He took a drag off his cigarette; he wasn’t that much older than me, but he had baggage under his eyes he’d been carrying along the length of the campaign trail. His suit was rumpled, and even though it was gray it felt faded, and I couldn’t help but think that he’d lost the same amount of color from his face. When he exhaled, the air came out heavy; “As I was saying, the people don’t elect the President.” I fought an urge to chime in and denounce corporate money in elections, and the uselessness of the McCain-Feingold reforms.
“That rabble in there, that’s not the will of the people. That’s a hundred and fifty thousand yahoos. That’s Pomona, California. Or Cape Coral Florida. Or Paterson, New Jersey. Huntsville, Alabama. Overland Park, Kansas. Grand Prairie, Texas. That’s Vancouver, Washington.”
“Where?” I asked, unable to help myself.
“Exactly. It’s such a small spit of dirt that anyone not in a neighboring county’s never heard of it- but 150,000 people are choosing the next Democratic candidate for President, and since Bush has so thoroughly fucked up things, probably the next President, period. And there’s 150,000 Republicans out there, too, choosing who gets to be their party’s sacrificial lamb for George Bush’s sins.”
He used his extinguishing butt to light the next, held a drag and then let it out like an old man’s dying breath. “It all seems to hinge on human monkey-see behavior. Iowa elects someone, and regardless of who national poles formerly indicated was the candidate of choice, suddenly everybody goes, wait, what about that guy. Which would be fine, except that Iowa voters like their candidates bland- especially their Democrats. Republican voters like their leaders a bit more… religious, we’ll say, but Iowa Democrats are some of the most vanilla voters out there. They saddled us with Jimmy Carter and John Kerry, for God’s sakes.”
“I guess I just can’t believe the shit the American people are willing to put up with. It’s completely like the Electoral College. In 2000, despite winning the popular vote by half a million people, Al Gore lost to Bush because he had more electoral votes. We were screwed out of a better candidate by idiotic laws that were somehow designed to protect us from getting what we ask for. And in 2004, despite a plurality of Americans wanting George W. Bush the hell out of office, we were saddled, by Iowa, with someone even less electable than an embattled W. Of course, this is only amplified by the fact that both parties have ‘penalized’ Florida and Michigan for moving their primaries forward, effectively silencing their say in the process at all.”
“So come November, after everyone’s complained about the lesser of two scoundrels, they just shrug their shoulders and move on. They could demand a change, like we all should have demanded change back in 2000. But we didn’t, and we won’t. What you saw here wasn’t democracy in action, it’s the continued neutering of our republic. And that long, empty silence you hear is the American people not giving enough of a fuck.”