WTF? Democratic National Committee says it can overturn presidential primary results

I’m a Democrat, and this PISSES me off. The DNC says it will, in effect, overturn the results of 2007 primary elections and party caucus votes if they don’t fall in line with the new master plan. Here are a couple of wire stories about it: AP and Reuters.

The plan:
The DNC is attempting to juggle the primary/caucus calendar to force candidates to offer a broader message than they have in the past to the whitebread voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. So they want to move Nevada and South Carolina ahead on the calendar because of large Hispanic and Black populations in the two states. Okay, maybe a good idea, I’m not well enought informed to make a judgement.

But I have an opinion on the enforcement mechanism. It is arrogant and anti-democratic. From the Reuters story:

They apparently THINK this rule is punishing the candidates, or at least that’s what their rhetoric suggests. In reality the DNC is also punishing their own rank and file membership by nullifying their votes should their state governments not toe the line and change their election calendars to match the DNC calendar.

Even primary elections are, by and large, set by state governments, NOT state party organizations. According to the AP story, the NH Secretary of State, a Democrat, has already announced that the DNC has no right to mandate his election choices:

Thanks, DNC, for clarifying what a joke primaries really are.

Doesn’t current DNC policy say that the DNC won’t recognize any primaries before New Hampshire? All this is doing is changing which pimary the DNC sees as first.

Ultimately, though, can’t the party pick whoever they want to run? You have to admit that you’d probably get a different candidate if you shuffled the order in which the primaries are held. So, which is the “right” candidate? Maybe we should go back to the days when the candidates really were picked at that conventions. Or, maybe we should hold one national primary-- everyone votes on the same day. It’s hard to defend the current system, which takes so much goddam time and just eats people alive.

While I agree we ought to have have all primaries on the same day, I think the national party organization, per se, has no standing to decide whom to run. It’s all the delegates who decide that: the party organizers have the power only to set the stage, not perform the play, as it were.

I do have issues with the way primaries are run now. It seems like whoever the front runners are in N.H and Iowa it’s pretty much a done deal. That’s when the candidates start to pick up momentum and money. By the time other states even get a chance to vote against the front runner is almost just a protest vote. Almost no one I knew in N.J. supported Kerry. He certainly wasn’t my first pick or the pick of anyone I knew.

Maybe start with the most populous states? Although I don’t think I’d want California to go first.

Maybe have regional primaries?

John, how did it work when the candidate was picked at conventions?

Can anyone vote in the primaries in Iowa, or is it like NJ where you have to be registered with the party to vote in their primary?

That’s not at all true, although the bottom feeders find out that they have no chance so they get weeded out. Look at who won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire since 1980:

1980: Jimmy Carter
1984: Gary Hart
1988: Michael Dukakis
1992: Paul Tsongas
1996: Bill Clinton (unopposed)
2000: Al Gore
2004: John Kerry

Not counting 1996 it’s been a toss up. Remember, in 2004 it was not at all assured, but the poor showing by Howard Dean helped to chase him out.

Here’s the results from the Iowa caucus during the same time period:

1980: Jimmy Carter
1984: Walter Mondale
1988: Dick Gephardt
1992: Tom Harkin
1996: Bill Clinton (unopposed)
2000: Al Gore
2004: John Kerry

If you go back even further, in 1972 Ed Muskie won both. He didn’t win the nomination.

The thing is that whatever state kicks off the primary process will have some disproportionate say in who gets the nomination, although as I illustrated above it’s anything but guaranteed. New Hampshire and Iowa, being small states that derive a lot of publicity and income from these contests, are naturally upset, and if I recall correctly New hampshire has a state law that dictates that they go first no matter what.



This primary “escalation” can do nothing but hurt candidates in the future. If the Democrats keep meddling with the primary process they’ll soon be having the primaries a year in advance of the election, and New Hampshire will still be first.

Whatever the Democratic Party needs to do to rearrange the primaries, I support.

Iowa and New Hampshire don’t have a very good track record for picking Democrats who can win in the general election. Time to mix it up.

Whatever?? Suppose they decide to not allow any candidate who appears in New Hampshire on the convention ballot AT ALL? Suppose a Republican-dominated state government doesn’t allow a change to their election calendar according to the wishes of the DNC? Do they throw away the results from a while state of their membership?

Way to build party loyalty, DNC. That’s the one major thing that the Republicans have had over the Democrats over my whole life, and it looks like they’ll keep it.

