Jan 31 2008

Federalize the Primary System

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

I give credit to this post from Digby for reminding me of a post I started and didn’t finish.

Currently, states determine the date of their primary, just like they always have. Up until about 12 years ago, they all played nice and everything was hunky dory. Then the advent of the 24 hour primary coverage and all the money and influence that came with it got other states to thinking that they wanted their say sooner in the process. Over the years this has led us to the full on mess that we have today, with Michigan and Florida giving up delegates in the Democratic contest just to get the media coverage.

None of this will change as long as Presidential primaries are run by the states. One state will always try and leapfrog another, Iowa and New Hampshire will keep moving their contests to earlier dates, before you know it, the Iowa caucus will be in November of an even, but non-presidential year. The only way to bring some sanity into the mix is to standardize the system in a way that is fair. However, giving permanent 1st in the nation status to any state is fundamentally screwed up. There needs to be some mechanism for selecting the order of states contests…Here’s my idea.

Start Small

One of the things that I do like about the current set up of the primary/caucus calendar is that small states get a voice early. This provides an opportunity for lesser known candidates to get out and get some national press without having to come up with the money that would be required to run in California, New York, or some other large state. There are 30 states in that have fewer than 10 electoral college votes. These states would have priority in setting up the first 4 primary contests.

Lottery for Position

In order to keep it fair, and ensure that over the course of several election cycles no one state had more of an impact than any other, a lottery system would be employed to choose the order and participants of all the contests. States included in the lottery would be drawn from these 30 states. Once a state has been picked for the top spot, they are ineligible for that spot in the next presidential primary season, though they would be in the mix for 2-4.

Dates and Weights

This campaign has been going on for over a year now, and I think just about everyone is sick of it. Making the first contest happen in mid-February would allow for plenty of time for the candidates to get their organizations together for the early contests, but would keep the process out of the holidays, by and large. Contests would continue every other week from there and would include more states as they went along. My thoughts go something like this:

1. 1 state
2. 2 states
3. 4 states
4. 7 states

By this time we would be coming up to May. The primaries that followed would be regionalized to maximize the ability of the candidates to cover the areas. These regions would be weighted based on where the majority of the first contests were. If most of them happened in the south, the first regional would go north or west. If they happened in the Mountain West, they would move east. If they were fairly dispersed the regions would be in a lottery for position with 4 contests going through June.

Conclusion

I’m not saying this is a perfect set up either, but it’s a process that would allow us to get the primary season under control without doing a national primary that ultimately hurts lesser known candidates.

As much as I love politics, I don’t want to see campaigns last any longer than they need to, nor do I want them to start any earlier than is reasonable. By taking the wild card of states jockeying for position out of the mix we can standardize the process, and make the whole thing more representative of more people.

Cheers.

Jan 30 2008

More thoughts, observations, and baseless accusations UPDATED

Posted by Steve Ross in 2008 Presidentials

First of all, Marek over at West Tennessee is on to something. In both 2004 and 2008, Democrats have voted safe. Instead of voting to win (winning being putting forth a candidate that best reflected our core values and had the soul of a fighter) we voted to not lose. We lost 2004, and unless Obama and Hillary suddenly stop trying to kill each other, we will lose again in 2008.

I’m not saying that because Edwards left the race today, though he did poll better against any Republican for whatever that’s worth, I’m saying that because if we allow our candidates to beat the heck out of each other unchecked, we’re doing the work of the Republicans. It’s time for a come to Jesus. Are Hillary and Obama running for the Democratic nominee or for President? John McCain is running for President, he just happens to be a frontrunner for the Republican nominee. It is a fundamental difference…a difference that could make him the oldest first term President in the history of the US.

Now, I’m going to talk about something that just kills me.

I’ve been a Democrat since I became politically aware sometime back in the mid 80’s. I think I was about 13 at the time. I saw what was happening around me nationally (as the youngest wonk ever) and decided that while the Democratic Party certainly wasn’t perfect, it was closer to my sense of what is right than the Republicans. To put it into perspective, I was a Democrat before I was confirmed into the Methodist Church, which says something about me, draw your own conclusions.

This was just after Bill Clinton was elected Governor of Arkansas, after one term of Frank White. Walter Mondale was the Presidential candidate, and he got his butt handed to him, for reasons that we don’t need to get into just yet.

At this time in Clinton’s political life, he was a progressive. Clinton set in motion a series of events that allowed Mike Huckabee to take credit for Arkansas’ schools performance gains of the 90’s through the present.

Clinton was also very pragmatic. He knew what could and couldn’t be done in Arkansas. He put forth soft challenges, that were attainable. But like most small southern states, there was no real challenging progressive voice in the dialogue. Clinton was the best we had.

In 1992, after his election to President, my infatuation with politics was revitalized. Unfortunately, Clinton got scared. He got scared when the DC press started beating the crap out of him, and that just got worse in ’94 when they lost the Congress.

