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Finally, an interesting primary season

Alex Miller

Truly ascertaining accurate delegate counts for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama appears to be an impossibility, which drives the pollsters and national media insane.

That’s a good thing. As we’ve all seen in the past few presidential election cycles, momentum and perceptions fueled by often-circumspect data can cause the pundits and pollsters to anoint prematurely ” often with disastrous results. To watch the process unfold is to be reminded once again that the entire system we have for picking presidents is clunky, imprecise and opaque to the many Americans who don’t have the time to figure out what, exactly, “super delegates” are and why the Republicans count delegates differently than Democrats and, indeed, why CNN and the Associated Press report different numbers.

If you spend too much time watching cable news or listening to political radio or podcasts, you can be easily convinced the whole country is hanging on these issues, desperate to know who will win as soon as even shreds of such a judgment become available. In Washington, and in the cable newsrooms and gasbag radio redoubts, there is simply no better story, and they flog it to death daily. In our highly attenuated and interminable election season ” soon to be measured in decades and not years ” it’s hard not to imagine Adams or Jefferson being alarmed at the elevation of our wannabe presidents to near-mythic status.

On the other hand, at least we’re paying attention this time around. Usually, we’re being chided for not voting in high-enough numbers. We’ll be told of much worthier folks in crappier countries who vote in the 90-percent-plus range, and what the hell is wrong with us? As we look to bigger numbers this November, one can only hope the outcome is intriguing enough to keep the typical Election Day slackers interested in 2012. But it’s hard to imagine a more interesting campaign as we’ll have this year. A black man or a woman will be going up against another old white guy. Who will win?!

But wait, didn’t we hear this last time, and the time before ” that this election will prove to be the most defining moment of our time? And perhaps that’s true. Imagine, for a moment, what the United States and the world would look like if Al Gore had been able to have his victory in 2000 stick; or if John Kerry had beaten the Boy King in 2004. Whether you’re Red or Blue, those scenarios should make you shudder and think, yes, those were pretty important elections.

I’m fascinated by the fact that my kids are starting to back candidates. The two older boys are both for Obama, and they express incredulity that anyone would be interested in the old guard represented by Hillary. Republicans don’t enter their radar screen, which is a sign of their age and influence as well as a big hash mark in the latter portion of the nature-nurture debate. At 14 and 16, they’ve both had half or more of their entire lives under George W. Bush ” as depressing a thought as one can imagine unless I recall the fact that I have to add four years of Bush Pere and eight of Reagan to that figure.

The horror. But oh well, by this time next year things will be different if not necessarily better. If John McCain is somehow able to get past age, his split base and an unfortunate tendency toward hawkishness to become president, it’s tough to see that being much of a plus over what we have now. Looking at what the other side offers, I can only hope that, whoever it is, they set aside as best they can the extreme partisanship that’s marked national politics for the past few decades and start reaching out across the aisle. At the end of the day, I don’t care if you’re black or white, male or female: Just start easing us back onto a track most of us recognize as the American Way.

Alex Miller is responsible for the editorial oversight of the Vail Daily, Eagle Valley Enterprise and Vail Trail. He can be reached at 748-2920, or editor@vaildaily.com.


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