On a Reason to Vote

I found myself talking with an acquaintance last night about, naturally, the presidential primary process.

I’d heard that he was working as a volunteer for Mitt Romney’s campaign (which, as I’ve mentioned before, I won’t be voting for, though that would only come into play in the general election), and I wanted to know how that was going. More to the point, I wanted to know what he found so alluring in Romney, a man whose political ambitions seem to be entirely based on believing seven contradictory things before breakfast.

Turns out, I’d heard wrong. Some name confusion was at the root of the problem, and he was firmly in the Barack Obama camp.

What separated Obama from the pack? I wanted to know.

“Personality, honesty, energy.” Three good reasons, I thought, but I pointed out that several other candidates on the Democratic side had those. John Edwards, for instance.

“Obama also has Oprah supporting him,” my acquaintance said. “That’s good enough for me.”

The Oprah factor. She has the power to put a book on the bestseller list. She has the power to depress beef sales for a two-month period. There’s a vast army of lemmings who will do Oprah’s bidding at the drop of a word or three.

I’ve sometimes thought that if Oprah told her audience that they needed to jump off a highway overpass into oncoming traffic to lead a more fulfilling life, there would be, that day, a million suicides from viewers jumping off the bridge.

Okay, okay, that’s excessive. Oprah Winfrey doesn’t have quite that much sway.

Yet I had to wonder. Is Oprah’s endorsement of any utility? It will put people in Obama’s corner, true, but other than that do they know why they should support Obama?

So, I asked my acquaintance. What does Obama stand for that other candidates do not?

He admitted that he really didn’t know what any of the Democrats were running on. And perhaps he had been hasty to take Oprah’s word for Obama. So he couldn’t really say for certain who he could support. He did admit, though, that he could never ever, under any circumstances, vote for Hillary Clinton. His vehemence surprised me; he’d waffled on Obama in the span of two minutes, yet Clinton was a hard-and-fast.

The Iowa Caucuses are tomorrow, and there’s no telling who’s going to come out in front. The polls in Iowa are that close, and the caucus system is, as many commentators have pointed out, a fundamentally anti-democratic system better suited to the Gilded Age than to our modern age.

Let the races begin.

2 thoughts on “On a Reason to Vote

  1. Between no paper trail or anonymous voting (hello voter intimidation), I’m truly surprised no one has tried to tackle the caucus system through a lawsuit.

  2. Jeff Greenfield addresses some of the issues with the caucus system in an article for Slate.

    To be honest, I consider myself a poltical hound, and I had no idea how the caucus system there really worked. I mean, vague ideas, sure, but the nitty-gritty? Well, that came as a shock to the senses.

    I don’t recall the same kind of anger I’m seeing toward the Iowa Caucuses this year in years past. I will say that I don’t see any particular reason for Iowa and New Hampshire to get first dibs — and tradition isn’t a good enough reason.

    The system seems to be broken. Short of implementing a national primary or a series of staggered regional primaries, I’m not sure that tweaking the current system is of any value.

    Maybe we should return the real decision making to the national conventions, and chuck the current system in the garbage.

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