And now, for a bit of HA heresy. For a solid year now, people have been asking me who I’d like to see become President in 2009. For most of that time, I’ve offered the same unsatisfying response: it’s far too early, a lot can happen between now and then. But as the fascination with the race among local political types I know has heightened leading up to this week’s Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries next Tuesday, I have slowly begun to embrace a different response: why do you care?
Not that the question of who will try to clean up (or exacerbate) George W. Bush’s, er, messes isn’t important: on multiple fronts, it will influence nothing less than the future of humanity. At present, our likely choice will almost certainly be between two of eight less than inspiring people, who break down roughly as follows (based on their past governing records, not their campaign rhetoric): two liberal members of the bipartisan D.C. establishment (Obama, Edwards); one “liberal” who would have been considered a moderate Republican not too long ago (Clinton); four guys who would for all practical purposes be a third term of Bush (Giuliani, Romney, McCain, Thompson); and one charismatic loon (Huckabee). There’s a lot of room between those positions, most of it not good, and it matters a lot which of them will, in slightly over a year, become the most powerful person in the world.
And, of course, there’s a good argument to be made that even the most powerful person in the world can only do so much, and given the country’s political realities, isn’t likely to accomplish much of what s/he is now promising.
Still, it does make a difference who the next president is. It’s a pity Washington state residents will have virtually nothing to do with that choice. Today’s front page P-I headline — “State could turn into big player” (with the subhead “New front-runners might give our caucuses more sway”) — is a truly embarrassing bit of nativist wishful thinking. Sure, our caucuses might have a big impact. Mount Rainier might erupt next week, too.
In the Evergreen State, the presidential campaigns are and will be close to meaningless. Candidates have used our area primarily as an ATM, and that won’t change. Actual visits by candidates will continue to be rare, and any public appearances will be filled in around big stakes fundraising as almost an afterthought, useful almost solely for the resulting free local media coverage.
Of course, we will have a chance to register our opinions in the race next month. Our state’s Democratic and Republican caucuses are on Feb. 9, and the primary vote is on Feb. 19.
Unfortunately, 23 different states and territories, including heavyweights like California, New York, and Illinois (encompassing the country’s four largest media markets) will be having their primaries on “Super Tuesday,” Feb. 5, four days before our caucuses. And six other states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, and Florida) will have decided before that. Voters representing 326 of the country’s 538 electoral college votes will weigh in before we do. (Another state, Louisiana, is on the same day, and three more states follow in the next three days.) The upshot: the party’s nominees will likely be decided before we have our say. It’s certain that most of those eight frontrunners will be gone.
Even then, the Washington state process is something of a fraud. The Feb. 19 Democratic primary vote is completely meaningless; all the party’s nominating delegates will have already been chosen at the caucuses, so unless you’re willing to sign up for a political party, invest half a day at some church social hall, and get fund appeals for the next two years, your opinion won’t matter. The state Republicans, to their credit, at least factor the primary results in with the caucuses in determining their delegates — not that the race is likely to still be much of a race by then.
And, of course, come November, Washington state’s 11 electoral votes will all go to the Democratic candidate, just as they have for every presidential election since the days of Reagan. Regardless of how or whether you vote.
So why does it matter what you, I, or any other local person thinks about the 2008 presidential race? Sure, you could join a campaign and fly to a state where the votes matter. (Most of us won’t.) And we can all send in our $25, $50, or $1000 (or whatever) to the candidate of our choice. That’ll make a big dent in the over $100 million that Clinton and Obama have already raised, or the likely combined total of over $1 billion that the two major party nominees will raise for 2008. And since when did “one dollar, one vote” become the standard for our democracy?
The end result is that much of the fascination with the 2008 race hereabouts reeks of rooting for one’s favorite sports team (albeit with more meaningful stakes). It’s fun, it’s entertaining, but it’s not to be confused with the functions of a healthy democracy. That would require, among other things, a national primary day, abolishing the electoral college, public campaign financing, and allowing more than two competitive parties. Since we don’t have any of those things, locally or nationally, and aren’t about to get them, sure, I’ll get some popcorn and watch the race. But we’re spectators in this race — not participants. And that’s a problem.
Meantime, we also have a governor to elect, a local congressional race likely to be hotly contested, and a lot of other offices and measures on the ballot where we can have far more direct impact. So why all the focus on the White House?
