Extremely Happy to See …

UNH's new president's name on this NYT ad protesting British academics' boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Thoughts on the NH Primary and a Few Modest Proposals

Prof Bainbridge caused a minor blogospheric stir by trashing the disproportionate influence of certain small states on the presidential campaign:

I live in California. Our population is over 37 million, representing 12% of the total US population. Indeed, if we were a separate country, our population would be larger than that of all but the 34 biggest countries in the world! We're responsible for 13% of US GDP. Indeed, if we were a separate country, we'd be the 7th largest economy in the world. We produce cutting edge technology, world class wine, and much of the nation's food crop. We ought to matter. And yet, we're virtually irrelevant to American politics other than as source of money that candidates then go spend in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
I believe my exact immediate response was: "Boo hoo." But Pun Salad readers expect and deserve a more sober and nuanced analysis.

Iowa … well, the prof has a point. The main effect of the early Iowa caucuses seem to be that candidates need to drop any sensible farm policy ideas they may have once entertained if they want to do well there.

South Carolina … um, sorry, don't have anything to say there, good or bad.

But with respect to New Hampshire:

First, there's not a lot new in the Prof's complaint. Various pundits have been making similar observations for decades. People interested in a vigorous defense of New Hampshire's primary should check out Hugh Gregg's monograph on the topic. Some key paragraphs:

Columnist David Broder was far more perceptive in observing: "Every four years, someone will ask why a nation this large, this diverse, lets a couple of hundred thousand voters in an out-of-the-way comer of this country decide who should be president. The answer is obvious. Nobody does it better."

I think most members of the fourth estate would concur with a Boston Globe editorial: "Toppling two presidents (Truman and Johnson). Kneecapping front-runners like Taft, Muskie and Mondale. Introducing future presidents like Eisenhower, Carter and Clinton. New Hampshire voters know how to size them up and lay them out. Rarely has the rest of the nation disagreed."

Still there are those who cling to the musty argument that our citizenry is not sufficiently representative of the American electorate to speak for it. They allege we don't have enough Asians, Mexicans, Eskimos or assorted others to be a true cross-section of the general populace. Maybe we don't Except for neighboring Vermont, where they say the cows outnumber and have more sense than the voters, we've got more "Ay'up" ankees than any other place. So who is to determine which minorities best represent the American dream?

We used to be able to say, somewhat proudly, that in the modern era, no President was elected without first winning the NH Primary. We blew that record in 1992, however, by voting for Paul Tsongas over Bill Clinton. We also got it wrong in 2000, favoring John McCain over Dubya.

So, sorry Prof, I don't see any real problem with New Hampshire. If you really want reform, I'd suggest an overhaul of the sterile and boring political campaign standbys: slick TV ads; "debates" that are really little more than gussied-up mass press conferences; endless posturing before special interests. In these days of modern times, informed by America's vast experience in producing mass entertainment, we can do better. Some modest proposals:

  • I'd like to see a Presidential Candidate Tournament on Jeopardy!. Do these people know anything besides how to be glib and superficially demagogic? Am I wrong in suspecting that this would make Celebrity Jeopardy look like a Mensa convention in comparison? Alex Trebek, being a Canadian, is an ideal neutral party to find out. Of course, we'd want to be Soberly Responsible in posing answers, concentrating on serious topics, for example:
    This animated alien is known for trying to blow up Earth with his Illudium Pew-36 Explosive Space Modulator.
    I strongly suspect only Dennis Kucinich would have a shot at that one. But I'd like to find out for sure.

  • Similarly: Presidential Candidate Survivor. I've never watched Survivor, but I've heard that their contestants plot and connive, reveal previously unknown character flaws, and have various sadistic things done to them. I'd like to see that. Not sure I'd learn anything important, but … I'd like to see that.

  • Continuing the reality-TV theme: in early 2008, all candidates are locked away in solitude with their 2007 financial records and only enough food and water for three days. Their task: complete their Federal tax return. Everything is videotaped. If they don't finish in three days … well, that's too bad. Everything will be forwarded to the IRS for processing, auditing, and possible prosecution. Benefits for voters and taxpayers: many and obvious.

  • Presidential Candidate Poker Showdown. Basically, I see Fred Thompson taking it from Hillary, while drawling out the same line Edward G. Robinson said to Steve McQueen in The Cincinnati Kid: "You're good, kid, but as long as I'm around, you're only second best." But then Mitt Romney pulls a derringer from his vest, saying: "Sorry, folks. I'm afraid this beats a full house," and starts raking the cash on the table into a saddlebag. But then John Edwards leaps up from the table, and runs away shrieking; McCain uses the distraction to smash a chair over Romney's head. After that, it gets a little hazy, but I'd like to see how it all comes out, wouldn't you?

Any other ideas? I'm sure nobody in their right mind wants to see this group sing, dance, or try to tell jokes.

Last Modified 2007-08-14 7:43 AM EDT