February 5, 2008

What should the nominating process look like?

Clearly, the Presidential nominating process is broken. Here it is February 5, a ridiculous 9 months before the election, and we're about to have 23 states vote at once.

I understand the rush to the front by states who were disenfranchised in 2004 by the absurd amount of momentum John Kerry developed by winning Iowa and New Hampshire, but there's got to be a better way.

The Comments section is open for your proposals.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Brad Griggs said...

Scissor, paper, rock with 300 million players?

daveg said...

States should change order in round robin fashion.

Alternate between large and small states.

Public financing is probably a good idea.

Fianlly, provisionak voting does seem to make sense, where you have a first, second and third choice.

Anonymous said...

The primaries should be 2-a-week starting the 2nd week of January, and arranged in smallest-population to largest-population order -- with NO winner-take-all votes and NO independents allowed.

Hoosier Comrade said...

I say that the process is just fine. Ultimately, the states themselves should get to decide what day they want their election to be and whether they want it to be a primary or a caucus.

If I were the GOP or DNC, I would strictly enforce the Feb 5th cutoff next time around and select the two early states based on competitive bidding between the states or the highest partisan voter turnout.

Iowans and New Hampshirites are unfairly favored. I understand the importance of having the two earlier states so that candidates get face time with the voters, but maybe the two lucky states should earn it.

Besides, after Iowans pulled a boner like Huckabee, they've proven themselves unfit for the job. :)

Grumpy Old Man said...

Abolish primaries.

Pick delegates and Presidents by indirect election.

Revive the notion that it's undignified to campaign for oneself, except from the front porch.

Suspend smoking bans in the back rooms.

Resurrect Mark Hanna.

Floccina said...

I would start with the smallest states and work up in states by population. Each new primary day should seek to have a larger electorate by some pecent. This would give a chance for a lesser known candidate to build up to the gran finnaly.

BD said...

A big problem I see is the disparity in rules and procedures from state to state. In some primaries, independents can vote; others are "closed." Some (GOP) primaries are winner-take-all; others are proportional. Some states have caucuses instead of secret balloting.

Because each successive contest seems to present its own unique set of conditions, we end up relying on the media's interpretive tools -- e.g., the "expectations" game and exit polling -- to tell us who's up and who's down. Imposing uniform procedures would help clarify the results and thus reduce the media's influence in selecting the nominee.

As for what the uniform procedures ought to be, I would start by eliminating the caucuses. Then I'd prohibit the independents from voting in party contests. However, I would allow independents to vote in their own primary (which of course would be non-delegate-producing) in which they could choose among any of the declared candidates of either party. This would curtail the practice of "strategic voting" while helping to demonstrate which candidates might have more strength in the general election. Then, I'd probably opt for proportionate allocation of delegates, with perhaps a 10% bonus to the winner.

RobertHume said...

Each candidate should be required to prepare and record in person twelve 30-60 minute videos on any topics of their choosing. Graphs, charts, and a few <30-sec videos would be allowed, but at least 90% of the time would have to be filled with a picture of the candidate speaking to the camera.

No audience would be allowed to fill up time with applause.

The videos would come out every two weeks in the six months before a nationwide primary. The videos would be released simultaneously very two weeks.

The candidates could also do any other campaigning they wanted.

This should force the candidates to put substantive policy positions on record; and give them time to respond to the other candidates.

Basically the same approach should be required for the presidential election, leading up to a few days before the election.

Leonard said...

I'm not sure why you think it is too early to hold primaries. Perhaps you could say more about that. I mean, consider if primaries had been held a year ago -- would that really be so bad? I guess the fear is that a party might have collective "second thoughts"?

But anyway, here's a sketch of a more rational primary schedule, using our current low-tech voting methods, including limiting each state to just one primary election. (We could do better by having multiple votes per state. But running elections is not cheap.)

Primaries are run one set per week, for N weeks, until all are done. All primaries in a particular week are same day of that week. My sequence below finishes in 8 weeks; if that seems to short, then run them bi-weekly, so 16 weeks total.

The ordering of states is random. It is determined via a lottery, on Jan 1. Polling starts on the week of Feb 1. This gives the candidates one month to do retail politics in the first few states.

