As America goes to work overseas bringing it’s peculiar brand of Democracy to the heathens, scary things are happening back home. This story is a little old, but news-junkie that I am, I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere (until this mention today at Dissociated Press). The story is this: as we know, states are broke and the feds aren’t giving them any relief. To cut costs, then, a lot of states are seriously considering, or have already done so, cancelling their presidential primaries. Colorado and Utah have already done so, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, and Tennessee are thinking about it.
Now, primaries aren’t part of the Constitutional process, as parties in general aren’t, but they’re the way we’ve worked out so far to winnow down the slew of contestants to a reasonable number. They have the advantage of putting this process in the open and subjecting it to regulation. I don’t know–I’m afraid to know–how the parties are going to select their candidates next year. Backroom deals? Size of the campaign warchest? Kissing the ass of the party chair?
For the Republicans, who have given this move a lot of support, this isn’t a problem, at least next year. Running against Bush as a Republican would be political suicide. I mean, first of all, you’d have to point out something Bush did wrong and that kind of dissension just isn’t allowed in today’s Republican Party. But the Democrats are fielding like a hundred candidates! Okay, maybe 8 or so. How will these be narrowed down to the lucky person (or two) who gets to run for office?
And there’s another thing: these are states that tend to vote Republican in the Presidential race (at least, they all did last time around). The primaries are the only chance that registered Democratas in those states will have any chance, most likely, to effect the outcome of the Presidential race. The candidate that wins the primaries in Colorado, if they had one, would be the Democrat most likely to represent Colorado interests. Why should any Democrat worry about those interests now?
Now, I’m not a Democrat, I’m an independent. As I say elsewhere, I don’t much care for primaries as a political institution, because I don’t much care for parties as a political institution. But I’m not idealist enough to believe that the world I would prefer is the world I live in, and primaries are certainly better than nothing. You don’t massively change the foundation of your political process at the last minute to save a little money!
One other thing that scares me–what’s next? We all know Bush doesn’t care for debates that much–maybe no debates next time around? And why bother with conventions? Maybe a parliament-style presidency, who only has to call for elections when s/he feels some sort of moral or political necessity for it? The elimination of primaries represents a fundamental shift in the way politics is carried out in the US–it deserves a little thought. Oh, and a little press.