Party Poopers

by Will Wilson Jay Cost has another great post over at HorseRaceBlog examining the systematic biases of the Democratic party's nomination process (note that Jay ...
by | March 7, 2008

by Will Wilson

Jay Cost has another great post over at HorseRaceBlog examining the systematic biases of the Democratic party's nomination process (note that Jay thinks that the Republican system is also chock full of systematic biases). This part in particular strikes me as entirely accurate and especially noisome:

At its core, the nominating system is a logically inconsistent hybrid. Both parties changed their fundamental orientation to how nominees should be chosen in the 1970s - but they did not bring fundamental change to their nomination systems. Instead, they added openness requirements to the old scheme. State parties still send delegates to a convention that decides on a nominee. The difference now is that they must have open selection methods. What we have then is a Progressive Era variation of a Gilded Era system. There is no internal logic, no answer to the question: if the voters should decide, why retain delegates and conventions?

As a matter of fact, the system has barely been refined since the alterations of the 1970s. Forget redesigning the system to match the times. We're talking about tweaks to improve it at the margins. These don't really happen, either. Politicos created this hybrid with no internal consistency, and never returned to evaluate carefully whether further reforms would be needed to avoid a "perverse" result.

I've argued elsewhere that party primaries contribute to the disproportionate (and unfortunate) power of partisanship over moderate deliberation in American politics. Cost goes one further--because of systematic biases, the primaries might not even select the candidate that the party's voters desire! So by the time the general election rolls around, the candidates presented are that much further removed from the preferences of the average citizen.

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Will Wilson  |  Former Correspondent
willbwilson@gmail.com

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