Friday, April 25, 2008

The Neverending Primary

For what feels like the last decade, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been locked in a life-or-death struggle for the Democratic nomination. The contest, which began as a historic exciting race, has long since degenerated into the most inane mud-hurling cliche-fest imaginable. The media, previously breathless when covering this race, seems as bored as the public with the endlessly repetitive primary schedule.
A while ago, I quoted op-ed by Marc Ambinder saying
Despite [it's] flaws, the system drawn up by Mr. Dean and his commission is serving the Democrats well. By the time the nomination is finally won, a majority of the party’s primary voters will have had the chance to ratify, or reject, the decisions made by voters in early states.

Instead of worrying about how to fix the process, the party should try to figure out how to repeat it.

With a little more hindsight, this seems completely wrong. The primary was more representative than previous ones have been, but it was just as biased in favor of the early states Iowa and New Hampshire (Nevada was added because it's Harry Reid's state). The primary was just as rigged in favor of these states as ever, the only reason other states got a say is the early ones proved indecisive. Additionally, no state on Super-Tuesday got much attention, a fact that helped cause Michigan and Florida to jump forward, leading them to be stripped of delegates.
The bizarre nature of the system has led Clintontes to argue that had we used the GOP system, she would have won already. There are several problems with this, the first being that the only reason this is true is that the GOP system is less representative. Even were that not the case, it's silly to look back and postulate who would have won had the rules been different, especially because the Clinton argument presumes that the Obama campaign would have run the exact same way under different rules (which, of course, they wouldn't have).
Though the GOP system is less even less representative, it has the advantage of being more decisive. Democrats have never been so united on what goals they have for the country, yet proportional representation combined with a drawn-out primary schedule have made what could have been easily resolved differences into a festering feud. It's almost as if the system was designed to divide the party and weaken the eventual nominee.
In conclusion, the drawn-out primary is different from most years, but it does not invalidate the need reform, indeed, it shows why reforming this system is urgent.
(Posted by Ewan)

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