Piper Scott spews:
“Truly embarrassing bit of nativist wishful thinking,” but typical of the rubes in Seattle who think they’re special and look for every opportunity to attract national attention, much the same way a drunken idiot puts a lampshade on his head at a party.
“That would require, among other things, a national primary day, abolishing the electoral college, public campaign financing, and allowing more than two competitive parties.” On this I’ll disagree.
I like the slogging through the snow, the endless and exhausting campaign schedule, and the necessity to interact at diners, coffee klatches, and barn raisings. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and candidates need to prove their toughness and mettle, not just how they appeal to crowds in L.A. and NYC.
A national primary day means the top markets get the attention, while the places where real people live won’t get squat. It’s best when the next leader of the free world is required to go toe-to-toe with a housewife, store clerk, or mechanic; we don’t want our leaders too far removed from the led. The Iowa successes of Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee seem to support this concept.
If anything, Obama and Huckabee proved that public financing is a hollow notion. Shoe leather beats wallet leather every time, and their victories prove this.
Incidentally, Tim Eyman knows this, too, and that’s why he’s a consistent winner over filthy-rich efforts to crush his initiatives. It’s in the ground game, not the bank account.
Eliminating the Electoral College essentially does away with one of the last vestiges of our federal system, and gives complete electoral power to large population centers. Agains, think L.A. and NYC. BUT…also think declining power of northern urban-oriented states that vote blue in favor of more power to southern sunbelt states that vote red; the 2010 census will see a continuation of the growth of southern and sunbelt power at the expense of rustbucket and iceberg states.
Consider, also, that as boomers age and retire, they’ll beat feet out of those iceboxes, move to Florida and Arizona, and make those red voting states that much more scarlet.
So, the Electoral College is a friend to Democrats…if you know how to work it.
The essential wisdom of Geov’s essay, however, is correct. We’re one game into the pre-season, and everyone has already made hard and fast Superbowl predictions and reservations for the game. Uh…slow down! It’s still a game of 52-card pickup, and it will be for at least another month. In the meantime, the local stuff continues…and continues unobserved.
Watch for the new Eyman initiative to gather speed almost unnoticed. Watch for Dino Rossi to campaign across the state almost unnoticed by those with their eyes fixated on HRC or Obama. Watch for the second coming of I-25 to get even stronger support. Watch for transportation planning and policy to morph from Balkanized anarchy toward more comprehensive regional planning that’s not beholden to anyone’s Holy Grail (read that as Sound Transit learns to take its seat at the back of the bus) even as a new 520 is fast-tracked, and watch as Mayor Quarters and the seattle city council continue to provide amusement to those outside the city limits and anguish to those inside them.
Nothing changes so much as it stays the same.
Oh…and watch for the HA Happy Hooligans to never get what they want no matter who gets elected to what; extremist POVs never do. You are fated to always have your lil’ lefy hearts broken because the realities of the world dictate policies and actions outside your rose colored perview.
In other words, The Darcy’s losing percentage will be greater in ’08 than in ’06. It’s in the natural order of things.
But if you’ve checked what’s on TV, then you have to agree it’s way more entertaining than the latest version of Survivor…even though it may resemble it a bit.
Broadway Joe spews:
Heretical, indeed. From the training I’ve been getting for my upcoming role as a precinct chair here in Nevada, I’ve learned that I’ll probably be spending more time getting my room prepared and materials laid out than I will in actually conducting the caucus. My district officer told me that the actual caucus probably won’t take more than half an hour, even with all the fuzzy math of viability rules. And from what I’ve learned, the R’s are even faster: just a simple straw poll and that’s it, apparently.
I’m sorry that you feel so powerless. Now get over it and get your ass to the caucus!
Great post! I love the last paragraph.
Broadway Joe spews:
Actually, the people moving south are turning red states at least purple if not blue. It was recently reported here, for example, that in the totality of registered voters here in Nevada, D’s now outnumber R’s. Apparently, this was something that hadn’t been the case for quite some time. Most of the change was due to recent arrivals from outside the state. Sorry Piper, but I don’t think your idea holds much water.
Hey Popemeister! If you’re out there somewhere, wanna research this for us?
@2: That wasn’t my experience in 2004 in WA. It took hours. But our respective experiences aren’t the main point. No matter how “easy” the caucus process is, far fewer people participate in it than in voting primaries. The parties love it because it’s an organizing tool and builds party identity. But it also means the passionate base chooses candidates, not the electorate as large, and IMO that’s less democratic. And regardless, chances are good, as I wrote, that the caucus (as in 2004) will be a coronation, not a meaningful contest.
