Keane observations about life, politics and sports.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Broken Presidential Primary System

Our current system for selecting a president is broken. Even in election cycles were I was pleased with the final result I was irritated by the process. This cycle some of the problems have manifested in difficulties for the Democrats. However, that doesn't mean the system worked all that well for Republicans. The biggest issue I have with the primary system is that certain states (Iowa, New Hampshire, etc) have a disproportionate say in which candidates get their parties nomination. States have been jockeying to be earliest for decades. This is understandable as it can be worth millions of dollars in pandering by congresscritters mulling a future presidential bid. For example, how much of the federal push for ethanol is tied to an agricultural state like Iowa being the first primary (okay, caucus). Additionally, being first results in a much greater share of advertising revenue. This cycle a couple of states (Florida and Michigan) maneuvered their primaries earlier in the face of a threat from the DNC that their delegates would not be seated at the convention. The belief seemed to be that the favorite (Sen. Clinton) would coast to a victory and the delegates could later be seated without much fuss. Sen. Barack Obama's strong showing has ruined that plan. Here is a link to an article by Roland S. Martin of CNN arguing that no action should be taken to allow a re-vote by those two states. He's right - actions and decisions should have consequences. This is something that should be addressed for future election cycles. I'm an advocate of rotating state's position in the primary process. It wouldn't be too difficult to put the 50 states in a rotational pool wherein a state would move from the front to the back end of the political cycle.

The other problem that has been exposed this cycle is crossover voting. This has happened in previous elections, but this is the first time it has been done on a large scale with an open intent of messing with the other parties selection process. I'm strongly opposed to people pretending to switch party affiliation in this manner. However, unlike the problem of when states hold their primary, I don't think there is a really good fix to this situation. You can't (and wouldn't want to) stop people from switching from one party to the other as their positions change as they mature. People aren't born a Democrat or a Republican. Political parties are groups you choose to align yourself with because you believe they most closely support your views on various issues. Over time your views can change or the politicians in that party may no longer represent your views. Having said all that, I don't believe Republicans should request Dem ballots (or vice versa) unless they actually consider themselves to now be member of the other party. My main opposition is I wouldn't like Democrats picking my nominee so why should I feel I have any right in picking theirs. The only way to limit this problem would be to stipulate that voters need to declare themselves to be a member of a party prior to the first primary taking place.

Bottom line is we need to examine the process. Once this election is over and long before the run up to 2012 a bi-partisan review needs to be conducted to find a better way.



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