THUNDER BAY – Editorial – Canadians have no particular dog in the fight that is about to commence in South Carolina among the Republican “wannabe” candidates for the US Presidency. But another fight can and should take place there at the same time, one in which Australians, Brits, Canadians, Indians and all inheritors of Magna Carta ought to watch closely and maybe join in.
It is a fight for democracy’s virtue, perhaps for its very soul.
This second fight pits commercial elections and civil elections against one another for control of the political process. “Civil elections” make governance. “Commercial elections” (AKA polls) make money at the expense of governance.
On Saturday, January 21, the last of several elections this week will be held to choose South Carolina’s preference for the Republican presidential candidate. January 21 will be the civil election, the Government-sponsored one that has the force of constitutional law. It will be anticlimactic because so many “commercial elections” — polls–will have preceded it.
Polls insulate reporters from the arduous, messy work of understanding and presenting people, events and issues. When subscribed by media, polls are fabricated news, part of a system that reduces participatory democracy to the “reality TV” business model.
The business logic is that if the results of elections are marketable news, why settle for just the civil ones? The more, the merrier! Pollsters can declare as many commercial elections as can be crammed into the ramp-up period before the civil vote.
To judge from the numbers conducted, polls must be immensely profitable to manufacture and sell. They are indispensable for the molding, melting-down and remolding of candidates from day-to-day and from state-to-state. Without polls, candidates would have to sink or swim, based who who they actually are; what they’ve really accomplished and failed to accomplish; what they hope to do and (just imagine!) how they expect to do it.
From a campaign’s perspective, polls are indispensable as ranging shots: “A little to the Right. (poll) A little more. (poll) No, that’s a bit too much. (poll) That’s better; now down a little. More! More! The lower we go, the more mentions we get. (poll) Ooops. Um, that may be too low.”
In the United States, at some point (probably long since passed), media cash flows have become so great that the mechanisms of politics hold more interest for voters as entertainment content than as the tiller on the Ship of State.
Surfing the Net for numbers, I found one source that said in 1944 the Roosevelt and Dewey campaigns combined spend only $2.5 million on radio ads. Per another source, in 2008 congressional and presidential campaigns spent $5.3 billion with a B. Several nations have gross domestic products less than that!
You don’t have to be a political scientist to figure out what kind of effect on the integrity of candidates and governments assembling and disbursing that much cash is likely to have.
Now, getting back to the South Carolina Republican primary: can you imagine how much that last figure might dive without the feedback from polls as ranging shots? And mightn’t government integrity rise proportionally?
Here’s how South Carolina could once again make history by seceding—this time from the corrupting poll racket.
Presumably, South Carolina set their early election to maximize their influence. Can you imagine the influence the State’s real, civil primary election would have if most–or even a lot–of South Carolinians adopted a just-say-no-to-pollsters posture? That could happen if Governor Nikki Haley (or if any S.C. other leader able to command the State’s attention long enough for the historic potential to sink in) were to suggest that South Carolinians adopt an issues-only polling policy during this election cycle.
Voters could, should, and probably would talk reporters’ ears off when asked about issues and values. But they would clam-up like Fort Knox in response to candidate-specific questions that could be tabulated for marketing for obscene amounts of cash And candidates would have to be candid!
If the whole South followed suit, and it probably would, a new day would dawn.
It’s time for South Carolina to secede from a bloated, commercial substitute for the civil electoral process. It’s one secession that could unify the whole USA behind S.C.
Mooresville, North Carolina, USA