“I’m sorry that you feel so powerless. Now get over it and get your ass to the caucus!”
Too my way of viewing things the Fuck The Feds- Go Local crowd are the truly empowered ones. They’re saying that we have the tools and resources in our own hands and own communities to build the kind of world we want to live in regardless of what happens at the federal level.
@1: Piper: I’m not sure I follow your logic that the people who live in large population centers aren’t “real people” and can’t be engaged the same way an Iowa housewife can. Or that more electoral power should reside with places where fewer people live, rather than where the majority of people live. Regardless of which party gains the advantage; one person, one vote is simply more democratic.
@1: Tim Eyeman gets paid big bucks off his intitatives business and pays his initiative signature gatherers – so coming to the conclusion that shoe leather beats wallet leather certainly doesn’t apply to fat cat Tim and his wealthy backers.
Geov: Just think – any of the Democrats would not have:
approved torture as US policy – then lied about it
gone into Iraq, since it was never a threat
Lied and spun the intelligence on Iraq
lost the respect of the world
said that Osama bin Laden wasn’t important to get
corrupted the justice department
screwed up FEMA
appointed incompetent cronies like Brownie – who let NO fester after Katrina (not to mention gonzalez)
stacked the supreme court with Federalist idealogues
and on and on
So it is vitally important to get behind whoever is the democratic nominee – because they are all vastly superior to any of the “experienced” republicans.
Just remember – Bush ran as a “moderate” – he was going to be a uniter not a divider. He has united us as Americans – everyone thinks he is an incompetent liar who subverts the constitution. Bush is the greatest gift the democratic party has ever gotten – again – count how many times the republican candidates mention the president.
Piper Scott spews:
Going to a national primary and eliminating the electoral college will result in politics by population center; bugger small-town America, since it will no longer matter.
I don’t want to see campaigning strictly in New York or California or, for that matter, Texas. Let’s keep it mixed up such that a small state or even a small town continues to matter. Frankly, people who live in those hick burgs sometimes are a lot more savvy than their urban chic brethren.
In the nomination process, which isn’t an election and needn’t be democratic, a grinding, demanding, and activisit-driven gauntlet will produce a tougher, more hardened candidate.
As a caucus fan – I LOATHE primaries – I like that people get together in a living room (mine for Republicans in my precinct on 2/9) and hash it out; people engaging other people, putting ideas and opinions out there then having to defend them…that’s the way it should be!
When you think historically, you have to remember all the candidates who, at the beginning of their campaigns, were touted as God’s (I am still allowed to mention God here, right???) gift to America who then proceeded to screw the pooch somewhere along the nomination road.
Survival of the fittest…not the flashiest…produces better candidates for a general election (held across the country on the same day…except absentee ballots have now screwed this up, too) where the principle of one person, one vote works.
But nominating? That’s a political process and decision, not necessarily a democratic one.
Now, if you want to go to a parliamentary system where voting is almost exclusively party driven and you only vote for your paliamentary representative with the winning party then having its leader becoming head of government, then you might have something. In Britain, for example, campaigns are short – six-weeks – and cheap, relatively speaking. But we’re not British (we have sex, you know!), and the organic structure of the U.S. doesn’t lend itself to that form of government.
I don’t see any massive reason to radically change things. Besides, it would mean the end to all the fun!
@5: I love the caucuses. It is so much more personal to discuss things with your neighbors than to go alone into a voting booth. People actually have to talk to other people and justify their views. It is real democracy in action.
I remember walking accidentally into the republican caucus recently – it was a hoot – only a few people. My old distric in Seattle had NO republican caucus (why bother).
One other time in grad school a bunch of us younger virile guys deliberately went into the republican caucus filled with mostly old ladies – and stole the vote from Reagan. It was a hoot – the little old ladies loved us and changed their minds…
“As a caucus fan – I LOATHE primaries – I like that people get together in a living room (mine for Republicans in my precinct on 2/9) and hash it out; people engaging other people, putting ideas and opinions out there then having to defend them…that’s the way it should be!”
100% agree with Piper on this!
@9: But I ain’t goin’ to Pipers living room (unless there is unlimited beer!).
