The weakness of our democracy

You probably think, Florida notwithstanding, that everyone's vote counts and that every vote is counted. Yup, come Election Day in November, we'll all trudge dutifully to the polls to do our civic duty and vote for the candidates of our choice.

Thanks to our solid, enduring republic, and our deeply rooted two-party system, we'll be able to choose between appropriately qualified candidates, and may the best woman/man win!

You may think all of this, but if you do you're living in a dream world. Out in reality-land, we don't have a two-party system, but two parallel one-party systems. In Denver and Boulder, the one party is -- you guessed it -- the godless communist Democrats. And here in Colorado Springs, it's -- two correct guesses in a row! -- the gun-lovin', gay-bashin' Republicans.

Except for a few isolated pockets of resistance, whoever gets the Republican nomination is certain to be elected here in the Springs. The November elections are meaningless; a quaint ritual dictated by archaic constitutional mandates. The real action takes place at the Republican County Assembly on Saturday, May 1, where hundreds of delegates will assemble to confer the crown of certain election upon the anointed few.

And how do you get to be a delegate? Be a registered Republican, show up at your precinct caucus, and ask your fellow attendees to make you a delegate. The caucuses were last Tuesday evening, and you didn't show up, did you? Forgot about it; too much trouble; why bother anyway? Believe me, I know all of the excuses.

And last Tuesday afternoon, I had the best excuse of all -- I'd switched my registration from Republican to Democrat ... hadn't I? At least that's what I claimed, in a fit of pique, in this very space, last year. But, truth be told, after writing my vow to change parties, I spaced it out. Just never found the time to go down to the Clerk & Recorder's office and actually do it. So I'm still a Republican -- and so, at 7 p.m. last Tuesday, I found myself in a room at Whittier Elementary, attending the Precinct 50 Republican caucus.

There were six of us there, all gray-haired longtime residents -- good ol' boys and good ol' girls. It was a merry and amiable group. Our efficient precinct chair led us through the required procedures, and then it was time to select delegates. Our precinct was entitled to five delegates. Of the six of us, one couldn't go, so the remaining five attendees became delegates by default.

And so it was, dear readers, that I became a delegate to the Republican County Assembly. I'm looking forward to it and to helping select the candidates that, absent the apocalypse, will become elected officials next November.

So think about it. Of the hundreds of registered Republicans in Precinct 50, only six showed up. Those six people, by default, hijacked everyone else's vote. Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Independents -- you don't have a vote. If you wonder where your vote went, call me -- I've got it. You just left it lying on the street, like a $20 bill that dropped out of your pocket, and I picked it up. Finders-keepers.

Of course, there's a lot of fun to be had with my newfound delegate status, and I intend to milk it for all it's worth. Ran into a gaggle of GOPsters at Mackenzie's Chophouse the other evening, where some of the Indy crew were celebrating Editor Cara DeGette's 40th birthday. The Republican luminaries in question (among them, Bob Gardner, Sarah Jack and Larry Liston) were suitably appalled by my lofty new status. Liston, running for the state legislature in House District 16, even begged me not to support him; I threatened to wear a "Liberals for Liston" button.

Slightly more seriously, I know that I'll enjoy spending Saturday at the GOP Assembly. I've got lots of Republican friends -- if you live in Colorado Springs, you're gonna have Republican friends or no friends at all --and they'll be amused and tolerant. Nevertheless, our local Republican Assembly, like thousands of similar gatherings across the country, will celebrate not the strength of our democracy, but its weakness.

Here, and across the land, caucuses and assemblies belong to the true believers, who have both created and benefited by our parallel one-party systems. Thanks to decades of gerrymandering and entrenched incumbency, our two parties have both veered away from the moderate center of American politics. You don't find many Republican moderates or Democratic conservatives any more -- party activists have driven 'em out.

So on Saturday morning, I'll try to represent all those forlorn centrists -- the folks who are squishy on all the hot-button issues, who admire both John Kerry and George W. Bush, who want low taxes, but not high deficits; the great muddled middle, despised by right and left alike.

Of course, I only have one vote ...

-- johnhazlehurst@earthlink.net


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