Michigan and Florida, New Hampshire and Iowa
Sat March 15, 2008 12:35 pm

The latest snarl in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination is what to do about Michigan and Florida. This is the fault of the Democratic Party for injecting itself into state decisions about when to hold their primaries. (The Republican Party did the same, but its action had no consequences.) What makes the entire situation ridiculous is that both parties levied sanctions against Michigan and Florida in order to protect Iowa and New Hampshire. These are two of the least representative states in the Union, and yet they have been allowed to have a disproportionate voice in choosing the presidential nominees, which is precisely why Michigan and Florida chose to move up their primaries. New Hampshire is a tiny state that no one would miss if it were annexed by Canada, except for Dartmouth. It is mostly populated by people who left Massachusetts in defense of their sacred right not to pay taxes. The only purpose served by Iowa is that it enables presidential candidates to pledge their support for ethanol, which costs more than gasoline. Iowa doesn’t even have good basketball any more. It would be part of the Rust Belt, if it had any industry to rust. So the Democrats decided to allow two other states to choose their delegates in January: South Carolina and Nevada. Great. Two more unrepresentative states. Nothing that matters has happened in South Carolina since John Calhoun was alive. Nevada is just a theme park surrounded by desert.

Michigan and Florida – and all other states – ought to be able to hold their presidential primaries whenever they choose. The actions of the two parties create a situation that allows the candidates to try to game the system. The New York Times is reporting today that major Clinton donors in Florida are blackmailing (my word, not the Times’) the Democratic Party to demand the return of money they have raised for the party if Florida’s voters do not get counted.

The Republicans were much smarter than the Democrats. The GOP only counted half the votes from Michigan and Florida. At least the playing field was level. The Democrats did the worst thing possible: They imposed a penalty that was too harsh, and which they now find that they can’t justify enforcing without disenfranchising large numbers of voters, but which they can’t rectify without changing the rules of the game, which is unfair on its face.

A preferable system would be to have five mega-primaries, to be held in February, March, April, May, and June, leading up to the late-summer national conventions. These could be regional (Northeast, South, Midwest, Midlands, and West) or five randomly selected groups of ten states each, with a randomly chosen order of these groups. Somehow, the parties have to reform the current system that allows unrepresentative states to have a disproportionate voice in the selection of the nominees for president.

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