Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Caucus This!

Are the Democrats about to mess with tradition? Quite possibly as they play with the idea of adding additional primaries to the mix of Iowa and New Hampshire (New Ioshire? Hampowa?)

This past Saturday, a group of Democrats recommended that New Hampshire push its historic primary behind one or two states with more diverse populations, thus losing its treasured status as part of a presidential soothsayer.

Under the new plan, the party would add one or two caucuses after the Iowa Caucus but before the New Hampshire Primary. The proposal, which would need approval from the Democratic National Committee (new slogan: bruised and battered, but still have a better approval rating than you-know-who) would also add another primary or 2 after New Hampshire.

(First, let me explain what a caucus is. A caucus can be defined as a meeting of supporters or members of a political party or political movement. In the U.S. especially, it’s a meeting of local members of a political party or subgroup whose goal is to nominate candidates or plan policy. A Primary is one of the first steps in the process of electing someone to higher office. Simplistic definition? Yes. But, in all honesty, the process is fairly simplistic also.Essentially, a caucus sees voters attending lengthy meetings at set locations whereas primaries are more like general elections with a much broader voting population casting ballots. Voters of New Hampshire tend to downplay the Iowa caucus and overstate the importance and the impact of their primary. In fact, in 1988, then NH Gov John Sununu (remember him? He was a crony for the first President Bush) stated: “The people of Iowa pick corn, the people of New Hampshire pick presidents.” It’s statements such as that that shows itself as one reason why I would choose to have other primaries… New Hampshire residents take their place in line a little to seriously and tend to have oversized egos)

What’s the primary (pun intended) driving force behind the push?

As usual Liberal Guilt (someone in this country has to have some feelings of guilt… the Republicans sure as hell won’t/don’t), but also a feeling of need to change the system in order to get a better overall snapshot of the country, rather than use the predominantly white-populated states of Iowa and New Hampshire. (Besides, as I mentioned above, who isn’t sick of New Hampshire’s mightier-than-thou persona when it comes to the presidential primaries).

While the new states have not been named, the panel has already suggested that they would have to be ethnically diverse and from different areas of the country. States like South Carolina, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico or Nevada could be in the running.

Naturally, New Hampshire has vowed to fight the proposal and is going to try and rally support among grass-roots Democrats and potential presidential candidates (though many think their changes to disrupt the proposal would be a tough sell) Additionally, since 1977, New Hampshire law has stated that its primary is to be the first in the nation (how egotistical can you get?) As a result, the state has had to move its primary, originally in March, earlier in the year to remain the first.

2004 vice presidential candidate (and possible 2008 presidential candidate) John Edwards had a guarded reaction to the proposal. Admitting that there needs to be diversity in the nominating calendar, he stated that it is also vital “for Iowa and New Hampshire to maintain their status because, having lived through them, I know the importance of grass-roots campaigning that occurs in both places.”

For more than three decades, presidential hopefuls have traversed the state fairs, picnics and gatherings of party faithful in both states — a ritual that almost seems to be ingrained into the American political landscape and system.

New Hampshire's secretary of state, William Gardner, stated that the state would eventually consider whether or not they have to move up the state's primary in order to comply with the aforementioned New Hampshire state law.

The recommendation now has to go to the rules panel of the Democratic National Committee, which will hammer out the details of the plan before it gets passed on for vote by the full DNC at its April meeting in New Orleans.

Stay tuned…

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