Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 3, 2008
By: dday

The AP is reporting that Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic nomination, based on projections of tonight's numbers (the bare minimum delegates he'd be expected to pick up in Montana and South Dakota) and the superdelegates who are about to commit.

It does look to be over, at long last. And Democrats got to compete in virtually every state, and while the hurt feelings will linger (and it's of paramount importance to acknowledge that and empathize, IMO), Obama now must face the test of unifying, a core rationale for his candidacy, starting with unifying the Democratic Party. Let's see what he comes up with. If he can manage it, then this has been an enormously beneficial process for the party. Now the next challenge, in my view, is reforming this disastrous primary system entirely, reviewing it from top to bottom and ditching the most undemocratic elements. I would move to a rotating regional set of primaries (decided by lottery on January 1 of the primary year so nobody can park in any one place prior to that), superdelegates with no vote until after the first ballot, which is reserved for delegates picked directly by the voters (so they get to go to the party but not have an undue influence on the process), and all delegates selected proportionately based on their state's popular vote. I would remind those who think caucuses should be thrown out that they are tremendous party-building tools, and many of the states with caucuses this year are swing states (Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, even Texas perhaps), and those state parties captured priceless voter contact information on hundreds of thousands of voters who could be turned into volunteers.

Later in June, the California Democratic Party picks their DNC members to serve after the convention for the next four years, and these are the officials who will be tasked with making those rules. They ought to be challenged to come up with the best plans for reform, not just in CA but all over the country. Activists can actually have a role in that process if they push hard enough.

...just to address one thing in the comments, I do think caucuses with an absentee provision, like they have in Maine, can be maintained, at the discretion of the state parties. The DNC could pass a rule mandating that all delegate selections must offer the opportunity for everyone to vote, for example. And yes, we absolutely should move to the National Popular Vote for the general election.

dday 1:46 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (73)

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Comments

First time in eight tries (since the present primary and delegate system was established) that it didn't work all that well. Simply because the two candidates were all but neck-and-neck. I'd stick with the way it is. If you change it, you might get a system with less than the 87.5% success rate the present system has.

Posted by: captcrisis on June 3, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

So do you advocate keeping caucuses? The caucuses were very energizing events in 2008.

Posted by: JC on June 3, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Voter contact information doesn't a volunteer make. I'm a life-long Dem who won't become an activist for caucuses.

Posted by: jojo on June 3, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

"If he can manage it [smoothing over hurt feelings and unifying the party?] then this has been an enormously beneficial process for the party"

I don't really see what has been beneficial about it. I definitely don't agree with those who saw disaster in the long primary, but what's been good about it?

It hurt both Obama and Clinton, but got more press attention to the Dem party in general. I'd say neutral, at best.

Posted by: flubber on June 3, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

The superdelegates should be dropped completely. But if they are kept, they should be given a single day on the schedule to commit and that should happen sometime in the middle of the primary season.

Posted by: Mark on June 3, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Can someone explain why caucuses are awesome to those of us that live in caucus states and are unable or unwilling to attend them? Cause to me, sitting her in WA, out of state on caucus weekend, they look like a joke.

Posted by: OneirosDreaming on June 3, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Why can't they just wait twelve hours? Do we need this constant speculation masquerading as news?

I'm no fan of the Clintons, but come on... projected winnings and presumed delegate commitments do not a nomination make.

Posted by: edi hussein tor on June 3, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

I would like to see the schedule compressed. My preference would be 8 weeks max with no primary before March 1. If the candidates want to campaign in every state before that it's fine with me. Also, sorry IA and NH, you guys just are not representative of the nation as a whole. Either some other states need to be thrown in to provide a more diverse cross section, for example New Mexico or Arizona, or the lottery method dday suggested.

Posted by: George on June 3, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I dislike caucuses, but yes, they build party.

Perhaps we can just ban the caucus-after-primaries like Texas... Giving two votes to the caucus goers is lame.

Posted by: Crissa on June 3, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Also... I would say this year it was a success, because all states counted.

Previous years, I would say it was not a success.

Posted by: Crissa on June 3, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Through some extremely high-level contacts in the Clinton campaign, I�ve managed to obtain exclusive advance snaps of preparations for Clinton's concession speech this evening in New York.

I'm perfectly happy to share this with this readership, but please refrain from sending it out to larger media entities.

