Last Updated:September 2 @ 07:28 am

Barone: A Better System for Picking Presidential Candidates

By Michael Barone

You can get agreement from almost all points on the political spectrum that the worst aspect of our political system is the presidential nomination process. It is perhaps no coincidence that it is the one part of the system not treated in the Constitution.

That's because the Founding Fathers abhorred political parties and hoped that presidents would be selected by something like an elite consensus. But we have political parties, the oldest and third oldest in the world, and they are not going away.

Surely a better system is possible. The current system of primaries, caucuses and national conventions is the result of reforms initiated by Democrats in the late 1960s and constantly fiddled with, mostly but not entirely by Democrats, ever since.

The resulting system is replete with oddities. Nothing in the Constitution says that Iowa and New Hampshire vote first, but they do. Any politician thinking of ever running for president wouldn't dare suggest otherwise.

Then suddenly a raft of states vote all at once. All this means that candidates have to spend two years campaigning and raising prodigious amounts of money. No other democracy chooses its chief executive in anything like our system.

That rules out many potentially serious candidates who currently hold important government jobs or who lack an appetite for permanent campaigning.

This is all the more infuriating because "today's mess," as Jeffrey H. Anderson and Jay Cost write in the summer issue of National Affairs, "is the product of accident and afterthought."

And one that is particularly troublesome for Republicans, which bothers Anderson, director of the conservative 2017 Project, and Cost, a writer for The Weekly Standard.

It doesn't "reflect the interests and values of the nationwide Republican electorate," they say, but gives too much influence to elite donors, the media, the early-voting states, professional campaign consultants and independent voters.

Tinkering around the edges, as party commissions, conventions and state legislatures have been doing for 40 years, won't help. Instead, Anderson and Cost say the answer is to "revitalize the local and state party organizations."

I agree with pretty much their entire diagnosis. The current system ill serves both parties, but especially the Republicans.

But I'm not sure it's possible to pump new life into what they admit are now moribund organizations. They agree that local parties are "no longer a locus of political power or influence" and blame the Democratic reforms starting in the 1960s.

I would argue that local and state parties were already on life support, which is why they were so easily brushed aside.

Still, their proposal is interesting and merits scrutiny. It is based on the conventions that, pursuant to the Constitution, ratified that document.

In the week of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, some 3,000 delegates selected by local parties and 300 designated Republican officeholders would meet in a national nominating convention and would nominate five finalist candidates. These candidates would debate six times (no mainstream media moderators, please).

There would be a series of regional direct-ballot elections, with the winner required to get 50 percent of the votes and win by a 10 percent margin. Otherwise there would be a runoff between the top two finishers.

The nominee would be determined by the end of April and could choose a VP candidate for formal acceptance in a summertime "made-for-TV convention." There are more details, but you get the idea.

There are some practical problems here. The Republican National Committee can change its nominating rules, but in many states the nominating process is controlled by state law, and Republicans don't control every legislature.

The courts have generally let parties set their own rules, but someone must pay for the nominating conventions and the regional elections.

"The new system would reinvigorate local and state party organizations," Anderson and Cost argue. It would certainly give conscientious Republicans an incentive to participate in local parties, which currently attract only political junkies.

But another possibility is that it will just give presidential candidates an incentive to pack local parties, starting long before the week of Lincoln's birthday. Ron Paul enthusiasts have already been doing this.

That might require scads of money, which means the influence of elite fundraisers would not be reduced.

Anderson and Cost make strong arguments that it would be "more efficient, more cost-effective, more deliberative, more consensus-based, more republican and more conducive to victory" than the current system. Let's think about it.

---

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2013 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
Rate this post:
Rating: 8.8/10 (19 votes cast)
Barone: A Better System for Picking Presidential Candidates , 8.8 out of 10 based on 19 ratings





Don't leave yet! Add a comment below or check out these other great stories:

13 Comments

  1. mcrankComment by mcrank
    July 19, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

    For certain—the present system is in need of a major overhaul.

    There is entirely too much financial influence by major corporate and wealthy donors. There i also too much influence from lobby groups with only their self-interests at heart.

    Having honest and intelligent debates among contending candidates is badly needed. Campaign ads should be done away with entirely because they have no valuable content—they are merely avenues for mud-slinging and they are full of lies, distortions, and character assasination. A forum is needed whereby the candidates have to show their knowledge of the issues, their plans for dealing with the issues, their capabilities, and their character and intelligence. These things have been lacking in recent elections—and you see what we get.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (11 votes cast)
  2. theophilousComment by theophilous
    July 19, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

    One additional requirement. Some states, such as mine, Connecticut, have open primaries. People who are not members of the party can vote to determine our candidate.

    This has resulted in allowing democrats to choose the opponent they would like their candidate to run against. You can’t tell me that Bob Dole, John McCain, or Mitt Romney were the first choice of ANY conservative republican.

    I really like the idea as well of needing 50% or more of the votes cast and having a plurality of at at least 10%, or there would be a run off election with just the top two vote getters. That way if the conservatives are split, as they were this past election cycle, we will not get stuck with a candidate that can out poll any one opponent, but still be opposed by the majority of the party. NO MORE McCAIN’S OR ROMNEY’S

    When it comes to RINO’s, the republican party must learn that in order to maintain health, elimination is as necessary to the health of the body as assimilation. We need to get these Coprolites out of our party. They should be purged and told to either get in step with the party or lose their status. Most will probably switch to the democrats ala Arlan Specter, but they are a small loss to the party as they were and are traitors to our beliefs.

