Fixing Our Primaries’ Hot Mess

 

The designer of the US Presidential Primary System is being transported to the Home for Retired Masochists

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, our system of primaries and caucuses are a method of selecting candidates designed by a bipolar orangutan with a masochistic streak.

Somewhere along the line, New Hampshire’s claim on being the first primary of the season become sacrosanct. Why? You could stick 28 New Hampshires into Texas and still have enough space to cram in a couple of Delawares. The Hawkeye Cauci? Corn, and cows, and sideways coin flips? That’s enough to knock candidates out of the race? It’s ludicrous.

FixIf you google the terms “Reforming the Primaries” you mainly get a litany of liberal fixes. And I mean that in the same way that the vet “fixed” Fido. Only here, the emasculation is aimed directly at the Republican Party. Among their pet “reforms” are same-day registering with no required identification and completely open primaries. In states such as California, they’ve found this to be very effective in making sure no one is ever faced with the possibility of accidentally voting for a Republican. It makes the voting booth the equivalent of a college safe place. We wouldn’t want anybody faced with the microaggression of seeing an “R” on their ballot.

Moving elections to the weekends is another liberal pet project, apparently because Tuesdays are too burdensome. I don’t understand that. In most states, polls are open from 12 to 13 hours. Take away an eight-hour work day and there’s still four to five hours left to do your 15 minutes of civic duty. That is, unless The International Communist and Socialist Committee for The Destruction of the Individual and the Promotion of Free Monthly Underwear can only get the back room of the pizza parlor on the first Tuesday of every month. I mean those meetings last for frickin’ hours.

Another solution is declaring election days paid holidays. At the right time of the year, that only assures that — instead of not voting from home — people will not vote from the lake.

As for proposals to make voting mandatory, well, nothing says “freedom” like compulsory action under penalty from an authoritarian state.

All of this is nonsense, of course, and would require some sort of Congressional action. And not just legislation, but legislation that could be defended in the courts. Both the DNC and RNC could rightly claim the federal government had no compelling interest in telling them how they run the pure party function of selecting candidates.

Any reform would need to come from the parties themselves. To help Reince and company, I offer The Hill Plan:

HillPlanBreak the country into five regions — with states in each to hold primaries on the same day — and reduce the primary season to the months of March, April, and May. In the first election after its adoption, the order would be chosen by lottery; after that, by the highest percentages of voter participation in the previous primary season.

The first sanctioned debate would be held on Lincoln’s birthday and the first regional primary on the first Tuesday in March, with each subsequent primary taking place every two weeks until mid-May. The weeks that no voting occurs are left for scheduling additional debates. All primaries would be closed and delegates would be proportionally chosen.

There. Wasn’t that simple?

There are 55 comments.

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  1. Brian McMenomy Member
    Brian McMenomy
    @BrianMcMenomy

    If the RNC persuades the state parties to do this, I think it’s great.  I would like the states to agree to this rather than be imposed from on high (little thing called federalism, election-style).  Besides, sometimes variations in state processes can have salutary effects (see, Colorado this past weekend).

    On the substance, spot on.  Simplicity is frequently a virtue, as it is in this case.  Now, let’s apply that thought to tax policy.

    • #1
  2. Richard Finlay Member
    Richard Finlay
    @RichardFinlay

    I would be concerned that regionalization would increase the value/power of mass media as the regions are too large for retail campaigning.  RNC might go for it if they thought they could increase their influence.

    I have become more inclined toward the two step elections, where the top two finishers in the first round face off head-to-head in the second, but that suffers from the same flaw.

    It’s a shame that the idea of electing Electors locally never really worked.

    • #2
  3. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    My pet fix is to limit campaign spending to the district it was raised.

    • #3
  4. Skarv Member
    Skarv
    @Skarv

    Great post. Very important topic for us since we have failed to produce good candidates for a long time (increasingly more spectacular – 2020 Kim Kardashian?).

    Your ideas are in some way similar to the Cost/Anderson proposal I have attempted to promote several times on Ricochet.

    It is simpler and that is probably better. I still think we need to add some basic vetting of the candidates. Trump is not a conservative or a Republican. His recent complaints on lack of direct democracy in Colorado shows he is a progressive.

    How about adding no open primaries and each candidates need to collect some number of signatures by Republican party member to get on the ballot.

    • #4
  5. Lucy Pevensie Member
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    Richard Finlay:I would be concerned that regionalization would increase the value/power of mass media as the regions are too large for retail campaigning. RNC might go for it if they thought they could increase their influence.

