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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

What Am I Missing?

I have an honest question to ask. Fact is, being a foreigner, there is much about the implementation of democracy in America - its structure, its electoral and governing processes - that I do not understand, or have failed to grasp properly, but about which I would learn more.

One facet that I have tremendous difficulty coming to terms with is the apparent willingness, in states across the country and within Federal government itself, to place what are, to me, sacred non-partisan Officiates into the hands of brazenly-partisan elected Officials? I'm thinking mainly of functions such as Secretaries of State, who administer and control the election process, the electoral rolls themselves, in the various states; and to the boundaries bodies who delineate electoral districts. In short, why do we hand the keys of the bank to the crooks?

Not to disparage politicians as such - they are what they are, and what they are is what they need to be - but since I know what politicians are like, since everyone knows what politicians are like - why would you do that? Why do you give elected, partisan hacks the power and machinery to manipulate electoral rolls, to keep people out of the voting booths? Why do you allow the governing majority in elected state assemblies to decide for themselves where your electoral district boundaries lie?

Things are different in Britain, where the sanctity of neutrality in electoral affairs is, supposedly, preserved by strongly independent, non-partisan commissions whose members are duty-bound to remain neutral, and whose actions are subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.

So: what subtlety am I missing? Does the american model reflect some underlying belief that her politicians are as upright and selfless as The American President; or is it founded upon some deeper cynicism that says "all such positions are corruptable; by electing our Officers, we shall know the flavor of it?" Or is it, more simply, a belief that in a democratic society all positions of power ought to be accountable to the electorate?

I do repeat: serious question, honestly posed, no hidden meaning, no sly attack.


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