Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Democratic Primaries Are Over, I'm Headed for Greener Pastures

After watching what the Democratic Party has done to Dennis Kucinich, it is abundantly clear that the Democratic Party doesn't care a whit about democracy or the principles of fair play.

Rather than conducting a primary election for delegates in which every candidate has an equal chance to collect delegates going to the convention, the Democratic Party has rigged the game so that candidates who represent a minority view within the party are disenfranchised.

The Democratic Party does this in many ways but the two chief ways are through the manipulation of the voting system using the 15% rule, and the manipulation of the debate system by collaboration with the media-military corporations. Just as the Democrats in congress have sold out the Party over the war and impeachment, the Democratic Party has abdicated its own authority over its own primaries and convention by giving control of our public elections to private corporate interests.

This cannot stand if we are to have a viable democracy. It is not the neo-cons to blame only. Instead the Democratic Party is bringing us a neo-fascism that is sold with the expertise of Madison Ave. By having no principles when it comes to the conduct of the primaries and the debates the Democratic Party has shown its true colors.

There used to be a time when conventions were open and the delegates at the convention picked the Party nominee after a few or many rounds of voting. This was because candidates could get delegates in any amounts and build up a minority pool of delegates. When several candidates get a minority of delegates each then it is much more difficult for one delegate to get a majority. For example, if four candidates have 14% that is 56% and the fifth candidate can only get 44% and not go into the convention with a majority.

Of course over a hundred years ago it used to be that the delegates to the conventions were selected through party machines in the various states and at the convention where the nominees were selected, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said, thorough "a system typified in the public imagination by a little group in a smoke-filled room who made out the party slates." The direct primaries were created and adopted to make the nominating process more democratic, as FDR said "to give the party voters themselves a chance to pick their party candidates."

The primaries used to begin in summer after the June recess of Congress. By creeping competition to be first, they now begin in January and we are all familiar with the most recent controversies over this front loading of primaries with the Michigan and Florida voters now disenfranchised from the primary process through no fault of their own in the wrangling between state and national party bosses, sometimes even party bosses of the opposite party setting the date of the primary.

However, more than front loading, the major threat to giving the party voters themselves the chance to pick their party candidate is the 15% rule that effectively reinserts the party bosses into the direct primary in a sly and ingenious manner. They have done this by manipulation of the debate system and by rigging the voting system.

Manipulating the Debate System:

I have found the blogs and comments discussing the question of Dennis Kucinich's exclusion from the debates to be most informative. Many people who would otherwise call themselves liberals or progressives resort to the most fallacious arguments against fair and democratic debates when it is in the interest of their own candidate getting an advantage. Thus all kinds of arbitrary ideas are put forward about why Kucinich should be kept out of the debates with no regard for measurable objective standards.

For example, people have said that Kucinich should be kept out of the debate because "no one gives a shit" about him, as if that constitutes a rational argument. I have read people arguing that if Kucinich is in the debates then any person who simply registers as a candidate should be in the debates as if it doesn't matter that Kucinich is actually on the ballots of all the states. Cataloguing the logical fallacies would take a separate blog in itself.

But even more pernicious and diabolical to democracy is the acceptance of the idea that private corporate interests, the very interests who are today's party bosses operating in a smoke-free room out of public scrutiny, should be allowed to determine which candidates may fairly participate in the most important public election in the nation. The party bosses have entered into an unholy alliance with their corporate backers and masters to allow the media machines to manipulate the perceptions of the public in a manner that keeps bona fide but minority voices outside the forum of the legitimate debates, thus delegimatizing those critical voices.

As Kucinich pointed out on Democracy Now! yesterday:
AMY GOODMAN: You’re just about to come to the studio, and so we’ll be having you join in the debate you were excluded from last night. But before you do, as you pull up right near the Capitol in Washington, D.C., explain your lawsuit and what happened at the last minute last night as the case made its way through the courts of Las Vegas.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: NBC, GE, maintained—well, they—you know, we were invited and as a result of meeting criteria of being in the top four in a national poll. This was before Bill Richardson dropped out. And when I met the criteria, NBC then announced they had changed the criteria so it would only be the top three that would be invited.

We challenged that as a contract, and attorneys in Nevada won a case before a superior court judge, who said that NBC had an obligation to provide me with a place in the debate, and if they did not, he would stop the debate from happening.

