To Caucus or to Primary? That is the Question

This diary is largely in response to another entry and the ensuing 75+ comments and growing, some of them caustic and demeaning. The gist of the conversation was whether the GOP should abandon the caucus system and go strictly to primaries. A lot of this discussion is in response to what seems like an endless process to determine who squares off against Obama in 2012. Up front, I do not believe that a quick primary season necessarily is beneficial. Instead, a reasonably lengthy primary season allows for the party to properly vet a candidate within the party itself instead of letting Obama and company do it. That is, better to get the dirt out early, answered, and let the chips fall where they may. That is the way democracy is supposed to work. Where it hurts is that a prolonged season causes rifts within the party and diverts resources to attacking one another instead of the real enemy. I have to laugh at the lamestream media and their analysis of the GOP primary fights this year. They seem to forget the Obama-Clinton delegate count and public hearings from four short years ago.

In response, the RNC changed Rule 15 in order to avoid that scenario. Instead, certain “traditional” states were permitted early primaries and others permitted to move their primaries up, but that the assignment of delegates would be on a proportional basis. That is, instead of penalizing states all their delegates, they would be permitted to allocate half of them on a proportional basis. This almost insured that despite the earlier primary season, it would drag on past Super Tuesday.

Now, as for the arguments as to whether there should be primaries or caucuses, that has always been up to the individual states. The argument for the caucus is that it brings out more “involved” individuals in the political process rather than the “masses.” This argument is much ado about nothing really. Eleven states hold caucuses to allocate delegates to the national convention. Collectively and more importantly, they represent exactly 66 electoral votes in the general election, or 12.3% of the total. Five of those states hold their caucuses before Super Tuesday. Hence, for 35 electoral votes in a general election, the caucus states clearly have a disproportional share in the say of who the nominee will be.

Someone suggested that there should be regional primaries, which is an interesting idea. But, this comes back to the “Iowa has to be first” argument. Which region goes first? How do we delineate the regions? If we start out west, which would include California- a very populated state- wouldn’t that pretty much put an end to the vetting process prematurely? Do we regionally have a primary, but exclude California in this hypothetical?

The main problem certainly is the length of the process which now starts in January and ends in June. Shortening the time frame from perhaps February through April 30th is a possibility. In effect, there would be a series of Super Tuesdays. Along those lines, someone suggested that who goes first should be by lottery. Because Iowa and New Hampshire have traditionally gone first should not be a consideration. Many Republican policy ideas have moved out of the 20th Century. Isn’t it time our method of nominating a candidate also move into the 21st Century?

If these 11 states want to retain the caucus system, let them. They are electorally inconsequential anyway. Personally, I feel the primary is the republican/democratic method out there. More people are involved- a greater cross-section of the Republican Party in any particular state- than in the caucus system. However, the primary should be closed, not open. That would seem to be the nice compromise between this ideal situation of encompassing a cross-section of the GOP and the more involved Republican voter, as the pro-caucus people contend.

With a three month primary season- and the length of time is negotiable- it would allow for adequate vetting of a candidate. They could then enter the convention focused on the true “enemy” instead of beating up on each other and wasting money along the way.

Someone suggested that the number of debates be limited also. I have to admit that this year the number of debates have been mind-numbing. How many times can you answer the same questions differently? That is probably why the questions often turn to tangential issues that, when all is said and done, many general election voters give a rat’s ass about. And it boggles my mind that the GOP would have debates on MSNBC of all places. That is nothing but a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party and its most liberal backers. It sets up the perfect situation for “gotcha” questions with the resulting analysis that makes the person answering the question look like a kook. Instead, the debates should be limited to perhaps five at most with everyone given equal time to prove their point, or prove oneself unworthy of consideration. Different formats and venues, perhaps on a regional basis, would be preferable. The bottom line is that the number of debates this year, which seemed like almost twice-a-week at one point (maybe it was) is unnecessary. And given the interest in politics, every news station would cover the debates, even if they did not have exclusive rights to it.

Some will argue that this would disadvantage a candidate like Newt Gingrich this year who has thrived on debate performances and counted on them for “free” advertisement. If your only chance is through debates, then you are a one-trick pony. Likewise, if your only claim to fame is old-style door-to-door politics and winning caucuses, you too are a one trick pony. And finally, if you have to rely on your campaign largesse to destroy an opponent and not win over the hearts and minds of Republicans, then you also are a one-trick pony. A one-trick pony will not defeat a sitting incumbent President. We need a candidate who can (1) appeal to a cross section of Republicans, not just some mythical base or subsection of the Party, (2) can hold their own in a debate (which starts with having sound policies in the first place), (3) can raise money to wage a costly campaign, and (4) play dirty and hard if necessary to win the big prize.