Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Primary Madness Continues

A foreigner could be forgiven for being mystified by the punishment clause in the new primary election rules promulgated by the Democratic party central committee:

Any Presidential candidate who campaigns in a state that does not abide by the new calendar will be stripped at the party convention of delegates won in that state.
The trouble is that the dates of the party primaries are established by the states, often by state officials rather than party officials. This odd entanglement may arise in part from the lack of formal recognition of political parties in our constitution.

So far as the new schedule goes, the Iowa and New Hampshire races remain where they are, but Nevada now has been sandwiched between them, and South Carolina has been added shortly afterward. The need for the punishment clause is that New Hampshire does not want to go along. New Hampshire law requires that there be no race within 7 days of their own, which the Nevada and South Carolina contests would now violate. Of course, New Hampshire really does not have many delegates--the reason people campaign there is for momentum--so a number of candidates may well accept the penalty to campaign in hopes of acquiring the win. Bayh of Indiana has already said he will campaign in New Hamphsire regardless, and Kerry and Edwards have made similar noises. So the change in rules may change little: just one more step in the dance between the state and national committees.

My biggest complaint is that all these contests are set for January! As states jockey for influence, their primary contests keep creeping earlier, but an eleven month election season already far too long for anyone to maintain momentum. I wonder if the lengthening season has anything to do with the tendency toward 50/50 splits in the Presidential vote?


US West said...

I would point out that presidential primaries themselves are not required by the Constitution, but are an evolutionary outgrowth of party politics. The one thing Dr.S's failed to point out is that the main motivation for this switch was to give minority voters more of a voice in the candidate selection process, a laudable goal. Nevada is an interesting pick, however. I didn't realize Nevada had a minority population. In fact it doesn't. 61% of the population in 2004 was wite non-Hispanic. My guess is that something in the Nevada state laws made it easier to change the primary laws.

We have said before on this blog (in discussing the electoral college) that allowing such a slim sliver of the electorate a disproportionate voice is, on its face, undemocratic. New Hampshire likes the special treatment it gets. But its White non-Hispanic population is 94%! Hardly representative of the nation or, in this case more importantly, the Democratic Party.

I understand Dr. S's concern over the long campaign season. That was the first thing that came to my mind. That, and the extra money it will require, which means more dependence on special interests. However, after two elections where minority (i.e. Black) voters were repeatedly disenfranchised, someone has to do something to show that the minority vote counts or else we may loose it to apathy if nothing else.

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

I think one of the reasons Kerry lost the vote is precisely because he was chosen in a fit of Iowanity (Iowanoia?) in January, long before it was clear what the election would be fought about. Turns out he didn't really know what to do when the specific issues gelled over the Summer. He was chosen in the aftermath of the capture of Saddam Hussein, when Dems were backing away from an anti-war stance. If the primaries had been held in May, instead, I suspect Wesley Clark or even John Edwards might have won, as the war really became an issue.

Nevada is a great idea for Dems. Nevada in January sucks. Dems should just move ALL primaries up to April, at least.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Of course US West is right about the origins of the primary system.

But there is some back room sneakiness going on here. The rumors I've heard are that Edwards in particular likes the new schedule. He's got comparatively strong organizations in both South Carolina and Nevada. So he can expect this to boost his early delegate totals. I've even heard speculation that this is an anti-Hilary Clinton move by Dean.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans