I was rather wondering when folks would begin to pick up on it; the many states who, like kindergartners, are waving their hands in the air and calling out, “Me first, teacher, me first!” It’s juvenile for starters. Worse, it can turn our presidential elections into long, boring, redundant, marathons that will soon disgust the voting public. The two main parties are wringing their hands. They see the mischief. The media is beginning to look at it.
Here’s the problem: this rush to be first is stretching the campaign by months. Campaigns in the United States are arguably too long as it is. You hear complaints about it all the time. The TV ads adnauseam, a blizzard of direct mail, candidates reciting their talking points until even they are not listening any more – all are manifestation of overlong campaigns that try voter’s patience. The candidates? We think these campaigns have been too strenuous for years. Any candidate willing to go through them should disqualified on the grounds of insanity. Now, all of this is going to get worse.
You can see an electorate that by late spring of 2008 is so tired of the endless campaigning of the same two over-exposed candidates that an Independent or a Third Party candidate could sweep into the race and take the whole show. Bloomberg? Hagel? Thompson? We could have a circus on our hands.
I hope I’m wrong, but I think this Race of the Primaries can be a disaster of large enough proportions that the parties and the Congress will want to reform it.
Two Senators have stepped forward with a solution. Senators Lamar Alexander and Joe Lieberman propose creating four regional primaries run about a month apart. With each presidential election these regions would rotate as to who goes first so no region could perpetually dominate. Create the regions with approximately the same number of voters, so each will have about the same influence. Hold the four rotating primaries on the first Tuesday of each month beginning in March, ending with July.
There has always been a series of argument against having a national presidential primary. There is no point in reviewing them, however. Primary creep has given us a defacto system of national primaries. It is an irrational one, to be sure. But this toothpaste isn’t going back in the tube. What we need now is a reasoned, thoughtful way to conduct the primaries to replace this mess that “just grew”.
The Alexander-Lieberman proposal is really not new. It has been around for years. It is well thought out. It is simple, fair, makes sense and will put an end to the silly game of “me first.” It should be adopted and implemented by law so that after 2008 states cannot play “me first.”
Sorry New Hampshire. But, look at it this way. You’ve had a hellava run.