Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Vanity Candidates

Our electoral system may not be perfect. It has its good points and bad. But every four years, there is one feature of the presidential election process that never fails to piss me off. It's these candidates with absolutely no chance that just won't go away.

This isn't a partisan issue. Candidates on both sides are guilty. In 2000, you had Bush and McCain fighting it out in the republican primaries. Forbes was a distant third, but he stayed in since he did have a shred of a chance. But then you had Orrin Hatch, Gary Bauer and m'man Alan Keyes. These three people had no chance to become president.

That they had no chance was exceedingly obvious to everyone. They couldn't even be called longshots. As they say in poker, they were drawing dead. But night after night, debate after debate, equal time had to be given to that little shit Bauer. Night after night, in order to listen to McCain make some interesting point on an interesting topic, I had to put up with Keyes making the same long winded speech about Thomas Jefferson and how we are "endowed by our creator with inalienable rights". Fuck you, Keyes. Get off the stage.

Keyes won, in a way. He got a TV show on MSNBC. Three people in that primary were trying to become the president. Three other people in the primary were not trying to become president. They were angling for TV shows and increased personal visibility.

Now look at 2004. You had 6 contenders in the democratic primary who it could be argued had a chance. Then you had Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, and Carol Mosley Braun. I give Braun some credit. She went out first. She wasn't out to just promote herself, she wanted to president. She gave it all she could. She was a long shot to begin with, and when it became clear that it just couldn't happen, she got off the stage.

Then other reasonable candidates, like Joe Lieberman and Gephardt also heard the music and bowed out at the appropriate times.

But Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich? They couldn't care less about the polls and the hopelessness of their position. See, they're weren't in it to be president. They just like being on the stage. They like campaigning. They like making speeches. Sharpton is crafty. His goal was to parlay this publicity and airtime into bigger things down the road. Kucinich is just nuts. I can't really say what he's up to because I'm not sure.

The final debates in the primaries were just Kerry, Dean, Edwards, Clark, Sharpton and Kucinich. That's a full one-third of the debate comprised of vanity candidates with no chance. Am I the only one offended by this?

The job of US president is the most important and consequential job in the world. The choosing of the president is a serious matter, a weighty matter - it shouldn't be the place for carnival grandstanding and shameless self-promotion. I kept waiting for the debate moderaters to ask the vanity cadidates this question: "Since your candidacy by any logical measure has absolutely no chance, why should the voters consider electing a man who isn't capable of recognizing a lost cause?"

Then there are the third party candidates. Occasionally, you get a fluke like Ross Perot in 92 who ran a great campaign and actually had a shot. But most of the time, the third party candidates have no shot. Now, I've got nothing against belonging to a third party. But honestly, the libertarian party isn't going to win a presidential election, so it's a total waste of time to field a candidate.

These third parties, instead of blowing their meager wad on a hopeless presidential campaign, should focus on winning local elections. Win a school board seat here, a council seat there. Then try for mayorships and state legislatures. That way you can build a base and a record of accomplishments, and someday, maybe, you can send someone up to be president.

In 2008, we're going to have a whole new batch of vanity candidates. It's inevitable. Four years from now, the plausible candidates are going to have to share stage space with the self-promoters. Half of the debate will be spent watching the Kuciniches and the Bauers waste our time.

P.S. About the hymnals from yesterday: hymnal is a great word for a game of hangman. The children you play with won't like you, but hey, you'll win!

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