In case you hadn’t noticed, the U.S. of A. is in the throes of its longest ever presidential election. Already, just in the duopoly parties (Democrats and Republicans), the field of contenders in the primary races has been whittled down to “only” eleven. They’ll be the obvious focus of today’s commentary, but California’s ballot measures are in the mix too. One difference this election cycle is the earlier date of many states’ primary elections, creating “Super Tuesday” on February 5. Many of these states have large Armenian populations, so our communities’ heavy turnout can help shape this election cycle.
Unfortunately, this year the minor parties are even more off the corporate media’s radar than ever. At least this election cycle, there’s enough competitiveness within the two major parties to have a somewhat broader array of options than usual, so I’ll focus on them. We owe this greater exchange of ideas not just to the mess the Bush-Cheney regime has created domestically (the economy) and internationally (the Iraq mess), but also to the absence of an “obvious” or “anointed” candidate within either major party for the first time in three quarters of a century– a very loud argument for publicly financed campaigns, but let’s postpone this discussion to another time.
On the Democratic Party’s side, of the five remaining candidates, three are considered the front runners, though barring major changes on Super Tuesday, that may be down to just two. Mike Gravel is a non-starter. I’d forgotten he existed until I sat down to write this piece. Dennis Kucinich is my favorite candidate. He’s got all the issues nailed. Unfortunately, he lacks the funding, precisely because of his citizen-friendly, anti-corporate, and progressive positions, to be able to win the Democratic nomination. However, by virtue of his presence, issues remain in play that would otherwise be relegated to oblivion. One point against him is his “it’s the wrong time” position regarding H. Res. 106, even though he’s been a consistent supporter of Armenian concerns in Congress.
Of the three moneyed candidates, John Edwards has taken what are probably the most citizen friendly positions. For whatever reason, perhaps the glamour of the other two leading candidates, his candidacy just doesn’t seem to be getting much traction. On the Armenian front he’s been supportive and cosponsored the Genocide resolution when he was in the Senate. Strangely, he has not issued a statement about the Genocide during this campaign, despite David Bonior being his National Campaign Manager. You might remember that Bonior was a Congressman from Michigan, probably one of the most decent people ever elected to public office, who’s a very strong supporter of our cause.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the “woman” and “black” candidates, respectively, have been the darlings of the media because of these very characterizations. So much attention is focused on what ought to be irrelevant that often, the substance of what they are presenting as candidates is subsumed. To their credit (and Edwards’), they have not succumbed to the media’s efforts to render the elections a gender or race based circus. Their positions on issues are not bad, each has a focus, strengths, and weaknesses. On the Armenian front, Obama has issued a statement, be sure to read it, but is not a cosponsor of S. Res. 106. The statement has led Erdogan, Turkey’s Prime Minister to label him a “political dilettante”– considering the source, Obama should consider this high praise. Clinton has twice been a cosponsor of Genocide resolutions (though she too has fallen for the “it’s a bad time” argument) in the Senate. She has not issued a statement during her current campaign. Could this be a result of Terry McAuliffe’s, her National Campaign Chair (and former Democratic National Committee Chair), having been a partner in a PR firm (Raffaeli, Kelly, and MaCauliffe) that worked for Turkey in the 1990s?
There are no outstanding choices on the Democratic side, just good ones, and the situation is only very slightly less appealing on the other end of the partisan divide.
On the Republican Party’s side, Alan Keyes (who carpet-bagged to Illinois in the 2004 election to lose against Obama) is the candidate who’s existence I’d forgotten about. Ron Paul, running on a platform that is better suited to the Libertarian Party, is another marginal candidate. His supporters are extremely energized and he’s created a presence for himself by being the only anti-Iraq War Republican.
Among the serious Republican contenders, Rudy Giuliani is still somewhat untested. He’s had good financial backing, but has not competed actively in the primaries and caucuses that have taken place, strategically calculating that he has very little chance in those states. The Florida primary is his first real test. He’s been generally supportive on Armenian issues during his public life, but is nothing exceptional. Mike Huckabee, by winning in Iowa, suddenly put himself on the map. He is a child of the extreme religious right. He issued a Genocide Proclamation as Governor of Arkansas, though he’s opposed to reparations. But, buckling under the ensuing pressure, the following year, he declared April 24th “Armenian-Turkish Reconciliation Day”. John McCain, who has made a strong comeback as a candidate in recent days, recognizes the Genocide for what it is, but does not want to anger an ally, therefore he hasn’t supported the resolutions. Interestingly, in 2000, he said he supported reparations! Perhaps the oddest Republican vying for his party’s nomination is Mitt Romney. He managed to get elected governor of one of the most liberal leaning states in the Union, Massachusetts, but during this campaign has been pandering to the right wing of his party. Even odder, and of more interest from an Armenian perspective, is his long silence about the Genocide, even during governorship of one of the most heavily Armenian populated states.
The picture is clearly bland, if not bleak, from an Armenian perspective. We are participating more and sooner in the presidential election process, but we clearly are not yet a big enough factor in the candidates’ political calculus to elicit strong, explicit commitmen’s of support for our pursuit of a just resolution to the Armenian Case.
Moving on to California’s ballot measures, it’s interesting to note that the voter turnout generated by the presidential primaries will have a determinative role in the outcome of these propositions. Here, we’ve been treated to a first. The “pro” argument in the Official Vote Information Guide for Prop 91 asks you to vote “NO”, go figure! Actually, it’s because another, earlier, ballot measure passed, accomplishing the same goal. But, because of the time lags involved in qualifying measures for the ballot, 91 made it on. Prop 92 is a tougher call. I agree with its premise, making community colleges affordable, but I’m voting against it primarily because it imbeds specific dollar figures into the State Constitution, a recipe for future disaster.
Prop 93 is important. Currently, members of the State Assembly and Senate are limited to six and two terms, respectively, of service in those houses, resulting in a possible total of 14 years of service. If 93 passes, a maximum of 12 years could be served, regardless of which house it was in. It could result in a little more than 12 or 14 years being served if partial terms are involved. Even though term limits are foolhardy, and this proposition swaps one set of them for another and is at least partially driven by some politicians’ personal ambitions, the resulting arrangement will serve to decrease the power of long-term, Sacramento-prowling lobbyists and staff, while increasing the impact of those we elect. Vote yes.
Props 94, 95, 96, and 97 are really all the same. They implement changes to agreemen’s with various Indian tribes that have gambling operations. There seem to be valid concerns against these agreemen’s, but not passing these simply allows the agreemen’s to stand in their original, 1999, form. Some of the proposed changes are welcome. I’ll hold my nose and vote “YES” on these. Join me.
Of course, between the time this was written and when you’re reading it, other developmen’s may have occurred, but I suspect the fundamental ideas won’t be strongly impacted. It’s more important than usual to vote because of the nature of this particular election cycle.
On a related front, just as this article was about to be completed, I read Harout Sassounian’s column regarding what issues we should be querying the presidential candidates about. While I rarely find myself in disagreement with Harout, I think he’s being too cautious this time. He misses a golden opportunity, particularly in light of some of his recent columns, to advocate asking the contenders about their positions regarding a just resolution to the Armenian Case, not just Genocide recognition, but full restoration.