Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Obama Too Busy to Vote

Last month, the US Senate passed a resolution urging the State Department to declare Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. The vote passed the Senate 76-22 as a non-binding amendment to the Defense Authorization Act. (CNN Politics: Obama: Clinton's vote for Iran measure repeats Iraq mistake.)

Since the 2008 Presidential campaign is apparently already in full swing, it seems only natural that the resolution would become political fodder for the throngs of candidates slavering over primary votes. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) drew first blood criticizing Democratic rival Hillary Clinton (D-NY) for voting for the initiative. Obama views the vote as potentially authorizing the use of force against Iran, something the Senate does not intend to signal right now.

Now, I've avoided discussions of the candidates to date, and I intend to continue to avoid such a discussion with thirteen months remaining before the general election. I'm pretty sick of the rhetoric already, and we still have more than a year to go, so we'll leave the discussion of the candidates for another post. Rather, I want to focus on something Senator Obama said on this issue that is really an indictment against the entire campaign process.

According to CNN reports, Senator "Obama said he would have voted against the measure but didn't because he was campaigning in New Hampshire at the time."

Let's think about that for a second. We have a US Senator concerned that a vote on a specific amendment could be used to justify military action against another nation, but that Senator skipped the vote to continue a presidential campaign in New Hampshire for a primary that is still three months away. In the Senator's own words, "This is a problem related to running for president."

Indeed it is. The campaign nonsense has gotten to the point where candidates for president are now spending two years campaigning. If those candidates happen to be US Senators, then they are spending a solid third of their term in office running for a different office. Fortunately, they're not Congressmen who only serve a two year term!

This single vote on this single issue is only the tip of the iceberg. Look at the amount of money spent on each of the campaigns to date. Look at the amount of time already devoted to televised debates for candidates of both parties. Look at the nonsensical jockeying between states to hold the first primaries - a leap frog competition that now has the first caucuses and primaries in January, a full eleven months before the general election.

Our campaign process has spun completely out of control. We have reached the point where only multi-millionaires are capable of running for President and where the final list of candidates is determined not by issues but rather by how much money their campaign has been able to raise. We've reached a saturation point with the electorate whereby the average voter is disgusted with all candidates months, if not a year, before the election is even held.

It's time to leash this beast. It's time to limit the duration of the campaigns, and it's more than time to limit the amount of money that can be spent during the campaign. You see, I recently had a debate with a colleague over whether or not India was the largest Democracy in the world, and the same debate is valid here. My contention is that it takes more than free elections to constitute a Democracy. It also takes opportunity. It takes opportunity for all citizens to be able to participate, and that's what we have lost.

I can remember as a young child my parents telling me the biggest difference between the US and the Evil Red Empire across the sea (the Soviet Union). In the US, they explained, anyone can grow up to be President. That is the opportunity I'm talking about, but it's an opportunity no longer available in the US. Anyone with a multi-million dollar bankroll can be President, but for the average person with more common sense than financially sound genes, well, they haven't a chance.

That's what I think of when I read Senator Obama's comments about missing a vote while campaigning. I think of a campaign process that has overwhelmed our Democratic process. We need to regain control of the campaign season. We need to reestablish the boundaries set by common sense before our politicians make that final leap into the realm of professional campaign artists rather than professional legislators.


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