Thursday, August 23, 2012
The Numbinating Process
Next week (Aug 24-27) the Republican Party is expected to nominate Mitt Romney as its candidate for President. A week later (Sept 4-6) the Democrats will do the same for Barak Obama. Last Memorial Day Gary Johnson got the nomination for the Libertarian Party and Rosanne Barr is the Peace and Freedom Party candidate. The nomination process is archaic. It’s as outdated as American’s idea that they play a part in the process.
Most people have a simplified view that the vote they cast determines which candidate wins. Delegates are selected based on a variety of methods, unique to each state. Sometimes the delegates reflect voting results, but in many instances the delegate is not pledged to a particular candidate. At the quadrennial political conventions delegates nominate a candidate for President and Vice President.
It’s been a long time since the selection process was not predetermined. In 1952 when most states chose delegates by state conventions (not primary or caucus) the Republicans had a true brokered convention, choosing Eisenhower over Taft. 1988 both parties began nominating by acclimation. In recent years the only suspense at a convention was who the presumptive nominee would choose as a running mate. Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan three weeks before the convention solved that.
Instead of making policy or news, today’s conventions are staged advertisements. To what end? The broadcast networks have cut back to three hours per convention - one hour per night. Most of that will be nattering between anchors and pundits. Gavel-to-gavel coverage is left to the cable news networks, who will natter away themselves. Complete coverage will only be available on C-Span and online where a very small number of people will watch. It’s time to nominate candidates in a different way.
The Constitution doesn’t require political parties to nominate candidates in any particular method. 60 years ago most delegates were selected in back rooms by party bosses. Perhaps today its time to reverse that and have candidates determined by voters.
Every four years Iowa’s caucus and New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary have disproportionate significance in weeding out candidates. By the time California votes most candidates have fallen by the wayside. In fact, the Libertarian party had nominated its candidate before the state with the largest number of registered libertarians had even voted.
It’s time for a regional primary system. New Hampshire’s role as first-in-the-nation can be preserved through multiple days of voting, but the regional totals would be finalized on the same day. Each week (or two) another region – with a total of four or six regions. Voters, seeing that their choices matter in determining the ‘winner’ might even participate more. Candidates and parties would be incentivized to make news and not just promote themselves. The entire process could be exciting and engaging, not the current numbinating process.