Do Any of Us Ever Want to Re-live the 2016 Primary Season?

Even though we have not even completed the 2016 Primary season and November General Election, it is not too early to start working at the state level on who we select as State Chair & National Committeeman and Committeewoman. As our representatives to the RNC meetings, one of their responsibilities is to look at the 2016 election and determine what changes need to be made before the 2020 election cycle so that we don’t have such a fiasco again!  When those of you who have a say in those selections consider your choices, remember to look at more than loyalty to the party and platform issues. Please have a discussion with them about the organizational issues that are part of their responsibility. These people choose the RNC Chairman, influence the direction of the party, and basically, determine any processes not set out in the Rules (or laws) by which candidates for office must abide.

I seem to recall that after the 2012 election, the GOP representatives to the RNC reviewed the previous election season. Among the concerns addressed were states were moving up their primary dates to have a larger say in the choice of the nominee and the fact that there were way too many debates which started way too early. What we have witnessed over the last year is the work of our State Representatives to the RNC and RNC officials in 2013-14. Changes to the process included fewer debates and a method of keeping candidates from participating in non-sanctioned debates as well as getting the states to agree to a set start date for primaries/caucuses. While many were pleased with the changes that were made to improve the process, this year is proof that there is still a lot of work to be done.*

I have a few suggestions for improving the primary process going forward. Some of these I have seen advocated by a number of my friends here at Red State, others are ideas I have thought about for quite a while now. Feel free to kick these ideas around, share yours in the comments, and by all means, take all that you think worth consideration to your local and state party officials. If we all address the issue, maybe we can make some real improvements to the nomination process going forward.

1).  CLOSED primaries – it’s time to stop letting Democrats have a say in choosing our candidates. The name “Operation Chaos” may have started with Rush Limbaugh trying to help string out the Democrat Primary in 2008 but in all honesty, allowing these open primaries (or register the day of) in Iowa and New Hampshire has been a way to let the Democrats have a bigger say in picking our candidates than some of our most Republican states!

2). Regional primaries – either on the same day or within a two week period. Sorry, Iowa and New Hampshire; I understand the “retail politics” in a small state argument but The Donald has blown up that argument. While it might be that the cult of personality that made him successful, it showed that the ground game early on is fast fading in favor of social media and the big rally! Divide the contiguous states into 5 – 6 regions – maybe by media markets. Alaska, Hawaii, and the territories can pick a date of their choosing closest but not before the first Regional primary And, while it will take a few election cycles, let a different region be first each cycle. Eventually, almost every state will have its turn at “first in the nation”. It could save money by keeping the campaigns from having to travel across the U.S. to be competitive on a “Super-Tuesday” or spending those advertising dollars in overlapping media markets when currently only one state in the region is voting and still allow for the candidate to concentrate the ground game in a region.

3).  Limit the number of nominees – hard to do but we need to figure out some process to keep out the riff-raff and those who are just looking to sell books / get a commentating gig! A starting point for the discussion might be:   if more than 8 throw their hat in the ring – we need a pre-primary process – based on fund-raising ability, organization, and platform fluency- with the RNC State Chairs, Committee Man & Woman (states & territories only) who would meet, interview the candidates, and review their history with the party as well as vet their backgrounds, previous interviews, and voting record / experience, if applicable, in office (not to keep non-office holders out of the process but to verify that they do stand for and can articulate Republican principles) and then do a straw poll. Top eight candidates move on, the rest can try another election cycle or if they can organize well enough – run third party. (If they are willing to even think about running third party – they don’t belong on the party’s stage anyway!) That would remove the weakest candidates early on. I suggest those 3 representatives from each state since they are responsible to the party members of their state for their decisions.

4).  NO debates until late December 2019 or early January 2020Before then, have plenty of candidate forums where people get a chance to really get to know the candidate in something other than a 30 second sound bite.  Having TRUE journalist/ moderators hold in-depth conversations with an individual candidate for 30 minutes to an hour would let the audience have the opportunity to really get to know the candidate and their thought process and would naturally start to winnow a larger field on legitimate grounds based on substantive policy and the ability to articulate what they stand for. The presidency is not a debating society and those skills are only helpful to the electorate when there are fewer candidates on the stage and policy points can be easily compared.