To this day, I still believe that Clinton was the best Republican President of my lifetime. He was a master of taking his opponents issues away from them, and that drove the Republicans crazy.

Unfortunately it also drove Progressives crazy, and led to a lot of disenchantment in 2000, which hurt Gore. People tell me I should stop blaming Nader supporters for Gore’s loss in 2000. Maybe so, I don’t guess it really matters all that much now, but the stage is set, and unless something drastic happens, we’re looking at 2000 all over again.

Nader is getting in. I attribute this to the abject lack of any real progressive voice in the Democratic race. Maybe it would have happened had Edwards stayed in, maybe not, but the reality is that, unlike a Bloomberg candidacy, Nader hurts both Obama and Hillary because some progressives will vote for him for some ridiculous reason.

1. I never voted for Nader, and never would because…
2. I’m a Yellow Dog Democrat.

And I guess that makes me part of the problem.

Ya see, come November I will vote for Hillary or Obama, no matter what. And while that makes me a loyal Democrat, that also makes me easy to be taken for granted. It puts me, and my core values, in a position of weakness, a position that can be disregarded, a position without any leverage. Leverage is exactly what progressives need.

It is because I will vote for a Democrat, no matter what that the Democratic candidate will give me and my values the big “screw you” and run even further to the right hoping to score a landslide. Because of this, the values that should be at the core of any Democratic candidate will fall further away, blurring the distinctions, and diluting the impact that any Democratic administration could possibly have.

It makes me sick.

Look, I know I’m waaaayyyy off the reservation on this, but we need to consider our choices, and I’m a big part of the we. If we’re left with a corporatist and the “Un-Partisan” then we’re left with a party that has left us.

It’s enough to make me reconsider that Yellow Dog status.

It’s enough to, at best, keep me at home…at worst, well, I think I’ve said enough.

Jan 26 2008

A Disturbance in the Force

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

As commenter joshua notes, it has been a long 10 days since my last irritation driven screed. I have no excuses, life happens. Would I have liked to use the blog pimping provided by the lovely and talented Newscoma to entertain, inform and enrage a whole new populace of people in the “sphere”? You betcha. The work keeps getting in the way.

As an independent contractor, I enjoy both large swaths of free time where I can research, read, write and even purposely ignore things at will. The flip side is extended hell ridden weeks of uninterrupted work. The past 10 days have been the latter. Further, there is no end in sight. Unless we can move to a barter economy soon, which would probably be better for the economy than that stupid economic stimulus pron passed by the House with the President’s blessing, I fear that the forecast is more soulless work with sprinkles of unnecessary garbage and intellectual decay.

And so, because I am one of those people who throws themselves headlong into anything that I have in front of me, and I enjoy the comforts of mortgage ownership, the work has been the center of my attention at the exclusion of all others. Still, the ‘sphere, like a jilted lover intent on exacting revenge, or at least gaining attention, brings me back as I head off to the land of Mickey in the service of exciting a group of superficial marketing punks about overpriced highly polished pieces of glass. It is teh joyz of my life…

But fear not gentile reader, once I return from the world of the shiny knick knacks that adorn the walls of our grandparents, there is still much much more to take the time and suck the soul. I could go into detail, but why?

My most political thought of the day…

“If Pat Buchanan can talk on television, uninterrupted, and spout his garbage for money, why the hell can’t I? What has he done other than show himself as a bigoted sack since he wrote speeches for the devil? Nothing.”

Now I’ll probably get attacked by that Donoghue dude from the Catholic League because Buchanan is Catholic.

SCREW PATRICK BUCHANAN….

More later maybe, but probably not…

Jan 16 2008

Something to Consider…

Posted by Steve Ross in 2008 Presidentials

First, I would like to credit this comment for reminding me of this issue.

Forget the speeches, the position papers, for a moment, and remember last years Democratic Senatorial Primary in Connecticut. Upstart candidate Ned Lamont challenged and eventually defeated Joe Lieberman (I) in the Democratic Primary. Hillary may have hedged her bets, but Bill and Obama actively campaigned for him. In the end, Republicans rallied and voted 3:1 for Lieberman over the Republican nominee (who had no chance of winning). (Source)

To his credit, once Lamont won the primary, Obama fell in line behind him, as did the rest of the Democratic Senators. Still, it calls into question both Clinton’s and Obama’s dedication to anything other than politics as usual…and that’s just something that, in a primary, I cannot deal with.

As a Progressive, I am acutely aware that there are interests both inside and outside of the Democratic Party who look at my views as important only up to election day. Once my vote is counted, I can be assured that Blue Dogs and New Dems, and all those “just barely Democratic” clubs will use right-wing talking points to undermine many of the very things that I hold dear. I’m not sure why, but I keep on voting for them because the alternative (GOP) is just too far outside of my comfort level.

