Okay, so some good news out of St. Louis. Ron Paul, the only Republican presidential candidate still in the race whose political ideology, record in office and personality that I can reasonably tolerate, is apparently doing well in the Missouri caucuses. So says the St Louis Post-Dispatch:
Except, why is Missouri having a caucus, didn’t they just have a primary last month? Why, yes, they did, but it was a non-binding primary because some awesome person or people in the legislature screwed up and left a law requiring the state to hold a primary on a date that was earlier than the Republican National Committee would sanction. So they went ahead and held the primary in accordance with their state law, but it was essentially a “beauty contest” because the results counted for nothing. These caucuses, happening now, are the ones that count.
As The St. Louis Post-Dispatch helpfully explains:
“The slate backing Paul cast 158 votes in the non-binding caucus Saturday. The purpose was to choose representatives to a round of Congressional district meetings in April and June that will repeat the process to send 52 delegates from Missouri to the August convention in Tampa, Fla.”
Is that clear everyone? What do you mean, no?
So. The primaries that happened last month in Missouri counted for nothing. But that’s okay, because the caucuses that are happening now will choose the representatives that then go on to another round of meetings in April and June, the output of that meeting being the selection of 52 delegates to travel from Missouri to Florida where they can then all bicker together about who will have the honour of being electorally destroyed by Barack Obama in November.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the greatest democratic system on the face of the earth, etc.
Seriously, this is the stuff of which Gilbert & Sullivan operettas were made in terms of farcical plots, topsy-turvydom and bureaucratic nonsensical officialdom.
Firstly, having a long series of primaries and caucuses is dumb, because by the time the race gets to the big states that actually, y’know, contribute the most to the union (we can quibble about how we define “contribute the most” but we all know it’s true – lose Alabama, for instance, and the USA will pick itself up and limp on, ‘real America’ or not; lose California or New York or Texas and there’s a mortal wound right there) the race is pretty much already decided. Sure, it’s great to make the big rich hot-shots trek around a million diners and pancake houses pressing the flesh every morning and participating in good ol’ fashioned retail politics. But why should ethanol-swilling rural Iowans and their special interests have more of a say in choosing the nominee than those residents of the industrial midwest, or the two heavily populated coasts? It makes no sense, and the way in which those overlooked states which rightly try to increase their influence by bringing forward their primaries have been bullied, slapped down or penalised by the establishment is, if anything, the real affront to democracy taking place in America at the moment.
Secondly. if you are going to have a series of primaries and caucuses, can we at least get together to apply roughly the same rules to them all, so that you don’t need to fire up IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer to work out the impact of each primary election night on the fortunes of the respective candidates? I know, I know, state’s rights and so on and so forth. That’s fine. Every state is allowed to do what they want and organise their primaries the way they best see fit. But when the existing method makes you all look like a disorganised bunch of ass clowns, maybe it’s time to actually get together and come up with a more uniform system. Now when might be a good opportunity to do that? If only there was some upcoming pre-arranged big gathering of the nation’s top Republicans, in a big convention city like, say, Tampa, Florida, that would perhaps be ideal. But we can only wish.
Thirdly. As long as America persists with the ridiculous system they have in place at the moment (and the Democrats aren’t much better on their side, but of course Obama’s renomination is not being contested so we hear nothing about the “superdelegate” shenanigans this time around), I will continue to unapologetically act as cheerleader for Ron Paul’s scrappy efforts to increase his delegate haul by using his army of devoted supporters to out-organise the front-runners and win the apparently-crucial but almost-unreported actual meetings that assign the delegates for real.
After all, if the rules are stupid or flexible enough that winning a majority of votes in a state’s primary or caucus doesn’t guarantee you something approaching a commensurate proportion of delegates to the convention, three cheers for the guy with the smarts to actually play the system.