Monday, September 3, 2007

States continue to undermine presidential process by moving up primaries

In this age of convenience that we live in, most people want to get tasks performed quickly with as little personal investment as possible.

After all, we are all very busy people, and we don't want to get bogged down with issues that take us out of our daily routine.

Many times, this can be good. There does not seem to be enough minutes in the day for many of us so it is helpful if we can quickly wrap up some responsibilities.

However, we are becoming more and more of a 'microwave' society. When it comes to our meals, we are often more content to throw a frozen dinner into a microwave and zap it for a few minutes than to take the time to cook a nice meal.

True, using the microwave will feed a person in only a few minutes, but are those meals as tasty and fulfilling as a slowly cooked one? Usually, never.

It's an example of how we will trade time to make a task easier even though the final result is not as satisfying as it could be. It is a triumph of mediocrity.

Unfortunately, this is a mindset that we are applying to responsibilities far more important than what we will eat today.

Next year is a presidential election year and many candidates have been grinding away for months on the campaign trail trying to get the attention of voters. But because it is so early in the race, many voters are not interested yet in what they have to say.

To those voters, I would issue this warning: next year's election is a lot closer than most people think.

This is because the presidential primary season has been significantly shrunk. In the past, primaries and caucuses began in January and slowly unfolded through spring into early summer.

Now, a significant amount of primaries will take place by the first week of February. Several months ago I commented that many states were considering moving their primaries up in order to have a more significant impact on the race.

Since then, some states have moved their primaries. The latest example of this was when Arizona announced last week that it was moving its primary to Feb. 5.

The state joins approximately 20 other states that will hold its primary on the same day. Tennessee is among those states along with California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York.

Because of this, both the Democratic and Republican parties should decide their nominees by late February or early March at the latest. A long marathon is being reduced to a quick sprint.

Most folks don't see anything wrong with this. After all, most folks would rather jam long, steel needles into their eyes than sit and listen to politicians for a lengthy amount of time.

While I agree that that is not an exciting way to spend time, there are some tasks that require us to take our time and thoughtfully consider what decision we are going to make.

The most negative result of shortening the race is that it consolidates the power of the frontrunners and makes it much more difficult for dark horses to emerge.

For example, with the way it is now set up, there is no way Hillary Rodham Clinton will not get the Democratic nomination. Because of her comfortable lead in the polls, all she has to do is avoid saying something incredibly stupid and the nomination is hers.

Since the primaries are now so front loaded, all she has to do is navigate a few crucial weeks.

Even if one of her opponents pulls an upset in a state or two, it will be largely overlooked because she will be winning so many other primaries on those days. The opportunity for somebody like Barack Obama to build momentum will be greatly hampered.

The Republicans have the opposite problem. They have no clear cut frontrunner so it is hard to believe at this point how they will find a consensus candidate in only a few weeks.

Rudy Giuliani is slightly ahead in the polls, but it remains to be seen how his liberal views on social issues will play with mainstream Republicans.

Other candidates like Mitt Romney have shown promise, but will he have enough time to make a move because of the short length of the primary season? It is difficult to say.

Despite the indifference of most voters, the big loser in all this is me and you. It is in our interests to have an overabundance of time to grill candidates.

Now, the system is being set up to make it easy on them.

3 comments:

Joltin' Django said...

Oh, how history would be different if the current presidential primary system had been in place for the past, oh, 30+ years:

1976: Ronald Reagan would have been quickly dispatched by Gerald Ford; and RR might've decided against another run for the presidency in 1980.

1984: Walter Mondale would not have been able to overcome Gary Hart's "big mo" coming out of early presidential primary contests.

1992: Paul Tsongas most likely would've been the Democrats' nominee. Tsongas had, maybe, 1/8th of the charisma of Bill Clinton. There's no way Tsongas would've bested George H.W. Bush. Imagine how different the last 16 years would've been if'n the first President Bush had been re-elected

Chris said...

"1992: Paul Tsongas most likely would've been the Democrats' nominee."


Little known factoid: I voted for Tsongas in '92. I think I felt connected to him because (at that time) he was a cancer survivor. A few weeks before the Tennessee primary, my dad died of cancer. Tsongas seemed like a good guy.

Anonymous said...

who cares