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One Last Thought On The Primary System

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Since the primaries are going to start and end very soon, I'd like to toss out a thought I had about them the other day. Like many people, I've been frustrated with what I see as vapid coverage by the national press corps, which has an alarming ability to make or break candidates at the national level. What's interesting is that the press can't do this in Iowa and New Hampshire. Say what you like about the arbitrary selection of these two states, or their lack of representativeness, but at least some folks somewhere get to see the candidates up close without a crazy D.C. media filter.

So I suppose what I'm saying is that those of us who assail the mainstream media and ALSO attack the privileged position of Iowa and New Hampshire might have contradictory positions.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:20 PM
  • Retail politics will always trump media coverage. However, you have misidentified the chief problem with Iowa and New Hampshire as the first primaries. They are not causes of the problem. They are effects of candidate-centered elections and the decline of parties. Whenever politics is driven by the candidate instead of the party, the media are forced to focus on the candidate's personality, biography, and major decisions. The candidate has very limited time and resources, and so the early primary states, no matter which states that are, will get 90 percent of the candidates' time and money. As a result, the other 47 or 48 states are left to compete for the remaining 10 percent of time and resources. This leaves a gap between the candidate and the voter that is filled by national media coverage of the candidate. The inevitable result is that we find out more about the candidate's personality and policies than we do about the candidate's supporters. Thus, a person ends up voting for a candidate who actually supports policies that hurt the voter's interests. If the election was party-driven instead of candidate-driven, the party structure and policies would matter much more, and most people would be more aware of them. More states would have input because the first states would not shape everyone's perceptions about candidate viability.

    That's why I am supporting Obama. He is running a movement-centered campaign, not a candidate-centered campaign. By supporting him and his movement, his supporters are creating a machine that will last beyond Obama's term in office and help other people, like me, get the social and financial support we need to run our own campaigns.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 4:09 PM  
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