I’m really involved in the 2008 race for the presidency.
My husband and I watched much of the Saturday night debates. Or at least, I watched. He spent most of his time yelling at the Republicans for being such pandering weasels.
When I’m with friends, we talk about the election. My friend Betsy is now supporting Hillary. She says it’s our opportunity to have a female president. So what if Hillary has problems, baggage? “We’re always going to find problems with a female candidate,” Betsy said. “But right now — this is our chance to elect a woman. It’s what we’ve always wanted, isn’t it?”
But not this particular woman at this particular time, my friend Sherry said over coffee. She wants Obama. So does my daughter, who’s excited by Obama’s recent surge.
When I’m not talking to friends or family members about the election, I read the newspapers, I read the Internet, I watch the serious TV news shows, I listen to NPR. Yesterday, I heard all kinds of accounts from New Hampshire residents who were teetering one way or the other, going from rally to rally, trudging through the snow, trying to decide. Democracy was in action in their small towns and city halls.
It’s stimulating, it’s exciting, it’s inspirational — but it’s not here. Not in the middle of Texas, where we won’t even get to vote for primary candidates till March. March, for God’s sake. Big deal. The whole damned race will probably be over by then, swamped by primaries in California, Florida, South Carolina, everyplace else but here.
I’m sure my vote and support count — but for what? Odds are, they won’t matter in the primaries. I’ll have to wait till the general election in November. Then, I can vote. And my vote will count as much as anyone else’s, right? Well, no.
Because, even after the 2000 election, when one candidate won the popular vote and the other (allegedly) the electoral vote, we still use this whole archaic system of winner-take-all, state by state. If you live in a state where the count won’t be close, who cares about you? The race narrows to a few key states. Ohio and Florida, probably.
If I sound crabby, it’s because I am. I like to think I’m participating in democracy. I like to think my voice counts as much as anyone else’s. But it doesn’t. From here, where the weather is ridiculously balmy, we watch elections and caucuses held in the snow, see sought-after voters in long coats and scarves and mittens being wooed by candidates with cheeks ruddy from the cold. We hear the voters complain that it’s so tough to make a decision; so many issues, so many personalities, so many what-ifs.
Yeah, it’s a tough election. There are difficult choices to be made. The stakes are high — the usual sturm und drang and then some and then a lot more. But be glad, if you have some leverage. I don’t — and I’m wondering when we, as a nation, are going to change that and give us all the chance to participate in democracy and not just talk about it.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)