Posted by: ethan salto on June 3, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

How about a time and money limit in the primaries and general election? antiquelt

Posted by: antiquelt on June 3, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

I'm thrilled Obama beat Hillary "As far as I know" Clinton. Still, I think the nominating process must be made more democratic. Voting by caucus should be banned and all states should vote by primary. The Iowa NH stranglehold should be replaced by a rotating regional primary calendar. Let's get rid of the delegate system. The party nominee should be the candidate who gets the most popular votes. For the general election, the electoral college should be abolished and the winner should be the candidate receiving the most popular votes.

Hillary's fear-mongering and race-baiting tactics should automatically disqualify her from consideration as Obama's running mate. Hillary is a guttersniping thug who doesn't have the integrity or gravitas to be on the ticket.

Posted by: jerry on June 3, 2008 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the drawn-out process really hurt Obama that much...although it has been excruciating for me.

It is nice to see all the states count. I just don't see how the popular vote could accomplish the same. I know this is simplistic, but don't most voters live in big cities? Why would a candidate ever visit Iowa, then?

Posted by: Cazart on June 3, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think this process has been a disaster at all. I think the Dems (of whom I am one) have selected their strongest candidate. I say that as a former Clinton supporter who continues to think very highly of Senator Clinton. I don't buy into the cable-news-bloviator gas that the Obama-Clinton contest has been an internecine horror show.

Posted by: Nate Levin on June 3, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Senator Clinton should get the honor of choosing the VP spot.

She does have the majority of the remainder of the delegates.

Posted by: Crissa on June 3, 2008 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

It is impossible to tell who won the popular vote because Florida and Michigan screwed things up so badly. But then it doesn't really matter since Obama has the most delegates.

But remember, in really close elections the electoral college often gets things 'wrong'. Wrong is not the correct word because Bush and Gore would have campaigned differently had popular vote been the metric that counted.

Go back in time and see the elections decided by less than 2% of the vote. You would be surprised to see how often the 'wrong' person won.

Posted by: neil wilson on June 3, 2008 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

all delegates selected proportionately based on their state's popular vote

With this, open primaries remain a problem, and it becomes greater if certain apportioning measures (like giving more delegates to regions that supported the Democratic Presidential candidate last time) are not taken into account. One-person one-vote is fine unless a lot of the people voting for a Democratic nominee are actually Republicans.

Posted by: Tim Morris on June 3, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Cazart makes a very good point regarding the popular vote metric. The problem with a pure popular vote is that it would minimize the impact small states and rural areas can have on the nominating process. There just wouldn't be much incentive to leave the big cities in the big states. Basically narrowing the primary down to 15 or 20 cities in the entire U.S.

The same criticism applies to the suggestion that delegates be apportioned by the popular vote of the entire state rather than by legislative district. Again, that kind of system would incent candidates to ignore rural and less populous areas for large population centers.

If this year's primary had been based on popular vote within each state, then Obama wouldn't have campaigned in Southwest Texas. And Hillary wouldn't have campaigned in rural West Virginia.

The current system of assigning delegates by legislative district, while complex is representative. Especially when balanced with the incentive candidates have to campaign in areas where they wouldn't otherwise.

Furthermore, proportional allocation would be an ideal revision to the electoral college. To move away from winner take all at a state level and move to proportional representation via legislative districts.

Posted by: Tullius on June 3, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

State parties, or state legislatures, set the dates for primaries. Not the DNC. And every single state wants to maximize their influence with an early contest.

So how, exactly, should the DNC enforce any scheme? Disallow delegates for states that "jump the gun"? Send them a stern memo?

Now, if the DNC *paid* for the primaries/caucuses in all states, then they'd get to set the calendar. But I don't think that's the best use of party cash, and I doubt if anyone else does either.

My scheme (which will never come to pass): states get delegates according to a fixed scheme:
zero delegates if before Jan 1
minimum delegates (10?) for the first week of the year.
after that, the maximum number of delegates increases by ~ 20% each week
States get delegates based on the smaller of (a) their population and (b) their primary/caucus date

If CA wants to hold a primary the same week as NH, fine. They'll get the exact same number of delegates. I think that the "sliding scale" will reduce the possibility of something similar to the FL/MI credentials fight, since it's no longer an "all or nothing" issue, and having small states first gives the possibility for campaigns to build as we move through the primaries.

If there are still going to be superdelegates, then it should only be those who are (a) current federal elected officials (b) current governors (c) ex-presidents.

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on June 3, 2008 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

I don't really see what has been beneficial about it. I definitely don't agree with those who saw disaster in the long primary, but what's been good about it?

