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How The West Was Shunned in Primary Politics

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How The West Was Shunned in Primary Politics

Homes are seen in Porter Ranch near the site of the Aliso Canyon storage field where gas has been leaking in Porter Ranch

There’s a not-insignificant part of the United States known as the West Coast. It includes such prominent states as California, Oregon and Washington.

These states have yet to hold a single presidential primary or caucus. But at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, this population center of 50 million-plus souls was informed that the Democrats have a “prohibitive front-runner” and the Republicans a guy who seems unstoppable by primaries and caucuses alone.

As of this late date in the process, not a single voter in a state bordering the Pacific Ocean has been asked to choose the “winner” — except for Republicans in Hawaii and Alaska.

Washington will have its Democratic caucuses later this month, its Republican primary in May. Oregon doesn’t hold its primaries until May, and California’s are in early June.

When these states do go through the motions of expressing their preference for the next president, they will have done so without months of public agony over matters of regional concern. Their voters will have heard only sketchy talk on issues related to shipping, fisheries or water shortages plaguing the eastern parts of the three states.

And even if the delegate counts remain close, voting late in the season leaves the electorate with a reduced list of possibilities. On the Republican side, there’s no more Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. On the Democratic side, Martin O’Malley is gone. Bernie Sanders will probably still be running, but his West Coast supporters can no longer affect the perception of his being in a close race with Hillary Clinton.

Noting this unfairness, Washington state officials, backed by The Seattle Times, are calling for a new system that would give every part of the country an even shot at choosing the parties’ nominees. A “rotating regional primary system” would group states into four regions. Every four years, a different region would kick off the voting.

Both parties already encourage regional primaries, notes Kay Stimson, spokesperson for the National Association of Secretaries of State. But they have hesitated to endorse a system of rotating regional primaries, which the association first proposed in 1999.

Because some regions tend to be highly liberal or highly conservative, some worry that clustering primaries by region would skew the results toward one political bias or another. Another concern is that holding large regional votes at the same time would put poorly funded candidates at a disadvantage.

Interestingly, the rotating primary plan would retain first-in-the-nation privileges for Iowa and New Hampshire. The association members saw value in the retail politics of both states, Stimson told me. It lets average people vet the wannabes — and gives poorly funded candidates a chance to grab a foothold.

A competing proposal is to set a national primary date for everyone to vote. The problem here, Stimson explains, is it vastly favors the most heavily endorsed front-runner candidates. In this year’s race, she said, the choices would have been Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton “and that’s that.”

A rotating regional primary system still seems the fairest and simplest way to avoid the rush to the front of the line we see today. And it remains utterly crazy that giant California can become an afterthought in the selection of party nominees.

If this is any consolation, other big-population states — New York, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Indiana — have yet to hold primaries or caucuses. And the very last group of Americans to choose delegates will be Democrats in Washington, D.C. Their primary will be held June 14.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.


Photo: Homes are seen in Porter Ranch near the site of the Aliso Canyon storage field where gas has been leaking in Porter Ranch, California, United States, January 21, 2016.   REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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  1. Dominick Vila March 17, 2016

    The entire primary system needs revamping, with emphasis not only in timing/scheduling, but also in standardization. The effect of one of the most populated parts of the USA lagging everyone else is likely to be indifference by those who conclude, correctly, that there is no point in them voting since the outcome of the nomination process has already been decided.
    The first thought that came to my mind when I looked at the picture included in this article, however, was the evidence of prosperity and wealth that should be evident to everyone, and that is being ignored or changed by charlatans who have managed to convince millions of Americans that we are moving in the wrong direction, that we are not benefiting from our robust economy and job creation, and that we are not doing as well as our parents did. Well, I still remember the tiny house we owned half a century ago, and let me tell you, it would have fit in the huge kitchens and master baths that most Americans have today. We didn’t even dream of going on a cruise, spending $500 on a cell phone, or driving expensive foreign cars. One of our greatest problems is unrealistic expectations, a level of prosperity so lavish that its beneficiaries go out of their way pretending we are deprived, and the ability of a few charlatans to convince us that what we see, feel, and enjoy is just a chimera.

    1. RED March 17, 2016

      I think you may need to reflect a bit more about who you come in contact with and if that truly reflects “most Americans.” ‘Cause, yeah, I live in a fairly middle class to upper middle class world too, where I see and notice lots of money and wealth. But I’m certain that this is not the experience of most Americans, certainly not the 48 million living in poverty or the 29 million lacking access to healthcare. So I know you’re a pretty smart guy, so make sure you aren’t letting your anecdotal observations color the facts. I’m guessing also that you’re probably about 20 years older than myself which gives you much different [perspective than people of my generation and the millennials.

