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."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Et tu, Iowa?

So South Carolina has just voted to bump its Republican primary to January 19th from Jan 29th. The local Democrats are expected to follow suit. New Hampshire is scheduled for Jan 22. Since NH state law requires it to be first in the nation, it will move its date earlier. Other states are expected to follow. If NH moves before Iowa (now scheduled for 1/14), Iowa will feel obliged to move. And Nevada, which was to fall between Iowa and NH, will also move. Feb 5th is now so popular that 20 states have their votes that day - including big states like CA and NY. The parties have tried to forbid earlier primaries by claiming they won't seat delegates, but nobody takes that threat seriously. Besides which, the main benefit of the early votes was always the public perception of being a winner, not the delegates.

The danger is rising that primaries may spill into late 2007. It's an idiotic game of chicken. Everyone knows what is causing it: Iowa and NH want to keep their privileged first-in-the-nation position, and other states want to to intrude upon it. This is a classic case of American politics gone stupid, where everyone sees the problem and nobody dares to try to fix it. It's related to the gridlock phenomenon that others have talked about.

So, what is the solution?
1. Federal law barring any presidential primary election before March 1st. There might be constitutional issues with that, but I think it could be made to pass muster.
2. Create rotating regional primaries of some kind.
3. My suggestion: 2 years before each presidential election date, pick dates and order of primaries and caucuses by random draw.


Dr. Strangelove said...

We need some kind of solution like what LTG proposes. I hope the catastrophe of early primaries we are now witnessing will spur action, at least before 2012...

Raised By Republicans said...

The problem with giving Iowa and New Hampshire such primacy of place is that they are so unrepresentative of the country. Making Nevada or South Carolina first is hardly an improvement. Indeed, ideologically, at least Iowa is a swing state where South Carolina is ... well, Southern.

I think LTG's suggest solutions are worth considering.

I don't see the relation to the gridlock discussion though.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Even if Iowa and NH were somehow representative of the country in terms of demographics or whatever, there will always be local issues that matter. And it is not right that these two small states get to speak for the rest of us, or get all that attention out of proportion to their size.

The only justification for not having a single national primary election is that it is too expensive for small candidates to run in such an election, and we want to preserve the possibility that better candidates can be selected through the primary process.

That can be solved by the random primaries that I suggest. Wouldn't it be fun if, in 2012, one of the "first states" were to be Alaska or Hawaii?

I sort of hope the NH primary or IA caucus gets pushed into December, so that there's a wakeup call.

USWest said...

The main problem with a federalized system, as LTG points out, is the Constitutional issue of states rights and the fact that Primaries were not provided for in the Constitution.

We are still evolving this process which really didn't pick up steam until like after the 1968 Democratic convention. So it is a very new thing, nationwide primaries and the media coverage makes them even more important. But it is time to standardize it a bit. I like the idea of rotating them.

NH knows it isn't representative, but likes the attention. And the candidates like the smallish population because they use it as a focus group for their "message".

USwest said...

Oh, and Iowa knows that one way to guarantee Ethanol dollars is to keep their caucus early.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Well, I didn't point those things out, USWest, but thanks for doing that yourself. Yes, primary elections are not in the constitution, which is a problem. And federalism creates huge coordination problems between states where the constitution doesn't provide a mechanism for federal resolution.

The primary election was intended to "democratize" the process of selecting party nominees, moving away from the smoke-filled rooms of yore. Has it worked? If all primaries did was replace political insiders with corporate money, I would say it is not a terrific bargain. Iowa's caucuses seem, to me, to be a better mode of party governance, de facto limiting the party franchise to very interested persons.

Raised By Republicans said...

I'm no fan of ethanol or other ag subsidies but Iowa isn't the only source of it's support. All of Rural American - which means all of the Republican party - loves ag subsidies.

Bell Curve said...

I've heard it argued that the closest states in the previous presidential election should get the first primaries. And that's not really a bad idea at all. But still, I'd just like a "national primary day."

Raised By Republicans said...

Then Iowa would be one of the first.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I may have been missing something in this. It occurs to me that the GOP in South Carolina is of the rabid right-wing "christian" variety. So their maneuvering to get the primary earlier is not just about being first in the nation - it's about trying to give a leg up to a more conservative candidate (i.e.,not Romney or Giuliani).

Raised By Republicans said...

LTG is correct. While having Iowa first for Democrats will force Democratic candidates to deal with rural voters (generally a constituency they are uncomfortable with), having South Carolina first simply exagerates the influence of the rural religious right.

Fine with me. The Christian Right movement put one past the voters with George W. Bush. He is as nuts as them but capable of campaigning as a non-threatening moderate. That's a rare combination. I doubt they'll be able to pull it off again. Especially with the American voters so fed up with Bush's style.