Monday, April 24, 2006


John Aravosis recently posted this reather cranky blog about criticisms of the Primary system:

Will these so-called Democratic strategists ever learn to shut up? The latest absurdity? Saying that the primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire somehow show that the Democratic party is racist. Why? Because, according to the unnamed strategist, "you're basically saying only white people's votes count in those early states."

Uh huh.

Well, newsflash. I don't see a very large gay or Latino or Jewish or Muslim or Asian population in those states either. So that makes Democrats homophobolatinojudaiomusulmanoasiaticophobic too, right? So maybe we should make east LA and San Francisco states and hold the first primaries there so we can suck up to the cumbaya chorus?

Sure, that would be saying the votes of white people don't count, but somehow that calculus never seems to matter when you're intent on finding some harm when there is none.

And we wonder why Democrats never win the majority in the election. I'd like to see these Democratic strategists have the nerve to actually discuss their complaints publicly, by name, then let's talk. But at this point, it's hard to take someone seriously who doesn't even have the courage of their own convictions.

In his understandable exasperation with mushy-mouthed PC "consultants" though, John misses the point. I can't imagine two places, lovely though they may be, that are less representative if the modern, forward-looking, diverse, tech-driven, progressive America that I want to see the Democratic Party represent, then Iowa and New Hampshire. Yes these "consultants" are idiotic to make this about race. It isn't, or rather, it is only in small part. Both Iowa and New Hampshire are pretty conservative, traditional, backwards-looking places where Democratic politics are ruled by local issues and machines, mainly agriculture in Iowa and labor in New Hampshire. The strangle-hold that these states have on media attention in the early primary race does shape and effect the outcome. While there is an argument to be made for the "crudicble effect" of retail politics in such small places, really, these states and their parochial power are in large part responsible for the unpalatable "consensus" candidates that have been ruining Democratic chances for the Presidency.

So here's what I suggest. About a year before the election, the DNC should hold a lottery. States will be assigned their order in the Primary according to how they are drawn in this lottery. The first Primary Election may be in California one year, Maryland the next. The old rule books will be torn up, and politicans aspiring to national office will actually have to hone a national message that can win in Alabama and Massachusetts both. Every election could serve as a spotlight and civics lesson on the different challenges faced in each region of the nation (imagine a politician who had to address, as his first issue in the Election, the dire poverty of New Orleans or Detroit, the environmental issues of New Jersey, or the immigration issues of New Mexico, instead of the usual early-primary bullshit about Ethenol subsidies and teacher's salaries), and because it is just as likely that a large state will be early or a small one, it helps equalize the money factor (the most cogent argument against, say, letting California go first was that this punished candidates without deep pockets. This way, the size of the state is left up to chance).

If we did this, we would have a system that would energize and captivate voters across the nation and provide just the shock of sunlight and freshness that is missing from the current primary season.

Sorry New Hampshire and Iowa, but traditions die. Election results are forever.


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