A look at primaries and a suggestion

Published 10:44 am Friday, March 11, 2016

Mississippi held its presidential preference primary Tuesday.

It’s an amazing thing, the presidential preference primary, and it’s strictly an American phenomenon. It began after the 1968 presidential election in an attempt to get the people involved in the selection of the next chief executive. It was designed to remove the selection of the nominees in the so-called “smokey rooms,” where delegates and pledges were traded like baseball cards to get a specific candidate the nomination. What it’s done now, is taken the nominees selection from the hands of the party politicians and put it in the hands of the rich contributors, who put their money behind a particular candidate.

The candidates make their announcements and campaign for more than a year to get all or a share of the delegate votes for the convention. To win the Republican nomination, a candidate must get 1,237 delegates (votes) to get the nomination. The Democratic nominee must secure 2,383. That takes a lot of handshaking, a lot of leather roast beef and rubber chicken dinners, and a lot of money.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

In a way, the primary system has gotten more people involved in the nomination process, but that has led to some boring conventions, where the nominee is already known. I don’t know about you, but I like to see a good floor fight, where the favorite is challenged and there’s a lot of trading going on to win. Or there’s no favorite and the battle is carried to the floor and the convention committee meetings like the platform committee, where a party’s campaign strategy is actually formed.

That’s the way I see the Republican convention going with the “Dump Trump” movement gaining steam now that the party faithful and old guard realize that Donald Trump, he of the bad hairstyle and the mouth that operates whether or not the brain is functioning. It could be an interesting 3 or 4 days in July.

Of course, we don’t have to go through any of this.

Let’s change the election process. Let’s do an open, non-partisan, winner-take-all election, cut the campaign time to three months, and limit campaign spending to less than, say, $1 million and no PACs. Let’s not hold debates, but a series of town hall meetings across the country in each state, where the candidates have to answer questions from the people they’re supposed to serve — the general public.

Maybe we’ll eliminate big contributors, make the process more interesting and really get the people involved.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll force the candidates to discuss the issues affecting all of us with straight talk instead of all the grace of a ballerina.


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John