Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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What’s Wrong with Our Presidential Nomination Process?

Michael Barone reminds us that "it starts too early and ends too abruptly." People in most states usually don’t REALLY get to participate, and there’s not much place for real deliberation. Nonetheless, Barone adds, the results really haven’t been that bad.

Discussions - 12 Comments

How about this: a great way to reduce the money in politics would be to shorten the election cycle. If the states rolled back their primaries and caucuses, closer to the national conventions, then the candidates would not be setting up campaigns and harassing the people of those states so early in the process. I am sick of the whole thing, and we have nearly two years to go, and I don’t even watch TV. I don’t see how the rest of you can stand it.


Yes, Barone is right, we can muddle through. But honestly, if the presumption is that this lengthy process gives us the best possible candidates - well - who says? I don’t see it. I don’t see why the parties bother with the conventions anymore, anyway. They have already settled the candidacy well ahead of time. There is no longer any question going into those who will be the candidates nominated. It is all an expensive bore.

Kate, I agree with you, but the problem is, as you say, that the parties don’t really exist anymore. So who’s supposed to do the reforming?

I am having a problem with your link.

Am I saying that the parties don’t exist anymore? I actually hadn’t thought that. Remember, I am a rank amateur and when I throw something like the above out there, I am really trying to provoke you guys into giving me information. Yes, that’s it, Say, it’s just Kate, being provoking.


Is it just a matter of my memory, or is it true that TV gives less and less time to the conventions? I remember watching the conventions (rapt or wandering, depending on the speaker) nearly all day, certainly all evening, long. My memory is of "full-coverage of the convention" being an advertised boast. Would any network, even on cable, do that anymore? Maybe that is what will reform the process; TV reducing all of those carefully crafted speeches into sound-bites. Eventually, TV will not cover them any more, except for on the regular news programs, as extended segments. Although, wouldn’t an old-fashioned convention, with some real suspense as to the outcome, revolutionize the political dynamic in America? Americans love a contest. Instead of real contests that matter, we are reduced to entertainments like "American Idol."


It’s not like Americans aren’t passionately interested in who will be the next president. The last two elections showed how intensely people are concerned, although I would say the interest is in the politics, and less in the man. If the personalities involved were all that engaging, Al Gore would have been the candidate in the last election.


So, Hillary NEEDS Barack and the other guys, to try to create some excitement for what is probably a foregone conclusion. The good news is that, if they lose, we probably will not have to deal with them as serious candidates in the following election, even if the try to run. The election process is so costly, so laborious, so tedious, that everyone is sick of the people involved by the end and don’t want to think about them.

Peter, the problem is there’s a stray quotation mark that shows up at the end of the link. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen; I fixed it for one of your other posts just last week, and I’ll fix this one, too.

John, Thanks!

Peter, parties really still exist!

Steve, But not as an organization that can control or direct the outcome of the serial primary process...And insofar as the convention is the party, the party largely becomes the candidate, the convention an orchestrated pep rally for the candidate...

Peter, Yes, of course. But the national conventions are not the way to pick up the continuing significance of party organizations: the national committees, the campaign committees, the congressional caucuses, the state parties. The demise of parties is often greatly exaggerated.

Steve, I probably agree completely The Ds acted like a party in the recent congressional election, and it paid off. But it is odd that the party has virtually no say over the presidential nominee.

It seems to be different for the Republicans. Or so my wife Paula Baker says, who knows party history.

So, has the power that was in a central party structure now gone to individual states? Or is that decentralization even more general, and therefore, democratic? If that is true, then does that mean that media-based perception of candidates direct the nomination process, and no one, in the sense of the party, has control anymore?


But not for the Republicans. Well. But the field for Republicans seems so open. Or is that only perception, and within the party the nomination is mostly settled? If it is settled, then it is my guess that is settled on McCain, who was the "almost" the last time and will, thereby, seem both more electable and more deserving.

You mean Paula Baker the historian at OSU? I know her! She attended a Liberty Fund conference I organized in 2005.

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