An old friend commended a recent Jeff Greenfield editorial decrying the broken primary process. I bit. Greenfield blames Iowa for the usual reasons: too white, too educated, too different than America. It was a worthwhile read even while completely missing the actual dysfunction.
Now, if Greenfield wants to change the primary process, I can get behind that cause in the same way I’m in favor of express lanes at the grocery: little improvements are nice. But if one believes changing up some primary dates and tweaking the processes of the big parties is crucial to democracy, I question their grasp of what ails our republic.
The primary debacle only seems huge because of the two party miasma.
I learned about all of this at a young age when my 7th grade civics teacher told me we had a two party system. I regurgitated that on the exam, no doubt, just like you. They key word here is “system”. It took a few years for me (I know—I’m slow) to figure out that this state of affairs was not designed, but rather happenstance.
A political party, by definition, is not designed. People of common interests get together and decide to pool their clout to influence government and field candidates that support shared ideals. It is unsurprising that parties might develop different processes for picking candidates and building platforms. In a true multi-party world, this might even be a good thing.
But Greenfield is right as far as he goes: Iowa does end up with inappropriate influence on what candidates end up on our ballot. But it is just plain wrong that Iowa hijacked anything: years of anti-competitive legislation from Two-party Hall hijacked our political process.
Ballot access restriction inflates the importance of the Iowa Caucuses.
Our elections would have a radically different timbre if instead of two parties choosing candidates it were ten. One weird Iowa caucus or New Hampshire straw poll would have far less significance. Perhaps in a multi-lateral world we would choose to do this all the same day. But maybe not.
It is harsh blaming you for the problem, I know. But experience tells me that there are very few of you who will not vote Democrat or Republican.
If you do, you are enabling this mess.
If they are going to get your vote…and you know they will get your vote…why should the party elite change? The pattern has long been the same: in primaries, run to the right (or left), and in the general election move to the center. This is how they bait you in, and the convention sets the hook.
You MUST vote for your candidate: That other party can’t be trusted with America’s future.
Go ahead and do what you must. Go ahead and complain about how it would all be just great except for THEM. And Iowa.
Go ahead. You know you will.