On Running Mates & Other Election Matters
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
January 22, 2008
As we get deeper into primary season, here are a number of issues --
including even more disquieting election anomalies from New Hampshire --
that are worth considering.
For all intents and purposes, the Democratic Party might well know in a
few weeks, after SuperDuper Tuesday February 5, who its presidential
nominee will be. The Republicans, despite wide divisions among its
various party factions, may also have their nominee chosen.
However, the situation is so fluid in both parties -- the Democrats' top
two contenders running neck-and-neck, the Republicans' top three
shifting state by state -- that it's possible, though unlikely, that we
won't know who the nominees will be until the Summer.
THE DEMOCRATS' CHOICES
It seems fairly certain that either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will
carry the Democratic Party's banner into the November campaign. The more
populist John Edwards -- largely marginalized these past months by the
party and the mass media, both afraid of the economic populism he
represents -- still lags far behind in third, though he still has a good
shot at some of the Super Tuesday states.
I've just sent another check to Edwards' campaign, out of a belief that
it's important to have that more progressive voice out there, forcing
Clinton and Obama -- who are both in the centrist middle -- to respond
to economic and other issues Edwards raises so passionately.
The assumption here is that the Republicans will choose either Romney or
McCain, with Huckabee trailing in third place, and that Michael
Bloomberg will be a non-starter even if he decides to mount a
third-party run, which I don't think he'd be foolish enough to do.
THE REPUBLICANS' CHOICES
It's safe to say that the GOP nominee, whoever he is, will be a pro-war,
Bush-lite candidate who will feel obliged to cater to the party's
fundamentalist/authoritarian base, but also one able to make connections
with Independent voters who will help decide the November election.
Which leads me to suspect that the Republican ticket might well turn out
to be McCain/Huckabee or Romney/Huckabee, all of whom, even with their
considerable political baggage, seem able to connect with ordinary
On the other hand, this is such a wacky election season that the
Republican nominee, for balancing purposes, might well decide to name
Condi Rice as his running mate. Or Gen. Petraeus. Or Dick Cheney. Or
Attilla the Hun. But I repeat myself.
COMPLETING THE TICKETS
But what might the Democratic ticket look like? I'm open to your input
So here are my guesses as to a possible Democratic running mate; see
what you think of these vice-presidential choices, which are presented
in no particular order of preference.
If Hillary takes the prize:
If Barack wins it:
DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENT
Let's suppose here that Clinton is the Democratic nominee. Given her
ultra-high negatives -- roughly 35-40% of the population has indicated
they probably could never vote for her -- it seems that her choice of
vice-presidential running mate is much more important than such a choice
has been for other Dem candidates in years past. She needs someone
popular, more liberal than she is, and probably a male from another area
of the country. I'm assuming that neither Edwards nor Obama would accept
a place on her ticket -- although Clinton/Obama or Clinton/Edwards would
make for a mighty strong pairing -- even if she were to offer it. That
brings us to the Westerners Feingold and Richardson.
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico brings administrative expertise,
wide experience in foreign policy, and, even though he's something of a
lovable flake, exudes a certain gravitas. Senator Russ Feingold of
Wisconsin unfortunately decided to pass on making a presidential run
this year, but his dedication to the rule of law, his passionate defense
of the Constitution, and his knowledge of intelligence matters would add
solid weight to Clinton's ticket. (One could point to some of the same
strengths in Chris Dodd, but the Connecticut senator wouldn't balance
the ticket geographically -- two "Eastern liberals" and all that.)
Obama would need to balance his ticket in other ways. Again, assuming
Clinton and Edwards were to turn him down, were he to offer them the
veep slot, I should think he'd need someone with lots of experience,
especially in foreign affairs, which would make Sen. Joe Biden of
Delaware and Gov. Richardson attractive. But he might want to balance
geographically and gender-wise as well, and thus Gov. Napolitano of
Arizona might have a good shot. And Chris Dodd might be on his short
list as well.
