Friday, December 11, 2009

Mother May I

...take Three Giant Steps Backward?

If there's one reform of the presidential nomination process that I think absolutely everyone agrees to in principle, it would be getting every state to back up a bit -- to moving the primaries and caucuses from January to March, where they were in 2008, to something like March to June. Or, as Josh Putnam's Frontloading HQ reports, from February. Well, it's something.

The problem is that there's a huge collective action problem involved, or really multiple problems. Every state believes that going early is better than going late, so they all have an incentive to move their dates up...leading to an earlier and earlier start date every time. However, all states are better off if they all back up from winter to spring, keeping everything else constant. The problem is that there are a lot of independent players involved: two national parties, fifty state governments, one hundred state parties, and a handful of candidates on at least one side. So we'll see if they can pull this off, but it's nice to see that they're at least trying. I know of no justification at all on the merits for deciding the nominations (at least, the part of deciding that goes on in primaries and caucuses) in the winter, instead of the spring or even the early summer. That's especially true because many of the key decisions are made not by voters, but by party elites -- and it makes no sense for their decisions to be pushed back well out of the election year. Granted, some of their decisions will be made well in advance in any case, and there's nothing wrong with that, but the onset of voting and the first few rounds of voting are hard deadlines. Deadlines that everyone would be happy to see later in the year.

So, good news that there's movement in the right direction. We'll see, of course, whether it sticks.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link, Jonathan.

    Here's a discussion of the states that could potentially be the most conflicted in terms of adhering to any rules changes (especially if the Democrats change their window and the GOP doesn't).

    The Republicans really don't have an incentive to change their rules. Trying to recreate the organization-building Clinton and Obama had throughout the primaries (which Obama exploited in the general election -- ie: IN, NC) is like playing with fire. Organization through competition is fine, but if that turns divisive, they will have handed the presidency to Obama again.

    However, if reform is to take place it will require coordinated action on the part of both parties. And it is a good step that there is at least some lip service being paid to the idea. But these exploratory groups are just that: exploratory. They aren't the final arbiters.

    The rules for 2012 will be set sometime late next summer. We'll have to see what each side comes up with.

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