I can only imagine what aliens, having landed on earth on February 1, would think of America and how it picks its leaders. First, they learned candidates have spent a year crisscrossing two political units which account for one percent of the total delegates who will make the eventual choice at a gathering later in the year. And they will do that in two other states the rest of the month. Then they will have THREE days to make a case to 14 additional political units that control 40 percent of the delegates.
Then tonight they watched what could only be called a cat fight over which candidate is the least flawed. No wonder many of the best potential candidates choose not to participate in this dumpster fire.
Based on their observations, the aliens return to their home planet and report, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, their system of picking their leader by pulling a name out of a hat is a bad way to do it, but it’s better than all the rest. Though they heard some candidates talk about breaking a glass ceiling, the consensus opinion is the winner will be the one who survives falling through the glass floor.
It’s not like the Democratic party hasn’t tried to make it better. The first such effort was a commission chaired by Michigan Congressman James O’Hara following the 1968 disaster at the Chicago convention. The result. George McGovern and the worst electoral college beating in political history. And after each successive presidential loss the party has tweaked the system with minimal effect.
Again, I turn to Putney Swope who, when asked if he, as the new CEO of the advertising company at which he was hired as the token minority, would rock the boat, replied, “I’m not going to rock the boat. I’m going to sink the whole f***ing ship.” The time for tweaking has passed. It’s time to start with a blank slate and put on our MARA caps (Make America Rational Again).
In this post, I will focus on two major elements of the electoral process: the primaries and candidate debates.
PRIMARIES: First and foremost, the party should ban caucuses. They violate every democratic principle supportive of an engaged electorate. Second, the nation should be divided into four contiguous regions with each region consisting of states with approximately one-fourth of the total delegates. Third, regional primaries should be held no less than 30 days apart. Fourth, the order of the regional primaries should rotate over a sixteen year period, giving each region a chance to be “first in the nation.”
DEBATES: While televised debates would still be distributed among the major media outlets, the networks would not choose the format, the moderators or the questions. The first two decisions would be made by the eligible participants in each event. The topics would be determined by an independent polling service by asking voting age residents in each region, “What are the three most important issues in the upcoming election?” The top five answers would be selected as topics for the first debate in that region. Each participant would be given a chance to present their plan to address each issue. If there were multiple debates in a region, the second or third event could focus on topics further down the list. The moderator’s sole purpose would be to ensure rules related to length of answers and questioning between candidates are enforced.
You might ask, when do candidates get a chance to air their concerns about an opponents past performance or statements. If you look at the transcript of tonight’s debate, questions about every candidate’s shortcomings were recitations already raised by the media. Look at the front page of any newspaper or watch cable news. The headlines were about medical record transparency, buying the election, questionable past statements and actions.
Let the media use their time and resources to fuel a cat fight. The party should ensure the debates give candidates a chance to tell us how they will govern, if elected. Bernie and Elizabeth know they have to explain why Medicare for All is not a financial disaster. Mike knows he has to tell black voters how he will atone for negative impacts associated with stop and frisk. The party should give them and all the other candidates that chance to make their case about the future and why it makes sense in light of any perceived inconsistencies.
If candidates want to go negative, parroting what is already being reported in newspapers and on talk shows, they have the right to do so. But make them do it on their dime, not free media access when voters should hear about how they plan to govern, not why they are less flawed than their opponents.
For what it’s worth.