A Few Kind Words For The New Campaign Calendar
Though I will often quarrel with David Broder’s policy conclusions, his judgments on the dynamics of presidential politics should be taken very seriously. He is in his fifth decade of following would-be presidents around, and that’s a lot of experience. Broder combines that experience with a superb command of the written word, and the effect can often be to silence opposing views.
In yesterday’s Washington Post Broder argued that the latest evolution of the presidential campaign calendar is a very bad one. (Among his descriptions: “truly insane,” and “bizarre.”) The shouting will be over, Broder suspects, by the end of February, 2008, and perhaps even earlier. As California, Florida, Illinois and Texas rush to advance their primaries to within a few days of the New Hampshire contest and a few weeks from the Iowa caucuses, the odds grow of the two nominees being settled a mere year from now and thus almost nine months before their November, 2008 show-down. The result? “[A] numbingly long general election campaign: a nine-month marathon that leaves contenders and voters exhausted.”
The fears the dean of the D.C. punditocracy harbors are of the good government sort –what if the nominee hasn’t really been tested, isn’t the best candidate, or stumbles badly after the prize is won? Add in the fatigue factor --the public will get bored, turn off the noise, tune out politics—and some will be persuaded that it has all gone very badly indeed.
Perhaps. But perhaps something else is in store. Perhaps there is some very good news at work here.
First, and for the first time in a long time, the big states are truly in the business of helping to nominate the president. California has no claim to a collectively superior political instinct than any other of the states, but it does make a candidate work hard to understand a set of issues from illegal immigration to port security to air quality and the entertainment industry’s economic dynamics than any other state simply because of its behemoth size. The would-be nominees are going to have to get deeper into their briefing books than ever before. That’s a good thing as it will show us which of the runners has the capacity and willingness to master a set of issues at least approaching the number he or she will be called upon to handle for the fall campaign and beyond. I’m glad Iowa obliges them to study ethanol. I am happier that a Golden State primary is going to make them consider the impact on health care and public education of millions of illegal aliens.