In November we are going to be forced to decide between the lesser of two liberals. With the nomination of McCain, it is clear that Republicans need to fix their nominating process. Here are some thoughts...
1. Iowa and New Hampshire should NOT lead the process. There is no reason – other than history and big egos – that these states should lead us off each season. I hate to say it, but Iowa caucus-goers are not the sharpest tools in the shed. We can do better. New Hampshire voters, on the other hand, are possibly more intellectual, but suffer from an irrational desire for rebellion. We don’t want party outsiders picking our nominee. It just doesn’t make any sense. It's hard to think of any two lead-off states worse than these.
2. New states should be allowed to lead the process each election cycle. This could be easily implemented by scheduling election days in advance and allowing interested states to apply to be in a lottery. The lottery would then determine the matchup between states and dates. One of the stipulations for admittance into the “early state lottery” would be that only registered Republicans can vote in the primary and the registration process would need to have been completed at least 6 months before the date of the primary.
3. Our caucusing should look more like the Democrats'. We had way too many candidates in the race for way too long. It’s healthy for the candidates to undergo a weeding-out process wherein supporters of candidates with less than 10 or 15 percent of the caucus vote are required to either leave or affiliate themselves with another candidate. This would have eliminated the likes of Tancredo, Hunter, and T. Thompson early on, thus allowing us to focus on realistic candidates in debates and future primaries and caucuses.
4. Plan a couple of “frontrunner debates” during the cycle. Agree upon specific criteria beforehand and at key dates during the process facilitate a debate between the TWO frontrunners. This could happen once after 3 or 4 states have voted and again right before a major event like super Tuesday.
5. Let’s agree to a window of time wherein no elected Republican officials are allowed to endorse candidates. This would force politicians to actually do some homework and risk some political capital if they are going to endorse a candidate (instead of just sticking their finger in the wind like the creepy Governor Crist). Perhaps “endorsement silence mode” could kick in two weeks before the first state votes and would end after 50 percent of states have voted. Of course everyone is entitled to free speech, but this could easily be established as a party norm.
6. Reward caucus and convention states with additional delegates. Throughout the primary season it has been evident – with the exception of Iowa – that caucusing produces superior results than primary voting. This should not be a surprise. The average primary voter may not spend more than a few minutes contemplating and making their vote. A caucus-goer, on the other hand, must make a diligent effort and substantial time commitment to their candidate. This results in a more robust and carefully contemplated choice.
So these are some of my ideas that I believe would contribute to a stronger nominee in 2012. The current process is bad, but it can be fixed. A staged primary is much better than a national primary. A national primary would be so expensive and the electorate so ignorant that only rich and famous people would have a chance. It would be a terrible idea.
So let's stick with a staged process, but mix up the order. Above all, let’s allow Republicans and conservatives to determine the nominee. The idea of “open primaries” early in the process is absurd. Also, let’s not be religious bigots. We need to make sure that a person of any faith – as long as he or she is a full-spectrum conservative – can win the Republican nomination.
What are your thoughts?