Then we have this candidate, who won a Primary for the Democratic nominee with a more Progressive campaign than his opponent (Lieberman), and there’s a question, a pause, a hesitation before the endorsements come rolling in. It makes me question wether the members of the Senate are more interested in keeping a Democratic agenda moving forward, or keeping their friends in office.

I don’t fault Obama for his fundraising speech way back in March of that contest, that’s what colleagues do for each other, I guess.I do question his sincerity in the face of it. Is Joe Lieberman the kind of Democrat you want in the Senate? Joe Lieberman isn’t even the kind of Republican I want in the Senate!

Hillary didn’t really go out on the stump for Lieberman, but Bill did, and that amounts to tacit support. I hope Bill thwacked him good on the head for that stupid assed speech on the Senate floor back during the Impeachment debacle…

So that begs the question, why are Progressives so enamored with Obama, or even Hillary? I’ve said before that I would vote for either of them in the General, but the Primary is not the general, it is our chance to speak out and move the conversation to the left. Why the hell aren’t we doing it?

With only 4 candidates still in the race, there is only one voice moving the debate to the left. Obama and Hillary ain’t it. Kucinich doesn’t have a chance. John Edwards is the only candidate that is driving the debate to the left. That’s what I want. Four years of bare knuckle boxing against the people who are screwing up this country.

To fight these people we don’t need another Democratic nominee with an “I’m OK, You’re OK” attitude that has been the hallmark of so many losing Democratic candidates nationwide. We need someone willing to take a stand and hold their ground. That someone is John Edwards.

We have an opportunity to vote for REAL change in the coming days. Real change doesn’t come in a race or a gender, it comes in a conviction to make America all it can be. John Edwards is that candidate above all others, but you have to be willing to take a chance on your convictions. Are you willing to vote for your values, or are you content to vote for who the media seems ready to coronate? That’s a question for you to answer, for me the answer is clear.

Jan 10 2008

What I Want in a President

Posted by Steve Ross in 2008 Presidentials

I spent a good deal of time trying to come up with something “profound” about the state of the Democratic Nominating process for President. Some of these “profound” thoughts were better than others, but in reading other things that have been written, I came to the conclusion that anything I might say would just be repetition. So, instead of talking about the candidates, or even the constituencies that they supposedly represent, I think it’s more important to start a conversation on what we want out of a Presidential nominee rather than who we want.

The pundits and conventional “wise men” have taken their records and rhetoric and what their advisors have done, and to whom. It’s been played out a million times on TV and in print and on the blogs. While all this information may be useful, it still doesn’t really tell us what kind of President they’ll be. Further, with the media wrapped up in “narrative” instead of “reportage”, the rainbow of colored lenses that make up the punditocracy taints the majority of the information we have received.

I think the Presidency of George W. Bush is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. From the day he got the nomination, I was sure that he would be a crappy President, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would be where we are today. I mean seriously, who would have thunk it? The reality of the situation is that we don’t know how any of these people are going to govern if they won. We have no assurances, just assumptions based on the information we have today.

Since I won’t claim to speak for anyone but myself, here’s what I want from a President.

I want a President that will lead the conversation to the left. Someone who will vigorously debunk the right wing conventional wisdom that has trapped us in the spiral of stagnation. Who will fight like hell to make sure that America is living up to the grand ideals that make America great.

I want a President who will inspire people around the world to be better. Who will challenge us to do the hard things that we’ve been unable to accomplish. Who will use the bully pulpit of the Presidency to frame the debate in a way that comforts those of us resistant to change and inspires those of us ready for change into action.

I want a President who represents the people of the United States. Who will challenge corporate interests to serve the greater good over the allure of short-term scorched earth profits. Who will put an end to the madness of corporate welfare and hold those corporate interests accountable when they exceed their authority.

I want a President, who will put an end to our nonsensical foreign policy of arbitrarily favoring one dictator over another. Who will restore our honor in international affairs. Who will use their power effectively without trampling on the Constitution or the sovereignty of other nations.

There are a lot of other things I want in a President, but I think you get the idea.

We all have different ideas about who we would like to be President, but for me, it’s more about the what I want than it is about the who I want. All three of the Democratic frontrunners exhibit the qualities that I list above, to one degree or another. Certainly, I’ve decided on who I believe exhibits those qualities best for me, but if my candidate doesn’t get the nomination you won’t see me huffin’ and puffin’. I’m married to the what, not the who, and that just means I have to work my ass off to get the nominee to represent my what more fully.

My point: What we want, as Democrats, is more important than who we want as the nominee. It kills me to see supporters of the three main candidates trashing each other over stupid technical crap for no good reason other than one-uppance. If we keep fighting for what we want, we will find who we want. If we keep fighting over who we want, we may never get what we want.