Skip to comments.Time to Talk about the 2008 Election
Posted on 09/11/2004 1:53:57 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob
On the 27th of August, I went in print and in electrons to predict that the Kerry Campaign was over. Most other political pundits, except those whose income depends on the pretense that Kerry has a chance, have since reached the same conclusion. In the meantime, Dan Rather has ceased to exist (though no one has told him yet), and CBS and the old media may also go down in flames.
But thats not what I came to talk about. I came to talk about the election of 2008.
Last weekend I was sitting on a dock by a TVA lake in Tennessee at a barbeque with friends and neighbors of my in-laws. A gentleman named James Talley happened to tell me about a letter he had published in USA Today in January. I told him there was a story there, and Id write it. Here are his first two paragraphs:
The time has come for this archaic process we call election primary - a long drawn out process state by state - to be abolished and replaced by a true national primary. 2004 should be the last year for this old system.
In our present ancient process by the time the first three or four states have voted, and the news media have declared the trends and the effective result, the party moguls have the stage set for their guy or gal. This disenfranchises the voters. Every registered American citizen deserves the opportunity to enter the voting booth and to express a choice totally uninfluenced by exit polls and media rhetoric.
And Jim went on to suggest a date for this national primary: the Tuesday nearest to the 4th of July. In 2008 that would be 1 July.
In any proposal for major change in a long-established system, a necessary question is How can this be accomplished? Its like the story about belling the cat. The mice might be in total agreement that a bell on the cat would be a safety measure. But the question immediately arises as to who will get that bell on that cat. There are two theoretical ways to accomplish what Jim suggests. One method would never succeed for pragmatic political reasons. But the other one could work, if properly approached, so its doable. And we can talk about whether it makes sense.
If you look over the history of national political conventions, beginning with the Anti-Masonic and National Republican Conventions in Baltimore in 1831, most of them have been reasonably exciting and have had actual tasks to perform. They have either chosen nominees in contested elections, or written platforms on contested issues.
In the span of American history, 2004 was an exceptionally dull year for conventions. Both candidates were known months in advance of their conventions. (Im speaking here of the only parties with a chance to win in this year, the Republicans and the Democrats.) Both campaigns controlled their conventions - who would speak, what they would speak about, what the party platforms would say.
Whenever one party has a one-term occupant in the White House, its convention is almost guaranteed to be thoroughly scripted. Thats because no incumbent President has ever been denied renomination if he sought that. Yes, I see your hands waving. No, Lyndon Johnson was not defeated for renomination. He was not even defeated in New Hampshire by Gene McCarthy. McCarthy did run nearly even with Johnson, and demonstrated his vulnerability. Johnson then announced that he would not run again. The result was the 1968 Chicago Convention, one of the most violent and fractious in history.
Presidential nominations now begin with the Iowa Caucuses, followed by the New Hampshire Primary. Both states defend their turf by threatening to move their caucuses or primaries to an even earlier date, if any other state proposes a law to move their primaries into January. Even though these two small states are hardly typical of the United States as a whole, the press and pundits put great stock by the candidates who win in those states, plus a small number of the others who did better than expected.
So almost anyone who wants to be President has to spend at least a year prior to the election year preparing for a solid showing in Iowa and New Hampshire. Unless that changes, 2008 will be a repeat of 2004. Everyone seeking the Presidency will be at it for two years, and as citizens our TVs will be cluttered with both the ads and the sound bites from all those people for two years.
Then as the process continues, its possible that one candidate will outlast the others and force them out of the race (Im not referring to the tick candidates like Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, who burrowed in and claimed to be still in the race after it was over). When the contests on both sides are over early in the year, as now, states with later primary dates find themselves spending serious money to conduct meaningless primaries in which no one campaigns and few people vote.
Is all that a good idea? Jim thinks not, and I agree with him.
There are two ways to defang the early overemphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire. One appears in the US Constitution. Article I, Section 4, of the Constitution gives the control of election laws first to the State Legislatures, but then adds, Congress may at any time by Law alter such regulations.... So if Congress decided that a national primary was desirable, it could pass a law and require that result. This is theory only. The leaders of Congress have all grown up in the current system of nominations. They know how to play this game, not the new game which would result with this change. Discount to zero the chance that Congress would act on this idea before 2008.
Fortunately, that does not foreclose the change. What if two-thirds of the state legislatures decided that a national primary was a good idea? What if those legislators agreed that 1 July 2008 was a good time to conduct this primary and did so by law?
First, the excessive focus on Iowa and New Hampshire would disappear. Every candidate would justly say that for anyone to win a majority of the delegates to his/her convention, that must include a strong win in many states on 1 July. The primaries on other dates could not, mathematically, foreclose the nominations at the Conventions.
