Thursday, August 09, 2007

Super-Nova Tuesday

Few are the pundits who find any virtue in the evolving 2008 schedule for the primaries and caucuses by which the presidential candidates of the two major political parties are chosen. Things were bad enough when, only recently, February 5, 2008, was dubbed "Tsunami Tuesday" or "Super Duper Tuesday," thanks to the scheduling of primaries by nearly all the powerhouse states on that day. Well, maybe not all. Today comes word from the great State of South Carolina that it will move its Republican primary up to January 19, which will likely to push Iowa to conduct its caucuses sometime around Christmas.

The most eloquent explanation of this extreme climate change (written before these latest developments) that you will ever read, mes amis, is this April piece, "Pileup," by The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg. After noting that the "Pileup" plan, however horrid, was born of a laudable impulse--that of wanting the contest in one's home state to actually count for something--Hertzberg wrote:

The purity of that motive, however, does not obviate the fact that a schedule that (a) locks up both parties’ nominations in one fell swoop and (b) requires the country to devote two out of every four years to Presidential politicking is completely insane. The closest anyone has come to cutting the Gordian knot of the primaries was a little-known effort in 2000. A group of Republican grandees led by Bill Brock, a former senator from Tennessee and national party chairman, spent months hammering out what was dubbed the Delaware Plan, which, beginning in 2004, would have mandated four sets of primaries, a month apart, beginning with the small states (twelve of them, including New Hampshire) and ending with the largest (which would pick a majority of the total delegates). Brock said recently that he had developed the plan in consultation with friends in the other party ("Such things were possible, once upon a time," he said), and was fairly sure that the Democrats would have followed suit. But, because the Republicans couldn’t have proceeded without a floor fight at their Convention, the Bush camp, determined to avoid any hint of discord, shot the whole thing down* at the last minute. Various other ideas—revolving regional primaries, for example, or randomly chosen primaries at two-week intervals—continue to float around. Eventually, though, Congress will probably have to take the lead in sorting out the mess.
Indeed, one such regional plan was promoted yesterday on the New York Times op-ed page by Democrat Bob Graham of Florida, who was to the 2004 presidential contest what, say, Chris Dodd is to the 2008 bid, or Richard Lugar was to the 1996 line-up (competent, well-informed, well-mannered, and highly unlikely to prevail).

After extolling the virtues of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary (and giving all the credit for derailing Edmund Muskie's 1972 candidacy to the people of New Hampshire while failing to mention Richard Nixon's famous dirty tricks), Graham declares those contests dead as the nation's front-line vettors:
A series of five regional primaries, spaced three weeks apart and rotated every four years, would give voters from Miami to Maui to Manchester opportunities to be first in the nation. Candidates could spend more time with citizens of neighboring states and less time on coast-to-coast flights. Because the primaries would be stretched out over three months rather than three weeks, reporters and other political scorekeepers could not rush to declare a national winner.
Frankly, your blogstress thinks this would lead to an acceleration of the entropic demise of our electoral system. Think about it: every four years, a particular region would get to choose the candidates, throwing the nation's politics into a ping-pong of coastal liberalism v. Southern and Western third-wayism on the Democratic side, and coastal moderation v. religious totalitarianism on the Republican side.

Your blogstress much prefers having the scene set by the quirky libertarians of New Hampshire and the meticulous civic leaders of Iowa.

*What a surprise that the Bushies would shoot down a plan that would have enhanced democracy in the homeland.

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