Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Diagnosis and Prescription for the Democratic Party

This election season, the democratic primary seems to go on and on. Some say that the lengthy primary season has been detrimental for the party, making it look disjointed. If anything, it’s made them look weak.

The problems were many. Hillary Clinton appeared to be the favorite going in, and this may have made her campaign complacent. With some states tiring of New Hampshire and Iowa always having the first say in the elections, Michigan and Florida changed their primary dates in violation with party rules and they were told their votes wouldn’t count. (Of course, the Democratic Party recently changed their mind and said they would count – for some, but not for the full delegate equivalent.) Then, the media hyped “Super Duper Tuesday” and said the election would be decided after that day – it wasn’t. Caucuses also seem to be questioned because their structure doesn’t allow easy opportunity for all voters to be represented, like other states with traditional primary voting. To make matters worse, the democrats have “superdelegates” who can decide on their own who to nominate, and many of them are taking forever to declare. As the primaries ran through the states, and it seemed that Clinton was hanging tough, the superdelegates remained on the fence, almost refusing to take a stand, seemingly fearful they wouldn’t pick the person who could beat John McCain in the fall.

The last primaries are in progress, and hopefully the superdelegates will get off the fence and make their choice, ending once and for all the dispute over who should be their party’s choice to run for president.

Some in the media are blaming Hillary Clinton for hanging on too long, wishing that she would have pulled out by now, and hoping for a unified party before the convention. Frankly, I think it is her right to hang on as long as she has a chance. I blame the superdelegates – who are supposed to be the party’s anointed wise people – for not taking a stand and making their choice sooner, essentially leading her on and causing the party division. Barack Obama has been gracious during this whole thing, but I am sure that the superdelegate issue has been frustrating for his campaign as well.

And while all this is going on, Hillary had to fend of criticisms for her husband’s campaign commentary. Hillary should have muzzled Bill long ago. Barack had to face the scrutiny of his church (now his former church) and has been blamed for every controversial comment made by guest speakers at the church. He should have cut ties with that church long ago, probably the minute that Reverend Wright became an obvious liability. Still, some in the media and pundits seem to be saying that all these negative issues would never have come out had Hillary not dropped out sooner. Those people are deluding themselves. The negativity that happened over the last few months are just a preview of what the republican campaign will be leveling at them over the next several months. I would rather it get out and be diffused NOW and get it out of the way before it can be used in home stretch of the presidential election.

Since nothing can be changed for this election, let’s think forward to the 2012 presidential election. The Democratic Party just cannot continue with this kind of mess of a primary season. They have made themselves look weak and conflicted. Here’s what I think they should do in the future:

1. Commit to having all primaries conducted over a period of four months.

2. Every presidential election season, rotate the order in which the states can hold their primaries. For example, if Iowa has voted in the first month, they vote in the last month in the next president primary. Once the party has decided the window of time in which a state can hold their primary, the state can’t move it to whatever date they want. If they do, their votes will not count, period.

3. Eliminate caucuses and allow all voters to choose their candidate by traditional voting methods, including absentee balloting.

4. Eliminate the superdelegates. In this day of non-stop media coverage, internet accessibility, and various other ways to get information about candidates, I think the American people are adult enough to be able to choose who they want representing their party in the presidential election. We don’t need an elite group of people choosing who they want to run, especially when it may be in conflict with the popular vote. By the way, if caucuses are eliminated, the whole question about whether those states delegates really represent the wishes of the people could be eliminated.

Those are my ideas. I think the Democratic Party can only blame themselves for this mess. The media can be considered collaborators in this effort by continuing to fan the flames by over-hyping primaries, making things sound like their over long before they are decided by the people.

I hope that the party hasn’t ruined its chances for this election. Here’s hoping that the party wises up before 2012.

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