Florida announced today that its 2012 Democratic Primary will be held next Thursday, just to make absolutely SURE no other state beats it to the punch.
Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea. In an effort to boost their clout with the candidates, various states are playing an embarrassing, confusing game of primary leapfrog, that is alienating voters, angering the national party leadership, and creating awkward situations for those presidential contenders. Four states - Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina - are supposed to kick things off in January, but Wyoming just jumped its Republican caucus ahead of the pack, Florida is moving up and scofflaw Michigan plans to vote January 15. The national parties are responding by threatening to punish the renegade states and withhold delegates, and now most of the Democratic candidates have agreed to boycott the unauthorized early voting states, by not campaigning in them...which defeats the purpose of moving up in the first place.
Meanwhile, so many states (23, the last time I counted), have crammed their primaries or caucuses onto the first Tuesday in February that the quaint moniker "Super Tuesday" will no longer do. Some news agencies are adopting "SuperDuper Tuesday" instead, but even that doesn't do it justice. So I've decided to go with SuperCaliTexIllistic Tuesday, which at least gets three of the bigger states (California, Texas, Illinois) into the name. I wish Florida would join the Feb. 5 party, because SuperCaliFlorIllistic sounds better, but what's a wordsmith to do? I'm writing a song about it too, which includes the full phrase: SuperCaliTexIllistic YorkiZonadocious...but you'll have to wait to hear that on KCBS (and, subsequently, on this site).
I've never been a fan of these early primaries. I understand the intention, and it's true that the candidates have been campaigning in California far more than usual, which makes my professional life more interesting. But in the long run, is it better for the voters, and for the process? In the old days, when we Californians voted in June (and occasionally in March), the candidates only came here to raise money, and by the time the nation's largest primary rolled along, it was essentially a meaningless afterthought in an already-decided race.
But look at the unintended consequences of this ridiculous exercise. Instead of beginning their campaigns in mid or late 2007, most of the contenders started running a year ago. Instead of holding their first debates in October or November 2007, when voters are starting to pay attention, they've been "debating" since last spring ("Let's see a show of hands: who believes in torture?"). The pressure to raise obscene amounts of money, to pay for all those extra months of staff, office space, polling, etc., is enormous. This will be, by far, the most expensive presidential campaign in American history, as well as the longest.
And what will we get for our money? The nominees will likely be determined by my birthday (which happens to also be the birthday of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln), which means we will have a TEN-MONTH general election campaign. Yes, instead of a fall race that lasts from the summer conventions until November - typically three or four months - the general will drag on for almost a full year. That's guaranteed to produce voter burnout, not turnout. We will see ten months of overpoliticized, superficial, image-conscious rhetoric...not ten months of thoughtful discussion of the issues. Call me cynical, but even a spoonful of sugary sweet biographical campaign ads won't make this medicine go down. I will love being out on the campaign trail, and look forward to bringing you all the deep insight I can muster, but the Perpetual Campaign is not in the best interests of the voters. It's another symptom of the sickness that has made campaigning more important than governing...placed party politics above doing the people's business...and turned off so many voters from even caring what their representatives do in their name.
Okay, this has turned into a rant. Sorry. Cue Julie Andrews....
Super-Cali-Tex-Illistic YorkiZonadocious, moving up these primaries is getting quite atrocious....