Friday, February 8, 2008

To the media: don't hush democratic politics!

CNN is not the only news source saying that "Democrats dread drawn-out, costly campaign."

This is a sort of wacky argument. Elections are supposed to be opportunities for Americans to choose their elected officials. In a related point, a person's vote is supposed to mean something.

Now let's consider the GOP. With Romney gone and Huckabee not doing too well, McCain seems to be the Republican nominee. This is true despite the fact that many Republican states have yet to vote. So every voter who lives in a state that has not yet voted is effectively disenfranchised by the early end of the Republican race for the nomination.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats in states like Maryland and Pennsylvania have a rare opportunity - for the first time in a long time - our votes for the Democratic candidate are meaningful. Don't lets let this power go to our heads.

The power of the vote exists whatever CNN says. But its message is nonetheless damaging. When major media outlets predict winners, those choices become more likely to win simply by virtue of having been choses as a winner. Perceptions of "who is going to win" will influence people's decisions about who to vote for.

So by saying the Democratic party is in trouble because the race might not be over long before the finish line, CNN is supporting the GOP over the Democratic party. This is just as bad as when its analysts suggest the GOP is split and weak because its members disagree with each other.

The democratic process NEEDS conflict. It needs individuals and parties to disagree with one another, and it relies on different interests getting together to hash out compromises and build new common ground.

Message to CNN: Stop stuffing the ballot boxes of public discourse, and let democracy, in all its squalid glory, function as intended.

And to the Democratic Party: Fight. For all you're worth, fight for what you believe in, as long you keep your ethics and your moral standards about you.

Here's to a long race and an exciting convention!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Wallists - What kind of security do we really want?

"They made a desert and called it peace"

There is an article in Le Monde today titled (trans. by me) "Israel may build a wall on the Egyptian frontier". This new wall is a response to Monday's suicide attack in Israel in which two Palestinians allegedly slipped into Israel from Egypt. You may also remember a few days ago that Palestinians managed to get through a breach in a border wall into Egypt and transported food, fuel and furniture back into the Gaza Strip.

There are a lot of walls being thrown up in democratic countries these days. Israel has got a big one. US politicians on the right love to talk about "securing the border" with a fence and super-modern surveillance gadgetry. What is behind all this "wallism"? And where's it headed?

I don't know, but it seems to me that many people have been seduced by a particular variety of security. They have come to see "security" as the absence of foreign threats. If you build walls and watch people carefully, you can keep foreign threats away.

Unfortunately, it is hard to determine how far "wallism" would let itself go. If one's answer to feelings of insecurity is to restrict movement and keep people farther apart from each other, domestic security will come to depend increasingly upon walls as well. How to keep inner city crime out of the suburbs? Build a wall. How to keep suburban crime out of the downtown business district? Build a wall. And outside of their home districts, only let people travel to their places of business.

Security is more subtle than walls. It is not just a negative "absence of danger", it is a positive feeling of well-being and connectedness to one's surroundings.

Israel's new wall seems to me to be a sign that it is getting too easy to answer the problems of security by building walls. We are right expect "security" from our politicians, but I don't think we should be so eager to accept such a false solution.