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Bruce Bialosky

We Need to Change Our Presidential Election Process

On November 3, 2019, I turned to my wife and said I cannot believe we have another year of this. “This” is our presidential election. I am your definition of a political junkie. I have been involved in national political activity for forty years. I have written a weekly column on public policy for over twelve years. If I am thoroughly exhausted, what do you think the average (non-political junkie) American is thinking? It is a dysfunctional system.

Just think about it, the out-of-office party held their first presidential debate on June 26, 2019.
That is over sixteen months before the general election. That is more than seven months before the first primary. That primary is exactly nine months before the general election. If you think this enhances the process of selecting our president, raise your hand. You in the back, did you take your medication today?

We started this process with let’s say 25 Democrats running for the office. No one had an exact count. Can anyone point to how this has made them look better? Possibly I am not an impartial judge, but I cannot think of one candidate it has made look better. They have spent their time escalating their rhetoric attacking the president. That may make the highly partisan supporters happy. What it does is make them look nasty and does not reflect well on them or the process. That cannot help them heading toward the general election when they are telling us they want to unite the country.

Then there are “the plans.” The longer this goes on the more expansive and expensive they become to outbid each other. It may be endemic to these candidates, but they are thinking more of attracting interest in the primary than the sanity of governing. There is a famous quote
‘Well, now, about this new budget. It’s a billion here and a billion there, and by and by it begins to mount up the money.” These candidates are throwing out trillion dollar programs like trinkets from a Mardi Gras float. Do they seriously think people are loving this process or that it will help in the general election?

Matters have gotten so out of control that James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal developed the Taranto Principle. It goes “the press’s failure to hold left-wingers accountable for bad behavior merely encourages the Left’s bad behavior to the point that its candidates are repellent to ordinary Americans.” If you believe there are enough Americans supporting the policies of the Sanders/Warren wing of the party, then this principle will not apply next November. You may be like the rest of us who think this does nothing but harm one of our major parties. Proof positive we need shorter election periods.

As you know, two Democrats declared they are running for president in the month of November, a little short of a year from the election. They are serious people with serious backgrounds. Collectively, the reaction from the press and the Democrats were these two people must be nuts. How could they possibly think they are going to be competitive? It is so late in the game. How can they think they are going to be competitive in Iowa? The Iowa caucuses over three months away. The British are having an election in less time than the time interval to the Iowa caucuses.

One of the candidates has more money than God. In fact, God borrows money from him. All of it honestly earned. He creates a new strategy. He is going to skip the first four electoral hurdles: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. The peanut gallery erupts in hysterical laughter. You cannot do that. When it is pointed out that the four states represent 4% of the delegate pool, the peanut gallery is unfazed and says you can’t do that.

That means the peanut gallery take is we forever are beholden to these four states to determine who are the presidential nominees. There is a lot to say for forcing the candidates into retail politics. There is also a lot to be said for never having to see a candidate with a pork chop hanging out of their mouth at state fairs.

You have probably read something like this column before, but now let’s separate this from those others. Here are proposals for changes:

1. You cannot declare or file that you are running for president until exactly a year in advance of the election date. That means in this election cycle it would be November 3, 2019.

2. You cannot raise any money related to the election until you have made an official declaration. You cannot transfer any monies from other political funds. No taking money from a senatorial account and putting it in your presidential account.

3. You cannot have a primary until four months after the official beginning of the campaign. For this cycle, that means March 3, 2020. Primaries must be completed by the first Tuesday in June. That is three months, which is longer than the entire British election period. It is time enough.

That would give each party five months (Yes! Five whole months) to have their conventions and run their campaigns. Hopefully, in those five months our citizens will not become thoroughly disgusted with the process and begin to focus on real issues to elect a president.

Some may say this process is favorable to incumbents. Our current system is virtually a lock for incumbents. As someone who has been involved in the last three elections of incumbent presidents, I can tell you it is extremely difficult to beat an incumbent president running for re-election. If Democrats think they are not at a severe disadvantage to Trump in 2020, they are either ignorant of the process or in a highly partisan dream world.

This may be a quixotic mission, but for the second time in year I am jumping on a horse and breaking out my Man of La Mancha CD. Everyone knows our presidential election process is nonsense. It has devolved into a mess. After President Trump is re-elected maybe we can get bi-partisan support for a change. Here is hoping you survive the remainder of this election cycle with your brain intact.