Merry Christmas! Now Go Vote

Ah! Christmas time. "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year," according to the old standard. Sleigh bells jingling and children singing, hot totties and the ubiquitous yule log supplying a warm, friendly, holiday glow to the surroundings. There's nothing that could make the season more festive, right?

How about a political caucus?

That's right. South Carolina has announced that in order to maintain their status as the "First in the South" primary, they will leapfrog Florida's electoral contest set for January 29 and hold the Palmetto State showdown on January 19th rather than the previously planned February 2. This move automatically triggers a New Hampshire law which requires that state to hold their primary seven days before any other state in the nation. The first Tuesday before the South Carolina primary and after the seven day period mandated by law would be January 8th.

And if there was any more evidence needed that the way we in the United States pick our presidential candidates is approaching Marx Brothers territory, the state of Iowa, whose own statute requires that the Hawkeyes hold their caucuses 8 days prior to any other state voting for president, would then be forced to hold it's contest on December 31, 2007 or earlier.

Consider, gentle reader, the possibility that we will begin picking presidential candidates almost a full year before election day. Also consider the possibility that both major candidates for president will be known by the end of January or early February. That means that we will have what promises to be a savage fight for the presidency lasting about nine months.

In short, God can make a baby about as fast as we can elect a president. And there is little doubt that not only will the next president not be as cute as your average baby, but that slicing a few months off of the election process will harm the nation a lot less than shortcutting the babymaking process will hurt a newborn.

Much has been written about the silly, counterproductive way we nominate and elect presidents. There is no shortage of ideas on what to do about this ghastly situation - only the will to implement them. Should we have a "National Primary Day?" How about regional primaries? How about scrapping primaries altogether and having a national "town hall" where people would gather to caucus and discuss the issues facing the nation?

It has even been suggested that presidents be nominated the old fashioned way - at the party conventions. This is how they were chosen for the 150 years prior to the party reforms initiated in the 60s and 70s which were supposed to make the process more "inclusive" and "transparent." We've got inclusiveness and transparency coming out of our ears and look where we are now - Santa Claus and Hillary Clinton coming down the chimney together. Have the reforms improved the quality of candidates? Some would argue that the old wise men of the two parties who used to meet in smoke filled rooms to choose a nominee got it right more often than not. A debatable point to be sure and not relevant when discussing a process that cries out for openness and as much democracy as this poor republic can handle.

We Americans, being inveterate tinkerers, experiment with this primary process every four years. But instead of fixing the machine, we're like the guy who takes the entire gizmo apart and looks helplessly at the pile of junk on his workbench without a clue how to put it all back together. He tries gamely, hammering away trying to make parts fit together that have no relationship with one another. When he's finished, there are always a few screws and nuts he somehow couldn't find room for.

And of course, the machine is worse off then when he began his tinkering. That seems to be the scenario that has been playing out for the last few election cycles as the more parties fiddle with the process, the longer, more expensive, and more ridiculous the whole thing becomes.

Mike Smith of Politico informs us that, according to his sources, the "Christmas Caucus" in Iowa idea is not going to happen. I sincerely hope he's right. But our relief should be tempered with the knowledge that the latest those caucuses will now be held would be the end of the first week in January - only 5 months hence.

To give you an idea of how far around the bend our two political parties have gone, the New Hampshire primary of 1980 occurred on February 26 of that year. Today, there are few observers who believe that in 2008, the nominees for president from both parties won't have things well in hand by that date.

That means that for the six months following - until the party conventions in August - the rival campaigns will be tearing at each other over Iraq, the economy, taxes, education, health insurance, and any other issue that comes along. The ungodly sums of money spent, the rancor, the gutter tactics we have seen from both parties over the last decade or more will almost certainly cause the American voter to tune out even earlier, throwing up their hands in despair at the course our experiment in democracy has taken.

Somehow, I don't think this is quite what the founders had in mind.


Rick Moran blogs at Right Wing Nut House