    This. One of the big problems with this year’s primaries is that they were stacked up so close together that it was hard for candidates to do the retail campaigning that they needed to do. Your proposal would make that worse.

    The big reform I’m hoping for is a lot more caucuses closed to those who are not registered Republicans.

    • #5
  6. BrentB67 Member
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Some good thoughts here EJ.

    I know we’ve had this discussion on Ricochet before, but you are raising it timely.

    One thing should come out of this cycle is how little many of us know about the primary procedures and what a convoluted mess they are thanks to the parties. I think there will be unintended consequences from how much we are seeing that we previously took for granted.

    • #6
  7. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    The whole idea behind some winner take all primaries was to winnow the field so there would be a clear winner come the time of the convention.  Given that we are most likely headed to a contested convention, I guess we are about to find out whether or not having a clear winner by convention time is a desirable thing.

    Personally I hate to see the party of Lincoln die.  However, given what it has become I can’t say that it shouldn’t die.

    • #7
  8. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    David Knights: The whole idea behind some winner take all primaries was to winnow the field so there would be a clear winner come the time of the convention

    Which is what I call, “Rallying ’round the Loser.” Unity is overhyped. Whether the GOP is united behind a Mitt Romney or the Democrats behind a John Kerry makes little difference.

    As for retail campaigning does that really matter in the Internet age? A shortened primary season demands organizational strength. The time to do that is long before the election season hits. No slow ramp ups. It would automatically winnow the field. No vanity candidates. If you’re not ready to battle for that one fifth of the nation in the first regional primary you’re not on the debate stage.

    • #8
  9. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    I would make a pitch for the National Holiday idea—it isn’t 15 minutes of civic duty; in many places it’s hours and hours of standing in line before you ever get into the booth. Yes, there are those who will just take the day off, just as there are plenty of people for whom Memorial Day is all about lower prices at Walmart, without a thought for the troops, but they’re not the ones I want voting anyhow.

    I also benefit, as a voter, from early voting—because I’m on call, and crises happen when they happen, I usually go over to the town office and vote a week or so ahead of time. I don’t really like this (I enjoy standing in line with my earnest, patriotic neighbors, some of whom bring brownies) but at least my vote gets counted, along with those of cops, medical personnel, people who have to travel on business and others.

    I have what is, perhaps, a silly question: why doesn’t the RNC (and DNC) just decide who their candidate is going to be, via an internal process presumably involving either consensus or an in-house ballot or whatever process the party decides upon? Why not make it the party’s responsibility to select and commit to the best possible standard-bearer(s) for the platform, and then the Democrat and Republican Best Person debate each other, and we voters get to choose between them, any third-party candidates (chosen the same way)  plus anyone who has gathered enough signatures to run as an independent?

    • #9
  10. BrentB67 Member
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Guruforhire:My pet fix is to limit campaign spending to the district it was raised.

    What do you think about limiting campaign contributions to districts and states represented?

    • #10
  11. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Kate Braestrup: I have what is, perhaps, a silly question: why doesn’t the RNC (and DNC) just decide who their candidate is going to be, via an internal process presumably involving either consensus or an in-house ballot or whatever process the party decides upon?

    You’re basically describing a parliamentary system. Party leaders are chosen in conference and the leader of the majority party gets to be prime minister.

    • #11
  12. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Rather than a regional primary, reward the states that went most strongly for the previous Republican Nominee by allowing them to go first.

    The states that supported the party leastest, go lastest.  I don’t want New York deciding who our nominee is going to be – our nominee will never win New York or California, so the spectacle of having blue-state dead-enders destroy our party is one that I think we should avoid.

    • #12
  13. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    BrentB67:

    Guruforhire:My pet fix is to limit campaign spending to the district it was raised.

    What do you think about limiting campaign contributions to districts and states represented?

    If this election cycle has proven anything, it’s that there is no reason to have any restrictions on campaign spending.  There should be one rule and one rule only: You disclose the amount you received and from whom.

    • #13
  14. Lucy Pevensie Member
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    Majestyk:

    BrentB67:

    Guruforhire:My pet fix is to limit campaign spending to the district it was raised.

    What do you think about limiting campaign contributions to districts and states represented?

    If this election cycle has proven anything, it’s that there is no reason to have any restrictions on campaign spending. There should be one rule and one rule only: You disclose the amount you received and from whom.

    Even the disclosure requirements have a down side (viz. Brendan Eich ).

    • #14
  15. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Lucy Pevensie:

    Majestyk:

    BrentB67:

    Guruforhire:My pet fix is to limit campaign spending to the district it was raised.

    What do you think about limiting campaign contributions to districts and states represented?

