<>The Michigan Democratic Party’s rules committee decided last Sunday on a date for the state’s presidential caucus: Jan. 27. This is the same date that New Hampshire will be holding its presidential primary. The decision will not be official until the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee meets on April 26. Regardless of the fact that the date is not set yet, the rules committee’s decision has created quite a controversy among Democrats in and out of the state.
The Democratic National Committee’s guidelines stipulate that the Iowa caucus is first, followed by New Hampshire’s primary. Recent trends in presidential candidate selection have pushed the primaries and caucuses earlier and earlier. As it stands now, the first primaries are over nine months before the actual presidential election. Each state is trying to get as close as possible to the beginning of the primary season so that it can have a larger say in choosing the party’s eventual nominee. Before the selection process is half over, it is usually obvious who has won the nomination, causing many voters to stay at home and not vote.
Early primaries have a damaging effect on the electoral process. For one, they lengthen the entire campaign seasons because the candidates must campaign before the first primary and through the primaries and then on to the election. The prolonged season causes public officials to neglect their jobs for longer periods of time in order to campaign. This makes for less effective governing and allows politicians to neglect their responsibilities as elected officials.
Early primaries also encourage poor media coverage. The media indulges in speculation about the so-called “horse race” or who will win each primary and caucus, instead of focusing on candidates’ positions. And when reporters are not talking about prospective winners, they embark on endless accounts of campaign contributors. It is nearly impossible for voters to get any information about policy stances.
The trend of states vying for front-running positions in candidate selection is not a precedent worth setting. Michigan Democrats argue that Michigan is a more diverse state and more representative of the country than Iowa and New Hampshire. Pretty soon, every state is going to say they are worthy of being first – California because of its economy, Texas for its population. Each state is unique, but no state is more worthy than another.
Michigan’s caucuses could be even earlier if New Hampshire moves its date up to stay ahead of Michigan. Without a change within the DNC rules, it will do more harm than good to allow states to fight each other for positions at the beginning of the primary season.