Delegate Allocation In Future Primaries
As a result of the tight Democratic contest, I am sure the DNC will take up yet another tinkering of the primary calendar and the process for electing delegates. A lot of ideas are bounding around right now. Here are some of my thoughts on what the DNC could do going forward:
1) Get rid of the superdelegates. Any competitive race where 35 million voters participate shouldn’t be decided by 800 party officials and elected politicians who were too chicken-shit to declare their preference until the final day of the campaign. Clearly they didn’t want their vote to matter, and it shouldn’t. Moreover, it would require more than 60% of the pledge delegate under current rules for any nomination to be decided without superdelegates – in other words, technically all serious primary contests are decided by these chicken-shit politicians. Instead, let’s keep them on as automatic non-voting delegates if you want to give them an excuse to attend the convention, but force them to compete with other folks for the actual voting slots.
2) Spread out the calendar. In 2008, the race was decided by the tie on Super Tuesday and Obama’s string of wins in February, but we slogged through the 3 months that followed with just a handful of races left because a candidate wasn’t convinced the race was over when it clearly was. So in the future, we should more evenly spread out the states, and keep them rotating in the order they go in so that every state gets to go early, just in case their time in last place leaves them ignored in that year’s primaries.
2a) I don’t think Iowa and New Hampshire should be given God-like preeminence in our political system. I think their two-fold arguments are rather flimsy: 1) we are a small enough state to allow for retail politics to see candidates up close; 2) our state populations are used to asking tough questions, so that tradition should be respected. I say hogwash. Now, Michigan and Florida are not realistic platforms for retail, up-close campaigns. But Nevada and South Carolina are, as are plenty of other small to mid-size states that could be given first-position on a rotating basis. And given how long these campaigns last, even half-way through, most of these early states will get used to seeing all the candidates up close and personal.
3) Keep but modify proportional voting. I don’t mind the fact that the Dems use PR. I think the problem comes in having too many districts with small number of delegates getting split 2-1 or 2-2 no matter how their popular vote was split. So either do like the Republicans on these district delegates (winner-take-all), or provide that some but not all of the state-wide delegates are set aside for the overall winner. There should be some kind of benefit to winning a primary besides an amorphous sense of momentum. You can do this in any number of ways, of course, but I think the emphasis should be placed on streamlining the number of ways delegates are seated (add-ons, PLEOs, supers, pledged by district, pledged by state-wide, etc., are too much), while trying to make sure the popular vote is well represented (the popular vote winner should always win more delegates in a state contest).
4) Streamline the format of each contest. There are literally almost dozen ways to hold a contest: primaries or caucuses, closed or open or mixed, and any combination thereof (including the Texas double-feature of a caucus and a primary). I don’t mind the caucuses, per se. But one recommendation I would have is to eliminate all open primaries (bar Republicans from voting in Democratic primaries and vice versa, but let Indies pick a contest to vote in). I’d also require each state to make register voters by party affiliation (to facilitate these semi-closed primaries). Finally, I’d pick a standard timeframe for voting on primary day in the state (6am to 8pm), with the only difference being the time zone. If most states followed these format changes, it’d be a lot easier to figure out how to campaign nationwide during the primary season.
5) Fewer debates with more substance. The Democrats had 22 debates, I saw many of them, and all I can really remember as far as substance is that Obama’s healthcare plan didn’t rely on individual mandates. Other items (like Hillary’s vote for the war and Obama’s practice of voting “present” in the state legislature) were raised in debates but not exclusively made into news by the debates. See the last one with ABC if you want to see both a total rehashing of old news and a largely substance-free debate. The join townhalls might make more sense in the primaries, too. But restrain the topics on formal debates, to get into deeper discussions – like having just one debate on Middle East foreign policy would be a smart thing to do.
6) Encourage the media to cover all serious candidates equally. The Dodd Debate Time Meter was embarassing, in so much as it proved how biased the debate moderators skewed coverage toward the “leading” candidates, to the exclusion of others liked Edwards and Richardson who could have caught on, had the media not influenced who voters saw as being in the running.