Sunday, August 26, 2007

Come on, DNC, it's the twenty-first century.

The Democratic National Committee has told Florida that it won't get any delegates to next year's national convention unless they back down from their calendar move, which puts the Florida presidential primary ahead of New Hampshire and other anointed states in the presidential race next year.

The committee gave Florida Democrats 30 days to propose a primary date that conformed with Democratic rules prohibiting all but four states from holding their primaries or caucuses before Feb. 5. But Florida leaders, who seemed stunned by a near-unanimous vote and the severity of the punishment, said they were doubtful they could come up with an alternative.

This is something that's bugged me for some time. Not just the random fact that New Hampshire and Iowa have such a disproportionate role in the selection of presidential candidates, but more importantly, the obvious sense of entitlement that the residents of those two states, and especially New Hampshire, have, and the supine attitude of the parties in the face of this sense of entitlement.

This year the rest of the country is catching up with this, and other states who have in prior years been deprived of any say in who the presidential candidates will be are trying to get in the game, but our party, which ought by nature to be the voice of the people, is trying to squelch these efforts.

There are two good alternatives to the current system, either of which would be immeasurably better than the current system. Probably the best known is a proposal for rotating regional primaries. Even though Holy Joe supports the idea, it makes a lot of sense, by creating regional primaries that will spread the primary voting over time and take away the advantage that the early winners in insignificant states now have.

Another appealing idea is called the American Plan, and it front loads the smallest states, so that candidates get started early and have to ask the voters of small states for their support before they get to the big states that will put them over the top.

The American Plan is intended to correct these faults. First, it introduces a random element into scheduling while preserving the door-to-door politicking needed early in the race. Second, it arranges the schedule so that large "block" primaries take place at the end of the calendar, not the beginning. Finally, it condenses the schedule into a time span of 20 weeks that culminates with a large primary of both small and large states.


Here's how it works: The American Plan is designed to begin with primaries in smaller states, and grow progressively larger and more challenging as the nominating process advances. The schedule consists of 10 multi-state primaries evenly spaced over twenty weeks. The first primary would take place in a randomly selected group of states whose Congressional Districts total exactly 8 – for example, Alaska (1 CD), South Carolina (6 CDs), and Delaware (1 CD). The succeeding primaries would grow progressively larger - 16, 24, 36, etc. - up to the 10th primary, which would cover 80 CDs. A hypothetical sample schedule can be viewed here.

Both of these choices are obvious responses to the Super Tuesday system we have now, which has largely done what it was intended to do: advance conservative Democratic candidates (see, e.g., Carter, Clinton)

Either choice makes more sense than we have now, and either choice would hopefully protect us from more news stories about some geezer in New Hampshire who's decided that nobody who hasn't slogged up to his general store and listened to his hilarious outhouse story is qualified to be president.

So come on, DNC. Let's get off this infatuation with New Hampshire and Iowa and move to a system that actually makes sense.

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