winning is everything
from "The presidential primary scam: why the game is rigged, and why true democracy is only a secondary factor in the nation's rush to nominate the next president", by Michael Sherer, in today's Salon.com:
FACT: Not all votes will count. The Republican Party plans to punish every state that votes before Feb. 5 by denying half of that state's delegates access to the floor of the Republican Convention next year. At the same time, the Democratic Party is planning to punish the vast majority of its January voters, perhaps more than 2 million, by removing all the delegates from Florida and Michigan. Both parties are likely to reinstate the delegates later in the summer, but in the case of a contested convention, no one should hold their breath.
FACT: Political power brokers in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada have forced the Democratic candidates to pledge not to campaign in Michigan and Florida before the end of February, which means the citizens of those states will have to vote without ever seeing or hearing directly from their candidates. This is justified because Michigan and Florida disobeyed national party orders in order to hold their primaries in January. These states also have more voters than the four other states combined, threatening to upend the traditional hand-shaking privileges in the diners of Des Moines and Manchester. In the meantime, Democrats in two of the nation's largest states will never get to meet their leaders -- unless, as mentioned before, they throw a fundraiser.
About a week ago, Barack Obama traveled to Florida for a fundraiser at the home of Tom Scarritt, a Tampa trial lawyer. Afterward, he walked across the street and answered a half-dozen questions from reporters, a sin that prompted an immediate denial from the campaign. "It wasn't a news conference," claimed Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director. This is what it has come to: Presidential campaigns trying to deny that their candidates spoke in public. Even Obama cowered. "I was just doing you guys a favor," he told the Tampa Tribune, after a reporter in the street pointed out that he was breaking the rules by speaking outdoors, where the public might hear. "We won't do it again."
Sherer also talks to U of Virginia's Larry Sabato, who seems to think the Constitution needs to be amended to fix the present system.
(Or maybe is just saying so apropo of a book he's hawking. I don't know why, but Sabato has always rubbed me the wrong way and struck me as a tv-whore type of academic. I haven't read his book but I know I'm pretty leery of casual talk of amending the constitution as if it were a trifle, especially since we live in an age where there are tons of folks who would gladly amend the hell out of the constitution to make society profoundly hostile to immigrants, gays and women seeking abortions-- and that's probably just for starters. I'd rather live with the imperfect document as it is than unbar the door just now. Sabato's book is entitled A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize Our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country .)
I know a lot of people would like to see a single national primary that took place over the course of one week in all 50 states, something Sherer doesn't mention but an idea which inevitably gets bandied about when people discuss reforming the primary system. I certainly agree with Sherer that the parties are behaving badly by penalizing Florida and Michigan, but I don't agree with the notion of a no-fuss, no-muss single primary, as the imperfect system we now have at least allows for the possibility that a less-well funded candidate might emerge to challenge the front runners.
Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but with our current, woefully inefficient system, I see at least a oh-so faint sliver of a possibility that a viable anti-Hillary, or even an actual anti-war(!) democrat might emerge. If we had a single national primary there wouldn't be even the remotest chance of something like that.
The problem is not so much the system as the voters who insist on voting with an eye to practicality and who fear "wasting" their vote on a second or third-tier candidate. I want to tell the people who fear wasting their votes in the primaries-- "what the hell is your problem? You're going to vote for whoever the party