Our election process stands out in the world
A couple weeks ago, I did something I had never done before. I participated in a political party’s state assembly. Yes, it was the Republican one. Overall, my impression was positive, although I was reminded of Ben Kingsley’s line in the movie “Sneakers,” on being accused of working for organized crime: “It’s really not that organized.” There was a goodly patch of time in which we delegates were at loose ends, but that wasn’t an entirely bad thing. It gave me time to reflect on the process before me, and on its meaning for us as Americans. First, I am glad to report that Americans are still joiners. This quintessential aspect of American life, recorded most notably in Alexis deTocqueville’s essays on “Democracy in America” gives our politics great power and resilience. Despite the atomizing effects of modern life, people are still willing to mobilize behind ideas, and to devote time and effort to put them forward in the intellectual marketplace. In Colorado Springs, I saw thousands of my fellow citizens who were so energized. Given the hard work and dedication necessary to carry out these events – the grassroots meetings, election of delegates, coordination between local and state party apparatus – the turnout was good news and an anodyne to those who moan about the decline of our public life. This is not to say that all was harmony. There were differences among delegates, and some fairly sharp-elbowed discussions; I engaged in a couple myself. Some issues were resolved. Others remain for a decision by Republican voters in August. But what struck me most that day as I twiddled my thumbs and waited to have my say was the profound differences between this gentle process and those I have seen in other parts of the world. Basically, those who consider the U.S. political process unredeemably corrupt or vicious ought to get out more. I have observed many elections both as a bystander and officially in a number of countries. Most participants were relative newcomers to this business of democracy, so their concept of what is “free and fair” were at some variance from those prevalent here. Rather, politics in many countries are governed by the principle of “rule or ruin.” The clique in power fears losing its control, because to do so would mean far worse than an exile to Houston, Texas or Chappaqua, New York. Often, death or “disappearance” would ensue, as it had for their opponents before them. This generates some odd practices – like the government flooding polling stations with young men in short haircuts, black leather trenchcoats and Ray-Ban knockoffs, demanding to know who voters are supporting, and taking names for future reference. Or observers discovering wads of identically-marked ballots as big as an undercover officer’s flash roll for a drug bust in a polling station’s counting room – before the ballot boxes are opened. Or the government’s chief polling officer nesting like a hamster in the ballot box after the polls have closed, then announcing that the precinct voted 98 percent for the party in power. While I was inconvenienced by what happened in Colorado Springs, it clearly does not come up to the current world standard for a suspect or corrupt process. Not even close. Nor was the after-balloting result what I have seen elsewhere. Although this was a private party, not a public undertaking, the result of the main event – the race to be the party’s nominee for governor – would have been breathtaking in most countries. True to American tradition, after the poll was over nothing happened. The losing candidates were not thrown in jail, or found face down in a ditch outside of town. They were not beaten by police. They did not receive death threats, nor did their families. One continues to speak out, and is rightly confident that he may continue his campaign free of government interference, if that is his desire. His supporters did not lose their jobs, or their housing. We were not arrested, molested or harassed. Nor did we riot. Nor assault party officials. We simply went home, displeased, but in one piece and ready to continue the political battle. It was a victory for reasoned, if heated, political discourse – the essence of democracy in America. It made me proud to be involved, and proud to be an American. Things are different here, and thank God for it. In closing, thanks to everyone who responded to my inaugural column, both publicly and privately. I would caution, however, that one rarely learns anything useful while screaming slogans. Useful dialogue is more reasoned, and quieter. Regarding my vocabulary, I shall endeavor, oops, try, to use smaller words. As to suggestions for future topics – all in good time, please. All in good time. Summit County resident Morgan Liddick writes a bi-weekly Tuesday column. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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