Are these Crucial Issues? Yes, Sure or You Betcha?
There’s something fishy about Unity08…
… ok, I know. There are a lot of fishy things about Unity08. This is the corporation with the aim of nominating its own presidential and vice presidential candidates because either too few Americans get to participate in the early primaries or too many Americans get to participate in the early primaries, depending on which day it is. Unity08 opposes lobbyists but is run by lobbyists. It decries the influence of big money in politics but the majority of its contributions in 2007 so far have come through loans from three mega-rich donors. It says it is a “grassroots” “people’s movement”, but over time it has increasingly shoved citizen discussion on its website into a corner, when it hasn’t been deleting critical comments outright.
So let me start over, a bit more clearly: there’s something else about Unity08, something new that strikes me as fishy, too. Unity08 brags that it is going to be have the democratiest presidential selection procedure ever, in which “our online supporters will select the crucial issues facing our nation.” Yet oddly enough, elsewhere Unity08 says it has already identified these crucial issues itself:
Unity08 divides issues facing the country into two categories: Crucial Issues â€” on which Americaâ€™s future safety and welfare depend; and Important Issues â€” which, while vital to some, will not, in our judgment, determine the fate or future of the United States.
In our opinion, Crucial Issues include: Global terrorism, our national debt, our dependence on foreign oil, the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies, nuclear proliferation, global climate change, the corruption of Washingtonâ€™s lobbying system, the education of our young, the health care of all, and the disappearance of the American Dream for so many of our people.
By contrast, we consider gun control, abortion and gay marriage important issues, worthy of debate and discussion in a free society, but not issues that should dominate or even crowd our national agenda.
How can the American people get to pick the “crucial issues” for Unity08 when Unity08 has already picked them?
Ah, grasshopper. How indeed? “How” implies a method. And if Unity08 were to pick a method for getting the American people to pick the very same “crucial issues” that Unity08 had already identified, it couldn’t do any better than the following question from what Unity08 terms its “first vote” in the presidential selection process. First, Unity08 asks the “voter” (really, a survey respondent) to name an ideal presidential candidate. Then it asks the “voter” to explain why that person was named:
16. Which of these are the key reasons you selected [Selected Candidate]?
Please check up to five main reasons for your choices.
The list here is hardly exhaustive and highly leading. “Willing to work on a bi-partisan basis” is present as an option to pick, but “loyal to his/her political party” isn’t. “Willing to work with others to get things done” is present, but “willing to stand up to the opposition” isn’t. “Open to new ideas” is present, but “commitment to his/her ideals” isn’t. Gee, do you think this survey, er, I mean “first vote,” is going to find that “voters” are seeking someone who is willing to work on a bipartisan basis, who is willing to work with others to get things done, and open to new ideas? Hey, isn’t that what Unity08 is already selling?
Take that lesson and apply it to the set of options having to do with a preferred candidate’s position. Each of the explicitly named position options — “Position on Healthcare,” “Position on Terrorism,” “Position on Education,” “Position on Global Climate Change,” and “Position on Energy Independence” — is a position that Unity08 has already declared to be crucial.
Unity’s version of “democracy” here is kind of Soviet in its approach — offering up a limited list of previously approved position choices for voter approval. The result of the “first vote” will undoubtedly, unavoidably be that “voters” have chosen their preferred candidates because of their “Position on Healthcare,” “Position on Terrorism,” “Position on Education,” “Position on Global Climate Change,” or their “Position on Energy Independence.” My goodness gracious, the press release will state, Unity08 was right all along! — which will be true, in an inevitable Kremlin Politburo sort of way.
Stacking the “first vote” with only the pre-approved options, then counting only some of the votes, and then publishing vote results from only a subset of the counted votes? That sure is one way to achieve a result of “Unity.” Is that kind of “Unity” really what you want?