and caucuses] more than 10 months before the actual presidential vote.

One could respond that it’s all about a fundamental part of the most important election that exists in the world today. This would justify such a deployment of the [European] media who leave [and therefore] neglect to report national or European news [translator’s note-this national/European news he considers just as pressing to the interests of Europeans]. After all, do we not share a share, indirectly, a destiny with that of the most influential democracy of the “free world?” [translator’s note-again he means to say that since he sees an inherent connection between Europe and the United States, are not the political, etc. happenings of Europe just as important, and therefore warrant just as much attention from the media.]

Supporters of the primaries estimate that these elections show that which is best about American democracy. However, records indicate mediocre participation in the primaries thus far. Do the primaries not constitute an essential vector for the politicized citizen? Do they not permit the organization of debates that inform the public of the intentions of the different contestants?

Primed for the Centrist Consensus

In reality, up until now, the primaries have not fulfilled their intended functions. The break-through of evangelist Michael Huckabee has caused John McCain to reposition himself over his moral views [amid criticism coming from] the rich republican right. The differences between Obama and Clinton are brought out over questions of international importance (Mrs. Clinton, former supporter of the army’s various interventions, vaguely promised to bring home the troops from Iraq while Mr. Obama did not clearly distinguish this from bi-partisan consensus over the “war on terrorism”) and national importance (i.e. health insurance). [Thus far] the media has given preference to those who hold to centrist tenants and has neglected the other, atypical candidates (examples being Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich).

The candidates compete then very carefully, engaging each other in a very hazy and confusing manner, while adopting few to no identical positions. Like it or not, the candidates have become the stars of a soap opera.

Primed for Clichés

More than a month after the start of this political media distraction, what has one learned from the primaries? There is Hillary’s crying in New Hampshire, the clumsy aggressiveness of Bill, and the elegance of Barak. The debate has risen out of moments when commentators discuss either the candidates’ sex or skin color. This analysis’ paroxysm goes to those who put forth several generalizations to “vote Black” or “Latino.” With few exceptions, the primaries are a democratic parody that reinforces several clichés and socio-political prejudices.

Primed for “opinion trendsetters”

The primaries give a sizable influence to “opinion trendsetters,” [the exit polls] that sound the results before the results state by state (such as the “huge victory” of Obama in New Hampshire that ended up being won by Clinton) as well as all the commentators that announce sensationally all the “decisive moments” (the momentum) that a campaign has to maintain (attested to by often contradictory polls collected by each candidate, by the speeches made for self-promotion coming from the candidates spin-doctors, eaten up complacently by the media, etc.).

The Drawing of Lots Would Be Less Costly

On can see [in the American primaries] a gangrenous system from the power of [all the] money [that when spent produces images, commercials, etc] that cannot treat the candidates in any fair or equal way [in effect, it is] style of substance. The voting public has now brought about a break between Clinton and Obama, two candidates who are both capable and determined, two competitors that are not separated by any fundamental politics. The voters must choose between two personalities that are “sold” by their speeches. Rather than proceed with such costly primaries (in both time and money) Noam Chomsky suggested investing in a candidate by a simple draw [of sticks, cards, etc].

This fast and thrifty system would be less unpredictable than the repetitive voting currently forced upon Americans as well as the rest of the world. One could smile at such practices if it were not for the fact that they starting to make appearances in Europe. A system of primaries has already been adopted by the Democratic Party in Italy (a regrouping of the post-social democrats and post-democratic Christians). Ségolène Royal and the rest of the socialist party would like to introduce this selection system by the next presidential election. If this measure is taken by the Socialist Party, that would then sanction the death of the Epinay party as a place of serious debates, both contradictory and pluralistic.

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