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Primary nonsense

Mark Easley | Thursday, April 12, 2012

Many conservatives, myself included, have been pretty disappointed with this year’s Republican presidential primary. While the field is narrowing and a winner seems to be emerging, the entire process has been taxing on an electorate that was so charged to displace the current incumbent after all the damage done to this country for present and future generations. A conservative revival that began shortly after 2008 and manifested itself in Tea Party politics that showed tremendous influence in 2010 has taken a huge hit by the lackluster choices in candidates for the top position in global politics.

While the battle cry still remains “Anybody but Obama” in most Republican circles, it is hard to get excited for a Wall Street fat cat, who is detached from most of America and thinks he can simply buy power, even though his stated policies are significant improvements over the current regime. It is my belief that the primary system is largely to blame for our poor choice of party nominees this year and in the past.

Drawn-out primaries are bad for everyone. The voters get tired of hearing about the race, and it’s not even the big dance yet. The party establishment is forced to pick sides and bicker amongst each other until a victor emerges. The candidates weaken each other with devastating attacks that should be reserved for the other side. Crazy ideas of stolen conventions, wild card delegates and phantom votes begin to emerge to comfort supporters of losing candidates. And the worst of all is the last few states to vote basically don’t get their voices heard after all is said and done. Indiana is among these unlucky few.

Something does not add up in this system. If a short primary is good, that means most states’ votes don’t count and a few relatively small states get to dictate party nominees. If a long primary is good, then the party is not in as strong a position to win the actual presidential race that matters at the expense of more people getting their votes counted. Does anyone else think this is stupid?

Primaries should be held on the same day. Every state gets their voice heard without significant influence from others. All the candidates get to campaign on a national level, not state by state, just as they would in the real campaign. If you want financing, you better be famous or creative with your personal branding. How many great candidates have fallen over the course of a race because they did poorly in certain geographies or were victims of bad press in the 24-hour news cycle?

If we examine the last few years we likely would have seen Bush vs. Gore in 2000 like we did, but Bush vs. Wesley Clark or Howard Dean in 2004 would be more likely on a same day primary schedule. Hillary Clinton vs. Rudy Guiliani or Mitt Romney would have been a likely match-up in 2008. And for 2012, Newt Gingrich or Herman Cain or even Rick Perry would have had much stronger showings.

Maybe a counterargument would be that the candidates won’t be properly vetted, but I what I’m proposing is not an accelerated primary season, just one where voting takes place on a set date. If the last vote of the season is in early June now, just have the Republican primary in June. Alternatively, have it on Super Tuesday. The day does not matter. The point is everyone is aware when the election is supposed to take place and that it is nationwide.

If the real presidential election was spread out over five months and went state by state, I think everyone would agree that the process would be totally ludicrous. So why do we have to put up with it in the primaries? Let people make up their own minds and let every vote count.

Mark Easley is a senior computer science major. He can be contacted at measley@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.