NBC—and when that account was journalized, NBC then immediately contacted the Supreme Court, and a hearing was held. I was told it was an extraordinary hearing of all seven members of the Supreme Court, who—three of whom were in Carson City, Nevada and were teleconferenced in, and they heard a presentation by NBC’s attorneys, who maintained that the debate was essentially a private matter and that no—you know, really little discussion on their part of any public interest came up. They alluded that, alternatively, this was a matter that should have been brought before the FCC, not a contract matter, and then, in the same breath, said that cable networks aren’t [inaudible] to the FCC.

So we’ve—you know, we’re in a conundrum here about what the public’s rights are, because this goes far beyond my humble candidacy. It goes right to the question of democratic governance, whether a broadcast network can choose who the candidates will be based on their narrow concerns, because they’ve contributed—GE, NBC and Raytheon, another one of GE’s property, have all contributed substantially to Democratic candidates who were in the debate. And the fact of the matter is, with GE building nuclear power plants, they have a vested interest in Yucca Mountain in Nevada being kept open; with GE being involved with Raytheon, another defense contractor, they have an interest in war continuing. So NBC ends up being their propaganda arm to be able to advance their economic interests.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, in the court filings, NBC painted itself as the victim. It said, “Mr. Kucinich’s claim is nothing more than an illegitimate private cause of action designed to impose an equal access requirement that entirely undermines the wide journalistic freedoms enjoyed by news organizations under the First Amendment.”

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, the double [inaudible] here is apparent. First of all, they’re, you know, broadcast licensees. NBC operates its network under the FCC Act of 1934, supposedly to function in the public interest, convenience and necessity. They do not do that. And some of the law they were citing related more to newspapers, which have a broad First Amendment protection, and newspapers, of course, are not licensed. You know, broadcast licensees have an altogether different responsibility. But they were claiming that they were shielded from that by a congressional action which exempts cable companies from FCC purview. So, you know, this is one of those things that my attorneys are going to take up with the FCC, certainly, but you haven’t heard the last of legal action on our behalf here with respect to NBC.

I think that what they’re trying to do is stack a presidential election using their broadcast media power, and they’re doing it to further the interests of their own parent corporation, General Electric. And this is something that I am not going to stop challenging, because this is really important to issues of democratic governance, what kind of country we’re going to have, because the corporations are really in a position where they’re using the broadcast media to rig presidential elections by determining who’s viable based on who gets coverage; in the advent of an election, who goes on the news shows and who is getting their contributions from their executives. This is a real serious matter.

AMY GOODMAN: As we break the sound barrier, including Congressmember Dennis Kucinich in the presidential—Democratic presidential debate that took place last night in Las Vegas, we now turn to a question asked by Tim Russert, host of NBC’s Meet the Press.

TIM RUSSERT: The volunteer army, many believe, disproportionate in terms of poor and minority who participate in our armed forces. There’s a federal statute on the books, which says that if a college or university does not provide space for military recruiters or provide a ROTC program for its students, it can lose its federal funding. Will you vigorously enforce that statute?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Yes, I will. You know, I think that the young men and women who voluntarily join our all-volunteer military are among the best of our country. I want to do everything I can as president to make sure that they get the resources and the help that they deserve. I want a new twenty-first century GI Bill of Rights, so that our young veterans can get the money to go to college and to buy a home and start a business.

And I’ve worked very hard on the Senate Armed Services Committee to, you know, try to make up for some of the negligence that we’ve seen from the Bush administration. You know, Tim, the Bush administration sends mixed messages. They want to recruit and retain these young people to serve our country, and then they have the Pentagon trying to take away the signing bonuses when a soldier gets wounded and ends up in the hospital, something that, you know, I’m working with a Republican senator to try to make sure never can happen again.

So I think we should recognize that national service of all kinds is honorable, and it’s essential to the future of our country. I want to expand civilian national service. But I think that everyone should make available an opportunity for a young man or woman to be in ROTC, to be able to join the military, and I’m going to do everything I can to support the men and women in the military and their families.

TIM RUSSERT: Of the top ten rated schools, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, they do not have ROTC programs on campus. Should they?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Well, there are ways they can work out fulfilling that obligation. But they should certainly not do anything that either undermines or disrespects the young men and women who wish to pursue a military career.

