Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Here's How A Primary Should Be Run

The last post I made was a rant on how screwed up the primary system is. First I'd like to elaborate on that and offer a solution.

First of all I have no problem with the states trying to leapfrog over each other to have the first primary, or move up in the system. The problem I do have is the national party penalizing those states. The people who you are trying to get an opinion of are the voters and they have little or no say in when a primary is held. It is not right at all to disenfranchise them. In this instance the GOP handled the situation better than the Dems because the states in violation had their delegations cut in half. Meanwhile at the time of this writing the delegations from Florida and Michigan to the DNC convention in Denver still have no hopes in being seated. If anything, fine the state party. That should take care of the perceived problem.

As a whole however the Democrats' system is better than the GOP's. At least the Dems process is uniform throughout. in the GOP, each state gets to decide how its allocated delegates will be awarded.

So how should we fix the system? I mean it's not right to go and complain without putting forth a solution, right? If you have been reading this blog for a long time you might remember me discussing this same subject back in September. Just to make things easier on me I am going to expound on those thoughts. In other words I am going to copy my ideas from that point in time and build on those foundations.

First of all let's set the rules. Open primaries are nice and fun (I enjoyed crossing over in 2004, voting for Al Sharpton, and laughing on my way out of the voting precinct) but they are counter-productive to the aim of the process (for a political party to determine the best nominee they can in order to have the best shot at winning the general election). So am I suggesting closed primaries? Not exactly. Why not? There are many people who are registered as Independents or unaffiliated. For example I am one of them. I am suggesting a semi-closed primary system. To do this there needs to be one change. If you register as an Indie you would need to declare what side of the spectrum you usually affiliate with. In my case I would indicate on my registration that I lean to the right (since I vote usually for candidates from the GOP and Libertarian parties). For this example I am going to use the Republican Party since I have participated in their process this cycle. To participate in the GOP primary process you should either have to be a registered Republican or a right-leaning Independent/Unaffiliated voter (similar way to do it from the Dems as well, except the Indies would be left leaning).

The next question is how should delegates be awarded? Again I am going to go with the GOP in my suggestions. The first thought is a winner-take-all system. It seems fair and good until you realize that winner-take-all is mob rule. That's definitely not a principle of the GOP. Yes there should be an amount of delegates awarded to the winner of the popular vote but the rest should be handed out by Congressional district. HOWEVER - Each district should be treated equally so that my vote in one area of the state should be equally weighted to someone else in a different area of the state. Note that I now realize why the Dems weight the Congressional districts differently - because many states have open primaries. In my system they wouldn't need to do that anymore.

Should the rights of the states be shut out from the process? No. Under my plan, each state will be able to decide what method to use. I really like the caucus system. It promotes political involvement from the local, grass roots level and voters in these states tend to be more politically intelligent because they pay attention to politics, and the process very closely. However, each state should be able to decide how they want to do it, either by primary, caucus, or even convention (I will admit West Virginia's convention was exciting to watch and it did not matter what the outcome was, even though I was pleased with the result).

So now that we have the rules set up when should this process take place and how should the calendar be constructed. If there is anything that I have learned through this process is that the time frame is convoluted The build-up to Iowa took too long and then the sequence moved way too fast! Now at least for the GOP the process slows to a crawl again because there is six months from McCain being declared the presumptive winner to the night he accepts the nomination and speaks at the convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. And after that the process is back at ludicrous speed because there is exactly two months between McCain's speech and Election day. Before we go any further stop and think about that for a second. Two months to campaign for an election that takes place in 50 States with several debates and how are you to get your message to all the people? And the Dems aren't that much better since their convention is the week before.

The next question is how do we streamline the process, give it the appropriate time it needs to be completed, and make sure a message is presented to as many Americans as possible? Well, that is a daunting one but I think I have an idea.

There are 50 states and one district involved in the process. Tradition should stand firm at the very beginning. Let Iowa hold it's caucus on the 2nd tuesday in January. Two weeks later it's New Hampshire's turn for its primary on the 4th Tuesday of January. Finally on the 2nd Saturday (because of tradition) of February South Carolina would hold it's first-in-the-south contest.

That leaves 48 states (ignoring the fact that DC is not a state for simplicity here) left. At this point you divide the number of states by 12 (12 times 4 is 48). You divide the states into size of delegations. On the 2nd Tuesday of March you hold the contests in the 12 states with the smallest delegations. Each 2nd Tuesday of the next 3 months you go up the list with 12 more state contests until the 12 with the largest delegations have theirs on the 2nd Tuesday of June.

By splitting them up evenly you even out the process and improve the supposed quality of the two party nominees for President. To be worthy of your party's nomination you will have to travel to all the states and bring your message to more people. Your message will have to have substance instead of being supported by mega bucks. Don't get me wrong money is definitely needed in the process but you will not be able to win by buying your support anymore. Also this way no state will be deemed irrelevant in the process like some states are now when several states will hold their primary/caucus after a candidate has pretty much clinched the nomination.

At that point the convention should be held soon after the primary contests like right after the 4th of July. The party in power should have their convention traditionally last but not more than two weeks after the other party has theirs. This will give three + months between the nominating conventions and the General Election.

And yes I have my thoughts on the General election and how to make the Electoral College work better but I'll leave that for another blog post-turned policy paper.

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