Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
The American primary system is a joke, the punch line for which came last week: Mitt Romney, his popularity sinking so fast that Celine Dion is writing a tune for the James Cameron version, kept pressing for his ‘inevitability’ so he can wind the primaries up and avoid more damage in the general election. Apparently 50 states don’t get a say, just the ones early enough to “count.”
Sorry, Mitt, but the whole point of a 50 state primary system is to compete in 50 states. To say to the states in the back 25 of the primary process that you want it over is to disenfranchise the members of your party in half of this nation, some of whom hate your guts and want Santorum or Ginrich or Paul.
This is the first presidential primary in decades that isn’t a Cuban beauty contest. The outcome wasn’t assured for the front-runner, with the mock rubber stamp of the primary system process.
The “done deal” of Reagan days where candidates were anointed in the Republican Party went out the window with the devolution of the party and the mass exodus of its fiscal conservative center into ‘independent’ status. As I’ve told you, the GOP these days barely reps 1 in 10 Americans.
The primary process in 2008 was ugly for John McCain, the last of the almost-heir apparents. It has been downright brutal in 2012 for Romney to seal the deal.
The Fascist Fab Five of the Supreme Court gave us the ‘gift’ of Citizen’s United, where corporations are people too. It has backfired badly on the Republican primaries.
Endorsements from polar opposites, the Teahadi Senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, and the morally flexible George H.W. Bush, along with the least private meeting of private meetings with Newt Gingrich were supposed to seal the deal
Every week a Guam or a Puerto Rico has a Romney aide on top of the roof crowing ‘Inevitability! Inevitability!’ The Murdoch papers and Fix News try to program the masses for it. Every week, though, Rick Santorum hits a state where he can reach the “real” red counties full of rednecks and religious zombies. As we’ve shown you in Romney’s Rat Poison Victories, and other pieces on the earlier Republican primaries, the Mittster’s “wins” usually come from Democratic strongholds not likely to be flipped by the flip-flopper in November.
No more back-room certainty exists. May he with the biggest Super PAC and the deepest pockets win! It’s hard to make guys like Rick Santorum go away when a Foster Freiss can spend millions of his own through the Red, White and Blue Super PAC slush fund to keep Rancid Rick alive.
Both Romney and the GOP party hierarchy see the epic disaster in the making, so they have the spin cycle on full trying to force Santorum and Paul to hang it up.
Let’s decode the political feature in the Sunday New York Times: “In Wisconsin, Romney Nears Tipping Point.” The article states:
“A victory over Rick Santorum in Wisconsin on Tuesday would effectively close the first phase of the primary season, senior Republicans say. It would leave Mr. Romney with not only a commanding lead in the race for delegates, but also a claim to have fended off energetic challenges across a range of battleground states with a disciplined and well-financed campaign effort.”
I am no fan of Citizens United (CU), but I do indulge in a spoonful or two of delicious irony now and again. CU, interestingly, has worked, just not in the way its authors intended. It has made much more of the primary voting process relevant.
How many times have we heard pundits in years past, particularly in “late” primary states, bemoan the uselessness of their elections when the money is stacked behind one candidate who wins handily in the early primary contests? This year, unless Romney can use the bully pulpit of the media to hound Santorum out of the race now, or Mr. Santorum somehow finally implodes himself, the doorway to a convention slugfest is almost guaranteed if all 50 states do as they’re supposed to and cast their ballot in the nation’s first “real” primary.
What CU has done, is shown clearly what a sham the whole time-consuming, expensive useless exercise in faux democracy that the primary system has always been.
Started in 1912 as a way of taking the nomination out of the back-room process, primaries were supposed to introduce more democracy to the selection process at the national conventions, which previously had all of the democratic flavor of a Vladimir Putin rally. Ballots to vote were still very restricted to party elites, though.
New Hampshire became significant in 1949 when they turned primaries into a more popular vote, pushing General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s fortunes up on the GOP side, while sending President Harry Truman to the showers in his search for a second term of his own. 
Since then, the primaries have rolled out to all 50 states and territories. For decades, only the first handful have mattered. Witness the spectacle of 2011 when states were jockeying like jocks wanting to take the head cheerleader to homecoming for those coveted primaries that “matter.” Little did they know, with CU, that all of them do.
This is why Republicans, not accustomed to being out of control of their own party theatrics, face the very real threat of true democracy at a convention. At Tampa, should Mr. Romney not make his magic 1144 number, and the convention goes to round two, where the delegates are no longer ‘bound,’ it could get very, very blood-Red in the convention center.
Romney’s dialogue with Gingrich was more to insure that he has the votes to bury Mr. Santorum in that second round. Delusional Dr. Paul is not likely to come out of his presidential ambition coma long enough, nor have enough delegates to make a difference.
The problem with the unbound delegates, though, is that they’re unbound to anyone. As we’ve seen with the Teahadis in Congress, the Republican establishment, by way of Speaker John Boehner, has a real problem controlling their extremist flock. At this point, no one knows what calculus the party’s defacto leader, Grover Norquist, will apply to the convention. He, not Mr. Romney or Mr. Santorum, is likely to be the primary power broker because he knows how to manipulate the mindless masses who will be on the floor better than any of them after three decades of perfecting the art. Mr. Norquist is angling for a Rubber Stamp President. Mr. Santorum is his best patsy, er, candidate.
What we need is a different system.
Candidates already criss-cross the country more than a year in advance of an election, glad-handing and building base. This notion that the candidates can’t get everywhere to meet with everyone prior to an election is absolute nonsense. Where a candidate doesn’t go, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC, among others, do. We know every movement, gaffe and hiccup of every candidate globally these days. The state-to-state primary process is a tradition, an anachronism.
The staggering cost of mounting campaigns in all of the primary contests point-by-point alone should be justification for moving to a real “Super Tuesday” where every state in the nation conducts its primary.
Start the primary season in October of the year prior for primaries. Finish that by the first Tuesday in March where everyone votes in their own party. Then let the candidates start the slugfest to November with monthly debates between the two actual contenders. Pass a new campaign law to limit everyone’s spending, including corporate ‘people.’ Keep the playing field as level as possible given the forces trying to perpetually tilt it one way or another.
Right now, that tilt is being aimed at Mr. Santorum. He speaks well to the far Right, and he has demonstrated a clear ability to get the support of the real Republican base. The GOP brass want it both ways: Stir up the fanatics, yet don’t do anything to upset the alienated independent any more. That can’t be, unless and until there is a candidate, say a future Romney or Gingrich, who has the scruples not to pander to Mr. Santorum’s base, but to bring back the abandoned moderate. Until then, though, Mr. Santorum has a much more realistic chance of at least a good floor fight for the nomination if the GOP machine doesn’t turn the screws down on him further.
We like to think that we have input into the process. Everything from the Oscars to the upcoming Obama-[CANDIDATE HERE] slugfest, though, has the taint of the control of the 1% with the cash to steer it.
Wouldn’t it be nice, in what passes as one of the handful of real democracies in the world, if we could turn the process of selecting the most powerful leader of the free world into as close to a real expression of popular will as we can get, and show that being a billionaire, or having a billionaire sugar daddy pulling your strings, is not the quid pro quo gateway to power.
Let Mr. Santorum take his case to his people. Mr. Romney should win on his merits, not on the spin of a faceless GOP machine and the lap-dog media that aids and abets their steering of the political narrative.
My shiny two.