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Friday, March 09, 2012

THE ENDLESS PRIMARY SEASON

"Personally, I think people love this distraction from real news."

Like most people I think the presidential election season starts far too early. It was long enough before Barack Obama decided he'd start running months before the usual beginning last time around. And the last two elections have gone almost to the wire, with no clear, obvious winner deep into the primary season.

There are plenty of problems with the system (and ways to fix it) but while I am heartily sick of politics at this point, the length of this season isn't necessarily a bad thing. An adviser for Newt Gingrich explains why without meaning to:
"Did you ever think Alabama and Mississippi would suddenly play a crucial role?"
And that's the key point. Alabama and Mississippi typically are worthless in the primary elections, an afterthought. Like Oregon, they come late in the year and in the past, usually the candidate has already been selected, so they were irrelevant to presidential hopefuls.

That's one of the biggest flaws with the primary system now in place for both parties. They're front loaded so heavily that after a few months, there's no reason to even have a presidential election. And that's on purpose. Not only are the first few states carefully chosen for being reliably friendly toward party leadership goals, but because they are first tend to create or destroy momentum, and the sooner the fight is over, the more money is left over to spend in the general election for the one chosen candidate.

Political parties are ostensibly controlled by the members, but the leadership have their ideas and goals and prefer to leave the members out as much as possible. So they want it over with before the bulk of their members have any say in the process.

With the present primary system, that's just not so. The longer this goes on, the more input actual party members get, and the more significant later states are in the process, something the party leaders do not care for.

And for the Republican party, length is actually beneficial in ways that the Democrats don't benefit from. Until a specific, single, clear candidate is chosen, the press can't focus their destruction on that one person. So the longer it goes, the less damage the press can do to the candidate, something they strenuously avoid doing to Democrats.

So while I agree I'm sick of all this and just wish it would end - something a finer quality of candidates would alleviate - this is actually not such a bad thing. And historically its not exactly unusual or odd, either. Long primary seasons and campaigns that went deep into the year were more common in the past than recently.

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