Primary Directive


Warning: This post will likely be a bit of a disjointed ramble.

As a politics nerd, I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts and watching news reports and surfing news sites online. I'm a consumer of the "horse-race" coverage every time presidential or even midterm election season comes 'round. I am, thus, part of the problem.

Because when it comes to Presidents, our election system is . . . let's say, not optimal. And that's not even taking into consideration the crises of the moment, the real possibility that a foreign and domestic terror campaign is well underway to disrupt and delegitimize our democratic process with the goal of turning the USA into a banana republic. No, even if we set aside that nightmare for a moment things are a bit wack.

I suppose things are bound to get screwy when you build a system that evolves and changes in some ways over long periods while simultaneously not evolving or changing with external contexts. But here we are, primary season, and once again Iowa and New Hampshire are wielding power far greater than is remotely reasonable.

I've been hearing several wonks on news shows and podcasts speculating on who should drop out of the race, who now has a shot, who connects with what demographic—all based on the results in two tiny, near-homogeneous states that combined account for about 1.5% of the available delegates. With 98.5% of delegates still to be allotted, people—even George Takei, in a since-deleted tweet! George, my man, you are wrong here!—are saying anyone who finishes worse than third in both Iowa and New Hampshire should drop out. People are calling on the so-called moderate candidates to consolidate themselves into one, with two of Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Amy Klobuchar dropping out to throw support to the third in order to prevent Sanders from winning with a small plurality. I hear others decrying the proportional-allotment system, advocating for a winner-take-all primary setup like the Republicans have. All sorts of complaints and theories and advice based on two tiny near-homogeneous states representing one-and-a-half percent.

It's about money, of course. Candidates need to keep raising money unless they're Bloomberg-like gazillionaires, and a poor showing in the first and/or second state can hurt that. Do well in one or both and you can get more donations. Or, more accurately, have it reported that you did well or poorly and you can get more/not get enough donations. Because the media drives this as much or more than the actual voting does. And we consumers of media reinforce that behavior, thus part of the problem.

What's the fix? (Presuming that we still have presidential elections after 2020, of course, and that they are once again more-or-less legit.) Is it a national primary, everyone votes the same day? Is it bunching a few more states up front with Iowa and New Hampshire, or maybe pushing things so nobody is close to those two? Is it just mixing up the order of who goes when so different states get the power IA and NH have now each time? Go back to using the party convention as the principal venue for choosing a nominee?

One change that would go a long way to improving everything in our electoral system would be mandating public financing, take the billionaire factor out of things and relieve the fundraising pressure on individual candidates.

Another thing I'd change would be the concept of open primaries. Those should go away. I know that would be unpopular in some circles, but they make no sense and are invitations to ratfuckery. And New Hampshire has an open primary, another reason its power is sorely misplaced. Trump and his cronies invited their supporters outright to vote for "a weak" Democrat in the New Hampshire primary in order to disrupt the Democrats' process. Even without prompting from your cult leader, one could make a calculation to cast a strategic primary vote for your preferred opponent in the general election. Regardless, these are party primary elections/caucuses. To determine your party's nominee. If you do not belong to that party, should you really have a say in who they nominate? I think not. We in Washington also have an open primary now; we don't even allow party registrations. I get wanting to have as much voter participation as possible, I appreciate that concept. And it absolutely applies to general elections. But if you have a club or organization, and need to nominate a leader for it, do you open that up to people not in your club or organization? No. So why are Republicans and independents allowed to vote for who the Democratic party nominates as their candidate? Democrats should vote in Democratic primaries and Republicans should vote in Republican primaries and Greens in Green primaries, if those ever become a thing, and so on. And if you're keen on being an independent, well, sorry, but you get no say until the general election. I know, it's largely symbolic; one can change one's party affiliation whenever, but it irritates me to see, for example, that 43% of people who voted in the New Hampshire Democratic primary were not Democrats:


 I do, however, support keeping proportional allotment of delegates. Leave the all-or-nothing, I-got-mine-you-get-nothing-sucks-to-be-you attitude to the Republicans.


No comments yet.

Add your comment

RSS feed for comments on this page
RSS feed for all comments

← Previous: Wake up, News Media / Next: Believe the Autocrat →