Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why I Love Primary Elections

Friends on mine on Facebook know that I've been beating up more on the Republican party lately, but only because the primary elections were so very entertaining to me.  I couldn't help but notice that nearly every Republican presidential primary candidate -- with the exception of the eventual winner, had said publicly that God had told them to run.  I guess God likes lively primaries, with numerous debates and all the fun and rhetoric that go with them.

I love primary elections, too.  I've always so amazed not only at how ugly they get, but how the media covers the vitriol  -- as if its news!  As if the 2008 primaries were gentle, civil, and intellectual.  Or the 2000 primaries... or the 2004 Democratic primary... or the 1996 Republican primary... or the 1992 Democratic primaries... or the 1988 primaries -- and these are only since I started paying attention upon turning voting age.

Primaries always get ugly, and then at the convention all is miraculously forgiven and support congeals around the candidate in the general election.  That's what will happen this year, too.  That the media is covering this election like it's 1800 or 1824 entertains me... I can only conclude the political media in this country has little, if any, understanding of American history, and even less memory of recent elections.

In Tampa this August, all Republicans will get behind Mitt Romney -- denying me the brokered convention I was hoping for this year.  Afterwards, be prepared for a presidential general election that potentially will rival those of 1800 and 1824.  For those few readers whose history is a little hazy, the 1800 election between Adams and Jefferson was made contentious through the use of surrogates, one James Callender in particular.  Jefferson had hired Callender to print mud against Adams, but after a fallout turned his ink on Jefferson -- that was when the first allegations of Jefferson and Sally Hemings first were made.

The 1824 race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson is considered next in the ugly category.  This time it was Jackson's wife, a divorcee, who was the first target.  Jackson was certainly not one to back down from a fight, and so it went.

Romney's tactics -- use advertising to make the deepest cuts into his opponents -- will come out in full force, and he will have the financial resources to do it.  He not only has raised capital to levels that would offend most voters, he will now have the financial backing of all the other wealthy financiers previously supporting his primary opponents.  Be ready for a lot, A L-O-T, of mud being slung on the TV and radio.  I'm sure you may even see it in movie theaters.

And President Obama will not sit back.  He has shown from 2008 his campaign can raise equally offensive amounts of money, and he obviously knows how to win elections.  He personally will take the high road, as will Romney, in person, but his ads will be just as dirty.  And the use of surrogates will continue, potentially making this election one for the history books.

I don't shout this with glee.  I lament this.  For as much as our political system, and our Constitution, is the envy of the world, our elections have evolved little at all in tone.  Our dialogue, discourse, and debate should be the envy of the world, as well.  Not just between our candidates, but between us voters, too.  We should be able to discuss issues, respectfully, open-mindedly, inquisitively.  I've never, ever heard any Republican or Democrat utter the words, "okay, fair point."  It's always, "Oh yeah!? Well what about (insert the name of the other party here)?!?!"

Our candidates should get together, in public, without a moderator, and each get, say 5 minutes, to speak and rebut, going back and forth, similar to the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.  But I don't think that makes for good television, so the networks will have none of it.

The only difference between 1800 and 2012 is the technology -- the hateful tone will be equal, if not more so.  But it's our own fault, the voters.  If mud-slinging didn't work, candidates wouldn't use it.  But they do, because it does... oh so well.

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