Primary Madness: The Tyranny of the Few

THE SIMPLE REASON JOHN McCAIN LOST THE ELECTION is that, even with the nomination of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate, the Republican base was still not sufficiently energized to turn out in sufficient numbers (and to encourage others to do so) to elect the so-called maverick. In short, McCain was just not conservative on enough issues to win us--and the nation--over. His alignment with Democratic senators Feingold, Kennedy, and Lieberman on a series of wrong-headed legislation not only tarnished his claim to conservative credentials, but his claim to good judgment as well. So why did Republicans choose such a poor candidate as their standard-bearer in '08?

Because a few chaff-headed farmers in Iowa and a couple of tree-tapping saps in New Hampshire exerted a disproportional influence on the primary process. There may have been a time when these small state primaries made sense, but I cannot recall it. I cannot even formulate a good argument for its continuance today. So I have what I think is a better idea: A national primary.

Here's how it would work: As we have seen, the presidential election now takes almost two full years from start to finish. I don't like it, but as a believer in the Free Speech clause, I think we should not limit it. Let all the contenders speak, debate, and run ads to their hearts' content, and let them spend all the money, from whatever source, they wish--just require full disclosure of their donors' identities and donations, so the American people can judge who is owned by whom.

Then, we'll hold a national primary for each party in May. Anyone (Rep or Dem) could vote in either primary, but no one could vote in both. That way, in order for miscreants like Rush's ill-advised "Operation Chaos" mind-numbed robots (who effectively elected Obama, thank you) to cast ballots for the "weak horse" (as they thought Obama would be), they would have to sacrifice a vote for their own favorite candidate. I think most people would rather put their own candidate in office than disrupt the other party's nomination process.

This would not disenfranchise voters in Iowa; nor would it disenfrachize voters in California, Alabama, or Utah. Everyone would have a say in narrowing the field, say, to three on a side, who would then go to their respective nominating conventions.

Then, the real campaign would ensue, and it wouldn't be for president, either, but instead for delegates to the national party conventions. Instead of choosing electors based on insider-trading and political payback, each state delegation would be filled with people who run for the office. Their prime qualification would be their reasoning behind which of the three candidates they would support at the summer convention, where their votes would not be secret, but public, because they ran for elector based on their support for a certain candidate.

The nomination convention would then return to its first purpose: to select the best representative of the party in the final contest in the fall. Convention rules could permit a change of vote (after, say, the third tied ballot). In any case, it would be the will of the party overall that would select the best candidate, and not just a few insiders in obscure states.

Looking back at the recent Republican primary, I am certain that the candidate thus chosen would not have been the contrarian John McCain. Rather, if a whole nation of Republicans had an early voice in winnowing down the field of contestants, I believe it most likely that Mitt Romney, Rudy Guiliani, and Mike Huckabee would have entered the convention as final contenders, and people like the guy down my block who cares enough about Republican politics to run for elector and go to the convention on his own dime would then choose the best party representative for November. Thus, in voting for the elector, I would have a say at the national convention.

If both parties had chosen their candidate this way, I have no doubt that today we'd either have a president Guiliani or Clinton, both vast improvements over the faux-conservative McCain or the ultra-liberal Obama.

NEXT: Why Congress Doesn't Represent Us

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