TIM RUSSERT: Senator Obama, same question. Will you vigorously enforce a statute which says colleges must allow military recruiters on campus and provide ROTC programs?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Yes. One of the striking things, as you travel around the country, you go into rural communities and you see how disproportionately they are carrying the load in this war in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan. And it is not fair.

Now, the volunteer army, I think, is a way for us to maintain excellence. And if we [are deploying our military wisely, then a voluntary army is sufficient, although I would call for an increase in our force structure, particularly around the Army and the Marines, because I think that we’ve got to put an end to people going on three, four, five tours of duty, and the strain on families is enormous. I meet them every day.

But I think that the obligation to serve exists for everybody, and
that’s why I’ve put forward a] national service program that is tied to my tuition credit for students who want to go to college. You get $4,000 every year to help you go to college. In return, you have to engage in some form of national service. Military service has to be an option. We have to have civilian options, as well, not just the Peace Corps, but one of the things that we need desperately are people who are in our foreign service who are speaking foreign languages, can be more effective in a lot of the work that’s going to be required that may not be hand-to-hand combat but is going to be just as critical in ensuring our long-term safety and security.

TIM RUSSERT: This statute’s been on the book for some time, Senator. Will you vigorously enforce the statute to cut off federal funding to a school that does not provide military recruiters and a ROTC program?

JOHN EDWARDS: Yes, I will.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, would you?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Absolutely not. Our society is being militarized. And part of the problem is NBC, which is a partner defense contractor through the ownership of General Electric of both NBC and Raytheon. So NBC is really promoting war here.

The truth of the matter is that we need to make it possible for our young people, if they desire to go in the military, they can go to a recruiter’s office, instead of telling campuses that if you don’t let recruiters on campus, you’re going to lose your money. That, to me, is antithetical to a democratic society.

We should be finding ways for young people to be able to go to college tuition-free, and I have such a proposal that would enable every person, every young person who wants to go to a two- or four-year public college or university go tuition-free, by the government spending money into circulation.

We need to reorient our society. These kind of questions really are intent on continuing the militarization of our society and of telling young people in a very covert—well, actually in a very overt way, “Well, here are your options for a career in the military,” which is an honorable career, of course, but at the same time, in our society, young people are finding not only are they having trouble being able to afford a college education, but once they get that degree, what are their options after that? I mean, our economy has been a mess.

Until the Democratic Party asserts control of its own debates and takes the question of who may be in or out of the debates out of the hands of the corporate media that is dominated and literally owned by the same people who are benefiting from the war contracts and prevention of a fair health care system, among other things, the primary system is broken in such a way that it can not be called democratic.

As I see it, the most logical, fair, and reasonable way to determine who should be in the debates is to be consistent with the purpose of the primaries which is to gather delegates for the convention. This is a two-prong test to determine if a candidate is a bona fide candidate. so that every bona fide candidate will be in the debates. Any candidate who is on the ballots of enough states to theoretically get a significant and substantial number of delegates should be in the debates as long as he or she is an active candidate.

The first prong is not whether the candidate has simply declared as a candidate, but whether the candidate has a national campaign that has gotten the candidate on the ballot in a certain number of states. I would suggest that the number of states should be any combination of states that control between half to two-thirds of the delegates. It doesn't make much difference to me whether the cutoff is 50%, 60% or 67&, but it should be a discrete number that is objective to measure. There is no personality preference involved, no polls or ranking of candidates.

The second prong is a practical question of whether the candidate still has an active campaign. This is most important to keep objective and not subjective. Many, if not most, people who address this question confuse their subjective impression of an active or inactive campaign for objective indicators. I suggest the following as truly objective indicators of an active campaign:
(1) Obviously the candidate has not announced withdrawal.
(2) The candidate is continuing to actively raise money and report to the FEC.
(3) The candidate has visited and personally campaigned in or has an open campaign office in the states in which the candidate is on the ballot.
(4) The candidate has won at least one percent of the vote in one primary on the previous three primary dates. I call this a "three strikes" rule. Failure to hit at least once on three consecutive primary dates and you're out of the debates until you get at least a one percentage hit in a following primary.