    If this election cycle has proven anything, it’s that there is no reason to have any restrictions on campaign spending. There should be one rule and one rule only: You disclose the amount you received and from whom.

    Even the disclosure requirements have a down side (viz. Brendan Eich ).

    The tradeoff here is that transparency prevents the appearance of corruption.  People are (hopefully) smart enough to know what’s up if the Gambino Crime Family paid $1 million to Chuck Schumer.

    • #15
  16. Lucy Pevensie Member
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    I understand that it’s a trade-off, it’s just we have to be aware of the problem.

    • #16
  17. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    I applaud the idea, but I think it is a band aid, likely to have all the same issues as any other system.  That is because I don’t think the problem is the system.  The problem is the electorate.  We call them the low information voter, but I think they are more like the low enthusiasm voter.  What I mean by that is that most folks just don’t have the interest in politics like we do.  They’ll get all fired up about an issue, or a candidate.  But when the election is over, they go back to not caring.  And I think that is why things are so screwy.

    • #17
  18. Belt Member
    Belt
    @Belt

    I’m fine with this, though I’d prefer to order the states in a list by population, break them into groups of five, and choose one from each group for the five subsequent voting days.  This would avoid a regional bias, but keep a good mix of states in play.

    Having a single standard for choosing delegates would be nice, but I’m not as committed to that.  The main thing is to provide a clear and open process that everyone understands.  The Dems keep their system – it’ll provide a sharp contrast.

    • #18
  19. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    One reason the primaries are such a “hot mess” is because there have already been too many instances of electoral “experts” trying to “fix” “the system” (e.g. like after the 1968 Democratic convention).

    Let the state parties make their own rules on how to select their own delegates to the national convention.

    The national party should have very limited number of rules, limited mostly to the minimum requirements an individual must meet to qualify as a delegate to the national convention (minimum age, citizenship status, maybe an entry fee, stuff like that).

    The national party should not have any rules about when states can schedule their own primaries, caucuses, or other processes they choose.

    If state parties don’t like that New Hampshire goes first then they should have the right to schedule their primaries even earlier. If state parties want to hold their votes on a Saturday, or a stat holiday, that should be up to them. Heck, if a state party wants to choose their delegates in a smoke-filled back room, or a drug-fueled orgy, or a Thunderdome battle to the death, that should be their prerogative.

    This won’t make the process any simpler, of course. It’ll merely reduce the ability of the national party to monkey around with the results. That should be the foremost goal of the nomination process.

    (And definitely don’t write any of these rules into law, for cryin’ out loud! No, not even state law.)

    • #19
  20. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Misthiocracy:The reason the primaries are such a “hot mess” is because there have already been too many instances in the past of electoral “experts” trying to “fix” “the system” (like those made after the 1968 protests at the Democratic convention, for example).

    I too am wary of wholesale reforms. Closed primaries and restrictions on early voting would be my first-choice changes.

    • #20
  21. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Fricosis Guy:

    Misthiocracy:The reason the primaries are such a “hot mess” is because there have already been too many instances in the past of electoral “experts” trying to “fix” “the system” (like those made after the 1968 protests at the Democratic convention, for example).

    I too am wary of wholesale reforms. Closed primaries and restrictions on early voting would be my first-choice changes.

    Again, if a state party thinks an open primary is a good idea, I say that’s the prerogative of the state party.

    However, the national party could pass a rule that all delegates must be card-carrying members of the Republican Party before they’re allowed through the front doors of the convention.

    It could also pass a rule that one must have been a member for a specified amount of time, like a year or so, in order to qualify as a delegate.

    This way, even if Democrats are allowed to vote in a Republican primary, the national party has some assurance (to whatever degree possible) that all the delegates are “real” Republicans.

    If a state party doesn’t like the national party’s requirements, they’d still be free to send delegates who don’t qualify. That doesn’t mean the national party has to let them through the doors of the convention.

    I recognize such disqualification is potentially a recipe for discord. I still say state parties should get to run their primaries, but the RNC gets to run the convention.

    • #21
  22. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Majestyk:

    BrentB67:

    Guruforhire:My pet fix is to limit campaign spending to the district it was raised.

    What do you think about limiting campaign contributions to districts and states represented?

    If this election cycle has proven anything, it’s that there is no reason to have any restrictions on campaign spending. There should be one rule and one rule only: You disclose the amount you received and from whom.

    NAACP v. Alabama is your friend.  More conservative groups should wield it like a sword.

    • #22
  23. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    BrentB67:

    Guruforhire:My pet fix is to limit campaign spending to the district it was raised.

