Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Message to Howard Dean

I started out calling this "A Letter to Howard Dean" but you don't send letters anymore. Since the anthrax scare, elected officials don't open their mail until it goes through a two week screening process. If you want them to read your message this week, you fill out one of those online comment forms.

Today's issue is whether Michigan's delegation should be seated at the national convention, and Howard Dean is the guy in charge of making that decision. Here is my message:

Please do not honor the results of Michigan's primary election. It was a confusing and flawed process and the results do not reflect the desires of Michigan's Democrats.

I went to the high school and voted for "uncommitted". I nearly walked out when I saw that I had to stand there in front of everyone and choose a Republican or Democratic ballot request form. This is a very Republican area -- I was recently razzed by the library volunteer for checking out The Audacity of Hope--and I'm sure some people turned back rather than make their party preference public. Our government teacher brought his class down to observe that election. He had just taught about the Australian ballot; his students were appalled to find out that we had moved back to the 1850's in election procedures.

My brother, figuring a vote on the Democratic side would be wasted, crossed over and voted for the Republican he was best able to tolerate. My husband didn't vote at all, thinking it to be a waste of time. My neighbor, stationed in Thailand in the Peace Corps, didn't want to invest time and postage in what was supposed to be a symbolic vote. My college kids, two daughters, did not get absentee ballots because their candidate was not on the ballot.

I count six people in the last two paragraphs, and all of them would have voted for Obama or Edwards had they gotten the chance. The college students, especially, have been drawn in to the Obama campaign. They have read his books and follow the campaign online. One daughter made her first ever campaign contribution, $25 of her work-study wages. The college students really don't care about "first woman president" or "first Black president." They are worried about climate change, about health insurance and student loans, about the wars and their classmates who are serving in the armed forces. The victory-at-any-cost attitude, the constant repackaging of the Clinton campaign turns them off. They like Obama because he's always the same guy, with the same message, calling for us to put the common good in front of our own self interest.

My neighbor in Thailand finds herself living in a community that has no rules, where everyone does whatever they can get away with. With the whole world watching this election process, America has a chance to show the world how playing by the rules makes our nation stronger and more inclusive. To accept the results of Michigan's flawed primary election would give the Clinton campaign an unfair advantage and taint the Democratic party in the eyes of the world.

The best solution would be to hold a real primary. But Michigan is broke, and the cost of another primary would have to be subtracted from the small pot of money that is available to fund our schools and fix our roads. A possible solution would be to seat the superdelegates but not consider the results of the primary.

Please make the decision that best preserves the integrity of our process, and ignore our sham primary.


Susan Och
Afterword: Liz called me about 3 o'clock: "Mom, I read your blog and wrote my own message to Howard Dean, and then I set up a Facebook page for people who want to send messages to Howard Dean, because that's how you get things done nowadays."

I'm not sure why a Facebook page is how you get things done nowadays, or even how to find it, but I'll let you know. I watched CNN in the break room as all the talk was about a "do over." Thankfully our governor stood with Florida's governor in saying that such a thing would not be funded by state budgets.

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