ANOTHER Iowa caucus has come and gone, finally, and another New Hampshire primary is up next. At least these things give the commentariat something to do. Especially when there’s a blowout at 90 mph, as happened in Iowa this year.
This may come as a surprise to some, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The United States Constitution does not say that these two mostly white, cold northern states—with their own special interests—must come first in the nomination process.
Fact is, the U.S. Constitution says little about the presidential nomination process. The two major political parties, which formed after the Constitution was written, are responsible for this state of affairs. Emphasis on state, or at least two of them.
And, no, there’s not a century-long tradition for conservatives to cling to, either. Iowa didn’t get its presidential primary head start until the Nixon administration.
Mike Bloomberg’s campaign for the Democratic nomination has us thinking again: Let’s stop doing this to ourselves, America. Iowa and New Hampshire just aren’t that special, politically, and certainly aren’t representative of the country.
Mike Bloomberg got into this race late. That is, he didn’t start three years ago like some of the other candidates. So he decided to skip the first few nominating states. After all, when combined, they only have a handful of delegates to send to the conventions. The Bloomberg campaign decided to focus on Super Tuesday, which includes Arkansas and other, lesser, states. Here’s hoping the strategy is a success. Not because we have any ties to Mike Bloomberg, but because such a strategy would prove the current scheme isn’t necessary.
Any candidate who doesn’t focus on Iowa and New Hampshire is usually punished by voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. But too often those two states get to thin out the crowd before most of us even get to see everybody’s commercials. As it happens, Democrats in Arkansas won’t get to vote for Kamala Harris or Cory Booker anyway. Some of us would like the same number of choices as given in Des Moines and Concord. We imagine voters from Florida to Hawaii feel the same way.
Many years back, in one of those maverick phases he tended to go through, John McCain suggested dividing the nation into four sections for the presidential primary season. You’d have a Northeast section, a Northwest, a Southwest and a Southeast. And those sections would take turns going first in the primaries every four years. You’d have four Super Tuesdays, and the four quadrants of the country would rotate as to timing.
Think of such an approach as a rotatfootball bowl schedule for something important. That way, candidates wouldn’t have to trudge, and we mean trudge, through the slush in Iowa and New Hampshire only to have their presidential hopes dashed a year
before the general election because some assistant aide said something impolitic about ethanol.
It wouldn’t be a perfect system. But every four years, Arkansas would be a big deal, politically, as it teamed with the SEC or the Southwestern Conference of political shows. But 48 other states would be big deals, too. States such as New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, Montana—all of which will hold primaries in June this year, well after the nominations will likely be decided.
A lot of states, and state political officials, should like The McCain Plan, if we may label it such. More than 30 states will hold their primaries/caucuses after Super Tuesday this year. And will have a smaller candidate menu because of it. Why put up with it?
If this idea is too politically hot for the parties, we’d prefer a plan that allows Iowa and New Hampshire to go first, then group the remaining 48 states and territories into those four Super Tuesdays anyway. That wouldn’t make Iowa or New Hampshire a make-or-break effort. And the people—all of us—would have more say in the nominations.
There’s nothing wrong with Iowa. Who has anything against corn? And it’s said that New Hampshire has a white Christmas every year. Good on them.
But if nothing’s wrong with those states, there’s nothing particularly special about them either, at least politically. It wouldn’t even take a constitutional amendment or an act of Congress to make this change, only the will.
Happy Mardi Gras, y’all. American elections, and discussions about American elections, beat any carnival.