It hurt both Obama and Clinton, but got more press attention to the Dem party in general. I'd say neutral, at best.

I don't quibble with your point that it hurt both candidates in some regards, but the extended primary definitely has its upsides. It gets the candidates' shortcomings/foibles/what have you (tax returns, out of the mainstream pastors,..., etc.) out in the open, and therefore diminishes the negative potential for those things in the general campaign. And it makes each candidate tougher. Whether or not you think Obama will be strong enough to win in November, he's definitely much stronger for having run so long & so hard against Clinton. Likewise, if Clinton had come out on top in delegates & popular vote, she would've defeated an incredibly disciplined & well-organized Obama team.

Finally, I think you're overlooking one of the biggest positives of the extended primary -- the increased numbers of registered Democrats is an encouraging sign. Granted, it won't mean much if significant rifts remain within the party, but we stand a very real chance of being, at the least, more competitive in states where we never were before (something upon which the party may be able to build for future elections -- national & congressional), and there are some positive indications that we might be able to flip a couple/few currently red states. Cross your fingers.

Posted by: junebug on June 3, 2008 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

i think only Al Gore's vote should count. And he should vote caucus style. And the entire primary should be a contest to convince Al Gore to vote for you.

Posted by: glutz78 on June 3, 2008 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Our primaries must be totally changed. They should produce the strongest candidates for the General Election. This "reform" notion of proportional voting, when the GE is winner-take-all is nothing less than a suicide-pact procedure. And caucuses -- whatever their promotional benefits -- are worse than useless. They are anti-democratic, merely unselected focus groups, and any use of them as rational determinants of primaries is madness!
Yes, I voted for Hillary, And I will vote for Obama, praying that he will win and that he is not the stealth-U-of-Chicago-Libertarian he seems!

Posted by: Doug Scott on June 3, 2008 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with all you said. Empathy is necessary to unite the party, and thankfully Obama is far smarter politically than his supporters who, EVEN ON THIS DAY WHEN HE CLINCHES cannot resist the nastiness. We will see if he has it in him, and if his supporters will let him do it. On this his election turns.

Outlaw caucuses as far as I am concerned. They are undemocratic and too fraught with intimidation factors. Outright votes in all states.

I agree with Nate that the media driven narrative of a disastrous continuing primary is hogwash. Obama is much stronger now and if the stuff that came out in the past month came out in October he would be a loser. However, Obama will have his hands full assuaging the worries and anger of many Clinton supporters who dont like being called racists and who dont believe the Clintons are racist or that they race baited, whatever the heck that stupid phrase means in real life.

Only one thing can really hold him back, and that is if his own people are so consumed with Clinton Derangement Syndrome that they will interfere with his efforts at unity and reconciliation, boo Hillary and/or Bill at the convention, turn their backs on speakers, walk out, etc. This is a delicate process but I am again confident Obama will shove the naysayers out of his way and get the job done.

Posted by: Jammer on June 3, 2008 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, the irony. In 1968 I cast a write-in vote as a protest to bullshit coming out of Chicago. It appears I'll be doing the same, for the same reason, in 2008.

Posted by: Pat on June 3, 2008 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

How many times does this have to be said? The parties DO NOT control the primary process, the states do. The only way the party can control how their delegates are selected is either paying for their own primaries or just holding caucuses in all 50 states and declaring all state primaries beauty contests. Do you want to go back where on party leaders or the fanatical faithful pick the delegates? if not, then you have to accept the fact that the states drive the process and that the state of New Hampshire and the state Iowa will be first no matter what.

A lot fat good penalizing Michigan and Florida did in keeping them from in line. The same is true in other states.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on June 3, 2008 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Can someone explain why caucuses are awesome to those of us that live in caucus states and are unable or unwilling to attend them?"

I'd like to hear that explanation as well. When Colorado switched from a primary to a caucus, I stopped participating. And I'm still very angry with the Democratic Party for supporting the switch. When the Colorado Democratic party asks me for money, I tell them they'll get their money when Colorado returns to the primary system. The only people I've met who like the caucus system here in Colorado are those who are ALREADY party activists. They like it because it increases their influence over the rest of us who aren't activists. It brings nobody new into the party and alienates many of us who support the party, but don't want to be activists.

Posted by: fostert on June 3, 2008 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Some commenters have written that a straight popular vote is unfair to rural areas and gives an advantage to big cities. Life isn't fair. There is no perfect solution to please everyone. As far as the voting calendar, I want Iowa and NH removed from their place atop Mt. Olympus. I want to see a rotating regional primary calendar instead. Delegates and the electoral college are fundamentally anti-democratic. A straight up popular vote isn't perfect but is a fairer and more equitable alternative.

