“Why are you watching that nonsense?” my wife keeps asking as I turn on
the debates among Republican candidates for president. I k now it is
theater, but the process fascinates nonetheless at another level, much
as the staged Senate confirmation hearings for appointing Supreme Court
justices does. Do our processes work, crass and hyper as they have
I think the Republican presidential debates demonstrate that the democratic process works. The marketplace, the openness, usually the right result — it’s all there for the citizenry to behold.
First, the candidates chose themselves to run, often to the amazement of public onlookers. What makes that person think he/she should be president, we ask? The open democratic process does, even if money is an exaggerated feature; some have managed with limited resources, of their own or from supporters.
Then we watched them make their bizarre claims: “On day one, I will [throw out the tax code; close down two, or is it three federal agencies; cancel lifetime appointments of judges],” as if they could if they were elected. Shame on the questioners for not pointing that out and allowing such hogwash to pass for debate.
Yet, one by one, they rose and fell — Bachmann, Perry, Cain — I promise Newt will be next. Somehow, the self-righting process of democracy — crude as it seems — gets the “cream” to rise to the top. Better we discern the ultimate candidate that way than any other devised. The process legitimizes the result. The democratic process works.
The Republican candidate will have to appease the vital and vocal extreme right wing of the party, or lose the candidacy. President Obama will have to appease his left wing to regain the momentum of 2008 he lost in 2009 and 2010. The ultimate candidates then will be tested by the more sober, balanced mainstream in the middle, who know we need government, have legitimate grievances about it and correct priorities will emerge.
Crude and nasty and imperfect as it is, this democracy of ours — impatient as we are about it — works. Mostly, eventually.