Boyo Jim, I don’t think we should sacrifice the national success of the party to the traditions of New Hamshire and Iowa. (Short-lived traditions, at that.) The party is using the only means of enforcement at its disposal. Bear in mind that they could do as they have done in the past and simply select a candidate in a smoke-filled room.

Besides which, how is this anti-democratic? Those of us who live in states whose primaries are later have felt for years like we weren’t getting a voice in the nominating process. By the time our states come up, our favored candidates have often dropped out because they couldn’t win in Iowa or NH. How is that fair? Are the rest of us not being disenfranchised by the current system?

On another topic, I strongly oppose the idea of having all primaries on the same day. The problem with that idea is that only the very richest or best-known candidates will be able to mount national campaigns.

By having a handful of smaller states early, you give an underfunded dark horse the chance to prove that he/she is a good campaigner. After a couple of primary wins, the donations come rolling in. We’d have never heard of Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter, for example, if all the primaries were on the same day.

I think they’re doing the right thing by having states with smaller populations from four regions lead off: New Hampshire from the Northeast, Iowa from the Midwest, South Carolina from the South, and Nevada from the West. That way we get a feel early on for how candidates will play nationally. But at the same time, because the states are small (population-wise), even an underfunded candidate might get a chance to meet a lot of the voters before the primaries and prove themselves as a campaigner.

It is anti-democratic to throw out the results of an election by their members based on criteria which may not be under their control.

And note from Airman Doors post that Bill Clinton didn’t win either New Hampshire or Iowa in 1992, but chose to stay in the race anyway, and walked away withe the whole shebang and the general election to boot. The candidates make individual decisions whether or not to drop out, ususally based on fundraising success or failure. The prinary calendar is a factor, but not the only one, and maybe not the most important one. Some candidates drop out before ANY primaries.

And as I pointed out, voters in late-primary states effectively lose their say under the current system. Which is unfair to them.

You may recall that in 1992 we had a “Super Tuesday” in which a number of Southern states conspired to have their primaries early and on the same day. Those states propelled Clinton to victory.

He had finished a strong second in New Hampshire (which was a surprise, and made him “the Comeback Kid”). That bought him a lot of publicity and won him a lot of donations going into Super Tuesday.

If all of the states had held their primaries on the same day, Clinton would not have had enough funding or name-recognition to compete.

It’s not really a toosup at all. In fact only two of the fourteen winners were really a surprise

New Hampshire:
1980: Jimmy Carter (Party Nominee)
1984: Gary Hart
1988: Michael Dukakis (Party Nominee)
1992: Paul Tsongas (Regional & Retired)
1996: Bill Clinton (unopposed)
2000: Al Gore (Party Nominee)
2004: John Kerry (Party Nominee)

And Iowa:

1980: Jimmy Carter (Party Nominee)
1984: Walter Mondale (Party Nominee)
1988: Dick Gephardt
1992: Tom Harkin (Home State)
1996: Bill Clinton (unopposed)
2000: Al Gore (Party Nominee)
2004: John Kerry (Party Nominee)

So Caridwen does have a point. There is a very good reason for putting so much emphasis on Iowa and New Hampshire, though. It is designed to produce a candidate that can win in Iowa and New Hampshire, two very closely contested states.

Would it not be simpler and more efficient to do away with all of the shenanigans and simply elect based on the popular vote, or is that too easy?

In order to participate in the party caucuses (which operate very differently from a primary) in Iowa you need to register with a party first. Or, as many people do, register with a party when you show up. Either way, you need to join a party.

Why is New Hampshire behaving like a petulent child, anyway? They would still be the first primary. The proposed change has two caucuses before New Hampshire (Iowa and Nevada), then New Hampshire as the first primary, with the South Carolina primary to follow shortly after.

New Hampshire does not have a God-given right to go first anyway. Grow up, NH. Or find some other industry for your state besides Presidential politics.

John Mace, I have started a GQ thread to gather some information about state primary elections.I would like to get a better sense of how states manage (or don’t manage) primaries before continuing a debate here.

If my assumptions underlying this thread, that states and not parties pay for and provide facilities for primaries, are wrong, then I will withdraw my assertion that the DNC is acting undemocratically.

Meh…I always vote in the Republican primaries to vote out all the incumbents anyway.

You mean like in the 2000 elections?

Am I wrong to assume you mean have everyone listed on a national ballot? If so, disregard the following.

If we had a Presidential election with every candidate running, there’s a very good chance the winner would only garner a small percentage of the vote. It’s possible that a president could be elected with only, say, 20% of the vote. That’ll go over like a fart in church.

Otherwise, we’d have to look at a run-off or three. The cost and logistics of that scenario must be nightmarish.