Posted by: jerry on June 3, 2008 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Those who would argue against caucuses because they are "undemocratic" need to come up with other arguments. Democracy is not the end all be all of politics; the masses often don't make the best decisions, which is why we there are no true democracies among world governments... and why we don't have polls dictate policy.

Nitpicking, but democracy is often thrown around as the cure to all perceived ailments. It's not. If there are problems with the caucuses systems, let's discuss. Frankly the idea of giving power to those who are most devoted to the party seems to have some advantages.

Posted by: Sojourner on June 3, 2008 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Jammer, I think you're a little hyper-sensitive. Like all of us who've volunteered for losing campaigns, you need to suck it up. Not only that, but you should have learned to deal with hostility from other campaign supporters much earlier, like the rest of us did. Obama supporters, of course, had to deal with Clinton's sarcastic "oh, and the Obama supporters think that the sky will open up and all will be well" and her "Yes we WILL!" juvenilities.

Everything will be fine and Obama will win, but you should really look in the plank in your own campaign's eye before lashing out at Obama supporters.

What I've learned from this primary is that people with personalities that draw them to the "establishment candidate"-- the people who were the sort to support Mondale and Dukakis, for example, are completely incapable of dealing with losing primary fights. They can see who the "winner" is, and they hook up with them. In the unlikely event that an insurgent knocks their candidate off, the supporters are completely unprepared and feel cheated because "it's not supposed to work that way!" Those with a history of supporting candidates like Hart, Dean, and Bradley are more emotionally prepared for the possibility of working hard for a primary candidate and losing.

Posted by: Tyro on June 3, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

dday, I really like your suggestions, and apart from keeping caucuses, I hope we implement them all. I'd also like us to get rid of open primaries, ESPECIALLY in the early primaries.

I do want to add that parties are not in the constitution.

As citizens, we should also consider making parties pay for, and run, their own damn elections. They can choose whatever rules they want at that point.

As citizens too, we should also do what is needed to get a real third party to help break up gridlock and "price is right" political strategies that move everyone to the center.

If you are a blue in a state going red, VOTE LIBERTARIAN. If you are a red in a state going blue, VOTE LIBERTARIAN.

The libertarians are assholes, but to get a 4th party legitimized, we need a 3rd party legitimized first.

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on June 3, 2008 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

"It appears I'll be doing the same, for the same reason, in 2008."

. . . And to the same effect, I dare say.

Posted by: Jon on June 3, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

I have been stumping (more off than on, but on quite a bit this last season) for a series of regional primaries since it was a high school debate topic in, um, 1974-5. And I STILL think it's the most fair way to approach this problem. The amendments here are brilliant: I love the idea that the process begins with a lottery January 1; I think reserving the superdelegates for a deadlocked convention uses them when and if they're needed.

I came from a caucus state, went only once -- as a John Anderson delegate, to mess with the Reaganites -- and so...I see the point of them, but I think it's time to admit we live in the 21st century, that people are busy, and that other kinds of party building activities can be managed.

Open v. closed primaries...I dunno.

But I'm tickled to see the regional primary notion at least getting talked about seriously.

Posted by: Grant Alden on June 3, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Moving to a national popular vote would be a horrible idea, IMHO. Although I feel for Al Gore, winning the popular vote wasn't reason enough to win, he had the election stolen due to shady proceeding in Florida and SCOTUS.

Moving to a national popular vote would do little more than creating a five state election. CA, IL, NY, FL, TX. All states in between need not apply.
And after the election, forget about any type of attention being paid to smaller states in Congress. All policy would be geared towards ensures the BIG states are taken care of.

Count me out...
I think the founders did a perfectly fine job in coming up with a system to ensure all states are adequately

Posted by: justmy2 on June 3, 2008 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Pat: In 1968 I cast a write-in vote as a protest to bullshit coming out of Chicago

How did that Nixon Presidency work out for you? Well, if you liked that, wait until you see the 2008 version if many Clinton supporters utilize your rationale.

