What's All This Then?

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

It’s more than a little hard to reconcile the notion of the United States being the leader of the free word with the traveling circus being presented to the nation and to the world as the best way to select a candidate from the Republican Party to challenge Barack Obama for the presidency in November next year. One thing is abundantly clear, no matter which party is trying to select a candidate, our primary system is not the best way to find the best possible person for the job. If it was, we wouldn’t have the current circus atmosphere of one candidate after another being the favorite to win the nomination according to virtually daily opinion polls.

Watching "Question Time in the House" the other night, it occurred to me that if the founding fathers had been able to peer into the future, they probably would have hung onto the non-royal segment of British governance and eschewed the concept of divided government in favor of a parliamentary system. As it is, they’re probably writhing in their graves at the spectacle of presidential primaries masquerading as an intelligent and logical way to select the person who might become the nation’s next chief executive. .

We are being besieged by daily poll numbers to inform us which of the various candidates has surged into the "lead" - as though the search for a candidate was a kind of horse race - or a political version of "Dancing With the Stars." Which candidate will be sent home this week? And this year, early primary states have joined the madness by vying with each other to be the first to produce a caucus or individual vote total to determine who will be the front runner as the actual primary season gets underway. Hopefully, after that first contest, the jetsam of the group will have forcefully been cast aside or voluntarily reduced down to the flotsam of serious candidates - that is, one of the two, perhaps three presidential wannabes that Republicans will hold their noses and anoint as their savior-in-waiting.

It’s interestingly ironic that the unelected head of the Republican party spent months mocking Barack Obama as "The Messiah" - and now it’s Limbaugh’s minions who seem to be searching for someone to lead them to the promised land. Michelle Bachman has played the dual role of pace horse and comedy relief while the true believers waited for the anti-Romney. They found him in the form of Rick Perry, evoking cheers and applause for his stellar record as execution approver nonpareil. But sadly - put to the test of fire, he failed and the search continued. For a while it was clear that the true Messiah was the large one from New Jersey - but again there was gnashing of teeth and rending of garments when he revealed that he had not heard the command from on high. Now he who sings the praises of Pizza - I must admit with a fair to middling baritone - has assumed the role of comic relief and the search goes on.

It’s unlikely that any new contestants will join the fray. For one thing, there probably wouldn’t be enough room for another body in the ridiculous charades that are presented as "debates." Frankly, I’m surprised that the Oxford Union hasn’t filed suit to prevent the use of the word by whoever stages these shows. Certainly you can’t call what goes on at these gabfests debating when the contestants do little more than hurl insults at each other - in between accusing President Obama of being he who opened Pandora’s Box and swallowed the key.

What amuses and at the same time appalls me about such gatherings - and it applies equally to Republicans and Democrats - is that it allows characters to join the battle who would be unlikely to be selected as a standard bearer, even if he or she had no opposition. The Republicans may not all be rocket scientists, but there is no way they would allow a Michelle Bachman or a Ron Paul or Herman Cain to be their candidate. Oh sure, one or the other may win the odd straw poll or even a primary - remember, Republican voters are not rocket scientists - but when push comes to shove or at the end of the day or whatever trite phrase one might apply to such situations, voters and those who do their thinking for them, make sure that a candidate for the presidency is someone who might just stand a chance of being elected.

A final word about the non issues that always creep into Republican contests for a Presidential candidate - and to my mind renders the whole process an insult to the intelligence of thoughtful and knowledgeable Republican voters. You know what they are. Religion and Abortion. There are others, but those are the two that always get the leading candidates involved in one upping each other in who is the more devoted to the true religion or to the sanctity of life in the womb. In a rational world, introducing such topics as relevant to the weighty task of governance should be grounds for instant dismissal from the primary races. Unfortunately, when it comes to such topics, we in this great democracy are as irrational as any dictatorship or theocracy. Sure we don’t stone women to death for adultery or turn a blind eye to "honor" killings - but our candidates for the highest office of the land have to convince "evangelical voters" that they believe as they do and that life begins at conception and that maybe evolution is only a theory and maybe the world isn’t billions of years old and that dinosaurs and humans coexisted just a few thousand years ago.

As I said in my opening thoughts, it’s the sort of thing that sometimes makes you wish we had adopted the English parliamentary system. Not that the leader who would emerge from such a system would be relieved of having to state his beliefs on a variety of topics - but - as in the case of David Cameron, Britain’s current Prime Minister, he’d only have to do it to the 22,765 people of Witney, Oxfordshire. But we have the system that evolved over time from the dream of the founding fathers where history may one day record that the greatest country on earth elected a president who, during his campaign for the office, in one one way or another told voters that he believed that an invisible deity spoke to him and told him what to do and that life begins from the moment a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love and eyes a likely recipient of that emotion.

And all I can say about such a possibility is Lord have mercy upon us. And that plea from this aging atheist will give you an idea of how worried I am that such a thing could happen arising out of our convoluted system for selecting candidates for the office of leader of the free world.