Friday, October 14, 2011

The Primary War

No I don't mean the first war, the biggest war or the war to end all wars. I am referring to the war to see who holds the first primary/caucus for the Republican presidential nomination which Iowa has traditionally had in the form of a caucus since 1972. By now the dust has settled (although yesterday Nevada was kicking up more dust) and once again Iowa has moved the date of their caucus to January 3rd to retain the kickoff state status. Personally, I wish we would give the trophy to another state.

Being first means you get lots of attention which is why even in this small town in rural southeast Iowa, we get our share of political candidates swinging through town. Four years they were Democrats and this year it is the Republicans. It is nice in the sense that it gives me the opportunity to go listen to a candidate in person and perhaps shake the hand of the next president. But I quickly learned that little is gained by listening to them in person because they promise the same crap they never can deliver when they are elected.

Despite this shaky benefit to having first in the nation status in determining the president, which by the way is actually not true since we don't choose our voting delegates to the very end of the nomination season, it is mostly a negative in my eye. The biggest drawback is that now a days our television commercials switch from fit women using an ab-blaster and men with erectile dysfunction to political ad blasters and politicians with mental dysfunction. It is a close decision but if I have to watch an ad, something I don't do much these days with a DVR, I would choose the former over the latter.

It wouldn't be so bad if the political system left it at television advertising because that can be avoided but they don't. I'm starting to get daily phone calls asking me to endorse a certain candidate, take a short political poll or some such thing. My snail mailbox is packed full of slick material listing out reasons why I should vote a certain way. Also, cardboard signs are starting to sprout up everywhere I look giving peaceful neighbors reason to elevate their blood pressures when looking across the street at a neighbor with what is to them, the anti-Christ posted on theirs. Perhaps worst of all, this all started almost a year ago and we still have a year to go before elections meaning that it is this way 50% of the time. It's for the birds and someone else can take it in my opinion.

Reading the comments across the web, it seems like the most common solution people propose is for everyone to have it on the same day.  This is a terrible idea. It dilutes any benefit one gets from having frequent visits by would be politicians and eliminates any message that they might get from people who didn't vote for them in one state so that perhaps they change their tune a little before getting into office. The second most common proposal is for everyone to take turns which means that each state would get their chance at being first once every 200 years, also not very practical. Besides, who cares about Rhode Island?

No I think the only solution is to divide the U.S. up into regions such as the east coast, south, west coast, plains states, etc so that each region has perhaps ten states or so and allow the regions to rotate who gets first dibs so that you get it once every 20 years or so. By making the region bigger than one state, you dilute the power Iowa has in selecting the future president, if we ever had any power, but you keep it politically small enough that politicians can capture the flavor of its citizens and how they regard the politician's ideas. Each state can still keep their primary/caucus system to vote the way they see fit and almost everyone is happy, except for the politicians of Iowa and New Hampshire. But happiest of all, is one native southeast Iowan who is tired of seeing political ads even as he fast forwards his DVR from one blissfully political absent television show to another.


R. Sherman said...

I wonder if the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary are overblown. It's too early in my view to start thinking about those things as the candidates are still trying to get their sea legs.


Ed said...

Based on their record, I would say yes. Their record since beginning in 1972 is as follows:

Year Iowa Nom Nat Nom


1972 Muskie McGovern
1976 Uncommitted Carter
1980 Carter Carter
1984 Mondale Mondale
1988 Gephardt Dukakis
1992 Harkin Clinton
1996* Clinton Clinton
2000 Gore Gore
2004 Kerry Kerry
2008 Obama Obama


1972 Didn’t hold one early
1976 Ford Ford
1980 Bush Reagan
1984* Reagan Reagan
1988 Dole H.W. Bush
1992* H.W. Bush H.W. Bush
1996 Dole Dole
2000 Bush Bush
2004* Bush Bush
2008 Huckabee McCain

* Ran unopposed that election.

So if you tally it up, the Democrats are successful in predicting the nominee 60% of the time. The Republicans 67% of the time. If you discount the years when an incumbent was running the Democrats are batting 50% and the Republicans drop back to 33%. Not bad odds since being first means no hindsight but not great either.

sage said...

Perhaps worst of all (to revise your sentence from above) is that Ed's "For Sale" signs can't be seen in the midst of the campaign signs... Hang in there, glad you get to go first, but if they keep backing it up, you'll be holding your caucuses before the previous General Election is held.