This is nothing new in politics (power struggles in general or this one in particular) but it is starting to get more press coverage – the question is, “Who controls the nomination process – the states, or the parties?” The struggle is most public among the Democrats as their candidates have now promised to honor the Party primary calendar. The Republicans are dealing with the very same issue but without the same level of publicity. The struggle between the parties and the states seems to be a direct result of a struggle among the states to gain influence in the candidate selection process. I am left to wonder how the traditional set of early states was initially established? Was that set by the parties, or by the respective states? (Can anyone enlighten me on that?)
In my mind the parties should not control the process. On the other hand, they are choosing representatives for their respective parties so they should have control of how those representatives are chosen. I believe that experience had led the parties to value a process where they largely mimic each other through the primary cycle. (I’m not sure exactly why that is although I have a few guesses) While I believe that states should be able to choose how and when they participate in the primary selection process I’m not convinced that voters win when the primary season is pushed so far in advance of the general election. Imagine if the candidates for the election of 2000 were chosen in mid 1997 and then had 9/11 occur in mid 1998. We could find that the candidates we had chosen were ill suited to our new reality. (I know that’s an extreme example – almost too ridiculous to comprehend, but you can’t miss my point) There’s always a certain amount of risk that changes will occur between the primary selection and the final vote, but the earlier we push the primaries the greater that risk becomes.
What do other people think? Who should control the primary schedule? What would the ideal schedule look like (in general terms)? Is the current reshuffling power-struggle good, bad, or neutral for voters and the country?