    What do you think about limiting campaign contributions to districts and states represented?

    I am not worried about where their money comes from.

    What I do worry about is the entire country bankrolling a campaign in 3 places.  Virginia is unlivable during election season.

    Call it the stop trolling act of 2017.

    • #23
  24. Tom Riehl Member
    Tom Riehl
    @TrinityWaters

    BrentB67:

    Guruforhire:My pet fix is to limit campaign spending to the district it was raised.

    What do you think about limiting campaign contributions to districts and states represented?

    Any control of campaign contributions is suppression of political speech.  Hardly the method to improve anything.

    The FEC should be shuttered in any case as a blatantly unconstitutional government entity.  Let the press discover who might have foreign financial ties and leave everybody alone.  Who would be the watchdog for any such monumental effort to limit spending to a level of such minutia?  Hark!  It is the vested political machine.

    • #24
  25. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Misthiocracy:

    Fricosis Guy:

    Misthiocracy:The reason the primaries are such a “hot mess” is because there have already been too many instances in the past of electoral “experts” trying to “fix” “the system” (like those made after the 1968 protests at the Democratic convention, for example).

    I too am wary of wholesale reforms. Closed primaries and restrictions on early voting would be my first-choice changes.

    Again, if a state party thinks an open primary is a good idea, I say that’s the prerogative of the state party.

    However, the national party could pass a rule that all delegates must be card-carrying members of the Republican Party before they’re allowed through the front doors of the convention.

    It could also pass a rule that one must have been a member for a specified amount of time, like a year or so, in order to qualify as a delegate.

    This way, even if Democrats are allowed to vote in a Republican primary, the national party has some assurance (to whatever degree possible) that all the delegates are “real” Republicans.

    I can stomach open primaries, but they should be discounted. Either reduced delegate counts or pushed later in the schedule.

    • #25
  26. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Lucy Pevensie:

    Majestyk:

    BrentB67:

    Guruforhire:My pet fix is to limit campaign spending to the district it was raised.

    What do you think about limiting campaign contributions to districts and states represented?

    If this election cycle has proven anything, it’s that there is no reason to have any restrictions on campaign spending. There should be one rule and one rule only: You disclose the amount you received and from whom.

    Even the disclosure requirements have a down side (viz. Brendan Eich ).

    You could do away with disclosure requirements if you limited the amount that individuals can donate. Of course, that a) runs afoul of the first amendment, and b) opens up the supposed threat of corporations funnelling their contributions through their employees.

    Alternative: Up here in the Great White North, Elections Canada gets the full information for every contributor (in order to guard against fraud), but only the name and postal code of a contributor is made public.

    This is intended to provide a balance between disclosure and privacy. Since it’s virtually impossible to prove that the “John Smith” listed in the public disclosure is a particular “John Smith”, any attempt to shame the person publicly could potentially bring libel/slander laws into play.

    • #26
  27. Drusus Coolidge
    Drusus
    @Drusus

    While we are at it, can we finally address the gross inequity in delegate apportionment? Why on earth should a person living in the Virgin Islands (pop. 100,00) get such a vastly bigger say in the delegate count than , oh, I don’t know, a person living in Georgia (pop. 10 mil.). The delegate count stands at 9-76 respectively. Really? So a random Republican caucusing in the Virgin Islands literally gets hundreds of times the say in the primary than I do.

    I don’t know – maybe I’m missing something.

    • #27
  28. donald todd Member
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    Misthiocracy:Heck, if a state party wants to choose their delegates in a smoke-filled back room, or a drug-fueled orgy, or a Thunderdome battle to the death, that should be their prerogative.

    I like the Thunderdome idea.  The Party can sell tickets and use the money to purchase television time promoting candidates from that state.  Given the nature of television they can also hang banners with national, state and local hopefuls giving them some relatively free television time as the cameras pan the crowds and hear the hoopla of blood lust for their favorites to succeed.  Might scare a few progressives – including their media friends – into silence as well, always a plus.

    • #28
  29. donald todd Member
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    As an aside, something startling happened.  I agreed with three Majestyk comments and put a like on each.

    I’m going in the other room to take my temperature.  Back in a while.

    • #29
  30. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    I would go further than Mis.

    Let the political free market decide how delegates are chosen. Ultimately the parties can’t dictate what states do, and the states can’t dictate how parties choose their delegates. The states can dictate rules for primary elections if they are run by state election resources, but there is nothing that says that the parties have to acquiesce to letting a state primary choose the delegates.

    Remember, the primary system is the process by which parties choose their nominee for the general election.

    • #30

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