Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The U.S. primary elections: Super Tuesday, late voters, and Party shenanigans

CNN, BBC

Yesterday was the biggest primary election day in United States history. Twenty-four of the fifty states held their primary elections on that day, popularly dubbed "Super Tuesday."

Hillary Clinton edged out Barack Obama, though just barely. Neither one yet has a majority of the Democratic convention delegates, meaning that far from deciding the primary as was widely expected, Super Tuesday has left the race still open, making the primaries of states that have late primary dates still relevant, a rarity in U.S. politics. (Incidentally, this is why I advocate simply holding all primaries on the same day; more on that below.)

Similarly, the Republican primaries on Tuesday gave John McCain a lead in the number of delegates, but he still only has a little over half of the necessary delegates to guarantee him the nomination. His lead has many conservatives running scared, since his popularity among the conservative wing of the Republican Party is not high, to make an understatement. A separate post on my take on McCain will follow this one.

The upshot of all this is that primaries in late-voting states (such as my own) might actually matter this time out. As I said a couple paragraphs above, this is rare; usually by the time the latest primaries come around in May and June, there have been enough delegates assigned by earlier primary elections to some candidate or another that the primary results in those late states are completely irrelevant to the outcome, causing candidates to neglect the concerns of the voters in those late states, since their votes cannot influence the nominating conventions.

The primaries are staggered the way they are to deliberately give some states more clout in comparison to others. Namely, Iowa and New Hampshire go first because doing so supposedly gives "small states" a say in the race. Which is completely wrong; it does not give "small states" a larger say in the race; it gives Iowa and New Hampshire a larger say in the race. That the Democratic Party is refusing to seat Florida's delegation to the convention because they dared to hold their primaries earlier than they were "allowed" to in order to uphold this fiction is abhorrent and a massive violation of Floridians' right to equal representation. (Incidentally, allowing Florida's delegates to be seated might bring on a result that I really don't want to see; namely, their support for Hillary Clinton's candidacy, since she won the Florida primary nearly uncontested because the other candidates did not bother to campaign there, but it doesn't matter; their rights to representation trump any such considerations.)

In fact, I'm not even sure just why it is that the political parties get to dictate primary dates to the state governments. The parties are not supposed to have that kind of authority, or indeed any authority of their own over the governance of the nation. This is different from politicians who are members of political parties running the governments; this is the party committee itself telling a state government that no, it may not exercise its Constitutional authority to set the date of the election, which is just wrong. The current rush to hold elections first is stupid, but denying entire states their representation for it is inexcusable.

1 comment:

frigidmagi said...

To be fair, the political parties are not bound to seat any delegates from a primary in their conventions. They don't even have to have primaries. They can have 12 guys pick their parties candidate in a back room of Starbucks and it's perfectly legal. This is because the parties are not organs of government they are organizations of voters and politicians. Also I am not sympathic to state governments playing this absurd game of "ME FIRST!" in regards to the primaries. Wait your damn turn folks.