On week 1, one state holds its primary On week 2, a second state. Then we gradually add in additional states per week: week 3: 2. Week 4: 3. Week 5: 5. Week 6: 8. I'm using the fibonacci sequence here, but it doesn't matter much; the idea is just to add states gradually so that the race gradually builds from a retail to a wholesale politics. (If a big state happens to get "lucky" and go first, then so be it. )

dearieme said...

That's the problem with elective monarchies. Bloody elections.

Bucakroo said...

I am afraid I don't have a good suggestion because I find further dimensions of absurdity to the process that suggest I simply don't understand something fundamental about American elections. This may be due to my "damn furrner" status.

Specifically: why do states (i.e. their governments) get to dictate how parties conduct their primaries or caucuses or whatever? Most egregiously: why does a state get to force a party to accept voting from people who are not its members and who may, in fact, be members of the opposition. Under what doctrine is this being done and why do the parties meekly accept it?

My preference would be for the entire primary "process" to be downgraded. Let the parties decide themselves how to pick the candidates. They can do it in smoke-filled rooms, in the middle of verdant meadows, via Jeopardy-style competition (hat tip to Steve), by thumb wrestling, or whatever. I fundamentally don't see why that is any of my business. Once the candidates are chosen, we the unwashed electorate can have a go at them.

SFG said...

Why not have all the states vote at once?

Anonymous said...

How about four "super" primaries, one each in February, March, April and May, and divided up so that it is very unlikely that one candidate could have a majority of delegates until after at least three of the primaries. Also, I would have each primary day include some states from all regions.

Matt said...

How about a lottery, to pick which regions vote in which order, and a second lottery to pick when states vote during that region's time frame. two primaries a week, for 25 weeks.

KevinM said...

How about a primary in all 50 states the last Tuesday in August.

Anonymous said...

Each party's primary schedule would reward the states that voted for the party in last presidential election.

Utah would probably lead for the Republicans, and D.C. starts the Democrats off.


Sleep said...

Is this really bad? Personally, I think early primaries are a good thing, because that way we get to have a long campaign season before the general election. I think that having all 50 states hold their primaries on the same day would be a good way to take power from "the early states", but really, I'm a big fan of suspense, and long, chaotic competitions, and I would much rather have a primary voting *season* than a primary voting *day*. I was upset when I saw McCain had won in Florida, not because I support Mitt Romney, but because I didnt want to the game end so soon. Maybe we should have rotating schedules for the primaries, with the states who are last in one election getting to be first in the next?

KlaosOldanburg said...

ughh. the nomination process is a lot like the BCS in college football.

the problems have the same root causes: the 2-party system (or the willy-nilly patchwork of conferences in football) and TV money.

the parties/conferences want the TV money (the money people give them to give to the TV stations), just like the college football conferences. they've got a monopoly on being the middle-man in that deal, and it's a great position to be in. so they're going to use every ounce of their formidable clout to remain in that position.

either the money will go away, or the parties/conferences will fall apart, or the problems will continue. you could try to regulate the tv ads during election year. good luck.

trying to compromise, and partially reform the college football playoffs has been a minor disaster.


it just occurred to me that while very few have the power to make the tv money go away, the 'angry mob' to which we all belong has the power to make the parties fall apart. vote for (for lack of a better term) 'post-party' candidates. which for most everyone reading this would mean ron paul. (kuchinich if you're a democrat - hey, at least he's against NAFTA).

if candidates like Ron Paul were consistently nominated, the republican party would enter crisis (i think conservatism would be unaffected). all the Big Money would dry up because why on earth would AIPAC, or Tyson Foods, give money to self-identified republicans if they're nominating someone like Ron Paul?

Patrick said...

One thing that I think should be done is get Iowa and New Hampshire out of those early voting dates. Candidates pretty much live in Iowa for 6 months trying to get that first win and the press has a tendency to want to project out from that to the rest of the primary(and of course are usually wrong).

Hal K said...

I once read a suggestion that made sense to me, which was to choose the order of the states by random draw, preferably not too far in advance of the start of the primaries.

Ross said...

Suppose the RNC and DNC set maybe six dates on which legitimate primaries could be held with a decent interval between them (three weeks perhaps?). The gap between primaries would be long enough for any 'momentum' to dissipate as the candidates change their strategies.

If the state parties retain the right to choose the dates then I can't see how the current situation can be avoided.

john carr said...

