Thursday, February 11, 2016

One Vote for National Primary Day

The ability to communicate one's thoughts to others in our nation has grown exponentially over the past  hundred years. From a time when families huddled around a radio, if they owned one, to the introduction of television into every home, to the age of personal computers and the explosion of the internet, we now have the capacity to reach into the minds of vast swaths of our population every second of every day. 

From a day when a select few owned automobiles and travel by train was the only viable alternative, we have been elevated into the sky and can now criss-cross the country in several hours.

We have become omnipresent.

Yet we continue to treat our political process as if we were living in the age of the horse and buggy. Announcements by candidates of their decision to seek their party's nomination for the highest office in our nation, seemingly begins in earnest just after the mid-term elections.

On December 16, 2014, almost two years before we would elect our 46th President of the United States, Jeb Bush advised us that he had formed an exploratory committee regarding his possible insertion into the Republican race. It was a badly kept secret for months that he would run, as he kept the exploration fiction alive as long as possible, so he could skirt certain rules regarding contributions to candidates. Finally, on June 15, 2015, he put both feet into the water.

Others, still alive in our primary process, informed us with joy and celebration of their joining the fray on the following dates: March 4, 2015- Ben Carson; March 23, 2015-Ted Cruz; April 12, 2015- Hillary Clinton; April 13, 2015- Marco Rubio; April 29, 2015, Bernie Sanders; June 16,2015- Donald Trump; John Kasich, July 21, 2015.

Before the first ballot was cast, or more precisely before the first caucus was held, we had spent more than a half year, and in some instances almost a full year, in the constant company of those who would be our king. Their words had been broadcast in as many forums as one's imagination allowed. Each syllable was recorded, scrutinized and dissected by those who are charged with analyzing and interpreting. Their smiles had been reviewed, their frowns had been considered. And yet, here we are with miles to go before we (and they) sleep, when the primary process comes to a merciful conclusion.

If you guessed that this method of choosing a party's nominee was somewhere mandated, you would be mistaken. In fact, in the first two presidential elections, the Electoral College was tasked with determining each party's selection. Thereafter, until 1820,  the members of Congress made the selection. It was not until 1832 that a national convention of delegates, chosen by we the public, became the accepted method for nomination.

The concept of a national primary day was first birthed over 100 years ago, well before the advent of the modern age of communication. A bill was placed before Congress in 1911 for consideration of having simultaneous casting in all jurisdictions. The bill, and the many attempts thereafter to codify a rule for a one day primary voting process have all failed.

But look at what has been the result. The early states, Iowa and New Hampshire, become virtual home to the candidates. John Kasich reported having undertaken the arduous task of performing at over 100 town halls in the Granite state. Chris Christie basically abandoned governing in New Jersey (some might consider that a good thing) and then failed to garner enough support to even stay in the race after a dismal showing in the first true primary in the nation.

Meanwhile, my home state of New Jersey and others, like California, don't have our primary day until June 7. In most election years, this means that our votes simply don't count, as the front-runner has historically gathered sufficient delegates at that point to make my ballot, and those in many late states, of absolutely no import. Thus, while the first jurisdictions are bombarded with candidate love and affection, we are the unwanted step-child, ignored and without consequence.

So why then do we not strongly consider the realities of the 21st century, when each candidate has more than sufficient time, in myriad ways, to make his or her case simultaneously throughout our nation? Why not bring equal footing and equal weight to what those in my state, or California, or New York, have to say as to the candidate for each party?

Don't merely mouth the words that our inclinations towards a candidate change over time. Of course they do, but why can't all of us uniformly consider and contemplate, rather than a select few?

There is more than ample reason and justification to abandon a long since unnecessary and antiquated system. Let's get out of our horse and buggies and come into the world as it presently exists. Let's not just keep doing what we do, but let's have a national primary day in the early part of the year in which we hold our presidential election.

 We need not require the absurd period of contemplation that now prevails. By way of extreme alternative, on April 6, 2010, then prime minister Gordon Brown announced that an election for that position would be held one month later, on May 6, 2010. And so it did, with David Cameron succeeding to that office.

I am not suggesting such a radical revision, but clearly we do not need the time frame presently in place, to make our selection for party nominee. Our task is merely to pay more attention, sooner.

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