Political Super Bowl
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the play-off games leading up to the political super bowl. The entire process is about drama and entertainment. Only A-list celebrities get coverage; candidates who talk about slightly unpleasant issues aren't welcome in the package offered to the public. Those who don't promise the moon on a silver plate get little attention. Are we electing a President, or a movie star?
Why should the Iowa Caucus horse race determine who comes out of the first turn? That sways the rest of the betting. Candidates want a good start - and voters want to be on the side of a winner. Like it or not, victory in Iowa creates momentum for the winner, carrying him through the remaining hose races.
Yet polls change daily, placing a different candidate on top. Private and public opinion polls leading up to the New Hampshire primary all showed Obama with about a 10% lead. They were so wrong.
Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina… none are a microcosm of this country. Yet after losing in Iowa and New Hampshire, candidates drop out of the race. Chris Dodd and Joe Biden dropped out because of poor showings in Iowa. What if voters in California (which has 1/4 of our population) wanted to vote for them? In many presidential elections, the party's nominee is decided before many states hold their primaries.
The betting continues and more candidates fall away. Giuliani and Edwards dropped out after Florida - just days before Super Tuesday's election that is 40 % of the national vote.
At the Iowa Caucus there were 8 Republican candidates (Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, Fred Thompson) and 7 Democratic candidates (Hilary Clinton, Barak Obama, Mike Gravel, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson). Most of the nation has not had a chance to vote. Yet we're already down to just 3 Democrats (Clinton, Obama, and Mike Gravel - yes he is still running, though he's had no coverage and few know who he is) and 4 Republicans (Huckabee, McCain, Romney and Ron Paul).
The candidates all try to convince voters that each has the best package of personality, experience, values, ideas, vision. All have spent lots of money trying to get your vote: An estimated 2 billion total will be spent by November, according to estimates by CNN.
The media has a big say in elections. ABC left Duncan Hunter, Dennis Kucinich, Alan Keyes, and Mike Gravel out of the New Hampshire debates. Since they didn't reach the appropriate benchmarks in terms of gathering support, they were eliminated. According to Stephen Stone, Keyes' campaign CEO, the media wouldn't acknowledge Keyes' candidacy, making it difficult to run an effective campaign. Many Iowa caucus locations didn't even list Keyes as a choice.
The networks have also excluded Dennis Kucinich from the debates. Long before candidates began dropping like flies, the networks acted as if the Democratic race was between just three candidates (Obama, Clinton, Edwards), rather than 6. When Edwards didn't win the early contests, they began ignoring him as well.
All presidential candidates should be allowed to address American citizens. Ignoring a candidate is disrespectful to both the candidate and the voter.
This electoral process is archaic and unnecessarily complex. There are so many different ways that delegates are chosen. Citizen's votes are uneven depending on where they live and which party they belong to. Some states have proportional primaries, others have caucuses. Democrats have proportional representation, while Republicans don't - it is "winner take all" either by state (as in Florida) or by congressional district (Calif.). We need big change in both parties.
The primary process disenfranchises voters. Back in 2004 I supported Howard Dean - but he was out of the running before I had a chance to vote, removed from the race for getting overly emotional in Iowa. I still fail to understand why showing a little emotion was such a sin; I thought it was a good thing. My right to ever cast a vote for him was taken away because others made the decision for me. My second choice was John Edwards - but by the time I voted for him, Kerry's nomination was already certain.
How can just a few states have such a huge say about who gets the nomination? To be fair, everyone should vote on the same day. Then the people, rather than the political parties or the media, would pick the top candidates to run against each other in the general election. These days, with newspapers, radio, television and the Internet, the candidates no longer need to physically campaign everywhere.
Election reform should begin in Congress. We should get rid of the archaic institution called the electoral college. It should be popular vote, with each and every vote traceable and verifiable.
There should be limits on funds and on time. Spending should be limited, so candidates who aren't multi-millionaires and in the pocket of special interest groups can have a fair shot for president. There should be limits on the amount of time that candidates can advertise and hold town hall meetings. I want to hear about the issues that affect me, not the mud slinging that we see now.