Posted by: justmy2 on June 3, 2008 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

I think Clinton based on the events that transpired ,if she really wants the White House needs to leave the part and run on the conservative or even the liberal ticket.She would hands down beat McCain and when it matters the most she will beat Obama though one thing with the voting should be changed everyone from Florida should have to travel to a different state to cast their vote as it seems every election they have some problem that messes with the Dems maybe one day many years from now the govt in Florida will allow the correct person to win and not who they feel will lose to the Repubs

Posted by: save our country on June 3, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

The problem here was that there were two candidates of nearly equal popularity. As a result, they were forced to fight a nearly national campaign at enormous expense--one which became increasingly ugly as it progressed. (You might reasonably argue that most of the ugliness was on one side, but the fact remains that this is a likely consequence of any such lengthy, close primary season.)

The solution will have to include: (1) a shorter primary season, even if the contest is close, but one which is long enough to allow momentum to build, to allow a thorough testing of the mettle of the candidates and to require significant fund-raising capabilities over the length of the season; (2)a selection of representative state primaries, but not an excessive number of them--do we really need contests in both Ohio and Pennsylvania?; and (3) the elimination of the superdelegates--aren't we all uncomfortable with the notion that they could override the primary/caucus results?

Here are a couple of thoughts for the new system:

1. Close the primaries, so Republican crossovers can't be spoilers.

2. Obviously, a shorter, select list of primaries means that some (perhaps most states) won't have a direct hand in the selection of the candidate. In an ideal world, that would be fine, since the primaries would be in states reflecting a roughly representative population. However, this may require some getting used to.

3. Whatever the new system is, perhaps states which voted for the Republican candidate by a substantial majority in the prior Presidential election could have a diminished vote. (Should South Carolina really play a significant role in the Democratic primary if there is little or no chance of it voting Democratic in the general election?)

4. Perhaps a way to reduce the chances of the contest being so close that it goes down to the wire would be to award most of a state's delegates on a proportional basis, but award some percentage of the delegates to whichever candidate "wins" (i.e., receives the most votes). This is a compromise between the Democratic proportional allocation of delegates and the Republican winner-take-all approach.

Posted by: Don Friedman on June 3, 2008 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

The problem here was that there were two candidates of nearly equal popularity. As a result, they were forced to fight a nearly national campaign at enormous expense--one which became increasingly ugly as it progressed. (You might reasonably argue that most of the ugliness was on one side, but the fact remains that this is a likely consequence of any such lengthy, close primary season.)

The solution will have to include: (1) a shorter primary season, even if the contest is close, but one which is long enough to allow momentum to build, to allow a thorough testing of the mettle of the candidates and to require significant fund-raising capabilities over the length of the season; (2)a selection of representative state primaries, but not an excessive number of them--do we really need contests in both Ohio and Pennsylvania?; and (3) the elimination of the superdelegates--aren't we all uncomfortable with the notion that they could override the primary/caucus results?

Here are a couple of thoughts for the new system:

1. Close the primaries, so Republican crossovers can't be spoilers.

2. Obviously, a shorter, select list of primaries means that some (perhaps most states) won't have a direct hand in the selection of the candidate. In an ideal world, that would be fine, since the primaries would be in states reflecting a roughly representative population. However, this may require some getting used to.

3. Whatever the new system is, perhaps states which voted for the Republican candidate by a substantial majority in the prior Presidential election could have a diminished vote. (Should South Carolina really play a significant role in the Democratic primary if there is little or no chance of it voting Democratic in the general election?)

4. Perhaps a way to reduce the chances of the contest being so close that it goes down to the wire would be to award most of a state's delegates on a proportional basis, but award some percentage of the delegates to whichever candidate "wins" (i.e., receives the most votes). This is a compromise between the Democratic proportional allocation of delegates and the Republican winner-take-all approach.

Posted by: Don Friedman on June 3, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

I think this long primary season has been fabulous for the Dems. Notwithstanding the above folks who boycott caucuses, the Colorado caucuses were a huge success. My precinct usually gets 5-7 caucusers, and this year there were over 70. People were *thrilled* to get to participate when it mattered. I saw the same story over and over with each wave of primaries - finally we get to vote when it matters.

And yes, could the Obama folks work hard to show some extra patience and compassion? I remember the day when Edwards dropped out and I felt like my dog had died. I got over it and resolved to happily support the nominee, but I really didn't need to be gloated over for those few days!

Posted by: Emma Anne on June 3, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

"..a core rationale for his candidacy, .."

President Obama would be the classical liberal governing as a libertarian. That is why he likes to "Nudge" things in the right direction. He would look for equilibrium and push toward that.

He goes into an economy in which accuracy is very much improved from a mere ten years ago. It is very hard to avoid bias in policy these days, because you get called on it.


Posted by: Matt on June 3, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

ABOLISH THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE!

