Monday, February 11, 2008

Yay, Democracy! (JM)

Okay, so I will warn you ahead of time, this is absurdly anecdotal but this is exactly the terribleness I imagine all caucuses to be. Here we have a whole family of people arguing about which candidates to support and woman being overwhelmed in to supporting Obama by her husband and two sons. Honestly, I couldn't care less which candidate they were swayed in to supporting, this is truly terrible way to choose a president. This is not even to mention absurdly low voter turnout, repression of key demographics like the poor and elderly and generally funky way of attributing voter preferences when all is said and done.

One thing we need to take out of this year is that we are in the need of some serious primary reform, even bigger than the post-1988 reforms fought for by Jesse Jackson. There are a couple of absolutely necessary planks to this reform:

1) The Democratic Party should create a unitary, powerful election commission. This commission in turn should provide a single, universal way of conducting in state primaries. State's rights yay! Geographic diversity awesome! But this is a stupid place to allow for creativity, this is a national office and all votes should be counted in the same way. There should be national oversight and neutral observers. This means no more terrible caucuses, no more individual states choosing their primary dates, and no more weird vote counting mechanisms. I recognize that parties have the right to do things as they will, but in many ways primary season is just as democratically important as the general and thus we deserve some modicum of regularity.

2) Geographic diversity matters, but we need to find some way to shake the system up. There are a lot of arguments in favor a national primary and some equally compelling arguments supporting a series of regional primaries that include both large and small states simultaneously and a rotating schedule that changes each election. I have a suspicion that the latter scenario is the better one, but could be persuaded otherwise. The shenanigans that went on with MI and FL are ridiculous and a large part of the Democratic base is going to be disenfranchised (and those votes alone probably would have swung this election). Despite the fact that IA and NH didn't appear to have a disproportionate effect on the race this year, it definitely has in the past and still did this year. The so-called second-tier candidates: Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson all would have faired much better if this election had started in other states. Basically, we allowed Iowa farmers to vett the field for us, and that is some real nonsense.

3) One man, one vote is a principle that matters. We should strive to bring our primary system as close as possible to this principle. It's insane for a candidate to win the popular vote in Nevada (Hillary), but for someone else to get more delegates (Obama). Also it's weird that campaigns are forced to target districts with odd number delegates because the percentages required to pick up a 4-2 split in a 6 delegate district are so very high, whereas it is much easier to pick up that extra delegate in a 5 delegate district, because someone has to get it. I recognize that our current federal election system is not exactly the paragon of one man, one vote but that, of course, is inane (and disastrous) as well.

4) Finally, superdelegates can either exist or not. I am slightly inclined toward not, but I don't much care. However, if they do continue to exist we cannot be asking them to support whomever the majority of the delegates support. That completely undermines their entire purpose. Instead they should act as the old wise council of the party and choose whomever they think would make the best president. I actually think this might be nice to have if we lowered the sheer number of superdelegates and truly made them no more than a near tiebreaking vote.

That's all that comes to mind now, but I am definitely interested in other thoughts on this. I don't think this primary season has been that bad for the party, but I think its conclusion might well be. No matter who wins this, the other side is going to feel like it was won unfairly, no matter what occurs. This is the fault of the system, not the candidates, and that's just a shame.

(Thanks to Jennifer for the article above)


Dennis said...

This whole process has me sympathizing with the French in 1789 after they dusted off "Rules-Estates General-1614 Edition"

Did you see the process for the Texas primary? I've seen it described as a hybrid of caucus and primary, I cannot even imagine what silliness will be going down.

Jonathan said...

Seriously, it's pretty insane, though to be fair I am pretty sure Puerto Rico is decided at caucus which only Hillary and the Governor of Puerto Rico will be attending. We live in some sort of Super Democracy, way better than traditional democracy.