Allow Oregonians to Vote for
Author: Samuel Metz
Did anyone notice that
Oregonians had no voice in the last Presidential
Well, technically, we were
offered a choice between two candidates, but who selected
them? No one in Oregon.
For Republicans, the 2004
nomination was a done deal. It is rare that a seated
president seeking re-election is spurned. Lyndon Johnson
enjoyed the dubious distinction of being the only such
case in the last 100 years. Those Republicans seeking an
alternative to George W. Bush were disappointed but not
Oregon Democrats, however,
were truly taken for a ride in 2004. By the time we put
our fingers on a ballot lever, the shooting was over. All
candidates save one (plus the pesky Dennis Kucinich who
acknowledged he had no chance) had bowed out. Oregonians
faced a Hobson’s choice: Senator John Kerry, or no one.
Is this any way to run a
On January 1, 2004, four
months before the Oregon primary, Democrats officially
recognized nine candidates (excluding Lyndon LaRouche who,
although running as a Democrat, was in fact an alien) of
whom two, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton, had no
detectable chance of winning.
Within six weeks, only two
viable candidates remained and by week nine the race was
over. What happened in two months?
Gephardt withdrew after the Iowa caucus, a vote
representing less than 0.1% of the Democrats ultimately
voting in primaries. Senator Joseph Lieberman was next,
this time after less than 8% of Democrats voted.
By the time General Wesley
Clark and ex-Governor Howard Dean dropped out, only 18% of
Democrats had spoken. And Senator John Edwards conceded
after 61% of Democrats had the opportunity to vote.
. . . Leaving 21 states with
no voice in who would represent the Democratic Party as
President. These states include Florida, Texas,
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and, of course, Oregon.
The above numbers
underestimate the sorry state of malrepresentation.
Senator Kerry received 59 million votes for President,
most of them Democrats. Yet only 16 million participated
in the Democratic primary elections. Makes you think the
turnout in those bootless and unhorsed 21 states might
have been higher if they had a choice, doesn’t it? In
fact, if we consider that 50 million Democrats might have
voted in a primary if given a choice, then the race was
over when only 33% of Democrats had cast a ballot.
Is this any way to run a
In 2000, Oregon Republicans
suffered the same indignity of having a minority tail wag
the majority dog. The race between Governor George W. Bush
and Senator John McCain was all but over by March 3,
leaving more than 43% of Republicans to accept the
candidate selected by the first 57%. And yes, we
Oregonians were among the 43% left holding the bag, a bag
with a single candidate.
In 2008, Oregonians will once
again face the fact that our votes for Presidential
nominees will count for naught.
What’s a voter to do?
First, acknowledge that our
national party conventions do not select candidates: they
simply validate a foregone conclusion. No convention since
1952 required a second ballot, and no convention after
1960 had any doubt about who the nominee would be.
Conventions are colorful, keep the balloon industry in
business, and allow party faithful to pump themselves up
for the upcoming Presidential campaign. But they do not
Second, use the same format
in all states. Not all use a direct primary in which all
registered party voters may participate. Many of the
earliest, and most influential, elections are intimate
party caucuses, in which local elite sample their own
opinions. How about letting all registered party members
have a say?
Third, our primary campaign
season begins in mid-January with the Iowa and caucus and
New Hampshire primary, and ends with the last
pre-convention vote in early June with the poor slackers
in New Jersey. Five months is a long time for a candidate
to sustain momentum, generate campaign funds, and stay in
the race. The unfortunate candidate scorned by a few
thousand voters in two Winter elections may be trampled
underfoot before the Spring thaw. We in Oregon who go to
the polls when birds are singing have little to celebrate.
Or to choose from.
Throw out those 19th century
caucuses and this archaic system. Our primaries select our
only two viable presidential candidates from a field that
may start with dozens. It is our only chance to determine
who we really want to be president.
Our national parties should
create a series of primaries spaced out over four Tuesdays
in May. Vary the sequence each year so every state will
eventually enjoy voting on the first Tuesday. Candidates
doing poorly in the first week’s results may still have
steam and money enough for a second week. We may see
candidates choke before the month is out, but at least we
gave them a fighting chance.
Let democracy return to our
presidential campaign, and let Oregonians vote for
And still keep our national
conventions and those spectacular balloon showers.