They're at it again. In the race for publicity and their state's 15 minutes of fame, the most inefficient, costly, least reliable methods of choosing a presidential candidate is once more being foisted on the American people. Today it's South Carolina. Last week, New Hampshire, the week before, Iowa and next week Florida. The first three primaries have, most likely, yielded us three different winners and a consistent also ran. It has winnowed the field to four with the departure of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry, who in many eyes were all in the race as a diversion anyhow.
Now what we will have gotten for the efforts of the republican party is the possible coronation of their candidate to run against Barack Obama and Joe Biden in November. Now mind you, not one vote has yet to be cast in the industrial northeast, that megalopolis that ranges from Richmond, Virginia to Boston, Massachusetts. Not one vote has been cast in any state that borders the Pacific Ocean, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. Not one vote has been cast in any state that actually shares a border with Mexico.
But, the Republican candidate may well be chosen. And how was that done? It was done by taking some of the states that had the most virulent anti-Obama hatred, and playing that hatred into a campaign. It was not done by talking to the east coasters about how to return manufacturing to the cities of the rust belt. It was not done by talking to people in the border states about sensible methods of immigration control and pathways for non-documented aliens that are already here. It was not done by talking about the bankrupt public schools that threaten our urban environments on both coasts. It was not done by talking about homeland security at the import stations on both the east and west coasts.
Why? Because our primary system is idiotic! It is a state by state system that purposely allows candidates to talk about small issues rather than the big issues our country faces. It is much easier to talk in Iowa and South Carolina about religious fundamentalism, abortion policy, or anti-gay policy than the real issues that face this country. It is easier to stir up the undercurrent of racism rather than recognize common problems that need cooperative solutions.
It's time for the state by state primaries to go. They serve little useful basis for the American political system. These state primaries micro-analyze campaigns and under or over estimate a candidate's strength. These state by state primaries also become a war of attrition, with the candidates with the most financing, either corporate or personal moving on to the next state.
There are two reasonable alternatives to the state by state primary. The first and most obvious is the national primary where all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other US voting entities vote on the same day. This would be the equivilent of an election day for a political party. It would lower costs, contain time, and allow all the candidates to have equality of opportunity to get their point across.
The second alternative would be to break the nation into four quadrants, North, South, Near-West, and Far-West. Hold four primaries two weeks apart. Candidates would be able to focus their message to a region of the country, and voters would all have an opportunity to actually choose, rather than accept a party nominee. Order of the primaries would rotate every election cycle, so that the region that voted first in one cycle would vote last in the next.
These are simple reforms. They would improve the electoral process and lessen the amount of money and external influence that could be laid on a candidate. Maybe if we considered a plan such as these, we wouldn't be sitting on January 21st saying to ourselves, oh no, another primary, then another debate. When will this ever end?