Piper Scott spews:
Paying initiative gatherers (who doesn’t?) has nothing to do with an election campaign after an initiative qualifies for the ballot. That’s where the shoe leather kicks in. Eyman’s initiatives are routinely opposed by very well-funded interst groups, while the initiative effort itself scrimps by on little or nothing.
Word of mouth, neighbor to neighbor, door to door…Beats TV with its slick and expensive ads.
Linda Smith was elected to Congress from the Third District in a WRITE-IN campaign! And she had a track record of beating well-healed opponents strictly on the basis of boots on the ground.
I’ll take a cadre of motivated, dedicated, commited supporters over mere money every time.
Piper gets his facts wrong twice.
1. Linda Smith won a write-in campaign in the REPUBLICAN PRIMARY, with the active support of the Republican Party, after the original Republican favorite crapped out too late to be taken off the ballot. She won the general election the regular way, with her name on the ballot. (Furthermore, Smith’s great “track record” is a myth. For the state legislature, she won in a very conservative district. She barely won her first race for Congress in the biggest Republican year in decades. She barely won her second race for Congress against a Democrat no one had ever heard of. Then she got her ass handed to her by Patty Murray. Patty Murray!)
2. The Electoral College does not favor small population centers, nor large population centers. Size doesn’t matter. Instead, it favors states where the race between the candidates is close. This year, the candidates for President will not campaign hard in California (the biggest state) nor in Wyoming (nearly the smallest state), because the outcome in both is obvious. They will campaign very hard in Florida (nearly the biggest state) and in Nevada (one of the smallest), because they’re close. Under a national primary, the candidates will go everywhere they can will a few votes. The Democrats will actually campaign a bit in Utah, if only to bring their votes from 30% up to 35% (in a national primary, that would matter). And the Republicans would come to Washington, to bring their votes from 40% up to 45%.
Also, Piper doesn’t seem to understand campaign outreach. Television coverage (either free media or paid ads) goes to the big city AND the small towns around the city. And it costs the same to mail a brochure to an urban voter as a rural voter. So, campaigns can target whomever they want. For example, if a candidate visits Seattle, even voters in Forks and Morton hear about it.
approved torture as US policy – then lied about it **** point taken. Why do you give the terrorists a pass on their beheading torture? You never mention them.
gone into Iraq, since it was never a threat ***** Then why did we have the no fly zones in Iraq in the 90s?
Lied and spun the intelligence on Iraq ****** Russia, France, Germany, Britian, Italy, Czech Republic all said he had WMD
lost the respect of the world ***** Only the libbies of the World. France now back to bestus friends
said that Osama bin Laden wasn’t important to get ***** Was a dumb thing to say
corrupted the justice department ***** Ummm Janet Reno comes to mind
screwed up FEMA ***** I posted the complaints of Jesse Hi-Jackson on FEMA response to Carolina Hurricanes in 1999
appointed incompetent cronies like Brownie – who let NO fester after Katrina (not to mention gonzalez)
stacked the supreme court with Federalist idealogues
and on and on ***** The POTUS winner gets the spoils.
lost the respect of the world ***** Why did Muammar of Libya give up his Nukular ambitions just after we invaded Iraq? Why did North Korea decide to dismantle the Nukular gift Madeline Half-bright gave them?
How is it that I want to see you with a beret, smoking Galloise and contemplating Nietsche.
Or is this a Buddhist approach to avoiding suffering?
True, on can avoid suffering by sitting beneath the Bhodi tree and eating form the bowl. But there is a price. Gautama left behind the love of his family. Geov leaves behind the pleasure in seeing a good person win.
In my life, I remember feelings somewhat like GP during the sixties. What would these marches achieve?
Piper Scott spews:
Thank you for the correction in re Linda Smith. Doesn’t vitiate the central point, however.
It’s the ground game that generates turnout, not TV ads. And a ground game requires people willing to put their “A” effort out there on behalf of their candidate or cause.
I never said the Electoral College favored small states. What I said is that makes individual states, as opposed to population centers, important.
You prove my point by contending how California won’t be seen as in play this year, so candidates will spend time in states that are in play. That Florida is one means something. Other, smaller states may also be in play such that they get an inordinate amount of attention, and that, to me, is a good thing since it means a state with a small population can become crucial not because of its size, but because of its unique status within our federal system.
Remember, our Constitution guarantees us a republican form of government, not a democratic form of government.
