Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bad for democracy

Four big states--New Jersey, Florida, Illinois and California--will probably move their 2008 presidential primaries to early February, perhaps only a week after New Hampshire.

Many progressives and good-government advocates disagree with me, but I see a real value in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, even given the small number of minority voters in those states. The retail politics--though diluted in recent campaigns by media coverage that makes TV advertising (and also Internet campaigning) a major force--permits relatively unknown candidates without huge warchests to make a run, viz. Howard Dean in 2004. It also allows for movement during the campaign--remember that John Kerry was down and out nationally in late 2003.

Moving the big-state primaries to the front of the campaign, especially four of them, across the nation, will put a premium on money and national media attention. Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani will probably be able to contest; John Edwards and Mitt Romney are likely to be there, too (although Romney's inconsistent positions may lead him to self-destruct before the end of this year). But can Bill Richardson (whom I think to be the best of the "second-tier" candidates), Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Tom Vilsack raise enough money to be in the race on this new Super-Duper Tuesday? If Chuck Hagel declares his candidacy on the Republic side--he would be the REAL maverick in that field--he'll probably be doomed by the size of his treasury even more than his position on the war.

The present primary system is not very good, but it's a lot better than what seems to be shaping up for 2008.


TheRiver said...

This is just another expression of the new feudalism that has become the American economic system. For all it's vaunted ethic of individualism and egalitarianism, contemporary America seeks to achieve again that which her brave heroes of the revolutionary, civil and second wold war shed much blood to obtain.

Moving the big state primaries forward is just another brick in that bridge that brings us back to Medieval Europe. Privilege has blinded our leaders. And ignorance has blinded the masses as they are slowly shackled, one by one, to their landholdings.

Anonymous said...

The base question is whether or not some degree of parochialism is a positive force in governing the republic. The Senate is such a parochial institution, as is the Electoral College. Holding big state primaries early is a move toward popular rule, like doing away with the Electoral College. Is there any benefit gained in American democracy by over empowering minority voting blocks like small states? Will a nominating process that becomes focused solely on large media markets result in further alienation of voters in smaller states, as voters outside major media markets in large states now often feel marginalized? Given the present dynamic of Democratic power--being most dominant in the largest centers of population--does a shift away from the present primary system futher hinder party attempts to ameliorate the current geopolitical divide? Is a strategy that seeks to attenuate this division necessary for good governance or the exercise of national political power in the long run? I dont know. I feel that good ideas, especially those from the margin, have a better chance to surface and grow in the present system.