Sunday, August 26, 2007

Everyone Wants the Primary Primary

Oh, all the fighting going on at the DNC these days. Florida just got smacked by the national party for scheduling its democratic primary too early. Michigan is about to get a smackdown for the same thing. New Hampshire and Iowa fight to hang onto their "first in the nation" primary status. As I read this article WaPo, the whole thing just struck me as complete hoo-hah. NH and IA argued back in the 60's that their small size justified their place in the pecking order. So now states are, quite reasonably methinks, asking why more diverse states cannot have that same impact as NH and Iowa on narrowing the race for POTUS. Cue the interstate electoral drama. One wonders why we don't just have Primary Day, when every state holds its election. Maybe then we can promise to still really, really care what New Hampshire folks think (Go Tsongas! Estes Kefauver! Gerald Ford'76!) while putting an end to this ludicrous jockeying for position.

The second major issue with this first-in-the-nation battle is the question of exactly how early we are going to let the election process start. NH passed a law in 1977 mandating that their primary should always be first, forcing them to move it earlier and earlier several times. Isn't that hilarious? Passing a law saying that you will always be first? How stupidly self-referential is that?! What if Wyoming suddenly passes a law saying that THEY are going to always be the first? And then New Mexico follows suit, until every state in the union has a law on the books mandating it be first? In support of this delusional notion, I've actually decided to pass a law in my head mandating that I am always the prettiest, smartest girl in the room. You hear me, ladies?!! You better not show up because you can't be prettier or smarter than me! And you know why? Because it's The Law.

And even before NH ends up moving its primary to the February after the inauguration, why are these contests so early anyway? Do we all really need one year and ten months to figure out who we like? If that's the case, why are candidates still trying to woo the 72% of "undecideds" on October 26th, then? What, you couldn't figure it all out in just under TWO YEARS?! And, besides the timing issue, why are we trying to narrow the field so soon anyway? If New Hampshire and Iowa people don't love you in January 2007 you are somehow not qualified to become president in November 2008? Hell, British general elections are held within 17 days of the Queen's proclamation dissolving Parliament. Can't we find some happy medium--perhaps not 17 days--but closer to maybe a couple of months rather than years?

I wonder if the real reason for the drama is that, if forced to deal with this scheduling situation, we're all going to have to admit how asinine our presidential election process really is. The 2000 election jolted us at the time, but as with most things (Savings & Loan scandal, 9/11 Commission, etc) the lessons seem to have been forgotten.

I don't know what the solution is, but something--anything--has got to be better than having states constantly changing their primaries, or worse, states making it "illegal" for your state to vote before them.

1 comment:

Vigilante said...

A good question to ask, it seems to me, is how long is the British election take/ If we were to have a national primary day in June, everyone would be out on vacation (or to lunch) until Labor day, when the campaigning for the general election would begin. Condensing it all into 60 days or so, would minimize the play of big money TV ads, possibly....