I can't believe this was not everyone's priority after 2000.

Posted by: wobbly on June 3, 2008 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

"while the hurt feelings will linger (and it's of paramount importance to acknowledge that and empathize, IMO)"

You start by acknowledging that BS on Digby's blog during NV, then we'll talk. Until then, you're just another hack.

Posted by: david on June 3, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

PBS showed part of the Iowa caucuses and I was shocked silly. I couldn't believe sensible people wearing sensible shoes would do such an idiotic thing.

Ban caucuses.

Build party some other way. Voting is too important to ruin it this way.

Don't let the other party set the date for your primary. See Florida.

Posted by: MarkH on June 3, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Let's take Iowa and NH off of Mt Olympus and create a rotating regional primary calendar.

Posted by: jerry on June 3, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK
ABOLISH THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE!

For the general, Mais-oui! But as crazy as the Democratic primary system is, I think we can all agree that Obama would never be the nominee without the caucuses. It may be a step back from brutal democracy, but I love that it gives time and leverage to insurgent candidates.

Posted by: Devo on June 3, 2008 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone here worry that Hillary will concede, then run as a third party candidate?

Posted by: pol on June 3, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Political parties get to select their candidates and they get to do it any way that they choose. Don't like it, start your own party; hello all you people who don't like the caucus system.

Personally, I think the political parties corrupt the democratic process, but don't have a reasonable alternative. We desperately need 3 major parties, but money will never let that happen. I fear my children will live to see the end of America as an effective democratic country.

I respect the time and effort put in by the people who make the political system work. These are the people who caucus. As posters have noted, sometimes the party workers don't get to caucus due to time constraints, that is tough. For all the people who think they have a "right" to just show up on election day to caste their "vote", show me where political parties are in the constitution or the bill of rights. They are private organizations and if you don't belong to the organization, and don't pull and weight, you shouldn't complain about how the organization is run.

Posted by: says you on June 3, 2008 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

heh, and who the 'ell are you, David? How 'bout your body of work, got any? Right.

Anyway, all these Clinton forecasts appear to be more voter suppressions tactics. YMMV.

Posted by: ww on June 3, 2008 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

While I agree that the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process could use some overhaul, I wonder if it is possible.

Wouldn't it be easier to herd 100 cats than get the whole party to agree totally on how to do the reform?

Posted by: optical weenie on June 3, 2008 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

ow: Wouldn't it be easier to herd 100 cats?

How about herding swans?

Posted by: thersites on June 3, 2008 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

insurgent candidates.

I got nothing against Obama and I wish him well, and I sure as shit want him to win over McSham, but please, someone, explain to me how the former editor of the Harvard Law Review is an "insurgent" candidate.

Posted by: thersites on June 3, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites,
I will take the cats. You can have the swans. You have the better deal because swan guano is at least good for the garden!

Posted by: optical weenie on June 3, 2008 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

After seeing how excited people (myself included) were that they actually got to have some influence on the party's nominee this year instead of having the whole thing decided before they even got to vote, I think the compressed schedule would be a better way to go. I remember how depressing it was in 2004 that we in California didn't get to vote until June, long after Kerry was the de facto nominee.

Complain all you want about "too much democracy," but people are much more likely to get out and vote if they think their vote is actually going to count.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on June 3, 2008 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

weenie: swan guano is at least good for the garden!

Today has been an organic gardener's bonanza! Now, how do I scrape it off the threads?

Posted by: thersites on June 3, 2008 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

We need a balanced primary system, but a regional system would be dangerously unbalanced: It would give unfair influence to whichever region happened to vote first, and would produce weaker, less representative candidates.

A balanced approach: Before each election, assemble 5 groups of 10 states, aiming to maximize each group's political diversity (some red, some blue, and contrasting voting patterns in the past). Then, assign election dates to the groups in a random order.

Elections in a balanced primary system would be more fair than in a regional system. A balanced primary system would avoid random regional influence, and would ensure a more representative group of voters on each election day. We'd get stronger candidates this way.

Posted by: Better Alternatives on June 3, 2008 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno Thers, maybe with an industrial scale pressure washer?

Posted by: optical weenie on June 3, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

explain to me how the former editor of the Harvard Law Review is an "insurgent" candidate.

Created campaign funding model that is much less dependent on big donations from big [for which read corporate] donors; not beholden to traditional Dem funding sources.

Created campaign organization outside DLC-ridden national Democratic machinery; brought millions of new voters into Democratic Party membership.
Implemented Dean's 50-state strategy against advice of DLC party elders.

