|Home Page Commentary 16 August 2000 (Politics)|
I've been watching the Reform Party and Democratic Party conventions on TV, and here are some of my observations:
My jaw is sore from having hit the floor so many times during my viewing. Gerald Moan, the party chairman, apparently was unaware that comedy requires a sense of humor and timing. He had neither, and his attempts at humor were awkward and embarrassing. When the splinter group headed by John Hagelin lost the primary balloting, Moan said positively gloating, "Who you gonna nominate now, Jimmy [James Mangia, the former chairman]? Who you gonna nominate now?" The next day, when the party voted to eject Mangia from his post, Moan almost broke down in tears and had to step away from the podium for a few minutes. Is he a bad actor, or schizoid, or both?
Pat Buchanan is as loathsome as ever; his platform is based on isolating America, making abortion illegal in all cases, and bringing the government into the business of religion. When asked if he was anti-semitic, he said that a Jewish fellow was heading his campaign in Florida. Well, that's hardly an answer. Just because someone works for you doesn't mean you don't despise the things he believes in. It's a shame that Hagelin lost; he would have been much more in the spirit of reform. In terms of personality, he and Buchanan are worlds apart. Hagelin reminds you of the kindly but eccentric neighbor who sometimes visits the ozone layer for his ideas. Buchanan is the snarling psychotic who accosts you on the street and spews spittle in your face as he vents his spleen.
But the real topper was Bill Grutzmacher, who's running for Senate in Nevada. This guy was going on about the evils of the Federal Government of Occupation, and how we'd better take action before it's too late to lock and load. Nevadans: if you want a troglodyte in the Senate, you have your man!
The best part I've seen so far was a town hall meeting a couple of days ago. Among the folks on the panel were Gore Vidal and Lani Guinier. Vidal was witty, urbane, sophisticated, and erudite. He also gave some very fascinating historical perspectives on the political process.
Lani Guinier was by far the best, introduced as someone who has been demonized by all the right people. Among her comments:
A large percentage of the nation's wealth is concentrated in a small percentage of the population. This is a problem. (She did not suggest that the wealthy need to be impoverished; she simply stated the problem.)
A disproportionate percentage of the prison population is made up of minorities. (She did not suggest a quota system for deciding who should go to jail; she simply stated the problem.)
The current winner-take-all system of election is a problem as it disenfranchises the supporters of the losing party. In this case, she did suggest a solution: proportional representation, which has been used successfully in many other democracies around the world.
Please understand, although I agree with her on proportional voting, I don't agree with a lot of the other things Lani Guinier has said. Most of her ideas are way, way too far to the left for my tastes. However, at that town hall meeting, she was brilliant. She brought up the issues directly and succinctly, and presented them with insight, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm. She didn't demand the listeners' agreement or acceptance of her solutions; what she demanded was that we pay attention and give the issues thought. I know it made me look again at my stand on the issues and think them through. Thank you, Lani Guinier. You did a superb job.
As for the main convention, what can I say; it's just as staged as the Republican convention. I tuned in tonight just as Charles Schumer of New York had finished interviewing three people who (apparently) had given their tales of woe and search for justice. Schumer came on after them as if he were hosting Queen for a Day, [a television show wherein luckless ladies told their sob stories, and whoever got the largest sympathy vote from the audience won prizes]. Disgusting, Mr. Schumer. Simply disgusting.
It looks like I'm going to decide between Harry Browne of the Libertarian Party and Ralph Nader of the Green Party.
Let me know what you think.
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