DNC Working On Changes to 2012 Presidential Nominating Calendar

Tim Kaine yesterday announced the formation of a new commission to change the process by which the Democratic presidential nominee is chosen.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina will lead the Democratic Change Commission, which is scheduled to report its findings no later than Jan. 1, 2010. The commission, which is largely comprised of Democrats who supported Mr. Obama (and a few who backed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in last year's contentious primary season), will review and streamline the 2008 calendar.

"This commission will focus on reform that improves the presidential nominating process," Mr. Kaine said in a statement, "to put voters first and ensure that as many people as possible can participate."

An ironic statement perhaps considering how many people voted in the primary last year; lack of participation was not the problem, although I suppose that's probably a reference to making sure we don't have another Florida or Michigan situation in the future. To do that, they're going to have to somehow deal with Michigan's desire to break the first in the nation stranglehold Iowa and New Hampshire have on the process. All 4 of the first in the nation states are represented on the commission.

Tim Kaine's rather vague goals for improving the system include:

...changing the window for primaries and caucuses, reducing the number of superdelegates and improving the caucus system.

In addition:

Next time, party leaders say, the primaries and caucuses will start no sooner than Feb. 1, which is a month later than the 2008 race.

While last year's nominating process demonstrated that having an earlier primary does not necessarily mean having the most influential one, states also saw unprecedented benefits of having a contested primary, so it's hard to see states volunteering for later and, hence, more likely uncontested primaries. But glad to see the DNC embarking on reform of a system that badly needs it.

Tags: DNC, presidential primary (all tags)

Comments

17 Comments

Lot of changes needed

How about changing the way delegates are allocated so that the loser of a state doesn't walk away with almost the same amount as the winner.

It worked out okay this time.

But what if next time the insurgent candidate that the activists line up behind is some freaky geek with whacked out ideas?

Why can't we just do it like the Republicans.   Let our people vote, you win the state, you get the delegates, next.

Super delegates are dumb too.

by RichardFlatts 2009-03-24 10:02AM | 0 recs
That would be horribly unrepresentative

Then you'll wind up with the situation we have nationally for the general election where only a few swing states matter and the rest can be safely ignored.

In my fabulous opinion the right answer is a one day national primary with directly counted votes (no districting, not even delegates at the state level, just a straight popular vote count). For extra bonus good it should be on a rankings ballot, and in a primary with multiple viable choices that's really the only sane way to do it, otherwise you get many-way near ties with effectively random winners. (See French first round for President in 2002, where a crazy fringe guy came in 2nd in a five way split ranging from 22% to 16% of the votes. Rankings ballots would have fixed this.)

by bolson 2009-03-24 10:19AM | 0 recs
Re: That would be horribly unrepresentative

If we had a national primary there would be no chance of an insurgent candidate ever winning... and it would discourage many from running.

by JDF 2009-03-24 10:22AM | 0 recs
Has an insurgent candidate ever won?

by antiHyde 2009-03-24 10:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Has an insurgent candidate ever won?

Obama

by LordMike 2009-03-24 10:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Has an insurgent candidate ever won?

Wasn't Obama the front-runner from Iowa on?

by antiHyde 2009-03-24 05:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Has an insurgent candidate ever won?

Gene McCarthy didn't need to win, we just needed him to think he could long enough to show up.

by Endymion 2009-03-24 10:53AM | 0 recs
Almost always

McGovern, Carter, Clinton, Kerry, Obama

by DTOzone 2009-03-24 12:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Almost always

Kerry an insurgent?!?! rofl

He was the "safe" choice when too many of my fellow Iowans chickened out on Dean. "They can't attack John Kerry on defense -- he's a war hero!"

by jdeeth 2009-03-24 12:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Has an insurgent candidate ever won?

Carter

by jdeeth 2009-03-24 12:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Has an insurgent candidate ever won?

I take that back, Carter was second in Iowa to Uncommitted

by jdeeth 2009-03-24 12:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Lot of changes needed

Because we don't want the guy who got 51% in California to swamp ten smaller states that have more electoral votes in total.

