Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Week’s Highs and Lows

Forget Hillary's angry condemnation of Obama's mailers, which she claims intentionally distort her positions on the few places where any differences at all can be found in their platforms. Forget Obama's response, which was every bit as calculated as Hillary's anger or the inaccurate mailers that 'caused' it. No, the best and the worst in political America this week had almost nothing to do with Hillary, Obama, McCain, or even Huckabee, who was very amusing on Saturday Night Live.

The week's best could be found down in tiny Prairie View, Texas, where students at Prairie View A & M University, a historically black university, held a protest march. We all know that protest marches have become parodies of themselves, tired attempts to recreate the moral grandeur of the Civil Rights Movement, but this one was different. There was no Jessie Jackson dominating the limited media coverage, no Al Sharpton in his velour tracksuit, fast walking with the protesters and doling out sound bites. Best of all, the organizers of this protest actually found something worthwhile about which to protest.

The Republican-dominated Texas state legislature* has worked hard over the last ten years to use redistricting to give even greater dominance to their party. Gerrymandered districts loop, squiggle, and zig-zag their way across the state, isolating pockets of Democratically-inclined voters and locking them into districts with much larger pockets of voters more inclined to vote Republican. Combine this gerrymandering with more subtle ways of reducing the impact of more liberal voting constituencies, like—in this case—inconvenient polling places for the eight thousand students of Prairie View A & M, and the party currently dominant in the legislature hopes to ensure that their dominance becomes self-perpetuating.

The Prairie View protest march covered the seven miles from the university's campus to the polling place established for early voters in the Texas primaries. It is easy to see why these college students, a large percentage of whom do not possess their own transportation, felt this erected a huge hurdle for early voters from their school to clear before their votes would be allowed to count.** The beauty of the march was the fact that it was lacking in hyperbole: the seven miles marched equalled seven miles to the polling place. The lack of Jacksonian or Sharptonian rhetoric kept the event's focus on the students and their right to cast a ballot and not the bigger-than-life egos of the so-called 'black leadership' that cause so many Americans to change the channel.

If Prairie View produced the week's best in American politics, then the low point arrived today, when Ralph Nader announced the beginning of another soon-to-be-failed presidential campaign.

That's right: four-time loser and self-acclaimed consumer advocate Ralph Nader is running for president…again. Sure, Nader seems to have started his public career in a far, far better place than he now occupies, but it is now nearly impossible to deny those who claim that his ego is the biggest thing in politics—far bigger than Obama's ears, much chunkier than Hillary's thighs, more pendulous than McCain's neck wattles, and blockier than the Bible-shaped lump in Huckabee's pocket.*** Nader's announcement has most Americans asking "Why?"****

It would be self-serving, and, thus, politically wise, for Republicans to encourage his candidacy—just in case Nader can siphon off votes from a more liberal candidate if things are close, like they were in Florida in 2000—but even the Reverend/Governor Huckabee has to be shaking his head. Even he stands a greater chance of being the next president than Ralph Nader.


*Love of Truth compels me to note that I, Arb Elbow, am currently registered as a Republican in the 'great state' of Texas.

**Those among you familiar with the state of public transportation in Texas will immediately understand why not having your own car is such a huge hurdle.

***No, he is not merely happy to see you.

****Granted, many will be asking, "WTF?"