[KB] Democracy and the Parliamentary

Edappel8@cs.com Edappel8 at cs.com
Thu Feb 14 10:26:45 EST 2008


       The following passage is from Gail Collins' commentary in today's New 
York Times.  It's entitled, "Notes from a Caucus," the one she attended in 
Maine.  What a travesty.  This sick joke---I guess I"m not being very "comic," am 
I---is what's being called "democracy" this primary cycle!

Most people have never been to a caucus, even if their state happens to have 
them. In Washington, the caucuses last Saturday drew a little more than 1 
percent of the registered voters. Mike Huckabee won his much-heralded victory in 
Kansas in caucuses where less than 20,000 Republicans participated.

 I was at a Democratic caucus at the South Portland High School gymnasium in 
Maine last weekend. It was run by some lovely, public-spirited people and was 
attended by about 1,000 voters who took the trouble to come out of their homes 
on an extremely snowy Sunday. Kudos to all. However, on the down side:

 A) The parking lot was also accommodating the audience for the final 
performance of “High School Musical.” Hillary! Barack! Troy! Gabriella! If only they’
d had Hannah Montana in the library, we could have backed up the cars into 
New Hampshire.

 B) The gym’s seating was not constructed for people over the age of 18. If 
you were inspired by those Iraqis with purple fingers, envision an elderly man 
with a cane trying to clamber up over several tiers of benches so he could 
spend the afternoon sitting on a backless bench in order to vote for a 
presidential nominee. 

C) The caucus was scheduled to open at 1 p.m. Three hours later, they were 
just approaching the part where people actually vote.

 “I know this is not the most pleasant place to spend the afternoon,” said 
Larry Bliss, a state representative who seemed as close to being in charge as 
anyone. Babies cried. Clinton supporters diverted themselves by spelling out 
HILLARY over and over. The Obama supporters, who were clearly more numerous, had 
not remembered to bring giant letters and were having a little trouble with 
BARACK.

 Caucuses normally work fine because somewhere around the New Hampshire 
primary, the presidential nominees usually become a foregone conclusion. Then the 
only job for the parties in other states is to conscript a handful of delegates 
to a state convention and ratify the inevitable choice. Caucuses are great 
for this. And the states like them because they don’t have to pay for a real 
primary. This is the crucial point. Caucuses have nothing to do with recapturing 
the spirit of the New England town meeting. They exist because they cost the 
states nothing. And you get what you pay for.   
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