Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday is a great idea

Some people object to the idea of super tuesday, when twenty four states have their primaries as being somehow undemocratic because everything is decided at once. I disagree. What's undemocratic is having a long, drawn out horse race where insignificant states like Iowa and New Hampshire exercise huge influence over the rest of the race. When primaries don't happen on the same day the behavior of voters in another state influence the votes of people in later primaries. Why should this happen? Shouldn't people vote according to whether they like the candidate or not instead of voting according to whether or not they think the candidate has a chance based on what voters in some random state thought?

The most democratic way to have primaries would be to have a scheduled campaign period, where candidates get out and do their thing, then have everyone vote on the same day, thereby deciding the candidate. Not doing this also disadvantages states that have primaries later in the season because their votes count much less due to most of the delegates already having been decided. Although I object to small states like Iowa and New Hampshire determining the destiny of the rest of the country the people there still count, and the solution to their undue influence is the same as the solution to some states not having enough influence.

If the primaries were an experiment decided to see if a particular result happened when you mixed two chemicals together it would be a complete failure because result A influences result B, and result A and B influence result C, A B and C influence D, going all the way to the end, meaning that the votes that come in at the end are so muddled that there's no way to tell if they resemble in any way what the voters would have decided if everyone voted at once.

People object to primaries happening on the same day because they think that if there's only one chance for the candidates to be decided that it's too risky and too prone to error, but we only vote once for the President, right? And if candidates have just one shot to either make it or not make it they have an incentive to do their best instead of lazing around after key races have been decided.

Debates should happen before the primaries take place as well. People in Iowa vote and then based on those votes the candidates change their positions and go into the next debate with something different than what they started with. If there are four debates but they happen throughout the primary season doesn't that disadvantage voters who vote before all of the debates have happened? What if something comes up in the last debate that people would want to know about before they cast their vote?
What if, after seeing the returns from the early primaries, the candidates change their positions to ones that would have caused people in the earlier primaries not to vote for them? They're kind of out of luck on that one.

Speeches and policy statements follow the same pattern. A candidate's views on policy are handed out piece meal throughout the campaign, with no good comprehensive statement happening until the end, and by that time the platform could have changed so many times that an idea of what the person really stood for looks more like a fuzzy cloud than anything concrete. I remember in the 2000 election how Gore suddenly became pro-labor in the last month because he thought it would get him votes. Where did that come from? Why do we expect revelations from candidates late in the game that contradict their positions earlier on?

No wonder candidates never keep campaign promises once elected: they've said so much mutually exclusive bullshit that there aren't any solid promises to keep.

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