Friday, July 01, 2005

Under the hood to fix the presidential primary system

A Resolution Establishing a Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling

Whereas, the timing of the delegate selection process and the scheduling of presidential primaries and caucuses is a critical component in the nomination of a candidate for president by the Democratic Party; and
Be It Further Resolved, the Commission shall issue its report and recommendations to the Democratic National Committee by December 31, 2005 for consideration and action by the Democratic National Committee.

Read and Adopted July 26, 2004
Read the full document

M Spencer Green/AP
This is really not one of the glamorous blog topics like the Downing Street Memo, is it? I don't think there will be too many blogswarms about rescheduling primaries. When I did a search for "commission on presidential nomination timing" on, I got zero results. Not a hot topic.

But as I recall from last year, the momentum for Kerry started in Iowa (January 19) and by the time the California primary rolled around (March 2), my own first choice, Wesley Clark, and several others had dropped out of the race. As Matt Cohen of observed, "Only in America does the largest state in the union vote after the top race has been decided."

Would the outcome of the November election have been different if Dean had swept the primaries as expected? Or if Edwards had pulled out in front? My own personal suspicion is that Edwards was the candidate who could've won the White House. He has that same gosh-darn Southern charm that red-staters seem to need to see in a candidate, plus he has two things that Bush lacks: integrity and the ability to keep facts straight.

A article from 12 March 2005 reports that Rep. David E. Price (D-NC), who co-chairs the Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling, "does not believe the system is at fault for the Democrats' failure to win the presidency in the past two elections."

I disagree with Price on the recent election. Disproportionately small and atypically populated Iowa and New Hampshire unquestionably set the course for the rest of the primary season last year. And as a result, because Kerry lacked the personal charisma of a Reagan or a Clinton or even a Dubya, all Bush had to do during the presidential debates was drop the words "trial lawyer" into an occasional sentence to dampen what little warm-fuzzy feelings voters might have developed for his opponent.

Would the outcome have been different with Edwards? No one, especially not the voter, knows how a voter subjectively chooses his or her candidates. Last November, BBC News asked voters why they voted for Bush, and one senses, while reading through some of the published responses, that voters see in a candidate what we want to see, or we see ourselves reflected in a candidate. One response, from a voter named Cathy Jones of Bayonet Point, Florida, was "I voted for Bush because he is an honourable man who makes decisions based on principles, not polls and a man who can be taken at his word." Another, Margaret of Minneapolis, responded "I was very impressed with Mr. Bush on how he handled the 9/11 tragedy. He mourned and shed tears like the rest of us, during the ceremonies." John of St. Paul wrote "Had there been a Democrat president in office at the time [of the 9/11 attacks] the most he would have done is throw a few harsh words at Osama and then would have forgot the whole thing happened." Gary Williams of Granbury, Texas, responded "I'm a native Texan and I see in President Bush the best of the Texas character."

Would voters have been able to see themselves reflected more clearly in Edwards than in Kerry? Probably. Would that have changed the outcome of the election? Don't know. Would a shorter primary season have resulted in Edwards being the candidate to go up against the incumbent? Maybe not. Even if the primary season were shortened to only one week, the early results could still affect how people voted later in the week.

What if all the primaries were held on the same day? It's probably safe to say that on Election Day in November, the votes cast in the morning on the East Coast do not significantly alter how votes are cast in the late afternoon on the West Coast. And as a result, the November election is a truer picture of our intentions because later voters aren't intimidated into conforming to the voting patterns of earlier voters.

Could we take a lesson from that and focus the primary season to a single day so that those results would also be a truer picture of our intentions?

1 comment:

Jonathan Versen said...

I am also a Texan and I fail to see the best of Texas character(whatever that is), or the best of any other kind of character in Dubya. But I think we've discussed this before. And like me, George is a Texan who was originally from the Northeast, in his case Connecticut. Shucks, y'all.