Now that the Iowa caucuses have happened and New Hampshire is on its way, I was thinking that it was high time for me to get informed about the candidates. I follow things a bit, but honestly I can't tell you what the Clinton health care plan is and how it's different from Obama, or whatever else in detail that one might like to know. I even thought I could have a couple paragraphs about each candidate and link to some important web sites and possibly provide a little service on the blog.
But then, you know, Hawaii doesn't vote in a primary until... February 19th, making it tied for being the 38th state to vote, which means my primary vote is likely completely useless. At best, there could be two candidates left, and so all of my research would be for nothing unless I planned on actively joining a campaign.
And that's a real shame.
You listen to people in Iowa, and some of the candidates have actively visited every single county in the state. Those people are actually informed about the candidates, can meet them if they wish, and really make a decision based upon more than TV ads. And then there are other states that are habitually ignored. A President might, might come out to Hawaii for military reasons, but otherwise no one comes here. I wouldn't be too surprised if Hawaii has never seen a presidential candidate. And it's not just Hawaii out in the ocean. There are about 12 states after us. Those states will rarely get more than a token visit.
So here I have my solution: Rotate the placement of the primaries. No, not everyone can be first. 50 states every 4 years is a 200 year cycle. But you could have regions which do cycle every 20 years or so.
People doing the math already know that this is 5 elections, and so you should divide the nation up into 10 regions, of 5 states each. You arrange the order of things so that one state from each region is in the first 10 primaries and then within the region, you cycle to which state is first every 4 years. (You could also cycle the order of the regions of course.)
The primaries are already decently spread out. You have Iowa in the agricultural Midwest and NH in the north east going first now. Then Michigan in the industrial upper mid-west, SC in the south, then Florida, which is sort of a beast all its own, and, well, then some 20-odd states all go at once. So in my plan, we have the 10 states, one from each region, all going in about 5 weeks time. I like one state by itself, because candidates really have to concentrate, then 1 more in week 2, then 2 in week 3, then 3 in week 4, and 3 more in week 5.
I'm even going to take the time to break the states down into approximate regions here:
1) Pacific: HI, AK, CA, OR, WA.
2) Southwest: AZ, NM, NV, OK, TX
3) Rocky Mountain West: ID, MT, WY, CO, UT
4) Corn MidWest: ND, SD, NE, KS, IA
5) Deep South: LA, MS, AL, GA, FL
6) Mid-South: AR, TN, KY, SC, NC
7) River and Lakes MidWest: MN, MO, IL, IN, WI
8) New England: VT, NH, ME, MA, RI
9) Mid-Atlantic: CT, MY, DE, NJ, NY
10) Appalachian: PA, OH, WV, VA, MI
OK, not perfect, but you get the idea.
And then you round robin through them. This way the people actually get to see the candidates once every generation. This is particularly critical for states that are a) small and b) heavily democratic or republican and therefore never in play in a national election. In such a state, in the current system, you have virtually no say in your President, because the state's votes are "guaranteed" in the national election, and so not pursued, and too late in the primaries to even help choose the party's candidate.
The basic problem with the current system is that it's only pseudo-Democratic. In the olden days, the party bigwigs got together at the party convention, smoked, cigars, and decided on the party's candidate. Not democratic at all, but there's no pretense of it. But then they went to a primary system where regular voters can have a say, but designed it such that the same minority of voters chooses the candidates over and over, so most regular voters are left out. It's time to complete the democratization of the parties.