Who Benefits from a Bad Nominating System?

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Listen to Dan Schorr's commentary

The complicated battle for the Democratic presidential nomination has many calling for a simpler way to pick a White House nominee. But the chaotic system actually offers major benefits for some players. A single national primary may be the only way to right the "chaotic" march to the White House.


In American presidential politics, there's another twist in the ongoing saga of whether Michigan and Florida delegates and superdelegates will get to vote at the Democratic National Convention. The states were penalized because they held their primaries too early. Now, the rules and bylaws committee of the DNC will meet on May 31st to discuss a plan to give superdelegates one vote; pledged delegates would count as a half vote.

This long strange primary season has given NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr an idea.

DANIEL SCHORR: I think I may not be alone in thinking that our chaotic nominating process is desperately in need of reform. Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, a superdelegate, says we have a process that appears to be about as stupid as human beings could put in place.

The trouble is that with state parties vying for their places in the primary line, the chaotic system embodies huge benefits for some. Small states can become big power brokers and television stations can ring up millions in ad sales to candidates.

The media, especially around-the-clock cable television, can fill their news budgets for week-after-week with news from the latest primary contest. And candidates forced to rely on campaign donations end up being obligated to lobbyists.

The whole system is exhausting to candidates, exhausting to campaign staffers and, let's face it, exhausting to the public forced to figure out whether 9.4 percent is a double-digit win or just a win. We are obliged to spend time dividing how superdelegates will vote and when.

Speaking of when, when do we know who the Democratic nominee is going to be? On June 3rd? The day that the primaries end, or not until the Denver convention in August? Just give me a date so I can get on with the rest of my life. And I haven't even mention Michigan and Florida yet - do they get their votes counted at the convention or do they get punished for holding their primaries too early?

There is only one solution: a single, national primary. Iowa and New Hampshire won't like it, the TV ad salesman won't like it, but it would put some sanity into our electoral system.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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