5).  Debates on C-SPAN only with moderators chosen by the party.  Get the cable & network news stations out of it.  They are only in it for the ratings and present the debates as sporting events with winners chosen by who can give the best one-liner or beat-down of the night.  There is no desire for an intelligent dialogue between candidates – just a desire for the candidates to bloody each other up.  We would never expect the President of the United States to behave that way to another head of state which is just about the only other time they would be at a podium sharing views with someone else. The one-liner part might help in a presidential press conference but not much else. No real leader only speaks in sound-bites.

6). Equal interview time provided to all candidates on cable & network news / commentary programs. The amount of free air time granted to one candidate this primary season has certainly swayed many voters and allowed him to gain support without the hard work most candidates put in at the grassroots level where campaigns are won or lost November. Especially during the early months of this election cycle, one candidate was allowed to suck up all the oxygen in the campaign keeping legitimate candidates begging for the leftover scraps of time on lesser shows. One glance at a breakdown of time devoted to each candidates by the network & cable news stations reflects a huge (pardon the pun) disparity. This must not be allowed to happen again. There should be a way to sanction cable & network stations from free access to the eventual nominee if they don’t treat all candidates to equal time during the primary process. Limit coverage of candidate live events too – cover one for one or not at all. Anyone really interested can find a link to those events / remarks online these days anyway!

7). Require every state party to validate candidate petition signatures strictly and deny placement of candidates on the ballot without enough valid signatures. From what I have read, not all states are taking the petition process for ballot access seriously. That needs to stop. Any candidate who cannot organize well enough to get the necessary signatures to get on a ballot has no business running for the office.

8). Early voting in primary elections may be no longer that one week prior to the election. I know that may take getting state legislatures on board in writing election code but in a primary, it just doesn’t make sense to allow people to vote 2 – 4 weeks out from election day during a primary. New information comes out & candidates drop out. It is not right to allow voters to waste their vote on a candidate who drops out right after they cast their vote but before election day. This is also another reason to have regional primaries.

While I know that not all of these suggestions may not viable, it is a starting place for discussion. I didn’t officially “join” the Republican Party until 2008, I have always voted conservative, therefore, GOP for years. I was raised as an independent because you should always choose the best candidate based on character and policy rather that what party they belong to. I joined the party because I finally came to the realization that the only way to change the party is from within. The party records would say I am lapsed because I haven’t sent them any money in a few years. I prefer to contribute to the individual candidates I believe in, as do many of you. Living in Texas, I just have to vote in the Republican primary and show up at the precinct convention to be involved in the process. People in my precinct come out to vote but aren’t otherwise politically active so I have been fortunate enough to be a delegate to the state convention from the moment I started going to precinct meetings. I’ve listened and observed a lot over the last eight years and have learned that the best ideas come from the ordinary citizens who are willing to take the time to get to know the “movers and shakers” at the lowest level (precinct and district meetings) and share their ideas to improve the party, its platform, and process. We all need to do our part to move our party in the direction it needs to go, not only on issues but in its processes and rules as well. I look forward to getting your input in the comments section. Let’s pick the ideas we think will make the biggest difference and push them in our precincts, districts, and state level. It’s our party, let’s improve it!

*When I mentioned planning this entry in the comments section of a diary posted by cantenucci04, another comment linked me to a fascinating essay from 2013 that provided some historical context for our current nomination process as well as a plan for changing it. Thanks to etbass for sharing the link. While their plan is more of a total rewrite of our current and mine is a series of changes to the current system, there are a couple of vague similarities between what I came up with and their article. It is total coincidence as I wrote my entry completely BEFORE I read their fine article. It is nice to know that I am not the only one thinking about improving our nomination system and cudos to National Affairs writers Jeffrey H. Anderson and Jay Cost for presenting a whole new nomination system for consideration. You now have a new follower, probably more than one!