In which Yr Correspondent discusses both the weird nature (and possibly current state) of primary season, and explores some alternatives.
Every four years, there’s a single day in February where we unite as a nation. No, it’s not groundhog day, although it has roughly the same importance. It’s that twice-in-a-decade event when we all pretend voters in Iowa and New Hampshire matter. No, they don’t, in the greater scheme (New Hampshire has 4 electoral votes, Iowa has 6)(just for comparison Alabama has 9)(I’m still trying to figure that one out). I have not lived in Iowa, but, when I was living in Vermont, I got the rather distinct impression that plenty of people, while invested in federal and local politics, would rather not have the sort of media circus tromping through the flower beds every four years. And yet, they keep rigging the game to keep themselves politically viable. If you have to get everyone to the polls a month and a half before the rest of the country, you should be treated as that annoying houseguest who insists on a five am wake-up call; a minor annoyance that distracts you from the rest of your day; not some prophetic prediction about how the other 528 electoral votes will go. However, because we insist on having primary elections — elections which determine who gets to run for office (I’ll circle around to the distinct idiocy of that one in a second) — we all have to pretend that February 2 is some deeply-important political point. Sorry, February 3; I keep mixing it up with Groundhog Day. To be fair, Punxsatawney Phil is going to have a greater long-term effect on the national discourse than Pete Buttiegieg; who only rose to fame because the Iowa electorate got confused and thought they were participating in an online quiz to see which Hogwarts House they should be in, and not voting for the potential president.
In certain older, civilized cultures, when two men wanted to be God-Emperor, they would enter an arena in which gladiatorial combat would decide who gets the title. If that sounds like utter gibberish that I just made up, well, you’re correct, and it also accurately summarizes how I feel about primary elections. For my European friends, American cooking doesn’t really stack up well against French, Italian, or Spanish cooking (it looks great compared to British fare, but that’s another conversation for another time), however, we have perfected the multi-course election. You probably think we go down and just vote. That’s like having an entree without amuse-bouche. Except, instead of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, Americans start each election cycle with petty arguments, name-calling, and blatant corruption. Just as an appetizer is there to set the culinary tone of the meal to come; primaries serve to inure us to the insane awfulness that awaits us in a general election. Essentially, it’s each major party squabbling amongst themselves to figure out who gets to run for various federal offices; chief amongst them, the presidency. This just seems like a needless complication. Imagine a country in which anyone can run for president, and the top-40-odd candidates are listed as options. Imagine having multiple different choices of Republican or Democrat, or even independents, each with nuanced, well-developed platforms that appeal to you, individually, so every four years, you don’t have to decide whether you prefer healthcare or guns (there could be a return to state-run militias, and all of those trillions of dollars we pour into the F-22 could go toward funding healthcare and education; modern political stances might be a false dichotomy enacted to distract us from the real political and economic issues we face).
For everyone wondering where my political allegiances currently lie; I voted for E. Warren, but it’s not looking like that vote really mattered. I think she had the second-best platform (after K. Harris), and I think she has the best track record of enacting reforms, and I think it’s time to let women have a hand at running the world. I don’t mean that in any sort of “affirmative action sense,” but rich old white men have been at the helm of Western Civilization since… well, since we’ve had it. Call me a fool, but I’m not exactly wild at the thought of drawing upon the same demographic to fix the exact same problems from which they are now benefiting. Which is why I’m delighted that, come November, I’ll likely get to choose between… old white men (despite his claims, most financial sources I’ve seen indicate that The Donald is nowhere near Really Rich, and more like Really Well-off). Goddamn.
In that sense — the sense of “enough with the blob-shaped, over-80, upper-5% tax bracket crowd — I propose a new alternate version of the primaries. We will randomly fill a room with 100-ish people, representing various demographics found throughout America, in the appropriate proportions (51 will be women, 10 will LGBTQ, 63 will be white 12 will be black (that’s the 2012 census figure), and so on). A lottery will be held, and the person who wins, will be the only demographic allowed to run for office. If a person falls under multiple demographics (say, an Hispanic lesbian), only people of that exact same demographic can run. The GOP better hope that RuPaul doesn’t win that lottery, or they’ll be out of luck that year (or they could make more-inclusive policy proposals that appeal to a broader swathe of the electorate)(although, I’ll be honest, I’m betting we’ll hear the phrase, “President Oprah Winfrey” long before the phrase, “The Republican Party would officially like to acknowledge — and apologize for — long-standing policies aimed at dividing and marginalizing people”).
Instead, every four years, the American people are subjected to an abusive news cycle obsessed with things like “electability,” “Who you’d want to have a beer with” (hint; not the guy who’s so off-putting he literally has to pay porn starts to hang out with him), and “targeted demographic advertising;” instead of, “policy analysis,” “economic forecasts,” or “efficiency at enacting proposed policies.” I realize that would require Americans to pay attention to a conversation for more than two minutes, and Bill Clinton rather dramatically accelerated (and took advantage) of our national ADHD to rush through scandals largely unscathed (or unconvicted, anyway).
Which is my rather meandering way of getting to The Headline of the Week: the Democratic Primaries. When I went to bed last night, J. Biden was slightly ahead of B. Sanders; no one cared about Mike Bloomberg’s campaign (although I’ve received a steady stream of texts saying I should vote for him), but I was too tired and bored to really pay much attention. This morning, Biden is more-firmly ahead of Sanders in terms of delegates (that’s the measurement for who gets the nomination, although how that works is far beyond me)(I suspect that’s the point — to deliberately obfuscate the process and demoralize and discourage citizen involvement in a purely internal corporate process), although it’s still up in the air. I guess; someone explain all of this to me. I’m slightly in favor of Sanders, but, again, I wanted to vote for Kamala Harris.