Picking a Pair of Presidents

Super Tuesday was and wasn’t.
It wasn’t super in that we still don’t know who the Democratic Party’s nominee will be. That outcome will be a grueling battle between Clinton and Obama. As I’ve pointed out in the past, organization wins. Hillary has a better campaign organization. On the Republican side, prevailing wisdom and arithmetic both indicate that McCain will be the nominee (eight years late, after Shrub used very dirty tactics against him in the 2000 race). However, the religious wing-nuts that put Shrub in office can’t be discounted, and they despise McCain. What this portends is hard to tell, not just leading up to the formal nomination, but afterwards, during the general election campaign. Will they suck it up and support the Republican candidate, or rather more accurately, oppose the Democratic candidate? Or, will they stick to their our-way-or-the-highway approach and effectively sit this one out, having grown arrogant and spoiled after three decades of victories on their terms?
It was super to anyone that values a democracy and a real competition for the prize. I hasten to note that the differences among the many candidates within each party are not vast, in most cases, but what little exists is being better presented and emphasized. The indeterminate outcome is also great news for the voters of the 28 remaining jurisdictions in which either or both parties have yet to hold their primaries/caucuses, the latest ones will be held June 3.
It is unfortunate that both Republicans and Democrats are down to only two serious candidates. This will result in a less explicit measure of the country’s attitudes and opinions. Why? Because, many of the candidates that have dropped out (though their names will no doubt appear on the ballots of states elections coming soon) stand for much more progressive (on the Democratic side) or reactionary (on the Republican side) positions. Each had selected a niche, an assemblage of issues s/he was campaigning on. Now, smudged platitudes will emanate in ever greater proportion from the mouths of two remaining significant candidates on each side.
More pertinent to the Armenian in the U.S. is the greater number and deeper engagement of our community’s members in some of the candidates campaigns. Being plugged in this way, whether a given candidate wins or loses, heightens our visibility and increases our ability to progress towards addressing issues of concern to Armenia’s.
Now the grind will continue, state by state. We can only hope that ever clearer pictures of where each of the candidates stand will emerge between now and June 3. But all this is nothing compared to what I promised to address in my previous primary-related article. I claimed then, and still do, that the absence of an “obvious” candidate and the much more real race consequently provoked is a fantastic argument for publicly financed campaigns. Sneer as you wish, but this is true.
Didn’t you appreciate the broader spectrum of policy positions and characters seen and heard on the dais? Wasn’t the exchange of opinions among the candidates itself informative? Didn’t you feel more empowered by the (at least apparent) existence of greater choice? All this and other aspects of the current race you’d likely label as positive attributes would become regular features under a publicly financed campaign system. With the ability to properly fund his/her effort, a candidate could focus on the policies s/he espouses and getting the word out to the voters. A broader range and more explicit presentations of policies would be presented to the voter since money would not be a defining, exclusionary, factor. At any time, more candidates would be up on the dais, having first demonstrated some reasonable level of public support– a minimum number of signatures on a nominating petition and small-sum contributors.
A few states already have such systems in place. Support such proposals where you live, it’ll improve the quality of your life and community.
But long before the U.S. picks its pres, a third of a planet away, Armenia will have done so. There, two candidates are front runners. In a more rational system than exists in the U.S., the selection of each party’s standard bearer is accomplished by the party organization. The cost of this part of the presidential election process is not foisted onto the state, hence the public, as it is in the U.S. through the “primary” system. Thus the two stages of the election in Armenia are designed to narrow the field of candidates representing different parties down to two. Of course it’s even possible that people will elect a president with 50% 1 votes in the first round.
Unfortunately, while Armenia’s two stage system is more rational, its candidates are not. Those who actually bring the hope of something better for the country don’t have much of a chance against the two leading candidates. One represents a continuation of the current corrupt regime. The other is the same man who laid the groundwork for the current corrupt regime, and, to boot, almost sold out the country before he was politely toppled. Some choice our compatriots have! It doesn’t help that the Diaspora is excluded from the balloting. The votes of Armenia’s throughout the world could level the playing field against those who, using money and state power, win office through less-than-clean elections. Diasporan electoral participation would also further and more deeply engage all children of the Armenian nation in the Republic of Armenia’s future.
We’ll know a lot more in a few weeks about both countries’ choices and fates. Remain engaged in both sets of elections and keep building Armenian political power worldwide. It’s the only route to the achievement of our national goals.

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