Can a non-American make a suggestion? Could the 2 parties not agree a rational sequence of primaries, say 10 states on each of 5 dates a fortnight apart or 5 states on each of 10 dates a week apart?
You could start with the smallest states first building up to the biggest on the final day. That way people can get used to candidates before one has built up too much of a lead.

michael farris said...

I say we turn the whole thing over to the producers of Japanese game shows.

Anonymous said...

Number one: The top three vote getters should recieve proportional amounts of delegates.

IT IS ABSURD FOR MCCAIN to get all of Florida's delegates because he got 33% of the vote to Romney's 31% of the vote. A few democrats and independents voting in the republican primary threw the race to him.

Secondly, the parties SHOULD NOT be able to punish states for moving their primaries up by taking away a proportional amount of delegates from him. We need a few REAL states, like Virginia or Ohio or Tennessee or Washington for example to move UP in the process and get in front of a small states like New Hampshire (and a smallish Iowa). Just a couple would do it. Its not fair to let these unrepresentative states (especially New Hampshire) play such a huge role on the national election.

Again, the winner should not "take it all" in delegates in a state. The top three should be proportionally rewarded unless the top vote-getter won by something like 70% or more. It makes too many votes "count for nothing".

Also, if a democrat or independent wants to vote in the Republican primary, they should only be given about one week in the early voting period to do it. We have got to close this door up. Alot of Democrats are voting for McCain in the republican primary. They know they will have a left-liberal winning in the Democratic primary, so all they can do is assure an old man that the base really doesn't like (hell, that nobody really likes personally) wins the repub nomination. Its as if a bunch of us voted for Sharpton in the Democratic primary to screw up Kerry last time out. If you feel that strongly about a cnadidate in the other party, you should have to register with that party.

If no presidential candidate gets over 50% in the general election, the top two should have to run-off two weeks later. We should not have a guy getting 38% of the vote winning the election. Its wrong.

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of proposals:

1. A national primary day in June when all 50 states would select their delegates on one day. Thus, the candidates would have to wage a national primary campaign from day one.
2. A tiered system (10 states, 5 voting days). The 10 states selected for each day would be chosen to create a voting bloc that roughly mirrored the party's voting base. For example on the Dem side, each day would be composed of an aggregate of states that have a voting population that roughly mirrored the party's support in national elections.

On a side note, I don't understand why the parties don't adjust the delegation of delegates to reflect their party's strength in national elections. For example, based on his support among blacks, Obama is going to win a large percentage of black votes and delegates in Southern States. However, these blacks are mostly stuck in conservative Southern States, like South Carolina, that the Dems have no chance of winning in the Fall. It doesn't make sense for a Democratic candidate to win the nomination, based partly on their showing in the South, when there is no chance that the candidate will win those states in November.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we just do away with public elections all together and have the candidates elected by media, university, and industrial leaders? All other special interests would of course get to vote too. We would not lose anything in the process - i.e. the same person would get elected - and we would all save a lot of money.

But I guess the populace needs to have the illusion that our vote somehow matters. It needs to feel as if the act of electing someone will keep the economy strong, the civil rights strong, the civilized core intact, USA on top, etc.

Ok.. maybe I am cynical!

Brian said...

That's actually an idea...

What if people formed clubs, each dedicated to the success of one candidate, and when election day came, like-minded clubs could band together and elect a candidate?

General Elections could be held the same way. Instead of merely pulling a lever, the club you join would actively campaign for its endorsed candidate. The clubs could also band together (or buy each other out) and make all sorts of deals.

You would not directly vote for a candidate; you'd join say, the anti-illegal immigration club, and the Anti-NAFTA club, or their globalist counterparts, and the club leaders would make their endorsements and their votes would weigh in in accordance to the amount of people in that club.

Furthermore, to avoid single issue voting, you could join as many clubs as you wanted, to make sure that your voice is heard on every issue...

jimbo said...

Buckaroo -

You misunderstand something - it's not the state governments that set the rules for the primarys - it's the state parties.

Something that a lot of "dam furiners" (and not a few Americans) don't understand - there are no national political parties, at least in the European sense, in the U.S. Instead, we have 100 state parties that are more or less franchise operations. The DNC and the RNC are national coordinating bodies, but they really don't have any control over the state organizations. (Witness the Florida primary, which both state parties agreed to schedule earlier against the objections and threats of the national party)

anony-mouse said...

