June 13, 2005
I must say, the mudslinging among Republican candidates in Virginia this year has convinced me more strongly than ever that primary elections are a pernicious sideshow that exposes the downside of democracy. In appealing to a relatively non-attentive public, and running against rivals from the same party who agree on most of the issues, the candidates are forced to highlight irrelevant personal qualifications and distort aspects of their opponents' backgrounds. It's providing a lot of ammunition for the Democrats in the fall campaign. Under the status quo, by paying for primary elections, the government subsidizes the two major parties, in effect granting them an official status. IMHO, primary elections should be funded entirely by the parties holding them. If they choose not to pay for it, the parties should choose candidates in a state or district convention.
Virginia Governor Mark Warner, a Democrat, has formed a political action committee that will allow him to raise funds for a possible candidacy as vice president in 2008. See Washington Post. As a high-tech millionaire businessman, with a fresh Kennedyesque face, he is exactly what the dispirited and often hysterical Democrats need to broaden their appeal to the sensible center of the political spectrum. Though his earnest personality would seem to undermine his potential as serious heavyweight at the national level, he showed resourcefulness and determination in last year's budget showdown with the Republicans, suggesting he might be well suited for Washington.
Today's not guilty verdict was mildly irritating, but given the apparent credibility problems with the mother of one of the alleged victims, the jury's decision is certainly understandable. "Beyond a reasonable doubt?" Perhaps not. What is more instructive about this case is how it showcases our contemporary society's obsession with celebrity, and the corresponding disdain for serious news. Coincidentally, today's Non Sequitur comic strip by Wiley dealt with precisely that issue.