REFORMING THE DEBATE PROCESS
Moving on to other election issues, it seems clear that the current
system of primary debates is mightily deficient and needs a thorough
For one thing, the parties, not outside groups, should sponsor the
debates, and the parties should decide the rules for inclusion (leaning
toward being inclusive, not elitist) and on who should moderate the
The questioners should be bona fide political reporters, not blowhard
talk-show hosts; this time out, Russert and Matthews and the Fox crew
were embarrassments, openly wielding their political axes to grind;
their trivial comments and "gotcha"-type questions dumbed-down the
The contenders should be permitted more time for their answers, so that
we get fewer sound-bites and more sense of their underlying
philosophies. Roundtable discussions, where the candidates are sitting
close to one another, works better in this regard than behind-the-podium
ADDRESSING THE REAL ISSUES
One of the reasons why we need better moderators is that, on the whole,
the questioners shied away from some of the biggest issues of the day.
The overall imperial direction of American foreign policy; the ongoing
occupation of Iraq and how to get U.S. troops out of there; the great
damage done to the Constitution in terms of civil liberties, habeas
corpus, privacy, domestic spying; the need for immediate action on
global warming; corruption and morality in government; the denigration
of science; the role of the administration in keeping the economy stable
and growing; the growing desire of Cheney and Bush to attack Iran; the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict; the "war on terror"; media conglomeration;
our corruptible election system; impeachment; etc., etc.
We need to know where the would-be presidents stand, and why, on these
great issues of the day. By and large, the questions in past debates
have tended toward the already understood and the trivial.
SHORTER ELECTION CAMPAIGNS
The long, drawn-out primary schedule derives from a much earlier,
pre-radio/TV, pre-internet era in American political history, when it
was was necessary for candidates to travel widely by horse or train to
get around the country, all of which took a long, long time.
There is no good reason to stretch out the primary and campaigning for
more than a year and a half. Communication these days is so widespread
and rapid that we simply don't need all that hop-scotching around the
country for a year.
Why not emulate campaigns elsewhere in the world by drastically
shortening the primaries to, say, two or three months -- perhaps in four
regional primaries spread out over that period? And the actual
campaigning time could be confined to, say, three months.
MAJOR REFORM OF VOTING SYSTEM
To obviate all the technological glitches in the current fascination
with touch-screen and op-scanner voting machines -- which are easily
hackable and manipulatable -- why not go the Canadian and French route:
paper ballots counted by hand, with party observers in the rooms as the
tabulating goes on? True, the TV networks might not be able to announce
the full results by the evening of the elections -- although the
counting goes surprisingly fast -- but isn't it more important to get
the totals right, free of suspicion of tampering, than to get a quick,
potentially false report?
MORE NEW HAMPSHIRE ANOMALIES
My essay last week on America's deficient election system ("New
Hampshire: U.S. Election System Still in SNAFU Mode") yielded a
number of trenchant comments from readers, especially about things that
went wrong in the Granite State primary.
I had mentioned how odd it was that the 39%-36% Clinton-Obama vote
totals never varied during the entire ballot-counting process, which
hardly ever happens in politics. Several readers noted that essentially
the same was true for John Edwards' total (17%) and for Ron Paul. It was
as if the final vote percentages were somehow locked into place at the
I noted that in one town, Sutton, an entire family voted for Ron Paul
but that Paul received no votes in that precinct's official tally. Now
we get an even more outrageous anomaly: Kucinich had votes disappear
after they'd been recorded!
A reader sent in
shots from ABC's primary coverage. Here's what those screen
shots showed me: At 8:52 p.m., with 23% of Democratic ballots counted in
New Hampshire, Kucinich had 1789 votes, or 3% of the total. At 9:31
p.m., just a little more than a half-hour later, with 43% of the ballots
counted, Kucinich now had 1638 votes, or 2% of Democratic votes cast.
One hundred and fifty-one votes had vanished! No wonder Kucinich was
upset enough to pay for an official recount!
One can well imagine that the ongoing recount, whenever the final
results are announced, will reveal even more such disaparities and
anomalies, for other candidates as well. For some preliminary examples,
go to Brad Friedman's bradblog.com, which is replete with them. For
In short, New Hampshire (and similar stories from other states across
the country) demonstrate how untrustworthy and insecure our current
voting procedures are -- and have been in state and national elections
from at least 2000 on. November 2008 may turn out to be yet another
electoral disaster, with major technical glitches, human errors,
deliberate manipulations of vote totals, etc.
Reform of the system should be mandatory before another botched or
rigged election takes place in this country. We've been warned.
Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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