A Modest Proposal to Improve the Process of Nominating Presidential Candidates
A good recounting of the history, thank you. Millard's book on Garfield is a good read.
A great survey of how we got to now, and a great classical reference “closer.” I heartily agree with your modest proposal! The current method of endless campaigns,convoluted rules, social media barrages and huge sums of money behind it all have damaged the electoral process. We should repeal the laws as you suggest and go back to the idea that the process should take no more than the year following the odd year election. The Republican debates started this summer and by the time we should be really focused next year, none of what’s happened thus far will matter. As Oct 7 proves, the world changes quickly so our response should be equally agile. Drawing out the process almost guarantees the wrong person will be chosen for the actual election.
This article is an example of why I love this site, Professor. You think of stuff that would never occur to anyone else. I agree with you 100%: election law has thrown out several babies with the bath water.
Parenthetically, I can never see the name "Kefauver" without thinking of my Tennessee history teacher, Mrs. Murphy, in eighth grade in 1960's Memphis. She always got a faraway look in her eye when she talked about him, and I can still hear her say "Kee-faw-vuh."
And it's worth noting that Garfield probably would have survived his assassination attempt had it not been for his chuckleheaded surgeons' insistence on removing the bullet.
I voted for McGovern in 1972 because that burglary of the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel smelled mighty fishy.
Robert Taft was a more complicated person than people give him credit for. And don't forget: Taft died of cancer in 1953, LBJ might not have served a full term if he had been reelected, passing away January 22, 1973. Need to read about Garfield, thanks for the information about the book. He was from my part of Ohio! Proud to say, to the consternation of my father, I voted for McGovern because Watergate was going to become an issue.
Excellent article. At your recommendation, I read Millard’s book and agree with your assessment. Hard to conceive of someone so reluctant to be nominated that he didn’t even campaign AFTER winning the nomination. I, too, wish we had a potential unifying candidate; if I could, I’d advocate for Gina Ramondo. I do like Gavin Newsome but think he is polarizing. McGovern was my first vote as well. Keep up the good work and thanks for your support of Israel’s health care workers.
Many reforms are reactions against evident problems. Today's two-year Presidential primary campaigns are a popular reaction against the past practice of party insiders choosing nominees. The weaknesses of the two-year primary campaign are evident, such as the exorbitant cost of primary campaigns. It puts a premium on name-recognition. Voters in the later primaries get to choose among candidates who won the earlier primaries so every state competes to conduct early primaries. But, would we be better off if our Presidential nominees were selected by a handful of party insiders in now smoke-free rooms at party conventions?
Do “better elections” produce more liberty?
I think you're right that campaign reform has had deleterious effects on the nominating process, but I also think the major problem doesn't really lie in the rules. It's way to broad-based and long-lasting for that to be true. An electorate that was genuinely motivated for a different outcome, and pursued that outcome witth energy would achieve it, even if only after a small period of weirdness. The current weirdness has lasted too long for me to believe the rules are the real problem.
No, I think the real problem is that the voters are morons. Narcissistic short-sighted morons fond of magical thinking and fighting duels to the death over ephemera and invented slights. What we have -- insincere vague protestations to pollsters notwithstanding -- is I think in fact pretty much what voters want. (cf. the usual Mencken quote: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.")
Why today's voters are morons is an interesting question, and I don't pretend to know. Maybe soft times have made soft men? All of your example cases took place at times when the majority of voters had direct personal memory of hard times of one sort or another, for what that's worth.