It is absurd how we elect the President of the United States.
We have an 18th century process in place that marginalizes voters west of the Rockies through the primary system, gives party hacks as super delegates the ability to water down and even negate the power of a vote cast at the ballot box, as well as props up two special interest groups — the Republican and Democratic party establishments— by tailoring the electoral process to perpetuate their existence.
No disrespect to New Hampshire or Iowa residents, but how is giving them the virtually exclusive right to thin the herd hold up under the concept of every American voter having an equal say in their government via the ballot box?
Why should 4.1 million people in New Hampshire and Iowa carry significantly more weight in electing a president and vice president than the 4 million residents of the eight counties that compose the San Joaquin Valley?
By the time the primary rolls around to California, voters here will have less choices. And by the outside chance either race becomes a deadlocked donnybrook, the odds are super delegates not bound by anyone else but their own conscious will decide their party nominee.
At the end of it all is an Electoral College where, again, those elected on the promise they will vote for a specific candidate aren’t legally bound to do so. It was all designed back in the 18th century to give the states a fairly equal share in determining who will lead the country. But in the 21st century it for all practical purposes invests more power in smaller East Coast and Midwest states and the party apparatus.
The system in place using caucuses and primaries designed to perpetuate the two parties means the government has created a virtually impossible hurdle for any grassroots movement to carry any significant clout outside of the tents of the Democratic and the Republican parties.
It also leads to a lot of bad national policies.
Ethanol — an alternative clean fuel source that on the bottom line not only consumes too much energy to produce to make it an effective green alternative but also is expensive — became a federal mandate in part to presidential hopefuls in the position of authority in Washington wanting to “buy” votes in the Iowa caucuses. Not only did it lead to massive taxpayer subsidies but it also severely crimped the supply of corn for food purposes leading to higher prices at the grocery store.
What was a smart move at the dawn of the republic when politicians traveled from state-to-state on horseback or in carriages that also were used to distribute mass media — campaign leaflets and such — still made sense at the start of the United States’ second century when the main campaign travel mode was the rail for both politicians as well as printed coverage and campaign leaflets. Telegrams were the Twitter of the day in the late 19th century but they were rare and expensive.
Today candidates not only jet about but they are projected everywhere on TV, the Internet, social media and radio. Twitter can spread the word to half the country in minutes as opposed to the weeks and months it would take for political news to travel from one city and/or settlement to another.
We are well into the 21st century yet we elect a president as if we were still living in 1776.
Why not have a national primary? It would render conventions obsolete in terms of the election process. If the parties still want to have them to adopt platforms that they never follow anyway, that’s their business.
The primary could be held in June of a presidential election year. It would force them to mount a campaign that appeals to everyone and not just whatever state they are facing a primary in at the time.
It would mean during visits California candidates would have to do something other than pick up piles of money. They’d actually have to campaign at events the public can attend either in person or through media coverage.
You could even have an open primary. The top two vote getters regardless of party affiliation would be on the November ballot. And, if by chance, someone received 50 percent plus of the vote they’d win outright. It would save the nation from five more months of mind-numbing campaigning. Such a system would encourage candidates to not play to the extremes in each party and then switch their views to the middle to try and get elected in November. It might actual make politics a bit less cynical in terms of how candidates mold and change their stances like chameleons depending upon what state they are mining for votes.
In California elections where the same party has secured both nominations for the general election for state offices, the candidates have had to carve a more middle of the road position.
It’s time to make everyone’s vote count deciding who the nominees are and not just a few Americans that carry clout due to the timing of primaries.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.