Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why the Early Primaries Take the South Out of GOP Nomination Picture

The Arkansas legislature made the decision to move Arkansas' party primaries up to a ridiculously early March First of 2016. This necessitated a filing period in November of this year for a general election which does not take place until the following November. If that were not bad enough, other recent changes to the law require independent candidates to start collecting signatures now for an election not due to occur until the November after this one.

Neighbors of Arkansas is suing over that "early signature" business for independents, but even if you are in a third party, or seeking to find a challenger within one of the major parties to a terrible incumbent working, then the extremely early red line dates in the process make it much harder. It is hard to recruit someone to run for a local or district office over a year early. Some have chided the move as the "incumbent protection act."

The rational for the move-up was so that Arkansas could have "a say" in who the Republican Presidential nominee is going  to be. With only 2% of the national population, there is only so much say you can have unless you are New Hampshire. The more I look at the rules and the lineup the more I realize though, that the national party guys have conned our state legislators- who should have been listening to us instead of them anyway.

The move is not going to make Arkansas or the South more relevant. Its going to make us less relevant. The effect is going to take us mostly out of the game. If someone asked me to design a primary process that would look fair but subtly hand the nomination to Jeb Bush then the process which I would have designed would look exactly like the one which we have.

In this field, with these rules, the primary line-up looks tailor-made to hand the nomination over to Jeb Bush. And our legislature, like those of other Southern States, walked right into the trap.

Consider that by the rules, any state which has its primary from March 1st to March 14th is obligated to used "proportional" representation in awarding delegates. For example if seven candidates are on the ballot, and the leading candidate got 25% of the vote, then they would wind up with about 25% of the delegates. States holding primaries from March 15th onward can use a "winner take-all" process. That is, if there are seven candidates, and the top vote-getter has 25% of the vote, they get 100% of the delegates even though 75% of the voters did not vote for that candidate. John McCain and Mitt Romney both got a huge chunk of their delegates by getting basically 100% of the delegates from states in which they got less than 50% of the total vote. The establishment has now fine-tuned this playbook, with the full cooperation of the duped legislatures of the Southern states.

Here is the primary calendar. I do not count Florida as a southern state for the purposes of this exercise because this is not about Florida being in the south, its about it being the place where Jeb Bush was the Governor. If he continues to falter, the establishment has Rubio as back-up plan #1. Notice from the calendar that the South gets one week of glory at the cost of awarding proportional representation in what will surely be a crowded early field. That is to say that no one will come out of that process with an overwhelming share of delegates. And after that week, the media can easily shift attention elsewhere as Michigan has also slipped into the mix early.

There will not be an over-whelming winner on "Super-Tuesday" in terms of delegates, because of the rules. And they will only be a big winner in terms of coverage for six days- until March 8th when Michigan votes.

All of the other big states are holding back until March 15th and beyond so that they can award their delegates on a winner-take all basis. Look, whoever wins "Super Tuesday" is going to have to share delegates with all of the other candidates who lost on "Super Tuesday". Whoever wins Florida on March the 15th (the first day they can vote "winner take all") is going to come home with all of the Florida delegates. I can see Jeb Bush or Rubio being way down in the delegate count on March 14th, let's say sixth or seventh, and then leading in delegates after the dust dies down on March 15th.

But even if someone else is still leading in delegate count, the South has emptied its magazine. The lineup after that is northern, and states like Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, and New York will award their hefty delegate loads on a winner-take all basis.  That means someone needs the money and staying power to last a long time and buy media all over the nation to win. If someone who is not acceptable to the establishment is winning, the media will talk about what a long way there is to go and count on this process to wear down those without access to titanic amounts of cash. If someone acceptable to the establishment leads then the media will declare the race over and talk about how its time for the Republicans to get behind one candidate lest they lose to the Democrat.

Consider also that these votes do not determine who all of the delegates are. Of the roughly 2400 delegates, only 1,700 or so come out of this process. The other roughly 600, or one fourth of the total, are something very much like "superdelegates" connected directly to the party itself in some fashion. So an "outsider" candidate has to get their 51% of the delegates out of 75%, not 100%. And bear in mind that these party delegates want to avoid a second ballot.

The wildcard in all of this, the one with the potential to annihilate these well-laid plans, is of course Donald Trump. I do not write this as an endorsement in any way, merely as an objective assessment of the facts. He has his own agenda, and the establishment can't count on him. He has the money to campaign all the way, he has support outside the south, and he will not sit down and be a good "team player" if he leads in elected delegates but is cheated out of the nomination by the superdelegates freezing him out. This is why the establishment and its media organs are going to such extremes to destroy his campaign that their obvious bias endangers their own credibility.

Again, I don't say this as a fan of Donald Trump per se, just his ability to expose the fraud of our political system for what it is. Maybe once it happens, more of my fellow citizens of virtue will face the facts about how broken our candidate selection system is and finally begin the long-overdue work of building a new one instead of continuing to get all exercised about a noisy spectacle that markets itself as an open process but is meant to be a rigged game.


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