Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bread and Circuses: Primarily Ridiculous

There are about 308 million people that live in the country.  Over 50% of the nation lives in one of the following ten states (starting with the highest):

1. California
2.  Texas
3. New York
4. Florida
5. Illinois
6. Pennsylvania
7. Ohio
8. Michigan
9. Georgia (I'm from there!)
10.  North Carolina

The first primaries and caucuses, however, are not held in these states.  They're held in South Carolina (#24), Iowa (#30), Nevada (#35) and New Hampshire (#42).  Combined, these states have a combined population less that of the Los Angeles Metro Area.  The entire state of South Carolina's population could fit in Atlanta, GA.  So, why is it that these states are the ones that have the first primaries?  More or less because... well, they say so.

Everyone in South Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa and Nevada could live here.
This first in the nation mentality has two adverse affects.  First, it creates a false mentality that the people who live in these states are relevant.  I don't say that to be cruel.  But the reality of the situation is that polticians every four years descend upon the state of Iowa, they make the party chairmen happy and they always make some vague promise about ethanol subsidies and then never do anything about it.  A bunch of money is dumped into the state and then it becomes a political pariah for the remainder of the term of the presidency.

And New Hampshire, classy place that it is, has a state law that requires that the first primary in the nation has to be held there.  It used to be held in March, but when other states even move their primary a little bit close to NH's, they move it up.  In 2008, the Secretary of State of NH, classy guy that he is, said that if the other states would move their primaries again, that it would push NH to have their primary in 2007, almost TEN MONTHS before the general election.  And he didn't care that this was going to elongate the process (the entire election run takes far, far, far too much time) and by elongating the process making it cost more money.  But as long as NH becomes relevant for a few months every few years...

I could go on about how the NH primary hasn't picked the eventual nominee for the Democrats since Jimmy Carter in 1976 (35 years) and hasn't done that with the Republicans since George H.W. Bush in 1988 (23 years).  The reason why this is important because the argument for the NH primary to be held first is because the electorate is said to be more highly educated and better versed in politics, civics and government.  Why hold the first primary in the nation if you're going to pick Senator Paul Tsongas.  Do you remember who that is?  I rest my case.

Now, we're brought to South Carolina.  Gov. Nikki Haley may cut funding for the primary in the state.  (This column will give her credit for being consistent.  If she's going to cut the state's public broadcasting, she should at least cut funding for her party's state primary.)  This means that they would have to move to a less costly caucus and may give other states (probably Florida), the chance to step forward and assume the First in the South Primary.


This kind of infighting is wholly unnecessary and by and large creates a false narrative in the entire election process.  The fact of the matter is that it didn't matter then, it doesn't matter now and it won't ever really matter what voters in one state think.  It's the collective view of the entire population of the country.

And the things that gets me is that it doesn't have to be this way! They are alternatives to the current primary system (which takes far too long and is far too expensive) and they would require not an action of Congress or the President, but they could be done by a conference of all the Secretaries of State for the individual states.  I mean, it's not as if they're doing anything else right now!

The established states should step aside for new ways of making a party's nominee.  It's putting too much power in such a specialized population.  It's nice to think that going to small towns and rural regions give us that homespun wisdom that we need to get by in this crazy, mixed-up world that we live in, but it's disingenuous and, frankly, not practical any more.

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