In case you didn’t know, Tuesday is primary day in Texas. For the uninitiated, that’s the day Texas Democrats and Republicans vote to choose their candidates for the general election this November.
That’s right ““ NOVEMBER! Eight months away, and we are already hip-deep in campaigning, and have been for some time. Some of you already may have voted during the early voting period. I like to wait until the last minute, just in case video footage of a candidate kicking dogs or screaming at little kids surfaces to change my mind. In the age of YouTube you can’t be too careful.
But writing as someone who is both a voter AND a scholar of our election system, I feel compelled to express my resentment at having to pay attention to this election cycle so far in advance of the final vote. Most rational people are not paying attention to an election scheduled that far in the future, yet. That means the only people who are really paying attention right now are the wingnut factions from both parties (yes, that includes me, I must confess).
Now, if you’re a Libertarian or a Green, you get to wait awhile and avoid the whole spectacle of a primary election. Your party will pick candidates at a statewide convention. In the meantime, I am being forced to suffer through Wendy Davis’s embellished life story, multiple Republicans falling all over themselves competing for the title of Most Pious Candidate, and anonymous phone calls at home accusing Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of supporting the Obama agenda.
Then there’s Ted Nugent, apparently the very incarnation of Republican values”¦You mean Tina Weymouth, Mark Knopfler, and Pat DiNizio weren’t available? But perhaps that’s better than Lena Dunham comparing her vote for Barack Obama to losing her virginity. Alas, I betray my age”¦
Where was I? Oh yes “”so, we have this ridiculous spectacle right now that culminates in locking these candidates into place eight months before the general election, in an absurdly early process that contributes absolutely nothing to governance, either in the state or the nation. This is all due to New Hampshire Envy. Because New Hampshire has a disproportionate influence on the presidential nomination every four years, most other states feel compelled to schedule their primaries as early as possible, under the crazy notion that an early primary will increase their influence in the candidate selection process.
It doesn’t, but states never seem to learn.
Things could be different. The best solution would be to shift the entire kit and kaboodle later in the season. We could have primaries STARTING in June instead of ENDING in June. If we can’t find it within ourselves to fix the presidential nomination schedule, at least we could decouple it from nominations for other offices. Some state primaries occur as late as September this year. You can find the entire schedule at thegreenpapers.com. Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island all go on Sep 9.
Yes, New Hampshire is going last of all. In presidential election years it goes first, starting this insanity, but when there is no presidential race to provoke all the journalists in the known universe to travel to New Hampshire and double its gross state product, it shifts to September. That leaves Texas going first in the off-year, thus prompting this rant from yours truly.
As long as we pick candidates in primaries, we will get overly-long and expensive campaigns full more of bread and circuses than policy substance. I’d just as soon discard the entire system and return to the old-fashioned “smoke-filled rooms,” which had the virtue of shifting the campaign much later in the season, thus doing a better job of separating campaigning from governing. That won’t fly, though ““ looks too undemocratic.
For the time being, we’ll have to live with what we have. Cross your fingers and prepare to endure eight more months of campaign ads telling us how the Texas lieutenant governor will be able to stop the Obama agenda in its tracks.
David Crockett is a political science professor.