Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

This very weird primary season is giving us lots to think about beyond the candidates. Could the Republican Party actually blow up? To what extent would the new party which would, I think, emerge, draw from Blue Dog Democrats? Why is it that the professional commentariat got most of it so wrong, and why are they still clearly not getting it?

I wonder about the path out. HRC is personally despised by the nutbars who run Congress-- if she is elected would anything change?

The question that has occupied my mind in recent days has been premised on an observation: the present mechanism the parties use for selecting Presidential candidates is profoundly undemocratic. Isn't it time to reform it? My present gig in the PoliSci department at BuffState has me thinking more like a political scientist than I have since, perhaps, I entered law school, but I still remember a lot of it. Our present nominating system came into being as an attempt to reform an earlier process -- or set of processes-- which started to break down at the Republican Convention in 1964, and finally failed completely with the McGovern/Eagleton/Shriver nomination in 1972. In fits and starts the two parties gradually devised a combination of regional primaries, caucuses and party conventions with the "superdelegate" overlay designed (or at least intended to) prevent the nomination of candidates thought to be outside of the mainstream of the particular parties core principles. This evolution is commonly expressed, by nitwits like Cokie Roberts or George Will, with the shorthand explanation that both Barry Goldwater and George McGovern were somehow fringe candidates that nearly wrecked their respective parties. There is no real social science basis for this narrative; it is, instead, a story that people tell themselves because they don't actually understand the dynamics of democratic elections.

Be that all as it may, it seems to me that the time has come to purge caucuses from our process. They tend to disenfranchise, and that should be reason enough.

UPDATE: I hadn't considered the structural aspects of the problem, and I should have. Primaries, for example, cost more than caucuses, and are paid for by the states.  Lots of states don't even want to pay for roads, so that's a challenge.

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