With impeachment wrapped up, the focus now turns to the presidential campaign.
The Iowa caucus fiasco on the Democratic side has grabbed the headlines. The “winner” was either Buttigieg or Sanders . . . but we still don’t know. Iowa Democrats chose to report their precinct results through a phone app. It worked less than well. No results were available election night and it has taken days to trickle in with all kinds of questions as to accuracy. National Democratic Chair Tom Perez has called for a complete recount to resolve the matter.
New Hampshire’s primary is Tuesday . . . And it may, or may not, provide any clarity on the Democratic contest. Socialist Bernie Sanders did well in Iowa and may very well prevail in New Hampshire. He could conceivably be the Democratic nominee in November. But, does he represent the preference of the overall Democratic electorate? That is an open question.
In some ways Democrats are experiencing what Republicans went through in 2016: A large, multi-candidate race that resulted in the nomination of a flawed candidate. The Republican electorate as a whole did not favor Trump, but the opponents were too divided to beat him.
That raises the key question. Is there a better way of nominating our candidates for presidency?
There has been considerable national commentary about the role of the early contests. Should Iowa always be the first caucus and should New Hampshire always hold the first primary? And, should they, South Carolina and Nevada kick off the calendar? Or, would it be better to vary the calendar? Part of the criticism is that Iowa is too white, New Hampshire is too old, etc. to reflect the Unites States as a whole.
Some have suggested increasing the role of Republican and Democratic party officials in choosing a candidate. The idea is that these sort of decision-makers will be concerned more with the viability of the candidate in the general election then the temporary appeal of a populist. Democrats have a version of this already with their so-called superdelegates which will make up 16% of their delegate total. This year they will not vote in the first round of their national convention but can vote if the contest goes to a second round.
Another idea is to encourage state and local party organizations to officially endorse presidential candidates. Many can now but don’t. I’m somewhat cynical that this idea would make much of a difference in the process.
One of the more interesting ideas is to move to regional geographic groupings of nomination contests. Imagine if, on a particular date, all of the Rocky Mountain states simultaneously held primaries or caucuses for both Republican and Democratic candidates. And, that was the only such cluster for two or three weeks.
The idea is that the candidates would need to focus on the regional needs of each clump of nominating contests. So, in the Rocky Mountains, public lands would be important as would be the needs of agriculture. This kind of serial, regional scrutiny might also ensure that candidates are fully vetted as to electability.
Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt pushed this concept some years back, and current Utah Gov. Gary Herbert just spoke in favor of the idea. Herbert recommends dividing the country into four regional primaries (no caucuses) and rotating the order.
Such reform would be difficult to impose. First, it would require an agreement of all or most states to individually move their dates to coincide. In today’s polarized environment that kind of consensus seems a bit of a reach.
But, something that could be done is a regional primary and/or caucuses for Idaho and some of our neighbors. For instance, the governors and legislatures of the Pacific Northwest states could agree on a common date. That is a doable initiative and worthy of the efforts of Idaho’s elected officials for 2024.