Politics As Food
Don't let this past Wednesday's appearance on NPR's News & Notes with Farai Chideya fool you. As I said in a previous column, I'm not some political wonk and though I care passionately about our government it is not my muse. But I am a news junkie, a registered Democrat, and an active voter. In so many words, I care. Unfortunately, as the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton only gets hotter, I am beginning to see Democratic Party politics take an ugly turn that is leaving me jaded.
Imagine, you and four friends go to dinner - a party of five. Three of your friends order the meatloaf, and you and the other friend order the salmon. The waiter takes your order and 20 minutes later comes back with five orders of salmon. Of course your meatloaf friends are pissed and want to know why they didn't get what they ordered. The waitress explains that she initially planned on giving everybody what they wanted, but the manager overrode the order because the kitchen is busy tonight and can not afford to be bogged down with the hassle of cooking two different orders. To speed things up, the manager decided it would just be quicker to make the same order for the five people.. But if that was the case, your meatloaf friends protest, why didn't the manager just give the entire party meatloaf instead of salmon? As the orders indicate, meatloaf was the favorite dish at the table by a majority of three-to-two. "Well," the waitress tells your party. "The manager likes salmon more than meatloaf, so he made the decision based on his own taste. Enjoy!"
Now ask yourself, would you ever go to that restaurant again? If your answer is no, then you might want to pay attention to the race between Obama and Clinton because ladies and gentlemen, when the Democrats have a race as close as this one, this is exactly the system by which they elect a candidate to make a run for the White House.
The customers are people like you and me, and they represent the popular vote. For argument's sake, Obama is meatloaf and Clinton is salmon. The waitress is your delegate, the person you have appointed to represent you at the Democratic National convention (which, to keep with the metaphor, is the kitchen where the candidate you have voted for is prepared). And the manager who brought you back whatever he felt like is a superdelegate. (In the interest of your time and mine (because I'm hungry), I'll let you click on this to get hip to what a superdelegate is.)
As someone who is still fairly new to the political process, when I heard about the possibility that a Democratic nominee may be decided by some party insiders, it wasn't a punch to the stomach, but definitely a pinch on my arm. And before you even go there, I did pay attention in political science classes. I was aware of the Electoral College and how it actually played a bigger role in electing a President than the popular vote did; was around to see what happened in the 2000 race between Gore and Bush. So in some ways, the news of superdelegates getting involved doesn't surprise me that much.
It's politics as usual, I know. But I seriously, seriously hope someone from the Democratic party has accidentally come across this column right now amidst their search for some, umm, eye candy, because I want them to understand how delicate this situation is between Obama and Clinton and how they must proceed to pick either of the two with the kind of caution usually reserved for little boys and girls who cross the street.
No matter who you're for - Clinton or Obama - the one thing these two have in common is a message of change (although Obama's message is more pronounced than Clinton's) and that is a message resonating loudly across America, evident by the record number of voters we see participating in this year's electoral process. If the higher-ups in the Democratic party care anything about the surge of popularity, and the future of their party, they will not only avoid letting superdelegates choose a candidate for us, they will do away with this system all together.
Because even if you did get your salmon, it's not fair your friends didn't get their meatloaf simply because of the managers own preferences. Don't get me wrong, they'll take the salmon. They're starving and they're all too familiar with the funny business that goes on when you take something back to the kitchen, which leaves them no choice but to eat what's been given. But the salmon is going to taste a little funny to everyone at the table, and chances are, they'll never eat at this restaurant again.