by idiosynchronic | 12/31/2007 07:04:00 PM
"Why do we have to cowtow to Iowans every f*cking 2 years? Pathetic." - John

"I find it difficult to understand why a candidate with less than one third of the votes in a single state which is hardly representative of the American society will be "anointed" by the MSM and bloggers alike." - jackalope

Nothing I, and probably most of us, haven't heard before. Some of us have even been saying it ourselves.

The netroots or blogistan's antipathy to the Iowa caucuses (and the overall primary schedule) has been well-known and widely written about. Markos has made it one of his signature issues. Atrios has railed about it on & off and on. Writing about what is on most liberal blogs usually will net one or two comments like the quotes posted above.

And here we are, 8 years after Gore, Bradley, & the anointment of Bush, still annoyed at the primary system. Here we are 4 years after Kerry, still grousing about how the system doesn't allow a people more representative to make the nomination. This week, Iowa will begin the 2008 nomination cycle all over again. A week or so later New Hampshire will follow.

And the only people we have to blame is ourselves. Every single one of us whom wants change in the primary schedule.

At its heart, the nomination schedule for both parties is a process borne of two things - circumstance and control.

A long time ago, Iowa farmers turned out in the middle of winter to work out political matters prior to the spring when their workload dramatically increased. Starting in 1952 when Eisenhower won the first run of the New Hampshire "beauty contest", the presidential nominating process was slowly dragged away from the cliche'd smoke-filled backroom. The real moment that enabled change was 1968 and the Chicago Chaos when parties and states demanded more citizen voice in the presidential selection process. The Iowa caucuses, never before a big deal, suddenly became important and and news people suddenly found the need for a story hook: winners and losers. In this, citing the quaint complexity of the caucus, Iowa Democrats, and later Republicans, began to move the date forward in order to have "the paperwork done on time." (Seriously, the Iowa Democratic Chair from '73-76 just claimed that this evening on an Iowa PBS special. With a smiling face.) With New Hampshire leading, the race to have greater influence on the US Presidential primaries was on.

But the party powers and management have retained control of the process, only submitting to change when it benefitted Party leadership to do so, or at least threatened their positions to not do so. The primary process may seem more accountable to the voters in comparison to the machine nomination politics of FDR or Hoover, but the current process substitutes small groups of men of power with small states with historically privileged populations (and still led by powerful party politicos) playing gatekeepers. As media has become more pervasive in our lives, the gatekeeper class has spread to the journalists and pundits whom produce the infotainment.

We also don't talk about campaign finance reform in conjunction with reforming the primary schedule. Viability = money in large part. Unless you have access to large sums of cash or wealthy donors whom can aggregate their contributions, you have no business trying to run for president. Without large sums of cash to buy advertising and 'purchase local & state voter lists', you're not a serious contender.

Worse yet, the worst opponent to change in the most people is uncertainty. No one really has a good grasp of a replacement system nor all the vulnerabilities it may have. Without the promise of a better idea, who's going to plunge headlong into change?

Both the states and the talking heads now have too much invested in maintaining their positions of power to ever change the current status quo. And It will take another massive outcry of pressure on the behalf of the rank-and-file citizens to change the primary system again. Last time it took 30 years and a national scandal to effect changes!

I may get run out of town Thursday night, but I'll be proposing a resolution for a national primary system for president that's nationally fair. What are you going to do?



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Anonymous Anonymous on 1/01/2008 8:21 PM:

Hello all:

National primary system might be a good idea.
How do you think it should work?
If left to current structures, the candidate with the most money would have by far the best chance of winning.
How would you "level the playing field"?



Blogger Jeremy Young on 1/01/2008 8:53 PM:

In case you hadn't noticed, the candidate with the most money already has by far the best chance of winning. The question is, how does one become the candidate with the most money? This money thing has turned out to be very strange with an extended campaign. For instance, Giuliani was the "institutional" candidate who raised all sorts of money, yet Huckabee suddenly has plenty of cash now that he's the media darling, and Ron Paul has outraised every Republican despite his complete lack of institutional support and Hollywood connections. Then you have the Democrats -- Clinton is the prohibitive institutional frontrunner, which should mean she gets the most money, yet Obama has kept pace with her the whole way through. And remember how Dean had the most money in 2004, and Kerry had to mortgage his house to even compete? My, how that changed.

Me, I support a constitutional amendment mandating publically-financed elections with absurdly low spending caps, and taking financial contributions out of the category of "political speech." But in the interim, I don't see how a national primary is going to make the playing field any less fair to the candidates than it already is. I wholeheartedly support Idio's resolution.


Blogger Ahistoricality on 1/02/2008 4:11 PM:

I honestly don't see how a straight National Primary would be an improvement: it would be like an intraparty General Election.

I've been hawking my own idea for year: a series of five super-Tuesday style votes, at two (or three, I suppose, if we want to stretch it out) week intervals, starting with the ten smallest states and working up to the final vote, the ten largest. Small states and weaker candidates would have a chance; larger states would still have a pretty decisive voice. Midrange states might even matter more!