Democrats & Liberals Archives

Our Crazy Primaries

Everywhere you look, there is more evidence that our primary system is broken.

Florida and Michigan – I live in Florida, so this problem is dear to my heart. Since these two rebel states didn’t follow the senseless rules established by the national parties, the Democratic National Committee is threatening to withhold ALL delegates at the convention. The party of “count every vote” is effectively disenfranchising its own voters. The candidates, moreover, have vowed not to make any campaign appearances in these states. (A pledge that conveniently excludes fundraising. What a fine, principled position!) This pledge appears to be finally cracking, a fact that I can only applaud. The Republicans for their part have refused to follow the DNC down the path to electoral hell, sensibly withholding only half of the delegates and letting the candidates campaign in the state.

There is a larger point to be made here. When the DNC wanted to get into their little BDSM act with Florida, the only way they could inflict any pain was by punishing Democratic voters for the sins of their mostly Republican representatives. It is like punishing one kid because his brother was bad. Not much of a deterrent! The only way to avoid this kind of fiasco is by making the primary dates (preferably date singular) a matter of federal law.

The Delegate Counts – According to CNN and MSNBC, Obama is leading Clinton 38 to 36. If you check Washington Post, though, Clinton is leading 236 to 136. RealClearPolitics has her ahead 236 to 152. The sad thing is that these are probably all valid answers. If you really want to bake your noodle, try to follow this description of the Democratic delegate selection process in Iowa from the New York Times:

The process has four steps: the precinct caucuses*, the county conventions, the district conventions and the state convention. At the precinct caucuses on Jan. 3, delegates are elected to the county conventions on March 15. Delegates to the county conventions select delegates to the district conventions and to the state convention. On April 26, district conventions select 29 pledged delegates to the national convention. On June 14, the state convention selects an additional 16 pledged delegates. There are also 12 unpledged delegates who are party leaders and elected officials.

In brief, caucus voters choose county delegates, who then choose district and state delegates. Then they in turn choose most (but not all) of the national delegates. Then those national delegates get to vote for the nominee. The GOP process is different, and just as convoluted.

These goofy rules would be amusing if they didn’t have a real-world impact. Hillary Clinton supposedly finished a humiliating third in Iowa because she was assigned one percent fewer "state delegates" than John Edwards. And that’s an “estimate”, not an actual count. I’m by no means a Clinton supporter, but does this make any freaking sense? If they scored the Super Bowl this way there would be riots in the streets.

Iowa and New Hampshire – It’s been asked many times before, but it can’t be asked enough. Why, oh why, do these states always get to go first?

*I won't even get into how crazy these precinct caucuses are to begin with… I saw one on C-SPAN, and it was like watching kindergarteners choose a class president.

Posted by Woody Mena at January 23, 2008 12:50 PM
Comments
Comment #243606
The only way to avoid this kind of fiasco is by making the primary dates (preferably date singular) a matter of federal law.

I was right there with ya, marvelling at the seeming lunacy of the two major parties, until you made that comment…

The government should not be involved in the primary process AT ALL. The Reps and Dems are private organizations that, as a group of members and according to that group’s rules, get together to put forth a candidate for the POTUS. They are no different than if you and I got together to decide who we would like to run.

By holding primaries, at the expense of taxpayers, we make those two parties an official branch of the government. It’s a ridiculous thought.

I live in Nevada and recently took part in my first caucus according to the rules of the party in which I caucused… and you know what? It was quite convoluted. So what? If that’s how the party decides that’s how they want to go about choosing their candidate, who am I to advocate using government force to make them change?

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at January 23, 2008 1:23 PM
Comment #243611

Who pays for the primaries now? The law could just stipulate that any primaries must be on the same date. Doesn’t mean the government ends up paying for it.

Same date makes so much sense in so many ways.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 23, 2008 2:27 PM
Comment #243612

womanmarine… primaries are paid for by the state in which the primary is being held… they’re wrong to begin with. But moving past that for a moment…

The federal government telling the parties when and how they nominate their candidates…? It’s just not right. Again, they are private organizations with their own rules for how they conduct their business. You do not see the federal government dictating to the greens or libertarians how they nominate their candidates… nor do you see the federal government dictating how or why independent candidates get on the ballot… why are the two major parties any different?

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at January 23, 2008 2:39 PM
Comment #243613

WM:

“Iowa and New Hampshire – It’s been asked many times before, but it can’t be asked enough. Why, oh why, do these states always get to go first?”

THANK YOU!
I have always said, “you can find two more obscure and irrelevant states than Iowa and New Hampshire, but you would have to think real hard”

Posted by: Beirut Vet at January 23, 2008 2:41 PM
Comment #243638

Doug,

Even if they are theoretically private organizations, they are have coopted a large part of the function of regulating elections. The government interferes with a lot of private organizations when they accumulate power and don’t use their power for the public good.