These four qualifications would insure that the barrier is low enough to guarantee an open and fair access to the debates not depending on the super-rich status of the candidate's supporters while also keeping the number of participants to a realistically practical number. Having an objective measurement for the cutoff prevents the irrational arguments that are currently being used which amount to nothing more than rationalizations why "my" candidate should be in the debate and "you're" candidate is boring.

Rigging the Voting System by the 15% Solution

By moving to direct party primaries, the voters were able to have direct influence on the conventions. The primaries, not the party bosses, selected the delegates to the convention. The delegates were then only beholding to the candidates they were pledged to, and to the voters who elected them, not to party bosses who appointed or controlled their appointment.

Thus, a candidate who represented a minority view could go from primary to primary collecting a minority of delegates, but still have enough delegates at the convention to have a potential to effect the outcome. In addition to presenting that minority view through the debates, that candidate representing a minority view could represent that view at the convention itself.

However, by changing the rules, the Democratic Party has created s primary system that rigs the process even more in favor of the most well funded candidates who of course are the very candidates who are beholding to the Party bosses and their corporate backers and masters. Now, in order to be awarded delegates in a state primary or caucus a candidate usually must reach a 15% threshold.

That 15% barrier guarantees several results: (1) any candidate who is under 15% can't collect delegates (2) primaries are no longer about collecting delegates for the convention but about public perceptions of "winners" and "losers", (3) the playing field of the primaries is tilted toward the early frontrunner who becomes perceived as a winner well before any significant number of delegates have been distributed.

Since a candidate under 15% may still represent up to 14% of the voters, those voters are disenfranchised by a system that removes them from the process. Whether a candidate represents 2 to 14% should be irrelevant in a representational democracy where that 2 to 14% should be represented as a minority viewpoint within the party. However, but ensuring that a candidate uner 15% doesn't win any delegates at all, there can be no incentive for voters to continue supporting the candidate who gets nothing for their efforts.

If a minority of voters sees that their candidate is receiving his or her fair share of delegates in the process then they can be happy to continue supporting their candidate who they know will take their minority of delegates to the convention to represent them. However, if they get nothing for their efforts, there is no way the minority candidate can continue to solicit the financial support needed from event the minority of constituents who suport them. Thus the party bosses use the 15% rule to get rid of the minority voices within the party as soon as possible, makeing a charage out of the process pretending that the primaries are fair but rigging them so that the minorty gets nothing for their efforts and is instead guaranteed to be left out of the delegate distribution.

We have only to look to the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary to see how the party bosses and their media backers and masters have competely distorted the process. As far as the caucus distribution of delegates was concerned, Iowa was a virtual three-way tie. Obama won 16 delegates, Clinton was a close 2nd with 14 delegates, and Edwards was a close 3rd with 14 delegates.

Imagine the difference in the direction of the primaries if the Iowa vote had been reported as a close 3-way race and virtual tie. Since a candidate needs 2025 delegates to be nominated, the difference of one delegate each in the distribution of the first 45 delegates was statistically insignificant. To be truthful, the media should have reported the Iowa results as a virtual tie with the outcome as statistically insignificant. Instead, we got the mind-blowing hype of an incredible win for Obama, and the reorting that Clinton came in third by the popular vote, when in fact, due to the distribution of the vote by county she actuall came in second in the delegate count.

Consider this when it comes to the reporting of Clinton's "third place finish" in Iowa: Why didn't Al Gore win the presidency when he won the popular vote? Because he lost the electoral college count. It is just the same in Iowa, Clinton came in ahead of Edwards in the delegate count so she should have been reported as teh second place finisher in a squeeker of a race. She should not have been reported as the third place finisher because the popular result of the distribution of Iowan state delegates was not the determining factor of the literal result of the distribution of national convention delegates.

So instead of reporting the results in Iowa in an accurate, fair, and dispassionate manner, i.e., that the results were the statistically insignificant 16-15-14, the media manipulated the results and called Obama the "winner" of an upset and Clinton the 3rd place runner up when she was actually second.

An identical distortion of reality occured in New Hampshire. Clinton was declared the amazing comeback winner, when in fact the New Hampshire results were a literal tie: both Obama and Clinton received 9 delegates. The media should have reported: "New Hampshire a tie". Instead the voters were misled about the results, now in Clinton's favor, by calling Obama a "loser" in New Hampshire, when in fact he came in tied in a dead heat.

