The cheering from November 6 rings on as the Democrats continue to pick up victories in the House. The talk about 2020 mainly focuses on who are the likeliest and most qualified candidates to run for president.
But first, we have a number of structural problems in our democracy, and Democrats need to be on the forefront in addressing them. Most cannot be done alone such as abolishing the Electoral College and replacing it with a direct popular vote. But when it comes to how Democrats select their candidates, it is completely in the hands of the party.
First, let’s look at what’s wrong with the way we get to the point that we have nominees for president and vice-president.
- It’s too damn expensive. No matter how many Democratic candidates hold up their hands and say I’m clean, almost all are not. Rather their hands are out begging for money. We can’t completely eliminate the insidiousness of this in one fell swoop, but we can rapidly diminish the toxicity of the process. Why not see how a majority of the American people would respond to the elimination of PAC money (of all sorts) and an elimination of all individual donations over $500. It would drastically diminish the money that candidates would have, but most of that could be saved in turn by not running sleazy ads on TV. It’s a wash, literally and figuratively.
- It’s too damn long. The Iowa Caucuses are little more than a year away after we just completed an election cycle. If the convention is going to be in the middle of the summer, then let’s not start the primary / caucus season until late March. The weather is better then too.
- Caucuses such as Iowa are patently unfair. At best, 2% of the voters show up in uncomfortable and often inconvenient venues on dates and times that are often impossible for many to make. Yes, Iowa does give many voters chances to individually meet candidates, but why only there and not in the brownstones of New York or the burned-out trailer camps of California? We would do much better with a system of regional primaries as previously suggested in Occasional Planet.
Democrats should have been focusing on these structural changes even before the 2016 election cycle ended. Reforming money in politics and the primary / caucus is a central to a progressive agenda as virtually any other plank in the platform. Reducing the role of money in politics (and ultimately having public financing) is essential to promoting affordable and comprehensive health care, protecting the environment and truly addressing the issues of economic inequality.
It’s too much to ask Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker or the dozens of other possible Democratic candidates for 2020 to focus on changing the process while they are playing the game by the current rules. What is needed is for those with stature and who will not be running again to lead the way so that no one has to endure the rigors, fatigue and unfairness of how they battled their way to the presidential nomination. I’m talking about both Clintons, Barack Obama, and possibly Jimmy Carter if he is healthy enough to do it. Carter has the most credibility of the lot, but perhaps it would be more effective if those who seemed comfortable wallowing in money and schlepping all over the country at odd hours to be the ones to be on the forefront.
Here is an opportunity for Democrats to do something without the excuse that Republicans won’t let them. Take the freebies; make yourselves happier and the country much more democratic.