Monday, January 14, 2008

The Potemkin Primary

Tomorrow is the day when the residents of my home state, Michigan, will be heading to the ballots for the presidential primary. It's going to be an unusual election because, well, it doesn't count. Michigan moved up its primary to tomorrow, the 15th, in defiance of convention and party rules which state that Iowa and New Hampshire must maintain the monopoly on distorting our electoral process they've held for, oh, thirty, forty years now. Those rights to hold the nation's first contest certainly have to be set in stone after all those years. Sorry if I'm coming across a little churlish but that's what happens when you're disenfranchised and there's nothing you can do about it. Because, you see, when Michigan moved its primary up, it got punished for it.

On the Democratic side, the primary might as well not be happening. Half the candidates, especially the currently viable ones, pulled out in response to pressure from the national Democratic Party. Their names aren't on the ballot and you can't even cast a write-in because those are all going to be thrown out. You either get to vote for Hilary or you get to vote undecided. Which means that the state hasn't made up its mind and will decide at the nominating convention. Not that it matters since the DNC also stripped Michigan of all its delegates at the convention. So, the Democratic contest might as well not even take place for all the good it's going to do.

On the Republican side, the election actually matters. Not because of the actual contest - while the Republicans haven't stripped away all the delegates, they've taken away half of them, turning Michigan from one of the largest states in the nation into one with the electoral weight of a Mountain West state - but because of what it signifies. The primary contests, at this point, are all about perception, after all. And since the Republicans are going to hold theirs it means someone will win and can go on camera and have that victory speech and the bounce it comes with it.

Ahead in the current polls in McCain and, again, I think it's going to come down to him and Huckabee in the state. Michigan, remember, was one of the few states McCain won in 2000. But Huckabees message of economic populism should resonate in a state as hard hit with woes as Michigan's been. But, the common wisdom is that if native son Michigan Mitt Romney (His father was governor, once, before his own failed presidential bid.) can't pull out a win here, he's done. Not that he should fade away with his cash and organization but that any pretense of his candidacy being viable would be shattered. McCain wins, continues his upwards momentum. Huckabee pulls off a shocking win, he throws the race into chaos. And if Romney wins, he lives to fight another day. Those are, pretty much, the stakes.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. I've been saying for a while now that the Michigan primary could get a little weird. And that was even before the Dark Lord of Moulitsas cast his baleful gaze upon the proceedings. And the reason for that is Michigan is a pure, open primary. You don't have to be registered with either party to vote. You have to be registered (And there's some nastiness there as the parties get to keep the lists of who comes and votes in their primaries private. The ACLU is suing about it but it's not going to stop things.) and you can only vote in one but that's it. You can be a registered Democrat who votes in the Republican primary and vice versa. And since there's no point to the Democratic primary, there's no reason no to.

I know at least few people who are planning to hop the fence and put a little mud - something brown, at least - into the waters. Apparently, the call has gone out to the progressive community to support Romney here since his win keeps him in the race and that keeps the Republicans from settling on a candidate for that much longer. The more they fight, the more they're divided, the better for the Democrats. Or so the thinking goes. Myself, there's no one on the Republican side I could stomach voting for. All arguments about least bad options notwithstanding, they're still all awful and would, in my humble opinion, drive this country, flaming, into the ground. Just can't even hint at supporting any one of them.

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