      1. Dominick Vila March 17, 2016

        I understand the plight of most middle class people as well as you do. I am in constant contact with my grandchildren. Most of them are in their 20s and struggling. It is precisely because of that, that I understand the root causes of many of the problems they are encountering. Namely, pursuing low paying careers in liberal arts, while friends work in Silicon Valley making six figure salaries.
        Opportunities abound in the USA, what is missing is objectivity, realistic expectations, and willingness to make sacrifices that many Americans are unwilling to make.

        1. RED March 17, 2016

          Dominick, I love ya, man, I know you’re a good guy and very thoughtful. So, I don’t want to speak to you like I would to an ignorant Con and I hope it doesn’t sound like I am. And perhaps, I’ve misunderstood your comment. But suggesting that the root causes are due to choosing liberal arts degrees or pursuits is a classic right wing trope and is just another excuse to overlook and justify the real problems in our very rigged economy. Now, maybe you were just specifically referring to your grandchildren and if so I have no idea what their situation is and will not speculate, I’m certain you are far more educated on that subject. But hopefully you’re not putting forth the old “kids today” routine. The economy is completely rigged, COMPLETELY and it has zero to do with liberal arts degrees. And please don’t forget that liberal arts are important as well and also work and making everyone a science or math major not only will not solve our problems but is just a terrible idea.

          1. Dominick Vila March 17, 2016

            I am not saying that the top 2% of our population are not the main beneficiaries of our economic growth, that our tax system is not designed to benefit the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the middle class; and I am definitely not saying that big money does not control our political system, our economy, and our future.
            All I am saying is that, in spite of all the impediments stacked against us, there are plenty of opportunities when we play our cards right. Take a look at all the foreign professionals, mostly Indians, who come to the USA and get some of the best jobs our economy has to offer in fields such as the medical and engineering sectors.
            There is nothing wrong with pursuing a liberal arts career, as long as you understand and accept the fact that a major in English literature, philosophy, archaeology, or culinary arts does not have the same earnings potential as an engineering degree, a computer science degree, or a medical degree. For a lot of people, personal satisfaction and doing something we enjoy is far more important than making a lot of money. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as we don’t try to find scapegoats to justify the shortcomings of our decisions.

          2. RED March 17, 2016

            We agree on a lot. But I still gotta dispute your analysis some. First, sure there are opportunities and there people who have the intellect, the drive, ambition, and all the other factors to get ahead. I read an article just earlier today about how the professional class, of which I’m a part, hasn’t done so bad under our trade agreements. But that’s not really the issue, at all. There people in North Korea who adapt and rise to the top but I doubt you’d argue that their country functions well. And you’re still viewing through the lens of someone that I expect had a two parent home, Mom probably didn’t work, your schools were good or very good, no violence, no twenty years old textbooks. So yeah, you got taught ambition, drive, how to apply for a mortgage, balance your checkbook, etc. But surely you understand that not everyone gets that and not everyone is capable of the same things. The guy or girl who flips burgers deserve just as much respect as a surgeon. Not saying they deserve the same paycheck but both should be able to live above poverty in the wealthiest country in the world. And the reason they don’t get that has nothing to do with economics or ambition and it has nothing to do with liberal arts degrees. Sadly, it’s the policy of our to abuse labor and to never pay a fair wage without being forced to, at times even through a civil war.

          3. JPHALL March 17, 2016

            You are missing the real point. Choices are important. Too many still believe the “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” BS. Plumbers and others make a lot of money. But they have to work hard for it.
            For most people, keeping up with the Jones’s is a losing game. If that is what you want you have to choose the right career. By the way, I know many who grew up in broken homes who still were able to find the will and way to succeed.

          4. @HawaiianTater March 17, 2016

            Well stated, Red.

          5. Dominick Vila March 18, 2016

            Of course the person that flips burger deserves the same respect – and opportunities – as a surgeon. I also agree that those who grow up in disadvantaged environments have the cards stacked against them.
            My point is simply that most Americans have the same opportunities as everyone else to get ahead. Those who cannot afford a college education, can go to a trade school and be as successful as someone with a college degree.
            That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand and agree that changes need to be made to ensure everyone can share the bounty that others enjoy, such as making college tuition free, it means that instead of blaming the system or someone else for our misery, we would be better off trying to determine what we must do to succeed, and doing whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

          6. @HawaiianTater March 17, 2016

            Yes, there are still opportunities for some. There just aren’t enough of those opportunities to go around anymore. Not everybody can be an engineer or a doctor.

  2. itsfun March 17, 2016

    Why not have all the primaries on the same day?