    Let me state it clearly, the only “reaching across the aisle” that I want is so that we can grab our opponents by the throat and throttle them.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (11 votes cast)
    • leemo1Comment by leemo1
      July 20, 2013 @ 9:27 am

      We must have a mind link somehow. I always said “the only reason for a Republican to reach across the isle, is to bxxxh-slap the Democrat sitting there!”

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
    • 1389ADComment by 1389AD
      July 20, 2013 @ 9:47 am

      Open primaries are the biggest problem right there. They prevent the citizenry from having any real choice. And they are fraud-ridden, as all US elections are these days.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 4.5/5 (2 votes cast)
  3. fedupwithbadgovComment by fedupwithbadgov
    July 19, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

    I’m still in a quandary as to how a candidate can come to the table with no apparent qualifications, no valid documentation as to citizenship, conveniently “unavailable” school records, and still gets the nod to run for office. Did the Republican party fall asleep while this was going on or what? The Constitution clearly states the qualifications for being the POTUS and it has yet to be definitively proven that our current office holder meets those qualifications. So who was “minding the store” when all this took place?

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (14 votes cast)
    • oleteabagComment by oleteabag
      July 19, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

      Well,not that the Republicans made much of an effort to “vet” Obama, but you have to remember that ANYBODY who so much as raised a QUESTION about “The One” was attacked from all sides by the liberal media and Democrats as a “racist”, and the Republicans, apparently TERRIFIED of having this hung around their necks slunk away and allowed a narcissistic sociopath who is TOTALLY UNQUALIFIED to be POTUS get elected the President of the United States

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 5.0/5 (6 votes cast)
    • theoldsargeComment by theoldsarge
      July 19, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

      The answer is a simple one. The voters and supporters were in such a frenzy to be in on history in the making. The election of our first black President. No one wanted to challenge his qualifications or anything else about him for fear of being branded a racist.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 5.0/5 (4 votes cast)
    • 1389ADComment by 1389AD
      July 20, 2013 @ 9:48 am

      Part of the problem is that the Republicans were busy eliminating anybody with decent conservative credentials from their own ranks, leaving us with Insane McCain.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
  4. Bob KnowsComment by Bob Knows
    July 19, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

    What we BADLY NEED is a NATIONAL PRIMARY DAY. Just as we have a national election day, the Congress could declare a primary day for primaries or caucuses, etc., in all 50 states and territories. That would eliminate favoritism for some small states, and give ALL candidates an equal chance at winning in all states. What we have now is the elimination of most candidates, and often the best candidates, before our state even votes. That’s not fair to all Americans.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (6 votes cast)
    • oleteabagComment by oleteabag
      July 19, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

      It would be better to do away with the “primary system” altogether, as it was an invention of DEMOCRATS designed to ensure they get to choose the nominees of BOTH central parties, and keep out any independent or third party interlopers.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)
  5. oldfoolComment by oldfool
    July 19, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

    The United States government will have to completely fail before an effective change will occur. The federal government is to large and to bloated. The republic was designed to have the states handle most of the things that are being handled by the feds. The states know better what is good for their people. Term limits and limits of power also need to be addressed. A person with any smarts at all probably would not want to be president. Go figure!

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)
    • navy30vetComment by navy30vet
      July 21, 2013 @ 10:32 am

      We need open primaries. While the two main political parties are deathly afraid of this, it would be of great benefit to the large center to have candidates of broad appeal, not ones selected through an inherently polarizing process that requires moving to the party extremes to get selected.

      VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
      Rate this comment:
      Rating: 3.7/5 (3 votes cast)
  6. soonerComment by sooner
    July 22, 2013 @ 10:25 am

    The first and most important (well, there is no second thing so, of course, it’s most important) is to stop nominating candidates like George HW Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney and nominate only candidates in the mold of Ronald Reagan. We allow the liberals and the media (same thing) to tell us that a real conservative can’t be elected and that we have to appeal to moderates (whatever those are). We’ve tried that since 1988 and it’s not going very well. George HW Bush was the closest we ever got to a real conservative and he barely won twice and he spent like a Democrat and never once vetoed a bill. Until the GOP starts running real conservative candidates for president, we need to start thinking about what the world’s going to be like after 4 more years of Obama and 8 years of Hillary.

    VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
    Rate this comment:
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Leave a Comment





  • ""Ecologically, population must be stabilized, not expanded." It is interesting that liberals are usually the ones who talk about the destructive..." Comment by NY Graham
    Posted in Four Ways Amnesty Would Harm Americans
  • "Obama, Reid and Pelosi have shown us that our form of government doesn't work when the leaders of the House,..." Comment by middleground
    Posted in Irresponsible Choices
  • "Coolidge may have been on to something. Then again, Bush didn't veto the expanding government until the end of his..." Comment by txgoatlady
    Posted in Irresponsible Choices

Network-wide options by YD - Freelance Wordpress Developer