Posted by: Woody Mena at January 23, 2008 4:43 PM
Comment #243651

It makes some sense to have smaller states go first in terms of fundraising and expenditure. The process just got out of hand this year, starting almost a year before the election. I believe that the Calleyforneeya governor is one of those most responsible. If the prospective nominees have to start out fundraising in large states, brand names and millionaires will dominate over those who have ideas, which they would have to compromise to beg for money. PLEEEEASE, give me some money so I can run for President.

On FLorida and Michigan, I agree that the Democrats are being too particular, with so many large states moving up to super Tuesday, which was originally intended to give southern states an edge.

When I lived in Florida, I was represented in Congress by Abscam Kelly and Bill scarlet letter McCullom, the person most responsible for what happened in 2000 when he was running for the Senate, who has never gotten the blame that he deserves. They have gone a long way in the wrong direction from Pepper, Holland, Smathers, and Chiles.

Posted by: ohrealy at January 23, 2008 6:39 PM
Comment #243655

What happens if Obama wins the primary delegate count but, because of the super delegate process, Hillary wins the nomination? And remember Bill holds a super delegate vote!

Fun fun fun….

Posted by: George in SC at January 23, 2008 7:07 PM
Comment #243660

I think we’re better off picking our candidates in slow drawn out process, with small states in the beginning. The candidates have to be real people. From Feb. 5th on, it’s just a matter of mass media, adds, and more adds.
We need an amendment to the constitution making all campaign adds illegal.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at January 23, 2008 7:44 PM
Comment #243693
It makes some sense to have smaller states go first in terms of fundraising and expenditure.

That is fine with me, as long as they take turns… But why should the primaries be different from the general election? Everybody votes on the same day then, and it works fine.

Posted by: Woody Mena at January 24, 2008 7:04 AM
Comment #243710

There would be complaints no matter who goes first. The caucuses are so arcane that they should be eliminated, but who will enforce the rules on states that all want to go different ways. “Getting cats to walk in a parade” comes to mind. The worst part for me is how early they start. March or April would be plenty early.

My sense of what people complain about the most is not the system but the result of the system, candidates for whom they do not want to vote. That is the result of the money involved. The predominence of brand names seems disturbing to some people, as in Bush Clinton Bush Clinton. Clinton is mint chocolate cookie ice cream to me, Bush is smallpox as a desert topping.

Posted by: ohrealy at January 24, 2008 12:24 PM
Comment #243717
There would be complaints no matter who goes first.

Easily solved with a national primary day. Everybody gets firsties.

Posted by: Woody Mena at January 24, 2008 1:51 PM
Comment #243724
Easily solved with a national primary day. Everybody gets firsties.

Yep… and then none of the candidates will ever visit anywhere except CA, TX, and NY… now that’s fair!

But hey… hicks like me from NV don’t deserve to have the candidates visit us, now do we?

I have a novel idea that maybe I should talk about for the first time ever… let’s let the freaking parties decide how they want to nominate their own freraking candidates and keep the freaking government and taxpayers’ freaking dollars out of it altogether… amazingly freaking simple… maybe that’s why everyone keeps yapping about it.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at January 24, 2008 2:54 PM
Comment #243774

Then someone tell me why the hell the states pay for the primaries? Let the parties foot the bill, then they can do whatever the hell they want.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 24, 2008 11:20 PM
Comment #243812
Yep… and then none of the candidates will ever visit anywhere except CA, TX, and NY… now that’s fair!

But hey… hicks like me from NV don’t deserve to have the candidates visit us, now do we?

I think it is fair to give every voter an equal say. If candidates choose to campaign in big states, that’s there prerogative.

I would certainly wouldn’t call people in Nevada hicks. And there is glaring problem with your logic here. Why should the “hicks” in Nevada get special treatment over the hicks in other place? No, I don’t think that Nevada deserves it. Nothing against the state in particular…

Posted by: Woody Mena at January 25, 2008 7:34 AM
Comment #243827

Woody… you are correct… Nevada has no inherent right over any other state, just as Iowa nor New Hampshire, but that does not mean there are any glaring problems with my logic…

The simple fact remains… and it is quite simple… the parties need to be able to decide whom their candidate is without any interference from government. Once those candidates for the Woody-Doug party are chosen according to the rules of our party and they are officially entered into the general election can we start talking about what is fair for voters… but until then, there is no ‘vote’… only a party trying to decide who it wants to put up for the real vote.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at January 25, 2008 11:20 AM
Comment #243874

I think the primaries are actually paid for by the local governments, not the state governments in most places. A national primary would require massive fundraising abilities, and would probably result in more negative campaigning, to prevent the person with the most recognisable name from winning.

Posted by: ohrealy at January 25, 2008 8:02 PM
Comment #243916

NO government should be paying for the primaries, no matter the level.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 26, 2008 1:26 AM
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