Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Thank God for Proportional Representation

The Democrats are second to none in blocking ballot access for independent and third party candidates, for marginalizing dissident voices within their own ranks, and for defending our ridiculously undemocratic winner-take-all electoral system. Yet in their own presidential primaries this year, they select delegates, most of them anyway, on a proportional representation basis. Thank the (alleged) divinity for that! Otherwise, this morning, Hillary Clinton, having “won” California, New York and New Jersey plus a few smaller states, would have the nomination nearly in her grasp – making the prospect of a full-fledged Clinton Restoration even greater than it now is. Thanks to proportional representation, Bararck Obama is very close to Clinton in delegates. After next week’s primaries, he may even pull ahead. The conventional wisdom now has it that neither he nor Clinton will have a lock on the nomination by the time the primary season has run its course.

If it turns out that way, it would be up to the hordes of “super delegates” to decide whom the nominee will be. Were they moderately progressive and clear sighted about how to improve their chances to win in November, then my wishful fantasy, where the Party Elders ask John Edwards to come back to lead the ticket, would be slightly less fanciful than it now is. Only slightly less because the party’s corporate paymasters and their media flunkies would, to put it mildly, disapprove. But, alas, the super-delegates, elected officials and the like, are, for the most part, Pelosiites – who talk left when it suits their purposes or salves their consciences, but act right, like the neo-liberal imperialist politicians (the Clintonites) they are. If Obama succeeds in eliminating all perceptible differences between himself and Hillary Clinton – except, of course, his empty promises of “change” – they could choose him, if he seems more electable (as he probably will). But their hearts belong to Hillary and Bill, so the (barely) lesser evil might not make it after all.

I’ve maintained throughout these entries that if Obama is good for anything, it’s for knocking the Clintons out of the water. So far, he hasn’t been quite up to the task. He could therefore be good for nothing – except “inspiring” live Kennedys, daytime TV stars, and clueless twenty-somethings.

On the Republican side, where most primaries are run on a winner-take-all basis, the good news is that the most dangerous of the contenders, John McCain hasn’t quite won yet. The bad news is that he’s virtually certain to win soon. There was other good news too: Mitt Romney was humiliated by both McCain and Preacher Huckabee. He spent a lot of his own money and got very little in return.

It’s good for the Democrats that Huckabee did so well. It shows that the Republican “coalition” is falling apart. It’s not just that the war mongers and security freaks are increasingly dissociated from the “values” (i.e. sexual repression) voters. There’s a veritable religious war in the making with theocrats (the Christian Taliban who favor Huckabee) splitting away from more heretical (Mormon tolerant) “social conservatives.” Since the Christian Taliban are mostly rural and/or working class, they are less obtuse than traditional Republicans and therefore better able to see what a phony opportunist Romney is. They also see him as a plutocrat – in a year when they’re not quite as eager as in 2004 to feed the mouths that bite them, at least not so long as there’s a “populist” alternative whose “values” are even more to their liking. No doubt, the obtuse -- with Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham leading the way -- will ultimately do the Preacher in. But then they’re at war too – to some extent – with the free market theologians, championed by Ron Paul (ironically, the one genuinely anti-war candidate left in either party). The plutocrats for whom the Republican Party exists have long had a culture war going with their useful idiots. Until this point, ruling class greed was enough to smooth over the differences. But as the useful idiots turn on one another, it’s unclear how much longer that modus vivendi will hold.

Let the Republicans tear themselves apart and sputter off into insignificance! Then maybe “liberal” Democrats will be less disposed to expend their energies fighting the Left, as they did in 2000. If so, perhaps we can come out of the November election with the least bad of the still feasible outcomes: a Democrat in the White House, a more evolved electorate (thanks to a serious challenge to Democratic rule from the left), and a third (or second!) party in formation -- capable, starting at the local level, of taking the duopoly on and, in so doing, moving our debilitating political culture forward.

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