Thursday, May 12, 2016

Q Toon: Judging by Its Cover

Caitlyn Jenner is going to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing nothing but an American flag and an Olympic medal.

There's not a whole lot of point getting worked up about that, so let's talk about the West Virginia primary.

There's not much point in getting worked up about that, either. It's late in the primary process; the Republican contest has already been decided, and the state's Democrats have a history of voting against the front-runner.

Or do they?

Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton 51% to 36%; it's hard to imagine that coal mining enthusiasts who disagree with Hillary Clinton that there's little future in coal mining found much more in Sanders's position on mining to agree with. (On guns, maybe. Mining, no.) Indeed, an additional 9% of the vote went to a protest candidate, Paul Farrell, upset with the two candidates' attitude against coal mining, and 2% went to Keith Judd. In 2012, Judd, a felon who filed from a Texas prison to be on the Democratic primary ballot, garnered 41% of the vote against President Obama. And in 2008, Democrats there were just fine with Hillary Clinton, voting overwhelmingly for her over the presumptive nominee, The Black Guy.

44% of Sanders voters in West Virginia's open primary plan to vote for Donald Trump in November, even if Sanders somehow seizes the nomination from Clinton. There might very well have been down-ballot races of interest to genuine Democrats, but I suspect that a significant chunk of Sanders's so-called support could be chalked up to Trump voters making mischief in the Democratic race. (Trump himself told his supporters there not to bother to voting for him.)

I confidently predict that West Virginia will vote against the Democratic nominee in May and November of 2020. And 2024. And 2028. Even if any of those nominees are Donald Berzilius Trump.

The problem here isn't with West Virginia; it's with the presidential primary and caucus system. Come May, one or both parties have no contest remaining, leaving the voters in the late states — including the largest one in the nation — no voice in deciding who will be on the ballot in November. Who is more likely to bother to vote at this point: someone who is fine with the choice made by the early state voters, or someone who thinks that choice is full of crap?

Candidates spend a full year campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, two of the whitest states in the union. Those states are followed by South Carolina, then "Super Tuesday" throughout the South, so moderate candidates tend to be out of the race by February. Any candidate running third in March is viewed as a joke no matter how serious his or her issues are. By April, at least one of the contests is usually in the bag, which is why the New York primary forces voters to declare way back in October which race they plan to vote in.

In a country the size of the U.S.A., I don't know what system would work better. A national primary would put lesser-funded candidates at an even greater disadvantage than U.S. v. Citizens United already has, and regional primaries would tilt the race in favor of the predominant biases of whoever comes first.

Maybe states should vote by month the same way voters do in line at the polls: states A through D in February, E through L in March, M through R in April, and S through Z in May. Four years later, rotate the order just to be fair.

Okay, fine, Iowa and New Hampshire can get to be first all the time. But at the conventions, their delegations don't get to cast their votes until after the balloons have dropped for the winner.

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