Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Serious Reservations

I heard a report today that it is now very likely that California will move its primary up from June to February.

I live in California, and I have been bothered for a long time by how meaningless my primary vote has been. So you would think I would be overjoyed by this prospect, right?

Think again.

I have never liked the fact that a small number of folks -- folks who are a highly skewed sample of America writ large -- in effect choose our president. California doesn't look like New Hampshire or like Iowa. I'd like to see people who think like me and have similar interests to mine having a voice that matters. But after a few years of immersion in the blogosphere, I think there is a bigger problem with moving the decisive battlefield to my adopted home state.

The one to one, small-market style of politics that decides the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses is seen as a quaint anachronism. But I think there is an aspect of that process is incredibly valuable -- and nobody else is talking about it. The handful of folks who decide who wins in Iowa and New Hampshire tend to see the candidates in person. Hell, in New Hampshire, they may shake hands and talk to each candidate several times. That's what retail politics is all about -- direct, unfiltered contact.

California's population is roughly 25X New Hampshire's and more than 10X Iowa's. Retail politics is simply impossible here, even for candidates for statewide office. Politics here is wholesale -- we see our politicians via the intermediation of the media. Which means our view is filtered by that media.

So a necessary consequence of the schedule change is going to be to give even more power to a press that has shown itself utterly incapable of rising above the sophomoric, reductionist nonsense that is all they seem to aspire to. When the press controls the picture, all anyone hears about is the horse race and today's gotcha moment. Discussions of issues and policy in the California primary will be as rare as surfers in new Hampshire. The tabloid coverage will be all anyone will have to go on when they vote, because there won't be a real alternative. (There's us, of course, but I'll be shocked if large numbers of voters suddenly head for the blogosphere.)

The other reason this change bothers me is the way in which the race will be even more about the Benjamins. Where do you think an under-funded candidate will stand a better chance of outperforming his or her budget -- Iowa, or the most expensive media market in the country?

Realistically, the race for the Democratic nomination is now likely to be reduced to two candidates even before it starts. The cost of competing in California will be in the tens of millions of dollars, and thus the self-fulfilling perception that nobody but Obama and Clinton can raise money will suck the oxygen away from everybody else.

Which means I still won't have much of a voice. But the childish fools in the media will
loom even larger than before.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out what racist blogger John Aravosis is up to:


So, racist Native American mascots? GREAT!!!

Snickers ads that mock bigots? BAD!!!

Worse still, John 'Bigot' Aravosis criticizes the commenters who stand up for Native Americans:


11:12 AM  

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