The first obvious result is that all states holding their primaries on 1 July, 2008, would be guaranteed to have contested and relevant elections. All candidates would have an incentive to go to all such states - in person, on TV, by Internet - because all such voting would matter.
The second obvious factor is this: It would be far less likely for any one candidate to take a mathematical majority in the 1 July Primary. All candidates would be in the race through 1 July. None of them would be likely to be scraped off, like an unsuccessful Indiana Jones falling off a speeding German truck. It isnt just the press focus on the horse race aspects, but the federal election laws provisions concerning federal matching funds, that destroys candidacies early under the present process.
Its more likely that a national primary would produce just leading candidates for the Republican and Democratic nominations, rather than absolute winners. Its common sense that the leading candidates would negotiate with the trailing candidates that they generally agreed with. Perhaps that would result in a committed majority (and ticket) in either or both parties before their 2008 conventions.
But theres a far greater chance under this process than under the present one, that there would NOT be a final, mathematical victory in either or both of the Republican and Democratic Conventions in 2008 as there was in 2004. Are there public benefits to this difference?
Some Democrats are already having buyers remorse about their selection of John Kerry in 2004. The wrong time to find out about major defects in your candidate for President is after your Party has selected that person. The whole point of primary elections is to test candidates against each other, including a comparison of their defects as well as their assets.
If the proposed National Primary did not produce nominees for both Parties, that would guarantee that the public and press review of the candidates continued until the Conventions. That would allow a maximum opportunity for sound decisions on nominees and minimum risk of buyers remorse. Marry in haste, repent in leisure, is attributed to Ben Franklin. Committing to a candidate is a form of political marriage. The observation applies, though Franklin may have borrowed it.
Another public advantage concerns issues. If the candidates are not buttoned up before the Conventions, then the issues and party platforms are probably not buttoned up either. When was the last time you recall seeing a debate on any platform point at a Convention? And yet, choosing between policy choices on subjects from war and peace to social security are the very essence of modern American politics.
Why should the presidential nominating process continue to be rigged the way it is today, so that the conversations Americans routinely have around water coolers and at kitchen tables are prevented at the Party Conventions? A National Primary offers the best chance of Conventions that have real work to do - candidates to choose, issues to decide.
And if the Conventions offer more than pre-scripted content, the press is more likely to offer more coverage. Danger attracts the press. Would anyone cover NASCAR races if there was a written guarantee in advance of no car crashes? Think of the plot theory behind all movies and TV shows. If theres no conflict, theres no story.
Of course the purpose of the leading candidates is always to go over the top. Close out debate on issues. Line up supporting speakers, and conduct a unified Convention. But whats good for the individual candidate isnt necessarily healthy for either the whole Party, or the whole nation.
I think a National Primary is an excellent idea. And I thank Jim Talley for reminding me of it a week ago. What are your thoughts on the subject?
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About the Author: John Armor is a civil rights attorney who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. CongressmanBillybob@earthlink.net
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Let's keep the old primary system and get rid of the old media "system".
A national primary loads the dice in favor of the candidate with the most name recognition and money. Having primaries in small states first, lets more obscure candidates a chance to show their stuff and gain momentum, or lose it. I prefer having Iowa and New Hampshire vet candidates on a retail basis first. Granted, in a perfect world, which states got this honor would rotate. But heaven forbid if it should ever be California or New York, which are anomic and media driven, and in the case of New York, the GOP is really more of a phone booth party.
A national primary is a trojan horse for abolishing the electoral college.
If a national primary were ever established, the political pressure to abolish the electoral college would become unstoppable. Pundits would have a field day -- "A national election is good enough for the primaries, so why isn't it good enough for the general?"
Speaking as a distant observer, I see it as somewhat odd that the government gets involved with party candidate selection; surely this is the job of the parties themselves. It is certainly strange to push this into the hands of the Federal Government, rather than the several states.
I'm gonna go with the old saying, always follow the money. A one day event would pound that reality into the system in no uncertain terms. The candidate with the most money upfront, before even one vote is cast will be the nominee. Yes, I realize that's already a big part of the whole process as it's in place currently, but a single day vote will make it even worse.
Hillary has alreay been working for a long time to get her war chest ready. If you can think of the name of any other Democrat in a similar position, put their name on the table.
"Democrats will choose someone with greater substance and integrity than Hillary!"
This will not be hard to do, since she has no substance, no experience (very important), no love for country, she is a devout Marxist, she hates the military, and would be on a par with Kerry when it comes to pandering to the enemies of the U.S. -- even though she is standard Democrat anti-American trash, one of her biggest problems is that her resume (qualifications) is a blank piece of paper.
