Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 Primaries: Let The Games Begin

The new year has begun and after an endless number of debates, the seemingly endless process of actual voting begins. Iowa got to go first in what they appear to deem a reward for being known for damned near nothing else; except perhaps their ability to produce pork on a scale that only the federal government can compete with.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should point out that my father's family came from Iowa, and many of them still reside there.)

Using an arcane caucus process whose rules are so convoluted that no one knows or cares whether they are followed and so ridiculous that even the IRS laughs at them, they managed to produce a virtual tie between the Republican front runner and a guy that a week before was tied for last. Casting aside a 'favorite daughter' in Michele Bachmann that only months before won their straw poll (an equally enigmatic and incomprehensible practice), they gave their blessing (a prediction that has had much the same accuracy as a coin flip) to former Governor Mitt Romney and former Senator Rick Santorum before passing them off to the next stop on the rodeo circuit, New Hampshire.

New Hampshire of course is known for three things: its rebellious "Live Free or Die" state motto, not being Iowa, and getting to vote after them. They were granted this favored #2 spot because they suffer from New England's equivalent of Iowa's dreariness. Unlike their Midwestern counterpart however, they recognized that the odd shape of their state and its pugnacious slogan were enough eccentricity for any one place, and chose instead to use a more normal primary election format to make their own selection. (Pity they didn't show a bit of New England austerity as well, and bill the entire process to the parties involved.) 

As any who follows the primary process knows (very few, except for politicians and political pundits), these selections then move south to South Carolina and Florida before January ends, then scatter like the fall leaves amongst the winter snows in February; with the entire process completed in June.  And in spite of the fact that only one primary has been held, most of those 'in the know' are once again predicting that the entire process will be all but over after just four of the some fifty odd contests (pun intended) are completed. 

I am not counting as part of the fifty, the primaries which are held in Guam, Puerto, or any of the other US possessions, as they are meaningless in terms of sending delegates to the Republican Convention.  Of course the same might be said of the Missouri primary held on February 7th, as delegates to the convention in this state are sent based on a caucus held a month later.  Missourians however, are known to be a stubborn lot, unwilling to surrender their right to choose regardless of how superfluous it proves.  

Primaries in my last three states of residence are strangely enough, grouped together in March; with Georgia on 3/3, Kansas on 3/6, and Ohio on 3/10.  All three share dates with other states across the nation, and curiously two of them share a date with Wyoming (3/6 thru 3/10).  Apparently citizens in Wyoming enjoy the caucus process so much (or things are so boring in Wyoming) that they participate in it for five days, though their ultimate decision gains no more credit than if they had done so in one.  (Maine also has an extended state caucus, one which runs even longer [4/4 thru 4/10], but their eccentricity might easily be explained by similar boredom, and sharing more border with Canada than the rest of the US.)   In perhaps some twisted form of egotism, Utah's primary is the last one held that actually gets to send delegates to the convention.  Though not able to send any great number of delegates, they do have the dubious honor of having their choice be usually and largely irrelevant.

And while the Republican candidate needs the votes of some 1144 of these party representatives, let us not forget that there are 132 'superdelegates' who will also cast votes at the convention.  These delegates are long-time party members in good standing who become a kind of Republican 'Hall of Fame', rewarded with a trip to the Convention held in Tampa, Florida this year in August (not what many would consider much of a reward).  These delegates are not obligated to vote based on the results of the primary held in their state of residence, but can instead simply vote their conscience (assuming after years of party politics, they still have one).  At the very least, they might hope to be courted by a number of candidates and get their names and pictures in the news one last time before sinking back into political irrelevancy and relative obscurity.

According to most of the pundits this whole thing is inconsequential anyway, as Mitt Romney will achieve the nomination because they say he will, because it's his turn after his prior attempt in 2008, or perhaps because he pulled a sword from a stone.  Apparently the only reason that we continue to go through the motions at all is to give the 24-hour news networks something to talk about for the next six months and to provide temporary boons to the economies of each state brought on by campaign events and media buys.  Besides, there is always the off chance that at least one of the candidates (or as in this year, all of them) will say something really stupid at a time when someone is there to record it (which is pretty much guaranteed) and provide sufficient fodder for the media to criticize them now, having previously built up their effort to seek high office.

But what the heck, the media circus involved seems to be providing sufficient distraction for the president to circumvent the spirit and the letter of the Constitution with recess appointments, allows Congress to demonize trading practices as illegal on Wall Street that they legally commit themselves, and have both doing nothing to halt a Federal Reserve increasingly taking control of the economy and a federal bureaucracy intent on expanding its own legislative / regulatory power while the two elected arms of government that are supposed to be in charge seem perfectly willing to cede them such responsibility.

So by all means, let's have more 'bread and circuses' for the masses.  Let these ridiculous, irrelevant, and inappropriately taxpayer funded internal party games begin. 

1 comment:

Dawn Wolf said...

Well once again I tip my hat your direction. Your honesty and honest assessment of such a convoluted process brings a smile, and should spur young people who read this.