The one thing we should all agree on after Super Tuesday is that the current system of choosing presidential nominees is a mess.
It's not working for the entire country.
The Constitution does not specify the process for parties to pick their candidates. Congress has tried and failed multiple times to adopt a regional primary system. But there is nothing keeping party leaders from acting on their own, as Democrats did in 1972, when they set the rules for selecting delegates to their convention.
They should now acknowledge the obvious: No state should keep having a disproportionate say in one of the most important decisions voters make.
Various plans have been suggested since eight Southern states banded together in 1984 to create Super Tuesday. The idea of a regional primary system is to create four, six or eight parts of the country that would hold primaries two weeks apart over a period of months. The party would rotate the order every four years.
More states would have a voice in the selection process, which now can be decided before a majority of states have voted. Costs and the wear and tear on candidates would be reduced because they could campaign in a region, rather than repeatedly crossing the country as they must before Super Tuesday. And voters would be able to hear the candidates discuss regional issues.
Even Iowa, which has been going first in the political process since 1972, should acknowledge that it's time to give up its special status. Iowans may love the attention they get every four years. But the state's lack of diversity is not reflective of the nation. Which might help explain why Iowans have an abysmal record of picking the president. Only one Republican, George W. Bush in 2000, won the Iowa caucuses and the White House. As for Democrats, only Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Barack Obama in 2008 placed first in Iowa and then went on to win the presidency.
U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon was the first member of Congress to introduce legislation aimed at creating a regional primary system. Packwood's 1972 bill came in the wake of the 1968 Democratic convention fiasco, where Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic Party nominee despite not entering a single primary.
It was one of the most tumultuous years in U.S history. President Lyndon Johnson's decided not to run for reelection because of the unpopularity of the Vietnam War. Then came the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the latter on the night of the California primary, which Kennedy won.
Packwood's bill failed. As did 40 other ensuing efforts by Congress.
But Democratic Party leaders acted on their own, creating a commission led by U.S. Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota and Rep. Donald Fraser of Minnesota. They crafted a process that would ensure voters would have a direct say in picking their nominee for president, rather than a process conducted behind closed doors.
But they didn't go far enough. Regional primaries are a fairer, more representative way of picking presidential nominees. Democrats should change their system before the 2024 election.
– The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)