Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Oh for the Days When Pros Ran Conventions

Watching the ludicrous and money-wasting presidential debates and plans for primaries this year and in years past, I long for the days when professional politicians made deals in smoke-filled back rooms, and delegates really were able to vote at summer conventions. What was wrong with the choices of Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower? What if Dean hadn’t imploded in Iowa last time?

As to the debates, prior to 1960 and in 1964, 1968, & 1972 there were no televised presidential debates. This year the debate schedule has exploded, and some debates have Alice-in-Wonderland qualities. Here below are some comments from a columnist who writes for The American Spectator. Although her comments single out Democrats, much of the same could be said of the Republican debates; and is anybody watching?

Small Talk
By Lisa Fabrizio

Published 8/1/2007 The American Spectator (Excerpt)

"The big news this week is that leading GOP presidential candidates are prepared to just say no to CNN's September edition of its YouTube debate series. In the aftermath of last week's unutterably awful display of what passes for modern political debate in our country, this is a most welcome and commonsensical development. In addition to the most obviously embarrassing aspects of the Democrat debate -- animated snowmen, phony rednecks, and a host of other wannabes eager for their 15 minutes of fame -- was the inordinate amount of video-questions posed by young, MTV-types.

We unfortunately live in an age where youth trumps all. This phenomenon started in the 1960s and continues unabated today, to the extent that those who started the ball rolling have adopted a Peter Pan mentality: they won't grow up. And it was painfully apparent that the Democratic candidates, if not totally onboard with this concept, must at least pay it lip service if they want their party's nomination. So great is this feeling that the youth vote conquers, that even when choosing a commander-in-chief, immaturity rocks, dude.

This however, is nothing new. Recall the 2004 election season, when CNN televised the "Rock the Vote" Democratic debate which featured questions like, "I'd be curious to find out, if you could pick one of your fellow candidates to party with, which you would choose....If you get sick, who's going to hold your hair back? If you see a cutie across the room...who's going to be your wing man? Who's going to take one for the team?""

Our system of primaries is also obviously broken, as states compete with each other to be first to put on the shows and gain the dollars that come with them.

As states play 'Me First,' primaries fall into chaos

By Susan Page, USA TODAY, August 26, 2007 (Excerpt)

CONCORD, N.H. — “Don't be fooled by the mild manner and balding pate: William Gardner just might be the most powerful person in American politics at the moment.

For three decades, the little-known New Hampshire secretary of State has had the sole authority to set the date of the Granite State's first-in-the-nation presidential primary — an early-in-the-year contest that has been the single most decisive event in determining who gets nominated.

Now moves by Florida and other states to get the attention traditionally lavished on New Hampshire and Iowa, which holds the opening caucuses, has created a train wreck of an election calendar and a high-stakes political showdown. It also has increased the odds that the 2008 nominations for president could be decided before Valentine's Day.

A Democratic National Committee panel voted Saturday to strip Florida of its convention delegates unless it moves back its primary from Jan. 29, but there are no signs the state will comply. If nothing gives, Democratic presidential candidates will face an unusual dilemma: commit to spending valuable time and money to compete in a beauty-pageant election that won't build their delegate count, or essentially ignore the nation's fourth-most-populous state — the one that decided the 2000 election.

FLORIDA SANCTIONED: Democrats strip Florida of primary delegates
Meanwhile, Iowa's caucuses, required by state law to move earlier and maintain the state's primacy in the nominating process, will be competing with New Year's Eve for attention. In any case, the crush of more than 20 states now scheduled to vote on Feb. 5 means the nominees in both parties could be apparent by the next morning.

There are other unintended consequences of the compressed 2008 schedule: The odds of a long shot winning a nomination — as Democrat Jimmy Carter did in 1976 — have gotten longer. And public financing of presidential elections, a post-Watergate reform, is effectively dead because nominees won't be able to wait until the end of summer to get federal funds and begin spending money.

Through it all, Iowa and New Hampshire are likely to be more important than ever. The momentum that victories in those states can provide will be enhanced by the rush of contests that follow.”

Give me some grown-up professional politicians making deals to select a candidate, and spare me the agony of the current, broken process.


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At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am interested in your opinion of the primary oneupsmanship.
Obviously the "being first" race is getting silly, but I can certainly understand large states not wanting Iowa and NH controlling so much of the early process and likely outcome...

on the other hand, we don't want the states "buying" the control of the outcome which larger states certainly could do.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger RussWilcox said...

I think what's happening in Florida tells the tale, where the Democrats will not seat their delegates if Florida advances its primary date.

At 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So do you agree we should leave NH as the kingmaker?

The latest is they agreed not to spend any advertising money in the states if those states don't back down...


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