  3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 17, 2016

    To put it in another way as indicated by Dominick, humanity as a whole has distorted its reality to such a degree that we imagine the “illusion” to be reality, and have willingly blinded(or allowed others to blind us) to the point that we are unable to discern our true nature.
    We can begin to see this distortion by a casual examination of those “Africans” who migrated into Europe and began to weave all sorts of “reasoning” and philosophies regarding the nature of humans. One of the more prominent among those “Africans” was John Locke who influenced such “thinkers” as Immanuel Kant, Hume, Voltaire, to name a few; his influence extended to Jefferson and the other founding fathers pf America, and informed the thinking and impressions of explorers in the New World.

    Locke and others tended to exalt the individual to such a degree that many of us are easily mesmerized by the “Cult of Hero Worship”, the “Cult of the Individual”, and/or the “Cult of The Self-Made Millionaire”. While worshiping such man-made “gods”, the “worshipers” fail to note that many of the powerful and rich became so at the expense of others, and for that, the powerful are lauded and held in higher esteem for their successes.

    Another by-product of those “Africans” in Europe is the perception of people needing to be categorized according to a biased perception of what is “good” and what is “evil”—often based on visual cues like skin color, or amount of wealth, one’s status, or your education level or family history.

    The current election cycle throws this distorted sense of our reality into even more sharper relief than previous elections or periods in America’s past. Those with the power and money understand how to manipulate this distorted view of humanity, and are able to treat the more weak-minded as pliable objects—objects that can be molded and shaped to any form and transformed into mindless mice willing to follow the most enchanting “Pied Piper” that comes along.

  4. I of John March 17, 2016

    This is a daffy and antiquated system. Voting multiple times is silly.

  5. bob shipp March 17, 2016

    Seems to me the simplest solution to address the objections to a rotating regional primary system would be to do it by time zones.

  6. FireBaron March 17, 2016

    My suggestion is allow Iowa and New Hampshire to continue their pretense of self importance, then do the following:
    Two weeks after New Hampshire, the five smallest states hold their primaries/caucuses.
    Two weeks after that, the next five smallest states, DC and the territories hold their primaries and caucuses.
    Two weeks after that, the next five hold theirs and this continues until just the three largest states by population are left. This way all the smaller states are important, in the leadup.
    This will also allow the candidates to truly test their broad appeal.

  7. @HawaiianTater March 17, 2016

    It’s interesting to note that Hillary has built up her big lead by dominating conservative states she has no chance of winning in the general election. Meanwhile, the more liberal states have gone Bernie’s way. The primaries would look much different if there was more balance between red and blue states instead of having it front-loaded with all the Southern states.

    1. Mr Corrections March 17, 2016

      According to current polling, she dominates every large state, red or blue – a double-digit lead everywhere that they have 100 or more delegates (because those large states are not monolithically white). The fact is she’s mostly won red states only because it’s mostly red states that have voted so far; she’s never not been the more popular candidate.

    2. JPHALL March 17, 2016

      But no one is guaranteed a win in any state. Look at Michigan! Realistically either of the two candidates could win, but let us be honest, Clinton is the front runner for a reason and has gotten delegates from all those states voting despite the location. Other than Vermont, where is the great Bernie lead? Do you honestly believe that he can run the table on the remaining delegates?

      1. @HawaiianTater March 18, 2016

        “Other than Vermont, where is the great Bernie lead?”

        New Hampshire +22
        Colorado +19
        Minnesota +23
        Oklahoma +10
        Kansas +35
        Nebraska +14
        Maine +29

        Yes, Hillary dominated the South but Bernie has picked up a number of big wins of his own elsewhere in the country. The point here is that the primaries would look very different if the very liberal Western states had voted early instead of it being front-loaded with so many conservative Southern states. It’s by design. The DNC could change it if they wanted to but they don’t want liberal states giving a big lead to a liberal candidate.

        “Do you honestly believe that he can run the table on the remaining delegates?”

        The primary map in the back half of the primaries favors Bernie a lot more than it favors Hillary. Will he be able to catch her? Maybe. Maybe not. The race isn’t over yet though. We’ll know by NY if this race will last till June or not. Bernie could very well win the next 8 states in a row and take that winning streak into NY. If he then wins NY, we’ve got a race that will last until June 7th. If he loses NY, you can pretty much call the race over at that point.

        1. JPHALL March 18, 2016

          What you keep forgetting, because of personal beliefs, is that this is a numbers game. Sanders needs to pick up delegates at a rate of 2:1. Other than Colorado are any of these large population states with huge amounts of delegates? No! You really believe that Clinton will not pick up a majority of delegates in the large population states like New Jersey, California or New York? While generally Liberal, they contain a large majority of “establishment” leaning voters.” Subject: Re: Comment on How The West Was Shunned in Primary Politics


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