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Conyers petition snafu reflects poorly on him and voters

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Long time Congressman John Conyers has failed to get enough petition signatures to get his name on the August Democratic Primary ballot. Yet that likely will not count him out of the race. He has too many friends in high places, too great of an amount of name recognition, and too much clout in Washington for that to happen. He'll pull every string he can to ensure another term in Washington. Thus says today's Detroit Free Press, and not without truth. The strengths Mr. Conyers has certainly play in favor of his reelection bid. He could surely do well with a write-in campaign, and he may even be able to use his legal beagles to have his name put on the actual ballot anyway. What's not to love?

Well, for starters, what this says about our political system and the voters who effectively run it makes love difficult. That anyone could get elected and reelected so easily as John Conyers (and the recently retired John Dingell, who's wife is clearly intending to use the Dingell name to take his seat, and countless other politicos throughout our history) have been over the years reflects poorly on our democracy. It indicates that voters are lazy and will cast ballots for the least of reasons, among those simple electoral longevity (which really tells us nothing of ability or accomplishments) and that they know a name. On this basis great decisions are, presumably, made.

Nor does our system put candidates and office holders in a good light. Conyers has been in Congress for almost 50 years, which mean he's faced election twenty five times, and fifty if you count primaries and general elections together. Yet he didn't realize, or had organized a staff which didn't realize, or he just doesn't care, that to be on the ballot requires a certain number of petition signatures turned in by a definite time. This cannot have been news to him. Yet he missed the deadline, and now looks to secure his place on the ballot and in Congress in any way, by any means necessary.

This is not saying that all of the means at his disposal are wrong; he absolutely could mount a write in campaign and no one could rationally quibble. It merely demonstrates that he appears to believe in a kind of divine right to his seat in the House of Representatives. It is an arrogance too common in modern American politics.

Yet we wonder why so many citizens see elected officials in such a poor light.

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