She is accomplished though at bimbo-suppression, throwing lamps, generating the foulest language, spraying anti-semitism, maintaining relationships with the enemies of the U.S., defending and promoting anti-establishment militants, and totally lacking in self-respect and ethics.
Other than that, she would be a fine candidate...(looking for barf bucket...)
There is no primary system. Think about it. In fact the Republicans and Democrats should be footing the bill for their use of public money supporting their party selection process.
Also, if the National Primary did not result in an absolute majority for any candidate, then all the leading candidates would have until their Conventions (up to 60 days) to sort out the best candidate to pick. Consider that John Kerry has more money (when you throw in his wife's assets) than any other candidate in US history. Yet he is about to lose.
That proves both of my main points.
John / Billybob
John / Billybob
On the other hand, I state clearly that if the states themselves decide for reasons of their own decide to move their primaries to a single date, they can do so. And if 2/3rds of the states do that, the result will be achieved. A few states not in the agreement will not sabotage the plan.
John / Billybob
Tactically, the problems with the primary system in its presetn form are due for the most part to the Democratic party's schizophrenic nature...The hard left in the party controls the primaries. A natinal primary would have given us Dean as a nominee..a scary thought indeed..You need a sequence of primaries to allow different candidates to ebb/flow, and see how they can handle the political process..a vetting if you will...Look at Iowa and NH for whom they eliminated..The Dem party should have changed the rules, and kicked the candidates out of the debates, those with less that 10% of the vote...Again..Iowa eliminated Dean..
John / Billybob
I take a somewhat different view.
There is absolutely no reason why political parties are permitted to involve the governments, states and federal, in the selection of their candidates.
Governments should only be involved in the actual election of candidates to public office. Political parties should choose their candidates by whatever means they see fit, including reading tea leaves. But they should not have access to nor restrictions from government mechanisms in doing so.
Bluntly, deny political parties government support, including voter registration (by party), and polling services.
This would then return the primary system to its original function of the party members determining the course of their parties. It would also make things much harder for media manipulation.
Will there be abuses under this method? Of course. That is not the concern of government. It is the concern of the party members. But most importantly it provides for political parties to grow & evolve, wither & die...all at the dictates of its members.
Sounds a lot like political free enterprise. Or just maybe it's how a healthy representative republic functions.
Ya wanna get rid of 'em, I've been kicking around an idea & I see a hugh gap in what we'd like to happen & our approach to the status quo.
The idea bubbled up from the whole CBS thing, but needed a couple of other things to finally gell it in my mind.
DoctorZIn has put a lot of work into a couple of projects. His site is a good hint about where I'd like to see things to go:
Then we had the RNC & President Bush's speech. He rattled off a website during his speech & something crept into my brain related to that, something about a multi-page press release with details of all of his new proposals... Anyone see any press reports about any of the details?
People here are good at dragging news reports from all kinds of media sources for all of us to pick apart, but are we going to the primary sources to eliminate the media middle men? Kamp Kerry also has details of his proposals & I've seen a few instances of things from there being brought over here to be picked apart, but I can't say it's as often or as far reaching as I think it should be.
We've gone to some or all of these sites & others to adress something the media has reported, but I can't say I've seen threads started by using them. Take a look, they have press releases. These government offices are informing reporters who filter info & report to us. I don't think any of them are on the front page as resources of FR. I took a quick glance & found a site by Linda Tripp there?
I could go on, but I'm gonna now redirect you to the offical sites of the candidates of the two biggest parties. Lotta stuff on each of 'em...
Going through information overload yet? *Replace* means there is a need to do the work & that means more than just picking apart the work done by the "professionals".
Just a thought. Of course, this is silly, as Jesse is going to do away with the electoral college anyway..
Count up those small states. They are more than enough to block an amendment to abolish the College from passing the Senate. And even if it passed the Senate somehow, those states could kill the amendment in the ratification process.
People tend to get nervous when Hillary! proposes a major and disastrous change in American government or society. Socialized Health Care got killed because it was stupid. Abolishing the Electoral College is constitutionally impossible. Just do the math.
John / Billybob
John / Billybob
Of course that'd be 'too easy'.
You're right about the problem. Maine and Iowa are not bellwethers of any sort.
If, somehow, we could make sure that a Republican was elected in 2008, and served two terms, along with a republican controlled senate and congress ...
I truely believe that would be the end of the DNC.
I will explore the links and see what can be done.
As you know, throwing money at any problem doesn't always work, else there would no longer be any poor people, all horrible diseases would have cures & all students would become educated.
If your system was adopted before 2008, Hillary would be cozy & in place with the first round of votes, while the Republican party would likely be in disarray. Sure, I'd love to be in a state where candidates aren't already set in place by the time I can vote. Be interesting to have rolling polls, with a ban on any counting of votes until all states have voted.
