Saturday, December 1, 2007

Primary Reform

It's interesting how the US presidential primary system has essentially turned into the political equivalent of a short-track bicycle race. It now has nothing to with issues. It doesn't even have anything to do with choosing the candidate that can best stand up to the stress of a live campaign. Instead, it has to do with doing grueling fund-raising, building some name recognition by jollying the press into thinking that you could be the Flavor of the Month, then attempting to slingshot past the leaders at the last moment.

Reform is needed. Because the states and the parties control their own primaries, this is very difficult. It will require them to cooperate and agree to put the selection of the best candidate ahead of their individual power.

Wikipedia lists entries for various reforms: the GOP's Delaware Plan, the National Association of Secretaries of States' Rotating Regional Primary System, the Interregional Primary Plan, and even a single-day national primary.

Seems like the goals for primary reform ought to be something like these:
  • No state or group of states should have more permanent power than other states. Since states that vote early will always have more power, this implies that the schedule either has to be random, rotate, or some combination of both.

  • The primary schedule should last a long time. This leaves more time to get past the beauty contest and on to serious issues. It also eliminates the ability for a campaign to stampede the electorate early in the process. Finally, being President is a grueling job. We need to see how candidates act over a long period.

  • It would be nice to minimize campaign expenditures by grouping primaries regionally.

  • The system should group liberal and conservative states together so that candidates can't pander to individual groups as much.

  • The system should group large and small states together.

  • Finally, I hate the fact that Iowa has so much power. I partially attribute the ethanol debacle to Iowa's unreasonable power.

Some of these goals are antagonistic. This is a hard problem and I really don't want the solution federalized. But something needs to be done pretty soon. I'm more and more concerned that the GOP is going to be captured (again!) by its extreme right wing. Oddly enough, I don't think that's going to happen to the Democrats this year, but that's merely due to the candidates being fielded this cycle.

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