Thank heavens the primaries are finally here. Now maybe the news media will stop talking about them. The spin now is that they'll be over in a week or so, even though some half-witted state election commissions put their primaries off until May or June. Don't they pay any attention to The McLaughlin Group or The Capital Gang?
I have to admit that the series of debates made me more familiar with the candidates and their positions. I watched the last ones from New Hampshire and learned that Gary Bauer thinks abortion is a more significant moral issue than nuclear war, AIDS wiping out half the population of Africa, or the plight of the homeless in -- name your favorite city. I also discovered that Allen Keyes visited a mosh pit and that, despite all his money, Junior Forbes still can't find a decent toupée. Junior Bush has nice parents but an annoying smirk, and John McCain has a scar on his neck that I really don't want to know about. Over on the Democrat side, I found out that Junior Gore is now surging to victory because the debates and competition have energized his campaign. The media conveniently ignore the fact that Bill Bradley's ship has been sinking ever since he revealed he had heart murmurs. That angle isn't dramatic enough.
So we move into our most expensive exercise in non-participatory representative democracy. The primary system came out of the populist notion that the people, not fatcats in smoked-filled rooms, should choose the candidates. What they have become, however, is just the opposite. In the primaries, a well-financed minority rules while the majority of voters sit on the sidelines and buy lottery tickets or try to become contestants on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? so that they too can afford to buy SUVs and influence with politicians. In other words, the fatcats win anyway.
I have a more fundamental objection to the primaries. Although I've registered to vote as a party member when it was necessary to do so, I still consider myself an Independent. Primaries are party matters. I don't like the fact that all taxpayers have to foot the bill, especially when the nominees are so rarely the best people for the job.
I'm in favor of ditching the primaries. Let the parties hold state conventions, caucuses, or small gatherings in smoke-filled rooms at their own expense. I don't care so long as we end up with decent choices come November. This plan also helps the cause of campaign finance reform by reducing the cost of running for office. Without primaries, there's no need for so many of those pricey 30 second spots that stick in Junior Gore's craw. Plus there's the added benefit that we would hear less media hype so far in advance of general elections. Why should they promote something that they can't sell?
The campaigns could then begin on Labor Day, giving the candidates 60 days to make their case to the voters. That should be plenty of time, and it's about all most of us want to put up with anyway.