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Give Us More than Corn, Stars and Bars!


With the announcement that Illinois Senator Barack Obama is opening an exploratory committee to test the waters for a potential run for the White House against de facto front-runner Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the prospect over whether America will elect a member of a minority group as President is becoming quite real. But with the current presidential primary system, we will not get a debate over black or white, man or woman; instead the same tired issues of corn, stars and bars will prevail.

As it has been constituted for decades, the presidential primary process begins in a handful of states – caucuses in Iowa, a primary in New Hampshire then another down in South Carolina. By the time most of us get to vote for candidates, our favorites have dropped out or been eliminated by voters.

As a result we hear the same debate every four years about farm subsidies and ethanol in Iowa – two things no one aspiring to the White House can oppose – and whether to fly the Confederate flag in South Carolina. Just as it has been debated since 1988, candidates for President are guaranteed to get attention just for bringing up these hot-button issues, even insignificant candidates like Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd.

As part of a Western strategy which includes hosting their 2008 convention in formerly Red State Colorado, Democrats moved the Nevada Caucuses into the mix of contests that count. That will only mean that opposition to Yucca Mountain will be added to the list of litmus test issues one must abide by in order to become the next president.

The presidential primary sweepstakes is so big that now – albeit for their own nefarious reasons – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California legislators are considering moving their selection from June to February.

But is this any way to pick a President? I think not. There are many more important issues to the country today than the typical campaign stump diet of corn, stars and bars.

Although the 2008 presidential primaries are all but lost, Americans need to engage in an honest debate about the process now. Right now. So that the parties can adopt a new, rational system for picking presidential candidates.

One plan which seems to make sense is dubbed “The American Plan“. Basically the American Plan staggers the primaries based on the number of delegates which will be selected at any point during the process then randomizes the States which get to vote at each point along the road to the White House.

Now there are logistical problems to making such a change – Republicans and Democrats must both approve it simultaneously at their 2008 conventions and the states would either have to break up or move consolidated primaries. But these can be overcome.

While changing the primary schedule will not prevent politicians from pandering to states that vote early in order to remain in the race, it sure would be nice to move the national debate forward – on national issues, not just local hot-buttons – and give each of us, at some point in our lifetimes, the feeling that we helped elect a President.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 11:44 AM | Permalink

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