Monday, April 23, 2007

The French Get Down to Electing

Ah, France. Home to fine wines, great food, occasional intolerance of nations more powerful than themselves, beautiful countryside, an ocean on one side, a sea on the other. Inventor of the arched eyebrow, Edith Piaf, the aqualung and bicycle. We may forgive them the hot air balloon and French politics.


They know how to run elections.


Nicolassarkozy Ah, France. Home to fine wines, great food, occasional intolerance of nations more powerful than themselves, beautiful countryside, an ocean on one side, a sea on the other. Inventor of the arched eyebrow, Edith Piaf, the aqualung and bicycle. We may forgive them the hot air balloon and French politics.

Segoleneroyal They know how to run elections. President Nicholas Sarkozy or Segolene Royal will be anointed in less than 90 days.

Laid-back, take it easy, let's think about it tomorrow France can go from 0-60 (elections wise) in ninety days. Get it done, hot-wired, sports addicted America takes damned close to two years to get the same thing accomplished.

How come?

We seem to have lost our way since the primaries all tried to be first in line. As a result, we have candidates raising tens of millions of campaign dollars in 2007, for an election in 2008, so that we can seat a president in 2009.

And no time to sip a glass of wine.

Our much maligned French republican brothers published the decree calling for elections on the 22nd of February and will have elected a President of France in less than three months.

Neatly, between fresh-baked baguettes and without spending a billion dollars to support their television industry, they cruised to a

  • 16th March, deadline for candidates to fulfill the requirements of candidacy
  • 19th March, official list of candidates published
  • 9th April, official start of the campaign
  • 20th April, official end of the campaign

Wow. Eleven days to do what takes America a year. Then we follow-up with another three months to stagger from the conventions to the finish-line. Back in France,

  • 21st and 22nd April, if one of the dozen or so candidates wins more than 50% of the vote, it’s all over. If not, there’s a run-off between the top two.
  • 25th April, official results announced.
  • 27th April, listed candidates for final round announced.
  • 2nd May, nationally televised debate between the two candidates.
  • 5th-6th May, Final election.
  • 10th May, official results
  • 16th May, newly elected President of France takes office.

Hillary Now don’t tell me to go and live in France, that’s such a childish response. I’m not suggesting we throw out our system of electing presidents, but I am saying we’re boring each other silly by letting Hillary and Mitt, Barack and Rudy trash each other for almost two years before the elections.

Can we really hold our breath that long?

Mitt Do we care that John McCain has been adjudged dead before he’s even declared himself a candidate? Must we suffer a year of Mitt Romney reversing himself on every single issue of consequence, while maintaining his smile? Can Hillary (and we) endure another eleven months of Jay Leno making Bill jokes?

Will Barack outline an actual plan, Joe Biden be taken seriously, Chuck Hagel dip his toe in the increasingly expensive water of candidacy or Rudy Giuliani remarry yet again before it’s all over?

Barackobama In a day and age when we celebrate the fact that 15 minutes of fame is about the public’s limit to remember, we’re asking a potential president to run consecutive political marathons. Whoever survives will look like a race horse that came from behind on a muddy track.

Small wonder only those armored with rhinoceros hide or an unrealistic notion of their own value to mankind could possibly survive. Are those the men or women we actually hope will lead us? Does anybody care? Is anybody listening or is it all a plan by MSNBC to keep Tim Russert’s Meet the Press in the ratings race?

Arguably, February 5th of next year will seal the fate of Republicans and Democrats alike. Whoever survives the slash-and-burn campaigning that delivers them to that envious position, can expect to be crucified for an additional six months. And that will only get them to their respective (if no longer respectable) convention.

Then the closer—the run to the wire--three more months of mud and blood. It’s all too much. There is a country to run in the meantime. We elect presidents for four years and keep their eye off the ball for at least half that time.

Johnkerry Our recent past is littered with wonderfully qualified candidates who simply will not put themselves and their families in a two-year meat grinder. Is that what we want? Do we want to choose from among Bushasbush such damaged individuals? Is it even conceivable that John Kerry and George Bush were the two best qualified Americans from whom to have chosen our last president?

Our electoral system may not be broken, but it is bent.

We could do worse than look toward France for a clue. If our system of choice is in free-fall, it is well to remember that a Frenchman invented the parachute.
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