November 4, 2008

How to fix the primaries in 2012

Clearly, the 2008 primary system was broken, both for the GOP and the Democrats. The GOP's large fraction of early winner-take-all primaries resulted in a nominee who, through, sheer luck wrapped it up on February 5, then didn't do much for the next nine months except get even older.

The Democrats avoided that problem, but too much proportionality combined with too much front-weighting meant that that when the Rev. Wright videos finally emerged on March 13, 42 states had already had their say. And the proportionality of the delegate distribution in the last eight states meant that Hillary's task was close to hopeless, making the eight states after March 5 anti-climactic.

So, you can see the problems: too much frontweighting and either too much winner-take-all or too much proportionality.

The states have been trying to get their primaries up early so that they get some kind of a say, and the states generally prefer winner-take-all to magnify their importance. The obvious solution is to make the two desires work against each other:

Set a rule that the first state primary or caucus in 2012 has to be 100% proportional and the last state 100% winner-take-all, with a sliding scale in-between. This would give states an incentive to hold back in the calendar so they can be more winner-take-all. Meanwhile, it would prevent premature climaxes like the GOP in 2008 and long-drawn out anti-climaxes like the Democrats in 2008.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Set a rule that the first state primary or caucus in 2012 has to be 100% proportional and the last state 100% winner-take-all, with a sliding scale in-between.

Steve, why do you think that the next four years will in any way allow reformist, meliorist poltics?

Anonymous said...

Set a rule that the first state primary or caucus in 2012 has to be 100% proportional and the last state 100% winner-take-all, with a sliding scale in-between.

"Pricing" the primary system seems like a brilliant idea. An alternative to the winner take all vs. proportional distribution would be proportionally more delegates for the later states.

However, with regard to how the Dem primaries shook out, I'm not so sure there was anything wrong with it. Why should we care that it went all the way to the end?

Tsoldrin said...

Why over complicate? Just have them all on the same day.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with "Captain Jac Aubrey." Why is the fact that the Democratic primaries went all the way to the end a bad thing? The Democrats didn't like it because they felt that it was somehow racist to run against The One. I mean, if you run against him, you are saying that you are better than him, which is unacceptable.

How I wish the Republican primaries had lasted longer.

Howard J. Harrison said...

It's a whale of a suggestion, Steve.

Anonymous said...

Whoa ... nothing about delaying the first primary by four or five months? Don't you think The Season is too long?

My suggestion: eliminate all but the superdelegates. No Presidential primaries at all. Use a Responsible Party model like Europe uses, where paid-up party members have all the say in picking candidates, and ordinary voters have a pick of more than two parties at the general election. Cut parties out of the public side of the process; make ballot access dependent on a making a deposit, which is returned to the candidate only if they get 5% or 10% of the vote. The deposit is used to pay for advertising for the candidates, which is (retroactively) free for the serious candidates.

Impeccably British.

Next, have a whole bunch of conservatives start boycotting any newspaper or TV station which treats some of the balloted candidates as "third parties". If we persist in having individual state Presidential ballots instead of a single nationwide one, you could set a floor of, say, 35 state ballots or better yet, ballots in a group of states with at least 270 electoral votes between them.

Then, if you feel sorry for the smaller parties always getting trounced (unless they're regional concentrated like the Scottish National Party or the Basque Left or whatever), you can change the voting system itself. Either move to an Australian-style "instant runoff" (voters rank candidates, each candidate needs an overall voting majority, officials move each ballot to the most-preferred unexcluded ballot, etc.)

... OR move to approval voting - each voter can vote for as many candidates as he or she wants, but only once (or not at all) for any candidate.

OR, abolish popular voting for the Presidency entirely. Just pick electors at random from the 1000 applicants in a given state who scored the highest on an IQ test. (This would be a fun suggestion, since it would surprise all the people who think that popular voting for the President is specified in the US Constitution - i.e. people too clueless to be voting anyway.)

I have absolutely-free suggestions on Congressional elections as well.

Anonymous said...

For US Senate elections, keep the nomination-by-deposit only. Use the Australian-style instant runoff.

Ditto for US House elections. But in drawing Congressional districts, the district map should be adopted that has the shortest combined perimeters (district boundaries). A computer program can easily create districts that way, which would be the most compact in the mathematical sense. No gerrymandering.