All this fundamentallly misinforms the voters about the primary process, drawing the attention of the public to the voting results as if the "winner" of the election "wins" the state's delegates, and drawing attention away from the truth that delegates are distributed generally proportionally, but not counting those under 15%.

After New Hampshire the delegates count by one caucus and one primary was Obama 25, Clinton 24, and Edwards 18. Yet anyone reading or listening to the media would not have known this. They would not have known that Edwards was still a viable candidate. And since then, with this manipulation of the reporting and distortion of the truth, we have seen Edwards' hopes fade from day to day, as the media now concentrates increasingly on Obama and Clinton as a two-way race.

The unfair winnowing of Edwards will be complete as soon as he falls below the 15% barrier because he will then get nothing for his efforts and so his supporters will get nothing for continuing to support him.

Instead of the primary process being one in which candidates can fairly compete for delegates in every state and at the end of the primaries at the convention compare results and see what the distribution of delegates are for the various candidates and their positions, the primary process is one that is rigged to throw out minority candidates early so that only the most corporately well funded candidate can compete.

People call the primaries a horse race, but imagine a horse race in which at every other furlong or turn the horses in the rear are forced out of the race. By the home stretch it is virtually guaranteed that only one candidate is left in the race. Is that democracy? It isn't because in fact primaries should not be a horse race, because in that home stretch there are states where the voters would have liked to have their votes count fairly toward delegates at the convention. This is the reason that the absurd frontloading of primaries becomes necessary and the primaries that used to only occur after June are now beginning in early January.

The Democratic Party is Corrupt

The abject and total failure of the Democratic Party to hold fair debates and instead turning the public debates over to the private interests of private corporations and the rigging of the primaries though the 15% barriar that prevents the fair distribution of delegates according to their actual support means that the Democratic Party is corrupt when it comes to its own democracy.

And what is worse is that the Party denies the problem and denies its reeponsibility for creating the problem. Why? Becasue to adknowledge the problem means to acknowledge that the private corporations control the party lock, stock, and barrel. Any semblance of democracy within the selection of candidates is a complete and fraudlent charade. The party bosses select which candidates they will accept every bit as much as the Supreme Council of Iran slects determines the official candidates, and then the Democratic Party bosses send the candidates out to the primaries where only the super-rich (i.e., the ones whom they support) can survive. Only the Demcratic Party restrictions are more pernicious to democracy than Iran's because it is hidden within the process and denied by the very party bosses who use the restictions and rules to manipulate the process and benefit from that minipulation.

I see no way that the grassroots of the Democratic Party can fix this. I admire Dennis Kucinich greatly for trying to work within the Party to give voice to the people. I truly believe that in fact the positions and voice of Kucinich are the voice of the majority of Democrats in the rank and file. The issue polls show this clearly. When no names are mentioned, the Democratic Party voters agree more with the Kucinich positions than with any other candidate. But the personality polls demonstrate that the issues can be so manipulated by the media and the party bosses and the process so rigged by the rules, that a majority position gets turned into and characterized as a minority viewpoint, and even worse a minority viewpoint that is not allowed to gather delegates fairly.

I see no hope for the Democratic Party. I can't buy the notion that I should vote for a corrupt party doing the bidding of the super-rich transnational corporations just because the exploitation by Democrats is less than the exploitation by Republicans. I can of course completely understand and appreciate why the exploited voters would want to vote for the kinder and gentler master, so I won't begrudge you or any voter personally for staying within the confines of the corporate controlled Democratic Party. But as long as you vote for corporate Democrats like Obama and Clinton, I do ask you to accept responsibility for the continuation of the war, for the lack of a really universal, nonprofit, and fair healthcare system, for the lack of fair elections, for the continuation of the militaristic society, for the US exploitation of Africa, for the US support of the illegal occupation by Isreal of Palestine, etc., etc., etc. The Democrats are as completely responsible for these as the Republicans.

So, until the Democrats decide to give up corruption and decide to play fair to minority perspectives and to have hold fari primaries I will not be voting for any Democrat who doesn't call for or work for real and actual reform within the Party. Since neither Obama nor Clinton nor Edwards is calling for reform within the Party I won't be voting for any of them.

I'll be voting Green in Novemeber.

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