Of primary importance

We have heard rumors that the Missouri legislature has been meeting in special session since September 6th.  One of the issues that compelled the Governor to call lawmakers back to the capitol is a demand by the national political parties that Missouri move its Feb. 7, 2012 presidential primary from February to March.   If not, say the important folks at the national party level, Missouri’s convention delegates might not be allowed to vote for the party’s presidential nominee at the national conventions. Missouri must move its primary to sometime after March 6.

Big Hairy Deal

When was the last time a national convention really meant anything anyway?  When was the last time that a national convention was more than a made for television political infomercial with all the drama of a bowl of yesterday’s oatmeal?

We’re not sure.  But think of the interest that would be generated on today’s TV sets and among bloggers and tweeters and among other users of modern communication technology if we had a convention such as the 1912 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore.  It took an entire week and FORTY-SIX ballots to decide Woodrow Wilson would be the nominee instead of Missouri Congressman Champ Clark.

That was the most ballots since the Democratic convention of 1860 that deadlocked after FIFTY-SEVEN ballots.   The party splintered and two more nominating conventions ere held that nominated two men–Stephen A. Douglas as the regular party candidate and John C. Brekenridge, who was the choice of the “rump” convention.  An instant third party was created.

Instead of that kind of drama, we have parties trying to orchestrate a series of primaries.

Some of our legislators are resisting the threats from the people on high in the parties. Some legislators have suggested Missouri forget the primary system entirely and go to local caucuses to pick convention delegates. The counter argument is that caucuses could let fringe groups (code words for Tea Party activists or Ron Paul allies) to mobilize and produce a result the party regulars think would be, well, unfortunate—forgetting that mainline party members have the same opportunities to take part in these events.

While the Missouri proposal gathers dust on various legislative desks, the entire primary election thing is turning into even more of a game of one-upmanship.  Since the Republicans are the party trying to reclaim the White House, the biggest scramble is in that party.

Florida not only does not want to hold a later primary; it wants to hold the FIRST primary.  January 31st.  Horrors!! say national GOP folks who want the Iowa caucuses, and the New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Nevada primaries to kick off the nominating season.

Of course, Iowa already has held its straw poll, the first of two bites of the apple that state gets.

Well, now the favored four states can’t just sit back and let Florida diminish their importance.  They’re thinking of moving THEIR primaries so they’ll be ahead of Florida. The problem with all of this is that there’s no telling when this leaping ahead will stop.  The parties appear to be trying to control it but some states are thumbing their noses at the parties.

The deadline for states to notify the national parties of their primary dates is Saturday. That day is going to pass with Missouri lawmakers at home.

We’re not sure which is the biggest mess: the presidential primary system or the Big 12 Conference.  Pardon me, the Big XII.  (“X” as a symbol for “unknown” takes on a new meaning these days in the conference discussions.)

So here’s an idea.

Forget the primaries.  Everybody hold caucuses.  Let the fringe groups try to take over.  Make  conventions wild, wide-open events.  Think less of infomercial conventions and more of Reality TV Show, a combination of “Lost” and “Survivor,” perhaps.

As long as the legislative chambers remain dark, the Missouri legislature is telling the national parties to stick the demand for moving Missouri’s primary.   If that attitude prevails, Missourinet reporters covering the Missouri delegation at next year’s national conventions at least one story to cover.

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