What are the national Democrats doing? Have they no shame? Don't they know a thing about tradition? History? The great art of grassroots politicking, shoe leather, and meeting folks one-on-one? Clearly, they don't.
Saturday's move by the DNC to add a caucus in Nevada before New Hampshire, and a primary in South Carolina right afterwards, was a slap in the face of all that is good about politics - the New Hampshire primary.
We New Hampshirites feel a sense of purpose when it comes to preserving the primary here and it is more than just the desire to be the first one. It is about tradition and it's about the process of choosing our leaders in the best way possible - by really getting to know them. Sometimes, we don't make the best decisions; but we get a really good look at them and we do weed them out pretty well.
I really liked some of Gov. John Lynch's comments this weekend about the insiders mucking up everything. But it shouldn’t have been a surprise. From the beginning, the knives were out for New Hampshire and out they came.
It is important to note that those insiders, and their interests, are not necessarily the interests of the voters when setting the calendar. This is clear from the previous results of other commissions and DNC chairmen who have set the primaries up to be front-loaded - with the false impression that getting an early winner would allow that winner to compete more aggressively and, eventually, win. The DNC is interested in winning back the White House - not necessarily setting up a calendar of primaries and caucuses which empowers voters into making the best decisions for the party.
The goal of this commission shouldn't have been to strip New Hampshire of our status. It should be to set a calendar that creates a primary and caucus schedule that allows as many states as possible to have the retail political experience.
But it isn't just the calendar that matters. It is also the media and the candidates who decide how long a campaign should be waged and whether other states have a role in participating.
The media has done a pretty poor job of covering the candidates in the past. Gone are the days of relatively thorough and decent coverage of the candidates; in are the days where a candidate's howling at a campaign event is repeated over and over again to the point of personal destruction. Destruction should be left to the 30-second ad, not the news media. There is also the issue of the Washington, DC cocktail crowd who always seem to manage to wreck everything with their pomposity and arrogance.
In the past, I think most of the candidates have quit too early. In 2000, former Sen. Bill Bradley had quit by mid-March. By the end of February 2004, most of the candidates were gone. Two of the candidates - Sen. Bob Graham and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun - quit before a vote was even cast. Another candidate, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, stayed in until the end. Although, he could have waged a more relevant campaign had he not "changed his mind" on abortion and ran as a pro-life Democrat, stayed true to his message to the very end, giving his voters a reason to go to the polls, even though he was never going to win the presidency.
I always respected that former California Governor Jerry Brown refused to quit the race in 1992 until the very end. Other candidates in 2004 could have stayed in longer or forged alliances to beat the clearly unelectable John Kerry. There was a point in mid- to late-February where the Howard Dean and John Edwards forces needed to have a serious sit down - not the one they did have which led to nothing. Dean had amassed a number of super delegates and Edwards was surging as the Kerry alternative. The two of them together could have led to a stronger ticket than the Kerry fronted ticket. Imagine, no Swift Boats, no Massachusetts liberal [especially if Dean was VP], very little flip-flopping. Edwards would have easily beaten Bush in the debates and Dean would have easily beaten Dick Cheney. It would have been a stronger ticket, Ralph Nader still would have only been a minor footnote, and the Democrats would have been stronger going into the final election.
Then there is the issue of diversity and whether or not that will really bring a stronger Democratic candidate in the final election. Despite my political incorrectness here, I doubt it.
Looking at the 2004 Electoral College map, I don't see where diversity helps the Democratic nominee. Where does a more diverse ticket win in the red states? Where does a Democratic nominee gain from more diversity on the ticket? According to exit polls, Kerry received 88 percent of the black vote and 53 percent of the Hispanic vote. Those are pretty good clips. There is also a good chance that Democrats won't gain more of those votes because they are conservative ones.
What the commission also seems to have ignored is that both Iowa and New Hampshire are diverse in other ways other than skin color, like economics, education, and castes. Skin color isn't the only measure of "diversity." Personally, I hate it when politicos get obsessed with skin color as if it should be a measuring stick for access to power or, that somehow, folks who are not people of color can't relate to the trials and tribulations of our nation's minority populations. Let me tell, we can relate more than you know.
Next month, more national Democrats will look over the proposal by the nominating process commission and probably approve their foolish changes. Thankfully, the people of New Hampshire can expect our Secretary of State Bill Gardener to put a stop to all of this foolishness and preserve the primary.
And then hopefully, in 2009, when the Democrats start meeting again about how to "improve" the political process, they will realize that front-loading, worrying about diversity, and messing with history, may not be the best way to "fix" things. Instead, they can look to a strategy of bringing the New Hampshire experience to other states to improve things - instead of taking our experience from us.
Crossposted at Area603