Says truthful things about failure of Cuba sanctions to expatriate Cubans; says truthful things about American race politics in fraught contexts. Appears to rely less on pandering and manipulation in political messaging than 1990-2007 cohort of Beltway DLC Democrats (I'm looking at YOU, Steny Hoyer, and at YOU, Rahm Emmanuel).
Talks to voters as if they were intelligent adults; this is revolutionary, or at least so unusual as to be remarkable.

Sen. Clinton worked the party insiders, the big donors, the DLC cadre, had nomination all sewn up; forgot to work voters.

Posted by: joel hanes on June 3, 2008 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

joel: That'll teach me to get snarky about Harvard.

In the primaries, there's nothing wrong with small states getting first crack. As has been said before, it gives low-funding and, okay, insurgent candidates a chance at exposure. The problem is that it's always the same small states. Working out a fair rotation could get problematic, but still an improvement over the current system.

I agree caucuses should go. They are the exact opposite of a secret ballot.

Posted by: thersites on June 3, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

I kind of can't believe the various arguments against the National Popular Vote. It usually goes that rural areas will be ignored and that it would ensure a five-state election.

Um... what do you think we have NOW???? We had a 3-state election in 2004 (PA, OH, FL), we probably have a 5- or 6-state election this year. I don't remember the big general election rallies in rural Wyoming, you'll have to point me to them.

It's also pure conjecture to suggest that candidates would only work the big cities. They'd actually have to work everywhere. Rural states are cheap for TV and their people would count just as much as anywhere else. You'd actually have to implement a 50-state strategy, at least in terms of organization.

Just ridiculous spin to suggest that a popular vote plan, the method by which every election is decided in the entire world, is disenfranchising.

Posted by: dday on June 3, 2008 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

dday: I kind of can't believe the various arguments against the National Popular Vote.

Please clarify. The nominal topic is the primary; the NPV effort is targeted at the general. Are you talking about the primary, the general, or both?

Posted by: has407 on June 3, 2008 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

The real reform should be whether the primaries are open are closed. Democrats should stay out of the GOP nominating process and visa versa.

Posted by: aline on June 3, 2008 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

thersites: I agree caucuses should go. They are the exact opposite of a secret ballot.

Caucuses serve useful purposes: (1) an indication of a candidate's ability to organize supporters and an approximation of their ability to organize a GOTV campaign; (2) the level of commitment of people to the candidate and their policies; and (3) the ability of those people to make a persuasive argument on behalf of their candidate and their policies.

Not a guarantee of course... been through more than enough precinct meetings that seemed to boil down to who was more intimidating and could shout the loudest and longest. But generally those people are a minority, they were ignored, and normalcy prevailed. Except, e.g., those rare occasions (thankfully) when the precinct chair (or his/her lackey's) happened to be among those idiots... but I digress...

Early in the campaign season, I'd take 1 committed supporter willing to make the case and pound the pavement in support of their candidate and policies, rather than 2 who won't do squat except express their opinion in the privacy of a voting booth. That doesn't mean that opinions of the former are better than the latter, simply that from a primary perspective--most especially for the very early primaries--the basis for evaluation (at least for me) is different than later in the game.

Whether caucuses are desirable for selecting a candidate is another matter. My ideal would be something like a set of non-binding caucuses that provides candidates with early exposure (and proves they have a clue when it comes to their ground game) without making it little more than run for the money and who can get the most nationally televised exposure first. The selection of early IA/NV caucuses and NH/SC primaries were a good attempt.

I don't know if a purely primary structure could achieve those goals. Maybe if there were a small number of primaries in relatively small states the same effect could be achieved. However, the states get to make the rules about how candidates are selected, and crossing that line that seems a bridge to far--unless and until there is a SCOTUS ruling that allows the party to subsume state rules (fat chance?). That leaves the party with little option other than trying to juggle the calendar.

Posted by: has407 on June 3, 2008 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

No, no, no. Who is going to bother with the caucuses and do all this party building and information gathering you like if they will have no effect on how delegates are awarded?

And what is this fetish with going to a national popular vote? If people are really interested, reforming the way electoral votes are awarded within each state is much simpler than a constitutional amendment to do away with the Electoral College, since each state sets its own rules for the awarding of electoral votes. Just award the votes proportionately on the basis of the popular vote, with an extra vote or two for the winner of the state overall. Small states should start first, since it would gain them attention that they otherwise don't get during the election. Yes, it would probably mean more than a few presidential races being decided in the House. But haven't we all had a good time this year?

