Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Democrats are thinking of shaking up their nomination process. Apparently, they have decided that their problem in whom they've been nominating is due to having the process start with Iowa and then New Hampshire, not the most ethnically diverse states. The proposed solution seems to be to hold a couple of caucuses in other states between Iowa and New Hampshire and then some other primaries in states after New Hampshire that would have more diverse populations.

This will make no noticeable improvement in the process. Caucuses, by their very nature, involve activists - those people who want to devote two or three hours on a Winter evening to talking about politics and expressing their preferences. Activists in either party tend to be closer to the extremes rather than the center ideologically. This is Poly Sci 101. Now, think about the Democratic Party (but the same question would hold true for the Republican Party). Would they really benefit by choosing a candidate who has won over the more liberal activists in the party? Because that is what is going to happen if they add in more caucuses up front in the nomination process.

There is a political aphorism that states that candidates should run to the margins in the primaries and then move back to the center for the general campaign. In these days of mass and instant communication, every remark that a candidate makes to appeal to those caucus voters in 2008 will be recorded and filed away for the general campaign. And if the eventual nominee tries to shift to the middle in the Fall, the other party will be ready to launch a series of weather-vane type ads to show up the other person as someone who tacks with the wind. The ads will write themselves. And will such accusations be all that different from the 2004 campaign? Remember that GOP ad with John Kerry windsurfing and quotes used from his varying positions on issues? The Democratic Party is setting up the conditions for similar ads in 2008. Rearranging the nomination process isn't going to make any big difference in who ultimately wins the nomination.