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The Expansionist
Sunday, January 22, 2012
 
Romney's 36%, Gingrich's 41% "Wins". I remarked here January 2d that the primary system yields extreme results because of the tiny number of people who vote, split multiple ways. The New Hampshire and South Carolina results confirm my point. The "big winner" in NH was Mitt Romney, who won 36% of the vote. By any measure you care to name, that is NOT a victory in a genuine democracy, but misses a majority by 14%.
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Newt Gingrich's 'triumph' in SC amounted to 41% of the votes cast. That, again, is much less than a majority.
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Moreover, the turnout in SC was about 600,000. The voting-age population is about 3.6 million. So the total turnout for the SC open primary was 1/6th of the voting-age population: about 17%. 41% of 17% is 7% of the electorate. How dare we consider ourselves a democracy when there is no runoff in the primary system, but tiny groups control the ballot?
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On January 2d I also pointed out the absurd bars to ballot access in the Virginia primary, and mentioned that five Republican candidates who did not make it onto that ballot sued to be added. That lawsuit was decided this past week, and the five remain excluded. What kind of democracy bars major candidates from the ballot? — indeed, bars ANY serious candidate from the ballot? A rotten democracy, like Britain's "rotten boros" of old.
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On December 30th, I speculated that:
At this point, the possibility of Republicans getting their act together and defeating President Obama appears to be nil. Some other candidate would have to come to the fore, during the primary season or at the convention if the convention can, somehow, deadlock.
I also addressed the possible drafting of a new candidate in convention on other occasions, as far back as November 28th. Today I saw a commentary on The Huffington Post by Howard Fineman that addressed the open-convention possibility:
Michael Steele, the former Republican national chairman who oversaw the writing of the party's nominating rules in 2010, told The Huffington Post [last] night that the chances of an open -- that is, undecided -- GOP convention in Florida next August are now "50-50" after Newt Gingrich's victory in South Carolina.

"It's a real possibility," Steele told HuffPost. "Right now I'd say it's 50-50. The base wants its chance to have their say. They aren't going to want it to end early, before they get their chance, which means that the process could go all the way to Tampa."
In looking for that quote today, I found that various people have talked about a deadlocked convention, as early as a November 5th article on the Rightwing website Newsmax.com. The hope was that a candidate not now in contention in the primaries such as my state's Governor, Chris Christie, Indiana's Governor, Mitch Daniels, or Florida's former Governor, Jeb Bush, could then be nominated in convention.
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In the Newsmax story from November, Michael Steele sees a problem with the scenario of a new arrival's picking up the party's fallen standard (in every sense), the shortness of the time between an August convention and November election. That would, he says, argue for the convention's somehow managing to agree on one of the frontrunners from the primary season. That does not, however, mean that a convention that saw its hopes of winning the White House as exceeding slim with either (all) of the deadlocked present candidates, could not dump them both (all) and go for a new face.
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I addressed, almost hopefully, the possible return of the convention to real importance, on January 4th.
We may, in short, see a rejection of a candidate who wins a narrow plurality of the primary vote, and a restoration of the power of the convention as a national institution.
Such a development would be salutary to the political future of this Republic.
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We tend to think that the Presidential primary system has always been with us, but it is actually a fairly recent development. Legally binding primaries did not exist before 1968. Before then, most primaries were "beauty contests" in which people made a name for themselves but did not win delegates morally pledged nor, esp., legally required to vote for them in convention.
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There is no reason whatsoever we should retain the primary system as it now works — or does not work. The major parties are NOT organs of government, so their internal decisionmaking process should not be funded by taxpayers. Moreover, only small minorities turn out to vote and tiny  minorities decide the "winner". If the "winner" of a primary system that few people determine is a particular candidate, the loser  is the Nation.



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