Monday, October 29, 2007

Bad for the process

I have real mixed feelings about the decision of the Iowa Democratic Party to move its precinct Caucuses up to January 3rd to match the date that the Republicans will also be meeting. On the one hand, the reason that this was done was that South Carolina and Florida kept jockeying for position and New Hampshire was moving their Primary back as a result. This in turn caused Iowans to feel the need to move their Caucus date up. I have enough respect for tradition to understand why Iowans feel the need to preserve their traditional role in the process.

On the other hand, the packed Primary schedule this election cycle and the early start to the 2008 campaign has devalued the candidacies of nearly every candidate in the race in both parties, and has left the race open only to the candidates that the elites in either party would prefer. The grassroots of both parties have largely been excluded from the nominating process, and this has actually been a natural consequence of the country moving from a caucus and convention-based nominating process to a direct-vote Primary. The system that was supposedly designed to hear from the grassroots has managed to exclude them-and I have often believed that this was the plan all along. The recent Republican Senate nominating convention in Virginia showed that where real conventions are held, the people who do the hard work of politics at the local level will choose the best candidate-not just the one with the most money to spend.

The 2006 campaign left me emotionally exhausted and physically drained, even though all of the candidates that I was personally invested in-with the notable exception of Ed Bryant- actually won. I suspect that there were those on the other side of the aisle who felt the same way. Yet we didn't seem to get a day's rest before the 2008 Presidential campaign started. The result is that people have real political burnout at a time when they probably should be very politically alert. The end result may be that the poorer choices of candidate are what we are handed as the nominees of both parties.

The system is a wreck, and no one in either party wants to do what it would really take to remedy the problem: We need party conventions that actually mean something again.



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