Thursday, March 13, 2008
As long as I count the votes, what are you going to do about it?
—William Marcy Tweed (Boss Tweed, 1871)
Herewith a modest proposal-so modest in fact that none of those charged with resolving the issue has thought of it. The issue wanting resolution is how to enfranchise the voters in Michigan and Florida. They have been disenfranchised through the wrong-headed actions of others with the result that unless corrected, those states’ delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver will attend voiceless, a mute state destined to create such chaos as to insure the election of John McCain irrespective of who wins the nomination.
The goal is not to decide who is responsible for the disenfranchisement of the citizens of those two states but how to enfranchise them. Herewith a suggestion that will benefit the voters in those two states and, mirabile dictu, all the television watching citizens of the United States irrespective of their party affiliation. Would that John McCain had it in his power to do as much for the country.
The most frequently heard solution to enfranchisement of the disenfranchised is that there be another primary in those states, either through the caucus system, a mail in vote or an actual election. In any of those scenarios Senators Clinton and Obama would have an opportunity to campaign in those states on an equal footing and the voters would have an opportunity to make their wishes known. The downside, we are solemnly told, is that some of those who voted earlier may, for a variety of reasons such as death, be unable to vote in a second election thus rendering meaningless their earlier votes, votes which the entire debate already demonstrates was meaningless.
Since the only way the errors of the past can be corrected and a democratic debacle avoided is through a second election, the question the average citizen is asking is why the delay in setting the date. The answer, not surprisingly, is money. Since money is the answer, the next question is where can the money be found? And herewith the suggestion (not original with the writer) and the consequences (that are).
There is no reason to burden the taxpayers of Michigan and Florida with the cost of the election nor is there any reason to burden the Democratic party establishment with the cost. According to the Associated Press, Michigan Democratic chairman Mark Brewer, said it would cost the state party $8 million to $12 million to set up party-run election sites and allow voting by mail or over the internet. The same report quoted Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida as saying that conducting a primary in Florida would cost between $22 million and $24 million whereas voting by mail would cost approximately $8 million and a caucus process about $4 million.
Whichever method is decided upon, the best solution is to permit the two campaigns to share the cost equally, a cost they can well afford. In February alone, Hillary Clinton raised $35 million and Barrack Obama raised $55 million. The total cost of new elections in both states would cost somewhere between $36 million and $48 million, depending on what kind of an election was decided on. If the campaigns pay for the two elections, the Clinton campaign would have $11 million left from its February winnings and the Obama campaign would have $31 million left. Here are the happy consequences of that outcome.
The candidates would have $18 million and perhaps as much as $24 million less to pay for television advertising. This would free democrat and republican alike from thousands, if not, indeed, hundreds of thousands of hours of perfectly meaningless television ads that benefit none but the candidates, if them, and the television stations who profit thereby. Without the need to produce so many ads, those whose job it is to compose the ads could devote more of their time to polishing their skills and making sure that the ads they still have money to produce are grammatically correct. As a result, viewers would not be subject to the incessant question of “Who” we’d like to have answering the telephone in the event of an emergency. (That usage, sponsored by the campaign of a Wellesley College graduate, almost certainly confirms in the minds of many, that “who” is the correct word to use in that particular sentence structure thus guaranteeing its infliction on the rest of us for years to come.) Of course, deflecting $48 million from the assault on our senses is but a temporary reprieve. If the campaigns continue their successful fund raising, in the next four months they will raise between them close to half a billion dollars, more than enough to pay for other assaults on our senses and rendering the reprieve brief at best. A brief reprieve, however, coupled with the enfranchisement of the citizens of Florida and Michigan is not something at which to sneer.