I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fixing the Process

No matter how many times we come back to the question, there seems to be no right answer as to how the Democrats could "fix" their presidential primary process, nor if it actually needs to be fixed at all. Yes, the current situation looks like a mess and has most of the chattering class all atwitter. Then again, a few months from now it is still entirely possible that the process will produce a nominee whom the vast majority of the party gets behind and this will all seem like a silly, unpleasant memory.

But the question still has some merit. Even if the process proves to be fundamentally sound, there's always room for improvement, eh? (See: Mousetrap, Better.) It's a question which is tackled yet again today (albeit in a snarky, sarcastic way) over at Talk Left by Big Tent Democrat. You have to dig through some serious bitterness about how the process is so unfair to poor Hillary Clinton and so advantageous to big, mean old Barack Obama, and the piece was apparently written as satire, but there are some good bits in there to consider.
The solution to the problem is simple - we should change the Presidential nomination process to a pure popular vote system. This would end all the silly calendar nonsense. You want to go first? Be my guest. That is not going to change the fact that California has the most people.

This would also let states decide if they wanted to pay for a real election (a primary) or wanted instead to hold a phony election (a caucus). It gets rid of superdelegates. Heck, it gets rid of DELEGATES period. It gets rid of every unDemocratic feature in the process (no overweighting rural districts or urban districts or any district.)

Finally, it eliminates the importance of incompetents like Donna Brazile.

Leaving aside for the moment the necessity of eliminating Donna Brazile from the process over the centuries to come (for having the temerity to suggest Obama might be winning) how would this popular vote concept work out? Unlike the national election, which will apparently be saddled with the electoral college until the next Constitutional Convention (read: "forever") there's really nothing stopping either party from changing their rules in any given state whenever the spirit moves them.

So, is it somehow bad that California has so many people? In a winner takes all, electoral college type system some have certainly made that argument. But the irony in BTD's complaint is that it really would have no effect on any one's chances in such a hypothetical popular vote scenario. As long as every Democrat who wanted to vote cast their ballot and they were all counted, what matter where they live? If there are a total of 40 million votes are cast across the nation in the primary and your candidate gets 40 million and one, then you win! No muss, no fuss.

How about the elimination of caucuses? Let's face it... the caucus system stinks up the joint this year if you are a Clinton supporter and it's the cat's pajamas if you favor Obama. But there are still some fundamental problems with them. Caucuses are an appendix of the democratic process, dating back to a time when getting out to vote often involved a horse. Some are better than others, but few are as bad as Iowa where you don't even get privacy to vote and must do so in front of friends, neighbors and employers - sometimes right in their living rooms. Even without that glaring flaw, any system which requires you to show up to vote within a tight time schedule, regardless of your work schedule, is pretty well rotten at its core.

I understand that BTD is mostly just angry about what appears to be the imminent demise of the Clinton campaign, but the Democratic party could do far worse than to set aside a good block of time for rules discussions at the convention this year. They can't force the states to conform to a standardized process, but they could definitely point out some of the worst problems and urge them to reform. One of the only other alternatives would be to give up and do winner take all primaries in each state like the mean old Republicans do, which, had it been the case, would have long since put Hillary into the nominee's seat.

But of course... that would be unfair.