That a candidate visits only Seattle may end up pissing the people in Forks pretty seriously off since there’s a disconnect between the cities. Why is a visit to Seattle a visit to Washington? Isn’t that one of the huge problems with Washington State politics? Seattle thinks it’s the end all and be all of everything and the rest of the state can go pound sand.
Still, you’re ignoring the importance of turnout. You can spend a billion dollars on TV ads, but you don’t have an army out there manning the phones, knocking on doors, canvassing neighborhoods, you won’t win.
Money is important – it’s the mother’s milk of politics – but it can and often is beaten by superior organization, a commited campaign organization, and a candidate who speaks to voters and inspires them.
What Iowa showed was the importance of an inspiriing candidate, the necessity to be the most organized and zealously commited, and the futility of relying upon your resume and conventional wisdom expectations.
Iowa was a humiliation for HRC and an embarrassment for Mitt Romney. What New Hampshire shows may be something altogether different, ditto South Carolina and Super Tuesday. That’s why a national primary, public funding of campaigns, and abolishing the Electoral College are bad ideas since the grind and the need to hustle and organize and be on the go 28/9/375 and think strategically as well as tactically provide a tempering crucible for candidates.
I don’t want the most powerful human being on earth elected via a process that’s convenient or easy. I much prefer root hog or die, over the top rope battle royal, bare and brass-knuckled, and very, very, very long campaigns.
The overall process should be more, not less, complicated. The tougher it is, the more fit the candidates who emerge at the end.
“is a truly embarrassing bit of nativist wishful thinking. Sure, our caucuses might have a big impact. Mount Rainier might erupt next week, too.”
truer words were never written………
remember how embarrassing it was after 9/11 when the “big thinkers” in seattle thought seattle was going to be next, [and kept saying that over and over through talking heads on the local stations…] because it was such a big target? wow…how sad is it that washington is such a nothing that it even hopes it will be a target for crazies?
why don’t they just embrace what they are really famous for?
but goldy, i am curious as to why you refer to huckabee as a loon……..
“I never said the Electoral College favored small states. What I said is that makes individual states, as opposed to population centers, important.”
No, it makes states where the Democratic/Republican split is roughly 50/50 important. That’s a grossly arbitrary way to decide that some voters matter and others don’t.
A national primary puts EVERY voter in play — red state or blue state, big city or small town, whatever. Or at least every voter who is not a diehard D or R. And that makes the candidates campaign everywhere.
And the point about Seattle versus Forks is this: If a candidate wants to reach a Seattle voter, they buy TV ads on Seattle stations, fly into Sea-Tac and get coverage from Seattle stations, and mail brochures. If the same candidate wants to reach a Forks voter, they…do exactly the same thing.
Presidential candidates visit Seattle instead of Forks solely for convenience; that’s where the airport and the TV stations are. If they’re aiming for Seattle urban voters, they use one message. If they’re aiming for Forks rural voters, they use a different message.
This notion that a primary benefits urban areas is total bull, designed by conservatives who don’t like the liberals in urban areas and want to find a way to diminish their voting power — away from one-person/one-vote. Can some remind me, which conservative Washington radio host keeps pushing for representation in the State Legislature based on counties (in other words, King County and Garfield County would have equal voting power)?
Piper Scott= an 8th grader with a BIG dictionary. Wow.
Puddybud: Let me answer a couple of those points:
“Why do you give the terrorists a pass on their beheading torture? You never mention them.”
Well, the world expects it of those savages; it didn’t used to expect it of us.
“Then why did we have the no fly zones in Iraq in the 90s?”
To protect the Kurds. You remember them, the ones Bush the 1st promised to help in return for their support BEFORE he adandonded them to be slaughtered, then, when it was too late, decided to save what was left of his miserable reputation by creating the no-fly. Right, poopsie?
And: The French. You’re using the French to justify your argument?
Jesus Christ THE FRENCH?????
Broadway Joe spews:
Piper @ 9:
Agree with you 100%. The caucus is representative democracy at its purest form. Why wouldn’t anyone want to meet their neighbors and converse with them about the future of our country and its government? Beats the fuck out of an impersonal primary as far as I’m concerned. Leave the primary for local things, this a far more important, once-every-four-years matter. And I’m personally responsible for getting four delegates from my precinct to the Washoe County D’s convention, hopefully one of them being yours truly. It also doesn’t hurt that the state convention will be held in Reno this year as well, so ya never know……
BTW, I’ll be caucasing for Obama.
23: exactly the French.