So, I have more or less thought my way through the whole PA primary deal, with the help of those more informed than me. Here are some of the conclusions that appear inevitable.
Q: Why does the title of this post suggest John McCain dislikes representative government?
A: His minions are conspiring to render my primary vote as influential as Joe Lieberman at a MoveOn.org rally, so it appears he feels ambivalent about the founding priciples of our Republic, at least when it comes to presidential primaries in large states in which he is underperforming.
A: A man named Bob Gleason is head of the GOP in the state of Pennsylvania. According to this bio, which needs to be updated, he is currently “put[ting] together an aggressive plan to deliver victories for Senator Rick Santorum, Lynn Swann, our Congressional candidates, and statehouse candidates this November.” As soon as he is done working on that plan, which is now a little late given the results in November, he will be spending his time working to elect John McCain as President.
Q: What does he have to do with the state of representative government in Pennsylvania?
A: John McCain is Gleason’s man, and McCain is flailing in PA. McCain is, nonetheless, the choice for a disproportionate number of PA politicos who have apparently decided the wishes of their constituents are, at best, ill-informed. Given this, Gleason has decided an early primary is no good for PA, as it is no good for McCain. Instead he would rather have a straw poll in which GOP party people vote. This would artificially deflate Giuliani’s apparent support since the remnants of popular former governor Tom Ridge’s organization are McCain and Romney people, mostly.
Q: I hear with an early primary school boards would be inconvenienced. They would have to submit their budgets really early because of the real estate tax reforms that demand voter approval of tax increases beyond the rate of inflation. The only answer is to bifurcate the primary, having one in February, and one in the spring. This would be too expensive.
A: Not entirely true. If we bifurcated the primary the only thing that would have to be on any local spring primary would be proposals from school boards that want to raise taxes above the rate of inflation. Given that many school boards will be exempt from this requirment, and of the ones remaining only a few would try to be raising taxes enough to invoke a referendum, not many localities would have to hold a second primary at all. So it won’t be that expensive. Furthermore, since the tax raise will be the only thing in that second primary it will be easier for local activists to motivate the voters to shoot it down. It won’t be a plain wallflower on a dance card of full of sexier electoral choices.
Finally, the ultimate benefit of doing this would be the not inconsequential result that Pennsylvanians will be able to choose from among a dozen potentially relevant presidential candidates rather than just two. I think this is good, as I happen to be a fan of democratic republicanism, as were the Founding Fathers.
Q: But moving up the primary will distract voters from potentially important local races, won’t it? Who’s going to pay attention to the county commissioner race when pre-occupied by a presidential choice?
A: With a February 5 primary Pennsylvania will become the fourth largest state with a relevant primary. Every candidate running for president will have to think about Pennsylvania on a daily basis the way I think about ice cream while on a diet. This means local politicians will have eager speakers named McCain, Giuliani, Romney, etc. who will be happy to make appearances at their events. If anything, dramatically more people will be more informed about these local races.
Again, a great thing for those that happen to be fans of democracy.
Q: I am always suspicious of Rendell, and he now wants to move the primary up, too. Even though he didn’t as recently as February. I am uncomfortable agreeing with Fast Eddie.
A: Well, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Eddie wants to help Hillary. The Clintons gave Eddie his first high profile national gig as Chairman of the DNC. This represented an admission to an exclusive club: People who could theoretically make a creditable run for the White House at some point in the future. Hillary is strong in PA, mostly because African Americans, at least in Philly, love her even more than Obama. Bill was the first African American president, after all. An early PA primary is good for her, so Eddie is for it.
Incidentally, I am all for a Hillary victory in the primary. Obama scares me more, mostly because he is such a cipher. Even Edwards scares me at least as much, as democrats from the south have a history of being strong in presidential elections and disastrous for the country.
Q: You’ve convinced me. I like democracy too, and am ashamed that John McCain doesn’t. It is entirely typical of him, too. His transgressions from the GOP are minor, but they always have a way of striking a chord inspiring disdain out of proportion to the actual transgression. What should I do?
A: I hear in the General Assembly the House is inclined already to move up the primary. All the democrats and half the GOP are for it. The Senate is a different matter, as most of the GOP is against it, having had their arms twisted and their minds clouded by folks like Gleason. So go here, find out who your state senator is, and tell him or her to stand up for representative government, and stand against cronyism and insider dealing. My state senator is Andy Dinniman (D – District 19), and I think he is pro-democracy, at least in this case, but I’m finding out to make sure.