Rethinking the Primaries

Ezra Klein says we should replace the Iowa panderfest with some rotation:

Not only is Iowa unrepresentative, but because of the interest groups that dominate it the pandering promises potential nominees make can be damaging to the rest of the nation. All pandering is bad, but not all pandering is useless. Ethanol is useless.

I’d like to see first in the nation status be a rotating title. I can see why California and New York shouldn’t get it, but maybe you could set up some sort of population limit. I’m all for early testing grounds were unknowns can break through, but I’m tired of seeing that responsibility go to a state that uses its position to blackmail concessions and uses a caucus which makes no sense to anyone.

I’m all for change, but I think we should do more than simply rotate states. Why not go with regional primaries: Northeast, South, Midwest, and West Coast? Each primary season, rotate the voting order of the regions.

As a bridge to the new system, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina could still vote first, each with its own week in the spotlight before the regional voting begins.

Of course, neither of the parties voluntarily institute such a process. They want nominees settled and campaign coffers replenished as quickly as possible, not a half-dozen wanna-be’s blanketing the country with multi-state campaigns well into April.

Like the pre-’72 days, when Party bosses and Big Labor hand-picked Democratic nominees, giving each voter a voice in the primaries isn’t necessarily the Party’s top priority.

That’s why one would appeal to the naked self-interest of the state parties. With more and more states becoming envious of Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s bellwether status, something will have to be done before primaries start popping up before Christmas. And if the DNC insists that nominees be picked quickly, schedule the regional primaries to take place three weeks apart from one another.

Far from dragging out a campaign, the new schedule would give more voters a voiceand whittle the field of potential candidates, since the Bob Grahams of the world will shrink from the prospect of financing a truly national campaign.

It would take a strong reformer, someone who can summon a large critical mass of support, to enact such a plan. And I know the perfect guy for it. He governed as a centrist, endeared himself to the party’s base, and will really need something to do, come mid-March.

So whaddya say, Howard Dean? You still wanna change this party, or what?

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