22 August 2007

Graffiti on the Information Superhighway

Does this universe really need another blog?

I didn't think so. When I first heard about blogs years ago, I called them the graffiti on the underpasses of the information superhighway. Some people took offense. But recently a friend and fellow writer insisted that I had to have my own blog as a marketing tool for my upcoming book, so let me shamelessly plug it right off the bat. It's From the Primaries to the Polls: How to Repair America's Broken Presidential Nomination Process, to be published by Praeger in December 2007. It's already available for pre-order at Amazon.

I hope you'll find it interesting. The farcical leap-frogging that states are doing to stay in front of each other on the presidential primary calendar, driving the Iowa caucuses to the beginning of January--and possibly into December--I predicted it in April 1999 in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Describing the move of so many states' presidential primaries into early March, I went on to say, Don't for a moment believe that it will stop there. New Hampshire already has had to move its primary to February to stay ahead of the pack. Clearly, March Madness will eventually give way to February Frenzy, and I invite you to come up with your own alliteration for January. In this brave new world of the 21st century, the word campaign will be obsolete in the political lexicon, to be replaced by blitzkrieg." On the day after Super Tuesday 2000, both Bill Bradley and John McCain suspended their campaigns to challenge Al Gore and George W. Bush, respectively.

In a staid, scholarly, political science journal in January 2004, I wrote, "It does not seem all that outlandish to predict that some year (perhaps 2008 or 2012) we will recover from our New Year's Eve hangovers to find that we have already nominated our presidential candidates!" That doesn't sound so crazy now, does it?

So, the first part of my book describes how the presidential nomination process has evolved and devolved in the course of the past two centuries, with particular attention to the phenomenon of calendar "front-loading," and the evils it is visiting on us. Principally, there are two of them. First, a handful of states end up selecting the presidential nominees of the two major parties, and the rest of the country has no meaningful participation in the process. Second, it arguable that even this handful of states isn't in control of the process. Who is? Well, I'm a wild-eyed Democrat, and my favorite quote is from a commission of the Republican National Committee, on which sat two former chairs of the RNC: "It is an indisputable fact that in every nomination campaign since 1980, in both parties, the eventual party nominee was the candidate who had raised the most money by December 31 of the year before the general election."

When Republicans are worried that too much money is corrupting the campaign process, that's like Jerry Garcia telling you that you have a drug problem. You really ought to take it to heart.

And finally, people are starting to take notice. In an August 2007 poll, 62% said that political parties need a better way to nominate presidential candidates. OK, we have a very serious problem. What do we do about it? The second part of my book describes my search for a solution and how it developed in the course of a few years. The third part of my book compares my solution to other reform ideas that are floating around.

Part IV is probably the one you'll have the most fun with. It recounts how I and a few other people took my reform plan on the road, to county Democratic central committees up and down California, then to Washington DC and state capitals. The story doesn't have an end yet; we have neither won nor lost, the players are still on the field. That's one of the useful functions this blog can serve: to keep you informed on how the game is going in the fourth quarter. And the players are an eclectic bunch, ranging from a former US senator who was considered the darling of the conservative movement, to a sitting member of the US House of Representatives who co-chairs its Progressive Caucus. On the issue of reforming the presidential nomination process, these two are on the same side.

We also have some political scientists weighing in, as well as political activists. I'm probably a little of each. I have a bachelor's in aerospace engineering (as a matter of fact, I really am a rocket scientist) and a master's in international relations. But I've also developed a taste for mixing it up in the real world of politics, and now, being part scientist and part hell-raiser, no political science doctoral program--Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, et cetera--will have me... that, and at the age of 53, they think I'm too old to be a doctoral student. Their fears were unfounded; I would never have used the youth and inexperience of the faculty against them. Well, there I go again.... Educating old people is of little benefit to society, because we're going to die soon anyway.

But at least I'm enjoying the ride.

So, here I am, walking the streets of cyberspace in a nanoskirt and fishnet hose, along with all the other hucksters. Buy my book!

Meanwhile, on this blog, along with providing links to the latest online news items, I'll post as retrospectives items from my library of op-eds, not only on reforming the presidential nomination process, but on other electoral reforms such as electing presidents by national popular vote, and an occasional miscellaneous observation on the contemporary world in general. And, no rocket science! Well, not much, maybe.

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