Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Political Desk

So the question is: In a two-party system, would you prefer the opposition party to nominate a moderate candidate who might govern well, or the more radical candidate, which reduces the chances of election in the first place?

Yeah, that's what I've been thinking about for the past few weeks. Both major parties have large cores that frighten the heck out of the opposing sides. The Democrats have a strong secular progressive wing, which they publicly back away from but, when in power lean towards. The GOP has a very strong evangelical wing, which they pander to publicly but when push comes to shove try to keep away from major decision making.

I've also noticed how the conservatives have finally decided to throw the President under the bus. After seven years of rah-rah support, they have finally decided that the Decider is not conservative ENOUGH to their tastes and have gone looking for a new messiah. This harks back to the "Flawed Vessel" school of modern politics - Conservatism never fails - rather, conservatism is failed by weak individuals.

All of this roiling around as Washington State prepares for its caucuses, one of 100 slightly different methods that the two big parties use to select its nominees. Some have caucuses, some elections. Some elections are winner-take-all, some are proportional, and some are beauty contest. Some are counted, and some are not, but that may change after a court case or two. It is a muddle that pretty much defies the idea of Intelligent Design when it comes to our political parties.

Here's the short history of the process in these parts: A while back both parties selected their nominees by caucus - members of both parties would meet and hash out arguments and select their nominees in a raucous process that can best be described as smoke-free, smoke-filled room, a place where the big tent and the backroom are occupying the same space.

Then one year the GOP caucuses were overwhelmed with a strong evangelical faction who nominated Pat Robinson. Panic ensued, and the GOP went to a primary which gives half the delegates, while the other half comes from the caucuses. The Dems still give all of their (more numerous) delegates in the caucus, but have the primary anyway as a non-binding "beauty contest".

Confusing? Yeah, and that's just Washington State's operation, and doesn't count the "Superdelegates" who are political choices, primarily to keep the rank and file from getting too uppity. It makes for a intriguing mess, and as a survivor of the caucuses of 2004, I can safely describe them as verbal rugby, but not as polite.

All of this leads up to a public service announcement. The caucuses are coming up on February 9. I shan't be able to attend (more on that later), but those of you who are interested in seeing local participatory democracy up close and ugly (and maybe get your hands on those messy tools of elections) are strongly encouraged to check out the info here for the Dems and here for the GOP. Because despite the best efforts of the sage pundits who like to believe they what is going on, both sides are going to still be up in the air by that time.

So go check it out. More later.