Is this the point where someone quotes Winston Churchill on democracy?

Anonymous said...

They should have a ban on publishing the winners until everybody is finished voting, in order to eliminate all this "momentum" bs.

Or why don't the candidates just campaign for 6 months and then let everybody vote on the same day?

W Baker said...

Whichever "mainstream" candidates who can make it across Baghdad without any military escort. Vice Presidential material could be chosen from a similar trek across any portion of Afghanistan.

The only assistance allowed would be the use of two, non-English speaking Mexicans - or is that redundant...

Anonymous said...

Furriner "Bacakaroo":Specifically: why do states (i.e. their governments) get to dictate how parties conduct their primaries or caucuses or whatever? Most egregiously: why does a state get to force a party to accept voting from people who are not its members and who may, in fact, be members of the opposition. Under what doctrine is this being done and why do the parties meekly accept it?

Google up terms like "white primary" and "Newberry v. United States; party as private organization" to see the historical experience explaining why the doctrine you refer to is now widely and meekly accepted.

steve wood said...

Why don't we just do away with public elections all together and have the candidates elected by media, university, and industrial leaders? All other special interests would of course get to vote too.

Isn't that kind of similar to what happens in some countries with many political parties? I mean, they do have elections, but every special interest seems to have its own party, and everybody belongs to some SI group or another. Then, there's an election, nobody gets a majority, and the parties hammer out coalitions to decide who governs. This might not be such a bad system; there's a special interest group/political party for everyone - none of this having to compromise on candidates you don't like. Do you favor gay marriage but think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances? Well, there's a party for you, too! Also, the resulting coalitions and minority governments are recipe for governmental paralysis - a good thing for those who favor the least possible governing.

With regard to primaries, the problem with having them all on one or even a few dates is the cost of running. In the current system, candidates can campaign in IA and NH at relatively little cost, which in theory allows those with small purses to gain a foothold, win more funding, and go on to campaign in bigger, more expensive states.

If all primaries were held on one day, each candidate would have to run a national campaign from the start. That's incredibly expensive and would greatly reduce the number of candidates who entered the race. It would make it impossible for initially long-shot candidates to run at all. I think the presence of people like Tancredo and even Kucinich add value to a race by introducing ideas that mainstream candidates don't or won't talk about, even if they never stand a chance of being nominated.

Anonymous said...

I would prefer a second round of voting if no candidate receives a majority, for both the primaries and the general election. The system seems a little too subject to the whimsy of fringe candidates raking off a few percentage pts. of the vote and throwing the election to one or the other credible candidate.

SKT said...

How is it broken? To me it seems to be working just well, in fact better than ever. The American people actually have a chance to vote in competitive primaries, for candidates that offer clear and contrasting views on the issues.

Decades from now, this will be remembered as a model primary season.

Anonymous said...

america will get the government it deserves, not the government it needs. that's why we're f*cked in the long run.

Half Sigma said...

Because of momentum, caused by the fact that a large share of voters will vote for the perceived front-runner because people love a winner, early voting states have a HUGELY disproportionate effect.

It makes no sense that Iowa and New Hampshire get to decide, for the ENTIRE NATION, who gets to be president.

Having all contests on the same day would be fairer.

Martin said...

"This may be due to my "damn furrner" status.

Specifically: why do states (i.e. their governments) get to dictate how parties conduct their primaries or caucuses or whatever?"

Don't worry, I was born here, and it makes no sense to me either.

Actually, I have an objection just the opposite of yours. Why do parties get to dictate the timing, and therefore the importance, of voting in the 50 states.

Presidential elections virtually insure that the worst people will abase themselves to the point of ridiculousness in order to sit in the white house. Those who win want the job too much, and the very act of wanting the job should disqualify them from power.

I recommend making the Presidency a non-elective post. Every four years, the President would be selected (by random drawing) from the Senate. At least that way, we could occasionally get the sort of of President we ought to have - someone who doesn't want the job.

It'll never happen, of course.

corvinus said...

Suggestion NUMBER ONE:

Get rid of winner-take-all contests of all kinds.

This refers to winner-take-all primaries AND to the Electoral College.

Due to their nature, winner-take-all contests pretty much guarantee a two-person contest rather than the far more interesting three or four person contests which happen in most European countries.

Our choices this November for president are a liberal and a liberal who wants to bomb bomb Iran.