However, as I point out, if enough other states move the dates of their primaries, Iowa and N.H. can keep their dates but their importance nationally will be "defanged."
I agree with your analysis... Anything that even attempts to impugn the integrity of the electoal college I'm opposed to.
The founders had very, very good reasons to do what they did and I'm very reluctant to even consider going against the founders. I respect them that much.
I also live in a small state (Montana); and I don't want New York; California; and Illinois dictating to the nation...
THE EC IS WHAT PROTECTS US AS A NATION...
So, this will only happen if common sense rears its ugly head in the state legislatures, it can be done. And to my experience, the state legislators are common sense folks.
...no incumbent President since Chester Arthur in 1884 was unsaddled in favor of James Blaine has ever been denied renomination if he sought that.
Fixed it up for ya. No charge, of course. Boola boola, and all that. (g!)
You are correct sir. And I agree with you.
My stance is that the further we depart from our original system, the worse it will become. As long as government is involved with the political parties' processes those processes will be terribly tainted.
Mr. Talley's idea of a National Primary has an appealing elegance. But to my way of thinking it deepens government involvement. And that worries me.
Our political parties are already stagnant due, in large part, to government freezing of their structures. I believe this is unhealthy. And I am loathe to increase government involvement.
Having said that, let's presume the National Primary idea was adopted. What is your position on adding the selection "None of the Above" to each office's list of candidates?
Might make the parties and primary candidates more accountable and work harder. Or it just may stir up the pot!
And yes, you are right. Most of the poll workers are elderly women. Around here we call them "Q-Tips." Short, straight, thin, and with white cotton on top. To have them cover 12 hours would probably require two 7-hour shifts, overlapping at the change of shift.
But I will never again say that all incumbents who sought reelection were at least renominated. I stand corrected; thank you.
Money and name ID would rule.
In the current system an underdog with a great message can win. In a national primary they would have no chance in hell. Advantage would go to governors of NY, CA, TX, cabinet members, prominent senators.
The Founders would have loved this idea. Why weren't you there!? ;))
An effective "None of the Above" option would declare the seat vacant, disqualify all the candidates on the prior ballot, and require a special election to fill the seat. In the toothless Nevada version, it is only a protest vote. If "None" wins, then the human with the second highest vote total, which could be only 25% or so, gets the job.
I'm with you that "None" is a great idea. Experience suggests it won't happen.
I'd be for a national primary if each state could only vote for residents within their state to go to their respective party national conventions where party delegates would pick the best candidates their parties have to offer. Each state would be limited to their two top picks from each party as candidates for president. State party delegates would be selected at the same time.
National conventions are now little more than Broadway plays with very little substance. They nothing more than a rubber stamp of policies agreed to before the opening act. This needs to be changed.
I entirely disagree. Under a single primary Hillary would start out with 40-50% of the vote under her belt, by far the most money, and by far the most name ID. There is no way another candidate could come close to competing with her, except maybe Bill. Where is the money going to come from to fund a national campaign against Hillary?
In a rolling campaign, other candidates would at least have the chance to take their message voter to voter, and could show a truer appeal to the rural Iowans and indy New Hampsherites and set up a David vs. Goliath scenario.
I'd like to see a two-tiered process where an earlier primary narrows the field rather early, thus eliminating the nuisance ticks.
The only way that delegates would go to the Convention as "uncommitted" is if that particular state permitted that option, and the voters of that state chose all or some of such delegates.
Maybe a different nominating process will do the trick. Best of luck to you.
I agree completely. A national primary is a really scary idea. It would complete the centralization of power in this country -- not that it isn't already pretty far gone.
work harder to man the polls.
In '08, the Dems will nominate Hillary and Howard Dean and take the worst thrashing in political history. Just a thought.
What the GOP or the democratic party does internally, is what they do. They should set there own primaries, states and dates, without any kind of implicit help or interference from the government. I'd much rather roll back then push into the process.
For '08 we need to run Bill Owens.
Which is why this election, like 2000, is being played out in a handful of "meaningless" "Battleground" states? Oh wait, that includes PA, Florida, Michigan, Ohio... what were you saying about protecting the small states?
California doesn't matter in selecting the GOP candidate--we tried moving our primary up *twice* and even still it was all over a week beforehand and it doesn't matter in the national arena because it's been written off as Democrat territory. This is why even in the midst of a terror war, our illegal immigration problem lay unaddressed in a Republican administration. It's pathetic! Of the southern border states, only New Mexico (and maybe Arizona) are in any "play" and it looks like this time it'll be just New Mexico.
Why not try to get Republicans to increase numbers in states demonstrated by their democrat -run cesspool cities?
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