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Big political news! There’s been a major development affecting the 2008 presidential race.
Dateline: Memphis, Tennessee. At a meeting of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, a poll of delegates determined that Sen. Bill Frist is the leading contender to be the GOP’s next presidential nominee! How exciting is that?
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This “news” was recently broadcast all across the country as though it really meant something. But it’s all thunder; no rain. Here’s why this news item is meaningless. First, Sen. Frist is from Tennessee, where the conference was held, so he had the home-field advantage. Second, this was not actually a poll, but a stuff-the-ballot contest, where contenders try to get as many of their supporters as possible to sign up as delegates. Frist spent untold thousands of dollars on this show, bussing in people from all over Tennessee – indeed, 92 percent of his voters were from the home state. Third, less than 1,500 votes were cast, with Frist getting 526. I got more votes than that forty years ago when I was elected student body president at my college!
Yet, the national media treats this numbers game seriously, dutifully reporting the scores: George Pataki, 38. Condi Rice, 32. Rudy Guliani, 15. Newt Gingrich, 13. However, none of these contenders surpassed the 43 votes that were cast for “other” – which is another way of saying “none of the above.”
Frist’s, campaign organization went all out to amass his 526 votes. His chief of staff told CNN, “We are very gratified. We did a lot of hard work.” You’d think they just swept the New Hampshire primary!
This is Jim Hightower saying… Both parties play these silly games. In these dicey times for democracy, treating meaningless political gamesmanship as something significant trivializes our elections and robs the process of sorely-needed substance. No wonder people don’t vote.
“Frist thrives with home-field advantage,” www.cnn.com, March 13, 2006.