Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is There Too Much Democracy in America?

John Bernstein's piece at the Daily Dish seems to be getting a lot of attention today. After voting for 52 separate officials in yesterday's Texas primary he concludes:
I love elections, and I do believe that one mark of a strong democracy is keeping the politicians, and not bureaucracies, in charge of lots of things.

But this is ridiculous. The correct word for most of the elections that happened in Texas today, and that happen in primary elections around the nation all spring and summer this year, is farce. No one has any idea what they're doing (especially in primaries, and in nonpartisan elections, in which you don't even get a useful cue about what to do). I like the idea that Americans vote more often and for more things that just about any other nation, but we could vote for about a third of what we vote for now and still be very high on the scale, and people wouldn't have to fee[l] like idiots on election day. I've never heard a good defense for most of it, and I really think we should cut it out.

The Economist also chimes in with another example of democracy overkill.

So how much is too much?

We went looking and found an outdated figure that says there were a whopping 511,039 elected officials in America ... and that was only in 1992! (We're sure it's gotta be more today.) That means about 1 in every 600 people holds some kind of elected office in America.

So today we're trying to add up all the folks we vote for on a regular basis. There's almost a 100% chance that we're missing someone, so feel free to help us out in the comments section:

Federal (4)
1 President of the United States*
2 Senators
1 Representative to the House
*We're omitting VPOTUS because he is selected by the candidate.

State (14)
1 Governor
1 Lt. Governor (who is selected in a party primary)
1 Secretary of State
1 Attorney General
1 Department of Public Instruction head
7 Supreme Court Justices
1 State Assembly person
1 State Senator
County (13)
1 County Executive
1 Representative to the County Board
1 Clerk of Courts
1 Coroner
1 District Attorney
1 Sheriff
1 Registrar of Deeds**
6 County Circuit Court Judges
** We think.

Municipal (14)

7 City Council members (All local council members are elected at-large)
7 school board members
That's 45 offices I vote for on a regular basis. (Maybe more, maybe less ... we'll see.) Less than what Mr. Bernstein had to endure yesterday and much less than what he has to endure during a given election cycle. A friend from Chicago claims to have voted for roughly 150 offices in one ballot recently ... so believe what of that as you will.

Tell us what you think: is 45 (give or take) too many, too few or just right? How many people do you vote for where you live? Are you happy with that number, want to expand it or think it should be curtailed? What offices should we continue to vote for and for which ones is voting unnecessary?

MORE: I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but there are only 183 elected offices in the entire state of Hawaii, by far the fewest in the country. It's entirely possible that there are as many in Winnebago county alone. In case you're curious, there are 165,000 people in Winnebago County and 1.3 million people in the state of Hawaii -- that's one office (even counting dog-catcher) for every 7100 people.

Accordingly, Hawaii tends to rank fairly high in terms of corruption in relation to its population.

MORE STILL: Just for the sake of crunching some more useless numbers, using the '92 office figures with today's most recent population figures 1 in every 305 Illinois residents holds elected office. In Pennsylvania, it's 1 in every 414. Unlike Hawaii, these are respectively the 5th and 6th most populous states in the country.


Pure Stew-age, Part 1 said...

But (with all due respect to your globally acknowledged genius and manly prowess) this is exactly what's wrong with any kind of decision-making and issues discussion" YOu can't remove the pancreas from the body and act like it is a unit unto itself yes it has unique qualities that bear examination, but you can't ignore that it functions in a SYSTEM

Therefor Stewie asserts this point is not worthy of discussing as his entire premise here is misleadingly narrow to the point of outright DECEPTION How is the QUANTITY of regional candidates such a bone of contentions in this way? Framing it that way ignores the processes that re integral to the question of whether or not we HAVE democracy in any true sense of the word, and if so how much is the proper amount i.e. his carefully crafted article pointedly ignores issues that actually serve to reduce variety of representation among those who DO run In other words- You can vote for 45 guys but really how much difference is there between each of the candidates? Media that is bored with more that just a few viewpoints, massive cynicism among the people, that causes non-participation, ONLY 2 tightly knit parties that control who rises within their ranks, social groups that are extremely conformist by nature, the influence of groups like PACs and the Chamber or even personal posses of small-time local political gurus all that adds up to create the frequent scenario in which Joe Voter looks at a list of candidates (long or short, doesn't matter) and DOESN'T LIKE ONE OF THEM because because Joe thinks they all seem pretty much the same....because they are

By the time people get to the point of being viable candidates an enormous number of forces have weeded out a lot of possible viewpoints. (interestingly if TRUE Socialists are never seen then it is that much easier to frame Obama as a "socialist" because the field of political vision is so incredibly narrowed)

So if you consider that "democracy" would by definition entail a variety of philosophies in order to even BEGIN to represent all the forms of Retarded Viewpoint in America Today, then what difference if you vote for 2 or 250 if the fuckers are all pretty much clones? The NUMBER then is not the determinant of the presence or "quantity" of Democracy in our society.

The correct question MAY be "are we wasting money running by all these clones?"

Pure Stew-age, Part 2 said...

(Stewie refuses to be limited to the silly word limit here)

I dunno who you are, but you and I both know what it's like to write a "Piece", to make a point. And when you do that you are just using whatever wordy skill you have to
a.) set up an environment, and get the reader settled into a zone there, apart from where they were a moment ago
b.) establish a subtle trust wherein they allow you to lead their thought processes while they are there
c.) then actively be that boat that carries their mind along the Lazy River
d.) provide enough peanuts, beverages and sparkly objects so that they don't become so restless that they jump out of the boat prematurely
e.) and finally, when they reach the "final destination" YOU have chosen for them, announce it's time to disembark, here is where I have dumped you off and we certainly hope you enjoyed the ride

So the way I see this article is- the guy like anyone else writing opinion is our Happy Tour Guide. And he has chosen to point out only certain points of interest and has silently driven by the stuff that is not germane to his point. It's a bit of crafting,a few thoughts strung together like beads for this guy's job or personal amusement. From the way I see it he left way too many beads in the bag and closer examination reveals these are cheap plastic and no pearls of wisdom. Just another guy with a keyboard wasting everyones time.

Which is OBVIOUSLY an activity that Stewie himself loves like a fat kid loves cake. But on the other hand Stewie doesn't necessarily enjoy chewing on the the cheap Twinkies that this guy serves.

Hmm lets see, in our wee diatribe we had Boats, Beads, Cakes and the F-word, typos and mis-spellings. Yes all the hallmarks of valid literary and/or political analysis. OMG and I believe I opened with a PANCREAS! w00t! Stewie pwns again!