For constructive suggestions, I'd say regional primaries, far fewer superdelegates (only those running on the coattails this election) and bonus delegates for winning the popular vote. On the latter suggestion, dealing with caucuses is tricky, personally, I'd ban caucuses, but I know that won't fly.

by antiHyde 2009-03-24 10:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Lot of changes needed

As long as the GOP is in meltdown, it's essentially impossible for the Democratic Party to put forth a true radical.  Without even trying, the membership of the Democratic Party is gorged with moderates and rational center-rightists, and that has an unavoidable effect on primaries, even as we work to minimize it.  The idea of a two-party system in which both parties are abhorrent to the center is a sacred component of our national political narrative, but... it's utter bullshit.  Obama, anti-Socialist, anti-gay-marriage, publicly religious Obama is about as far left as the Democratic Party can hope for.  

Besides, there's already a structure in place to prevent your scenario: the superdelegates.  

by Endymion 2009-03-24 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Lot of changes needed
about as far left as the Democratic Party can hope for
I stubbornly insist on hoping and agitating for better.
We often criticize dems for premature surrender in debates and legislative processes when up against the R party. I think the same principle holds internally. There shouldn't be premature surrender to supposed centrism (a title claimed illegitimately, imfo), there should be work to shift the center to be obviously somewhere better.
by bolson 2009-03-24 11:29AM | 0 recs
Contested Primaries

The thing is, one of the main reasons that so many states got to have vibrantly contested primaries was that resources could be moved from state to state as the season progressed.  If you put everybody first, then you get a primary campaign in Texas and California and New York, and that's where all the rest of our Presidents will come from.

by Endymion 2009-03-24 10:50AM | 0 recs
Shouldn't we be counting people's votes?

What's so bad about the person with the most votes winning? Yeah, a large percentage of those votes will come from states with a large percentage of the population. Should people vote or should lines on the map vote? For all the reasons we should eliminate the electoral college, we should also have direct popular election in the primary.

by bolson 2009-03-24 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Shouldn't we be counting people's votes?
The reason that the Electoral College and the diffuse Primary season are good from a campaign standpoint is that it allows greater targeting of resources.  In a true 48-state Obama Campaign(even in your proposal the non-contiguous states wouldn't be cost effective), you would have seen a little bit less than half the Campaign in any of the current swing states, with the same level of organization then provided in the current safe states.  At that level of funding and staffing, the campaign would be completely nonfunctional everywhere.  In addition, the Campaign would still have to have been organized along state lines because of the need to coordinate down ticket and because of legal compliance issues and because partnering between state and national parties in the Presidential builds the state parties(which we cannot dispense with, due to the existence of midterms).  As long as you accept the value of a strong campaign, these are all positives.  Certainly there are opportunity costs in terms of enfranchisement, that should not be downplayed, but destroying an existing system in order to start over from scratch is inherently crippling in realtime.  In addition, while there is not perfect correlation, the states which are most heavily targeted in the Primary tend to be safe states, so there's balance when both schemes are in place together, and one should not be changed without changing the other.  So yes, for the reasons we should change one, we should change the other...it would suck though.
It's also important to remember that we are, in theory, a compact of dependent but individual nation-states, not a single homogeneous people.  Without the Electoral College, the regional and interstate tensions we work so hard against today could become unmanageable as 'coastie domination' paranoia became electoral fact.  The Electoral College ensures that the Executive Branch is just as representative of Oklahoma as the Legislative Branch.  Yes, objectively this seems bad for Oklahoma, but they like it; and we like having Oklahoma better than the consequences of not having it.  
We currently have an inelegant system in place for preventing tyranny of the majority in the form of the Electoral College.  Asking the world to stop for five or ten years while we rewrite our code from scratch is not viable.  The only thing worse would be to remove the balancing force of the staggered Primary without reforming it.
by Endymion 2009-03-24 11:57AM | 0 recs

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