Is this what democracy looks like?


The GOP race has thus far been shockingly undemocratic. All over the US, there are Republican voters whose votes did not count and never will.

In Iowa the GOP head first declared Mitt Romney the winner until some county supervisors called to set the record straight. Then the Iowa head said the race was too close to call and he would let us all know two weeks later. Two weeks later he said he needed a couple more days. The understanding here is that counting votes, something sixth-graders could do (one for Mitt and one for Rick, one for Ron and one for Newt) in an afternoon could not be accomplished in two weeks by adults. After all of that, and after having declared Mitt the winner originally, the Iowa GOP head then reversed it and said Rick Santorum was the real winner. If you were an Iowa Republican wouldn’t you wonder if your vote was counted at all or if the winner was just picked in a room somewhere by a couple of guys who had an agenda?

In Maine the GOP state chairman boldly declared that some counties’ votes would not count, and then reversed that order after being shouted down by the members in those counties.

One oddly undemocratic maneuver happened this week. You probably noticed that Rick Santorum won the state of Mississippi. So you would think that he would get the “delegates” that come with that victory. Under Mississippi GOP rules Rick Santorum was due 13 delegates and Mitt Romney’s close-second garnered him 12 delegates. Until you hear of the “super delegate.” Yes, the super delegate is a person whose vote counts more than any other person; that one vote actually counts as one whole delegate. And that super delegate in Mississippi voted for Mitt Romney, so even though he lost the popular vote, the delegate count is 13 to 13 in Mississippi. (14 to 13 in by some counts.) So, if thousands of you voted in Mississippi for Ron Paul, your vote counts less than one guy who wants Mitt Romney to win. Conversely, in other states there are super delegates who have pledged fealty to Ron Paul –thousands of Newt Gingrich supporters’ votes count less than that one guy.

And that’s not even the half of it. Newt Gingrich has said he’s staying in the race because the real number of delegates is still up in the air, saying he actually has more “legally-bound delegates” than Santorum. Yes, that’s right. The delegate count you see on TV doesn’t represent the delegates that will necessarily show up at the convention in Tampa in August. That’s also why it’s kind of hard to nail down exactly who has how many delegates: the Wall Street Journal has one count, Real Clear Politics has another. A delegate is a GOP official who will represent his region at the convention. The thing is, he doesn’t have to represent his region at all. Quite a few of the delegates are not bound to represent their region’s will, but rather will be there at the convention to pick the candidate that they, the delegates alone, feel is the right candidate.

Last year, Occupy Wall Street made famous a quick little call and response chant that goes like this.
Call: Show me what democracy looks like!
Response: This is what democracy looks like!

Think about the GOP race thus far. Is that what democracy looks like? Do democratic elections involve delegates independent of popular vote, super delegates, invalidated regional counts, and the backroom hushed shuffling of votes without oversight? You have to think about those thousands of Mississippi Ron Paul supporter whose votes went exactly nowhere. They might as well have picked up dogshit with those ballots. Those people will have no representation at all at the convention in August. Why is there even a “convention” and “delegates” in the first place? Because that’s just the way the two big political parties run things, right? You may be saying to yourself that the GOP isn’t an official function of the US government. However they run their elections is up to them; if they want to have a big round of Duck Duck Goose to determine their nominee let them.

But the way voting is run in the US is in accordance with voting laws. How people get access to ballots, how we can get representatives on those ballots, even the ballots themselves are governed by laws. Just a quick example: voting by secret ballot in which you pick the ballot up at the polling station and that ballot is paid for from public money is called “Australian Voting,” and it didn’t occur in the US until the latter half of the 1800s; the first president elected by secret “Australian” ballot was Grover Cleveland in 1892. (Before that voting was done in town hall fashion where people voice-voted with “yays” or “nays,” or political parties distributed “tickets” with their candidates’ names on it that voters could take to the ballot box.) I’m not saying secret ballots are good or bad, or some nefarious plot, just that this example shows that there’s an entire structure to voting that is recent and is designed by law.

Another voting law that we take for granted, it’s never even entered the public debate, is the fact that we use first-past-the-post voting. That means one person who gets 50% plus one vote is the winner, he or she is first past the post. This actually isn’t an incredibly popular way of voting. A majority of nations use proportional voting. In proportional voting a political party is represented proportionally in parliament. So for instance, 35% of Americans are Democrats, 35% are Republicans, and about 30% are Independent. In proportional voting, the 100-member Senate would be 35 Democrats, 35 Republicans, and 30 Independents. Obviously, the proportional voting system encourages more parties to get involved. First-past-the-post voting for a single seat, the system America uses in every election from City Council members to President, will always result in two dominant parties vying for the same seat.

Let’s take a look at our choices for Republican presidential candidate. Here are the two guys that are the only ones who really have a shot at this, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

Now let’s take a look at a debate stage for the state of Berlin’s House of Representatives.

Can you locate the candidate who represents the independent, alternative, youth movement? That guy’s name is Andreas Baum, a candidate from the Pirate Party. It’s interesting to note that the Pirate Party won 15 seats in the Berlin House of Representatives in that election. So that guy, Andreas Baum, is right now a state representative.

To get back to my main point that the Republican Party isn’t a government function and it can run itself in any manner it chooses isn’t necessarily correct in that our election laws created the two-party system, and by extension it created the GOP and the GOP primaries we’re watching now. Because we have first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all, one-seat voting, we get two giant parties that spend billions of dollars to get their guy in the seat. And now think of that Mississippi Republican who recently voted for Ron Paul who might as well have wiped his nose with that ballot because it meant exactly squat. Think of the Occupy movement, or the internet-centric, technologically-savvy, progressive youth who don’t agree with Congress and Obama’s policies concerning whistle blowers, indefinite detention, or citizen assassinations, and the proliferation of drones. Who represents them? Who represents you? What we have in the USA is uniquely American, but it is wholly undemocratic.

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