By Brigitte L. Nacos
I thought I would never agree with Sarah Palin. But today I do. Palin told FOX News last night that she wants the primary competition to continue beyond South Carolina. Her tactic to “keep this thing going” would be a vote for Newt Gingrich in Saturday’s primary. Obviously, she would like to see Mitt Romney’s steamroller slowed down and keep his competitors—especially Gingrich who is most fluent in divisive Tea Party-Speak—viable beyond South Caroline and Florida.
Although for very different reasons, I agree with Sarah Palin that the primary process should continue. Otherwise, the presidential candidate selection process will be once again a gross violation of the democratic ideal that was the rationale for the post-1968 reforms in both parties: Not party bosses, not the political elite, but rather voters were to determine the nominees of their respective parties.
When a sitting president is not challenged, as is the case with Barack Obama this year, the sole focus is on the competition within the “out” party—this time around on the GOP. But regardless of party, the selection process has proved to be as undemocratic as the pre-1968 situation, when primaries were merely beauty contests and subject to be embraced or disregarded by party leaders.
While the parties themselves contributed to this state of affairs, media reporting and punditry as well as pollsters are first in line in the list of villains.
A look at the caucus/primary calendar of the GOP reveals that relatively small, unrepresentative states with tiny numbers of delegates dominate among the early election sites. In Iowa 28 delegates were at stake, in New Hampshire 12. Far larger, demographically representative states, were weeks or month later than the earliest caucus and primary states. For example, California with a total of 172 delegates at stake is set for a primary on June 5th, New York with 95 and Pennsylvania with 72 for April 3rd.
The news media, pundits, and pollsters, all interested in hyping the news, have good reasons to rarely or never reveal the total number of delegates needed to win a major party’s nomination. In this year’s Republican competition, the winner needs 1,144 delegates—one half of the 2,287 total plus one!