Re: question about hand-held statisticaldevices in the field

From: Douglas W. Jones <jones_at_cs_dot_uiowa_dot_edu>
Date: Fri Dec 21 2007 - 13:33:05 CST

On Dec 21, 2007, at 11:54 AM, Alan Dechert wrote:

> Doug,
>
>> The caucus is, at heart, party business. It is an internal
>> mechanism of the party to organize itself. ...
>>
> Well, yes. But I think Bev is on to something here. There is
> also a public policy component in that the potential for
> manipulation of the result in Iowa can have a big impact
> nationwide on who we wind up with in the White House.

This is really outside of the area of collective expertise that
has brought this group together, but bear with me for this digression
before I abstain from further comment on this topic, which I will do.

The biggest push in national politics that I can see right now, for
a reform to the rather nasty presidential candidate selection system
we now have, is a push for a national primary system -- either a
single unified primary nationwide or a system of regional primaries.

I think this is an awful idea. A single unified national primary
would eliminate all candidates, up front, who can't dredge up enough
money for a national campaign from the very start. Small-time
players like Huckabee and Kucinich would be off the radar from the
start. I consider both men to be awful, but nonetheless, I don't
want a candidate selection system where these marginal types are
excluded from the national stage.

Regional primaries aren't as evil, but they still require candidates
to raise huge sums to address a region. People are talking about
few enough regions that each region will have on the order of 50
million population, 10 times the size of the small states that now
lead off the process. Whatever region you put first also has an
impact. The peculiarities of whatever region goes first could
knock out most of the candidates from outside that region on the
first round. Whether you start on the west coast, the south, or
New England, this regional effect could have strange effects --
quite frankly, I don't look forward to letting the Bible Belt go
first, or to letting the Gun-Nut States go first. That's my
personal politics, but each of us probably can identify some region
they really don't want to see get first crack at the issue.

I also don't want to see a move to a pure primary system. Popular
appeal is valuable, but if the only thing we have selecting our
candidates is popularity, parties will cease to stand for much and
media appeal will be all we get. A pure caucus system to select
candidates has the opposite problem. That would select for party
leadership -- virtues such as intelligence are nice, but it would
also argue against pragmatism and in favor of ideological purity.
A mixed system where some states have caucuses and some have
primaries may well be the best we can get.

Right now, I think that the pendulum has swung towards too many
primaries. The only thing a primary tests for is electability, so
we get very electable presidents. Unfortunately, the ability to get
elected doesn't necessarily translate to the ability to competently
run the country.

In my opinion, at the current time, too many states have binding
primaries too early in the game. I'd rather see a system where the
majority of the delegates to the national nominating conventions are
selected late in the game, to allow campaigns to snowball from small
tests in states like Iowa and New Hamshire to big tests like
California and New York. I want there to be time for front runners
to emerge for long enough before the nomination is locked up that
the media (and their opponents) have time to research their darker
sides. The story of Gary Hart is very instructive in this regard.

I also think there's reason to consider rotate the initial tests
between small states. Connecticut and Arizona are about the same
population as Iowa, and there are other states in the same pool.
Having two states that apply different basic criteria is a good idea,
a real caucus state like Iowa makes sense, as does a primary state
like New Hamshire.

                Doug Jones
                jones@cs.uiowa.edu
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Received on Mon Dec 31 23:17:09 2007

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