Obama-Palooza, by Martha Thomases
The major political parties’ conventions this week and next follow the Olympics like night follows day. Just as the quadrennial sports event serves as a ceremonial battleground with ornate rules and rituals, so do the Democratic and Republican conventions to choose the party leaders and figureheads.
Just as the Olympics represent combat in a peaceful way, the political conventions represent democracy. Our elected representatives assemble to choose candidates for the highest office in the land.
It’s a charming system, but hopelessly out of date. Sure, in the past, before mass media, before telephones, it made a certain amount of sense for people to congregate and make these decisions. There was a time when there most states didn’t have primaries, and so the question of whom to nominate was left to the party bosses.
Before then, political conventions were an excuse to party, a time for the regional bosses to convene – in the stereotypical smoke-filled room – and personally select the candidates.
This system, while not democracy, was not always bad. Through it, we had candidates like Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt. With it, we get candidates like George W. Bush and … well, I think my point is made right there.
When I was first voting, all that changed. The debacle that was the Democratic convention in 1968 demonstrated that the system was a farce. Since then, the trend has been more towards the appearance of including the wishes of the voters in the selection process.
Nothing in this world is that simple. The influence of money, bias, and corporate media make it all but impossible for the average citizen to determine what the real issues are, and where the candidates stand. It serves the interests of the power structure to distract us with foolish questions such as which candidate we’d prefer to hang out with in a bar, which candidate can bowl, which can Google, and what kinds of cookies the wives bake.
Politics is so much simpler in comics, where tradition favors painting everything in black or white, good or evil. When Lex Luthor runs for office, we know he’s corrupt. It’s rare to find a creative team that depicts a more complicated system, such as Warren Ellis’ and Darick Robertson’s brilliant Transmetropolitan.
In reality, politics is hard work, especially in a democracy like ours. Things only work to the extent that the voters are involved and educated. The United States can boast neither. Our turnout rate is among the lowest in the world.
This year, we may see this change. The candidacies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton excited a lot of people, encouraging an enormous increase in voter registration and turn-out. Millions of new voters will vote for the first time in November.
Unless they don’t. Unless the conventions make everything look conventional.
I suggest we follow the example of the Legion of Superheroes. Let’s act like a team, working side by side to accomplish a mission, instead of a nation of self-centered single issue voters. Instead of a roll-call vote, let’s give the delegates those desks with the buttons that light up for “Yes” or “No.” Let’s have the vice-presidential candidates try-out for the Legion of Substitute Presidents. Will we find someone with a goofy but effective power like Matter-Eater Lad, or will we get stuck with Barber Boy?
Whatever results these methods may produce, we can’t possibly end up with a worse candidate than Joe Lieberman.
Martha Thomases, before she was ComicMix’s Media Goddess, ran as an alternate delegate for George McGovern in Ohio. Her son is co-creator of Barber Boy.