daily archive: 06/04/2008
How should we elect a president?
Two years is a ridiculously long period of campaigning to elect a man for a four year period in office. Senator Obama’s reply when asked why he had not held a single committee hearing to oversee our efforts in Afghanistan was that he needed to be running for President.
The Brits, the mother country, accomplish this same electoral magic in six weeks.
We need, therefore to shorten the process. America is vaster than the UK – six weeks is not the goal. Beyond that, President of the United States is more important to us than PM to them – they still have the Queen.
In America, we have a mixed primary/caucus system. At one time, it was a mixed primary/caucus/convention system. Primaries bring out committed voters. Caucuses bring out really committed voters. Conventions bring out persons with a high tolerance for boredom and deep commitment to winning the following election. Convention attendees will include all of the mayors and state senators of the convening state. There is value to each of these.
Iowa and New Hampshire are enormously fond of their historic early spot in the process. Both states have passed legislation to move dates forwards to maintain their first-in-the-nation position. This position cannot be sustained.
Here is how I would square the various circles and epicycles:
Run a lottery jointly betwixt the Republican and Democratic parties– like the NBA or NFL drafts. This lottery will drip out of a hat the primary/caucus/convention dates from March to July for the states -- each state would get a Tuesday. For the first caucus and primary, I would restrict the hat-list to our 30 smallest states and I would limit the caucus and primary to one state each. I would even say that no state with a greater number of persons than the Boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn combined should be in the lottery for the first two spots. There is value in retail politics.
I am not yet clear if I would allow large states to enter a district of that state in the lottery for the first two spots. e.g. Queens has about as many people as New Hampshire or Iowa. I also would limit the entrants to states/districts where the prior presidential election was decided by 5% or less. We need first to hear from swing-states.
The date of the lottery should be Shopping Friday after Thanksgiving in the previous year. This will put an effective start-date to active campaigning.
The first state should have to run a caucus like Iowa, the second a primary like NH. The first would be held on the next to last Tuesday in March, the second on the last Tuesday. The 3 ¾ months lead time should allow any state to prepare for the media onslaught.
One question is winner-take-all versus proportional take. My gut is that winner-take-all will over time be the favored manner. I would leave that to the states.
What to do with Iowa and NH? I would weight the hat. They would have treble the chance for the first two spots by increasing the number of Iowa and NH papers in the hat. If they ignored the hat and went ahead and maintained their position as first in the nation, I would delete their superior hat-weighting for all further years.
I would provide zero penalty for ignoring the hat results. I would instead provide a bonus of treble-convention-delegates to states which complied with the hat.
After the first two spots, all states are in for the next hat-drawings. If a state finds itself in a place one election where it only votes after the nominees are obvious, I would double its hat-chance in the early months of the following election. About three states per Tuesday would vote over the seventeen weeks from April Fools Day to the end of July.
One point which has been raised – is why not have a one day national primary? Becoming president is profound. Our drawn-out process reveals strengths and weaknesses. A one day primary would show simply who had the most national reach upon that date. If we had done so this year, Mayor Giuliani would surely have been the Republican candidate. While this result would have pleased both Bigel and me, Rudy did not have the necessary fire in his belly to become President. I see great value in a drawn-out process which exposes over time and stress the strengths and weaknesses in each candidate. FWIW, my wise baby-son disagrees with me on this last point.
I remain unclear as to why three persons actually wished to read such wonkery. I suspect the result would be beneath three in a current poll.
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