Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Modest Proposal To Make New Jersey The First Primary State

During last night's Iowa caucuses I got some cool Facebook updates from my friends who live there.  They take Iowa's first in the nation status very seriously, and I wished I could join in on the fun.  Only problem is, I live in New Jersey which will be holding its primary on June 7 with some other states on the last full primary day on the calendar.  (The Democrats but not Republicans will go a week later in DC.)  By that time I am sure that my vote will be irrelevant.

Every presidential election year, there are the same complaints about the disproportionate influence that small, mostly white states like Iowa and New Hampshire have on the process.  Their position also gets these states special treatment, such as the ethanol subsidy, a boon to Iowa farmers.  The primary system is completely ridiculous, but this seems particularly unfair.  

If I were in charge I'd scrap the current system altogether and replace it with all states voting on the same day, about a month before the conventions, thus cutting the length of the campaign in half and saving us all a lot of aggravation in the process.  Since I am not in charge of things, I have a modest proposal: reverse the order of the primaries in 2020, switching back and forth with each election.  This way no one state gets a permanent advantage.

Furthermore, I would like to see New Jersey separated out from the other states at the tail end (like California), and for first in 2020.  I would also like to see, as part of this change, New Jersey switch to a caucus system.  There are many, many reasons to do this.  

First, New Jersey is much more representative of the country as a whole.  It is much bigger than Iowa and New Hampshire, with almost nine million residents.  Its population is 73% white, as opposed to 77% for the country as a whole, making it much more in line with the country's racial demographics.  African-Americans, Asians, and Latinos all make up a larger percentage of the population of New Jersey than they do of the nation as a whole, but not a whole lot more so.  New Jersey has cities, suburbs, and small towns, but no one city dominates the state.  One area where New Jersey is an outlier should also qualify it for first: New Jerseyans are more highly educated than the rest of the country.  Shouldn't that allow us in the Garden State to get bumped up?  New Jersey is also a moderate state politically.  The radical nature of conservative politics in a place like Iowa gives extra power to loonies like Ted Cruz, who wouldn't stand much of a chance in Jersey.  Considering that radical conservatism is currently the most disruptive force in our political life today, tamping it down would be great for everyone but the wingnuts.  The anti-immigrant rhetoric would also be very hard to sustain on the campaign trail in this state.  Simply put, if presidential candidates are force to pander to New Jersey, the whole country wins.

Second, New Jersey deserves to go first because the people of New Jersey contribute disproportionately to the rest of the country.  The Garden State consistently gets the lowest or near the lowest return of any state on its federal tax dollars, only getting back 48 cents for each dollar it contributes, making it by one measure the state least dependent on the federal government.  We've been paying the way for other states, but also having to live with the moron candidates that they vote for.  Enough is enough.  If states like Nevada and South Carolina want our money they've got to listen to our wishes, dammit. Having Jersey go first will rectify this situation, since politicians will scramble to promise the pork.  If New Jersey went first, I imagine that the train tunnel we need to connect to New York would suddenly appear.  The pock-marked, pot-holed roads would suddenly be as smooth as a baby's butt. You might call that unfair as the ethanal subsidy, but those roads are necessary to maintain the transportation network of America's biggest and most important city.

So yes, for reasons of representation and fairness, Jersey deserves to go first in 2020.  However, if justice doesn't sway you, maybe entertainment value will.  We see footage of the Iowa caucuses, and hear the announcers and commentators gush as they put their hands on their hearts about the wonderful nature of true democracy blah blah blah.  That's because Iowans are nice.  By contrast, I would imagine that a caucus system in New Jersey would lead to fisticuffs, salty language, and perhaps a knife fight or two, which would both be entertaining and provide a less sanctimonious and more real image of what pure democracy looks like.  Real politics is not a bunch of friendly Iowans in a room, but a bunch of sharp-elbowed New Jerseyans with bad attitudes and malign dispositions.

I can think of a bunch of bonus reasons, too.  New Jersey is small in size and has the densest population of any state, making it easier for upstart candidates to get a foothold here.  Instead of that godawful Pizza Ranch shite, the candidates could actually get to eat some real pizza for a change.

New Jersey is the nation's tugboat.  We may not look pretty, but we are the little state with a lot of strength that's been selflessly helping to push the nation along.  Can't we, even if just once, actually get a say in the primaries?  

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