When a man is so wrong about ice cream, who could pay attention to what he says about politics?
But before tearing down the present (unjust and undemocratic) party primary system, I’d like to offer an alternative: Group the several states into five ten-state cohorts (just distribute DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, et al, among them as you like…I care not). Have five party primary dates. Rotate which states get to go first. Balance the groups as well as you can in selecting them. I could live with that. I’m not even saying that this is the best way—I’m saying that EVEN I can imagine a better arrangement in five minutes of halfway-serious thinking; therefore, I dare to hope that the entire nation, motivated to improve our lot, could come up with something far superior.
Dave Miller has compared the present system to the use of a pastor search committee to select a pastor. That analogy would be true if in your church…
- Nobody got to elect the search committee. Rather, the people who lived in a certain neighborhood comprised the permanent search committee to whom was awarded the eternal privilege of selecting every pastoral candidate for the church into perpetuity.
- All of the information about all of the candidates was presented to the entire congregation from the very beginning of the process, such that the search committee actually did not do for the church the work of sorting through the candidates. Rather, everyone receives all of the information, everyone sorts through the candidates, and everyone forms opinions about the candidates. It’s just that, unless you live in the right neighborhood and happen to be on the search committee, your opinions are ignored.
- And to top it all off, the search committee’s record ain’t all that stellar.
So, try THAT system out at your church. Let me know how it works out for you.
I don’t find Mr. Miller’s arguments about the advantages of the present system to be very persuasive. It’s not that there aren’t good things accomplished in the present system; it’s simply that the cost (the relegation of most of the country to insignificance in the primary process) is far greater than these subtle nuances of benefit that Dave has teased out of the present arrangement, and furthermore, that the benefits are achievable through other means.
Want to represent a cross-section of the country? Let’s try this: Involve a cross-section of the actual country. What’s missing from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada? Cities, for example. Now, I’m MISTER RURAL. I can still quote large portions of the FFA Creed. But we ought not to ignore the fact that our rural areas are emptying out of population into our cities. I think that trend might reverse itself sometime soon, but it is simply unjust to exclude all of urban America from the process of selecting presidential candidates.
Las Vegas, NV, is the largest city in these primary states. It is twenty-ninth in the list of US cities ranked by population. Twenty-ninth! After that comes Henderson, NV (seventy-first!); Reno, NV (eighty-ninth!); and North Las Vegas, NV (ninety-fourth!). Three of the four states don’t have a single city in the top one hundred US cities by population (source).
Dave worries that, if the primary system were to change, “There would be virtually no personal contact between candidates and the people, just big events, media events, etc.”
Well, welcome to OUR world, Mr. Miller. Live in Arkansas, Montana, Texas, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Alabama, or Arizona for a while. Guess how much personal contact you get with candidates in—oh, I don’t know—everywhere but Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada? Your personal contact with candidates doesn’t do bupkis for me nor for the rest of the nation. What would the candidates do? They’d probably campaign in the cities. But since the cities are distributed across the surface map of the nation, even though I don’t live in a city, I could drive to one and hear a candidate in person if I so desired. They wouldn’t have come to Jonesboro, AR, but they’d have come to Memphis. They wouldn’t have come to Farmersville, TX, but they’d have come to Dallas. You live in Podunk, Iowa? They’d probably come to Des Moines. They’d likely come to Minneapolis. At the very worst, you’re looking at a trip to Chicago. I, on the other hand, face a twelve-hour drive to Iowa to avail myself of the same opportunity. That’s my closest, best option for “personal contact with candidates.”
Dave further worries about what would happen to small “no-name candidates” if the primary system were to change. I retort, what happens to them now, under your system? Here are the Presidencies of my lifetime:
|1972||Richard M. Nixon|
|1980||Ronaldus Magnus (pbuh)|
|2000||George W. Bush|
|2004||George W. Bush|
So, show me one no-name candidate our present primary system has given us in all of this time. Of course, these are just the winning candidates, so show me the nominees from the losing parties for all of this time who were “small”, “no-name candidates.” There’s not one—not one!—out of my entire lifetime.
“But if it weren’t for Iowa, the prospects for small candidates would be even WORSE!” Worse than zero? This system has propelled zero small, no-name candidates into the general election in nearly half a century. No…I’m sorry…Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada do absolutely nothing for small, no-name candidates.
The great irony here is that Dave Miller and I are in an online debate in which Dave is taking the position that kissing a pig at the Iowa State Fair is the way forward for small, obscure candidates. It’s ironic because Dave and I have both gotten to know and be known by a lot of people through the Southern Baptist Convention conspicuously without setting up headquarters in Georgia and Tennessee. People have gotten to know us and have gotten to know what we believe because of the ways that the Internet has shrunk our world. Let’s face it: Small, obscure candidates don’t have much of a shot, but what shot they do have boils down to making their case on TV, at the debates, and on the Internet. That’s not easy (nor should it be), but it stands just as much chance for success as does a spate of regular breakfast stops at some popular Sioux City eatery.
Let’s keep a party primary system. Let’s keep both small and large states in the mix. Let’s keep a primary season spread out beyond one massive primary election date, I guess. But if this role of getting to pick who runs for president is a burden, it ought to be shared. If it is a blessing, it ought to be passed around. Let’s dethrone Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Let’s get back to letting our whole country participate in our democracy.