Posted by: bluewave on June 3, 2008 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

bluewave: Who is going to bother with the caucuses and do all this party building and information gathering you like if they will have no effect on how delegates are awarded?

Short answer: anyone who is serious about winning. IA and NV (the early caucus states) count for squat in the grand total of delegates. Did some candidates pay serious attention to them and do the necessary "party building and information gathering"? Yes. Did they have an effect? Yes. Guess who?

And what is this fetish with going to a national popular vote? If people are really interested, reforming the way electoral votes are awarded within each state is much simpler than a constitutional amendment...

Are you talking about the primaries or the general election? The NPV initiative is concerned with the general election. It not concerned with the way "electoral votes are awarded within each state", but whether the general election electoral vote, and thus who is elected POTUS, represents the country-wide popular vote. A simple proportional allocation of electoral votes within each state does not solve the problem.

Small states should start first, since it would gain them attention that they otherwise don't get during the election.

On that we can agree, but not because it gives those states attention, but because it allows candidates to campaign in those states (and thus obtain some exposure and add some diversity to the field), without giving an unsurmountable advantage to candidates with the ability to raise large war chests early in the game.

Posted by: has407 on June 3, 2008 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

I like Kos's idea of a hybrid primary/caucus system, like they do in Texas.

Posted by: Peter H on June 3, 2008 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Has--

Maybe I misread dday's point, but if all delegates are awarded on the basis of popular vote in their states, why do IA and NV continue to hold caucuses? Even in the TX hybrid system, part of the delegates came from the caucus side, part from the primary. If pop vote numbers are the only thing that counts, it seems to me that the big push will be to eliminate the "meaningless" (no delegates awarded) caucus and go to all primaries. But as I said, maybe I am seeing something that isn't there, or missing something that is.

As for the popular vote, yes, I was talking about the GE. Construct for me please, the scenarios under which the popular vote winner wouldn't also win the EC with the votes in each state proportionally assigned, with a little bonus for winning the state. I'm not saying it's impossible, only that it's unlikely for someone with broad appeal, unless the country is genuinely quite evenly divided.

A pure popular vote system OTOH allows a candidate to run up big margins in a few very limited locations and ignore the rest of the country. Personally, I'm not that up for voting for the President of the top US Cities, which is why I like the 50 state strategy. Probably has something to do with being from downstate IL and knowing that in any presidential election, unless my vote ratified what they wanted in Chicagoland, it was most likely irrelevant. I just don't see how small states, or minority interests in large states get any attention at all without a system that forcibly represents their interests. Political campaigns are sales events for a public utility (government) after all, and left to their own devices, sellers will cherry pick heavy population centers and leave the people in the vast nowhere in between with no service, because there simply isn't enough out there to make it worth their while.

Posted by: bluewave on June 3, 2008 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

bluewave: Construct for me please, the scenarios under which the popular vote winner wouldn't also win the EC with the votes in each state proportionally assigned, with a little bonus for winning the state.

There are many such scenarios. They result from the fact that a state's popular vote as a percentage of the total popular vote, vs. the state's electoral vote as a percentage of the total electoral vote, differs (i.e., the ratio of popular vote to electoral vote differs between states). There is also the question of different voter turnout in different states, which can further skew the results. See, e.g., here.

Posted by: has407 on June 4, 2008 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

"Sen. Clinton worked the party insiders, the big donors, the DLC cadre, had nomination all sewn up; forgot to work voters."

Uh -- except for 18 million of them....as opposed to thugs at caucuses.

Posted by: Pat on June 4, 2008 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

Finally over, but why does every Obama speech sound exactly the same?

Posted by: Andy on June 4, 2008 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

Uh -- except for 18 million of them....as opposed to thugs at caucuses.
Posted by: Pat

are you including the fine citizens of Puerto Rico in that tally? because you know they don't vote in the general election, right? and those caucus thugs do.

Posted by: Gonads on June 4, 2008 at 3:23 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I liked the idea of the Texas two step. One step for the public, one step for the party faithful.

Each should have a voice.

Posted by: Bub on June 4, 2008 at 3:26 AM | PERMALINK

Why even respond to someone calling himself "gonads."

Posted by: Pat on June 4, 2008 at 5:29 AM | PERMALINK

Because it would suck to lose an argument to someone calling themselves Gonads, that's why.

Posted by: Gonads on June 4, 2008 at 5:39 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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