Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Applause, applause

I was watching the Denver convention after work today—at the gym, natch. I started with CNN but couldn't bear all those smug pundits, so I switched to PBS, which was showing the state-by-state roll call. Very interesting to a newly minted American like me, about to cast her first vote in a national election in November!

When I tuned in, Governor Jon Corzine was just casting the New Jersey's delegation votes for Obama. Next in the alphabetical order was New Mexico, which announced it was yielding its delegates to Illinois. "What a fascinating process," I thought, unaware states could even do that, and wondering what exactly the point of doing it was. But then Illinois yielded its delegates to New York. I was flummoxed but okay, if that's the way it works. Hillary got on the floor, surrounded by Chuck Schumer and David Paterson, and she announced a motion to stop the roll call and nominate Obama by acclamation. Which is what happened.

At first I thought it was so exciting and historic and all that. But after about ten seconds my mood turned. What is this, decisions by applause meter?

One of the biggest problems created by the Bush administration over the past eight years is an increasingly ingrained disregard for due process: Let's just dispense with all those petty rules and regulations, which only get in the way, and let's do what we want to do when we want to do it.

Which is why cheering Obama as the Democratic nominee was a bad, bad idea. There are ways to do things to ensure everybody's participation in the democratic process, even if these things are purely symbolic. Of course Obama's nomination was certain, but doing a roll call of the states at the convention, one by one, feels important to me: Democracy is a process, not just a word. The roll call allowed states like New Jersey, which had gone to Clinton during the primaries, to show solidarity by announcing their unanimous support for Obama (which is exactly what it did). Depriving the states, particularly the ones that sided with Clinton in the winter and spring, from openly, decisively, verbally embracing Obama sends the wrong message. The biggest ovation can't make up for it.

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