Moving up the primaries is a dumb, dumb idea

Please allow me to raise my voice in opposition to the proposed plan to move the Arizona Democratic primary to Feb. 5 of next year so that we can be a part of the herd mentality attempting to short-circuit the political process by holding Humongous, Stupendous, Grandalicious Super-Duper Tuesday.

This is such foolishness. The primary season was fine the way it was. Going from the Iowa caucuses to the New Hampshire primary and then across the country, ending in California, gave voters and party leaders an opportunity to watch things play out, allowed candidates to tinker with their deliveries (and even their stances on issues), and gave the media something of substance to chew on. Now it's who can raise the most money in the shortest period of time and then turn that money into slick commercials with which to bludgeon the would-be voters.

About a millions years ago, through an odd set of circumstances, I found myself at the Ambassador Hotel the night Bobby Kennedy was shot.

I was still a punky kid, too young to vote, but Kennedy had struck a chord in me and my ghetto homies, so we volunteered to be "precinct workers." That basically boiled down to putting Kennedy bumper stickers on everything. If we saw a car with a (Eugene) McCarthy or (Hubert) Humphrey sticker on it, we'd put the Kennedy sticker over it. If we saw one with a Nixon sticker on it, we'd put the Kennedy one on the window. Not surprisingly, there weren't a whole lot of "Nixon" stickers in my neighborhood, probably because Wilt Chamberlain didn't drive through Pacoima very often.

We got invited to the victory party at the Ambassador and had to decide whether to go there or to see Don Drysdale pitch at Dodger Stadium. (Drysdale was putting together a record streak of scoreless innings pitched and Kennedy even mentioned Drysdale in his victory speech.) We honestly chose the hotel because we figured there'd be free food. Certainly not as good as a Dodger Dog, but free.

Anyway, that night, Bobby Kennedy won the California primary and probably wrapped up the Democratic nomination. It was June 4. Alas, an assassin's bullet changed the course of history and the country got saddled with Richard Nixon.

But just think of what led up to Kennedy's win that night. At the start of the year, Lyndon Johnson was a shoo-in for the nomination. Had we had one big Ultra Mega Google-icious Super Tuesday back then, Johnson would have wrapped things up in early February and that would have been that.

But the Tet Offensive happened in Vietnam, McCarthy entered the race as a serious challenger to LBJ's misbegotten war policy, Johnson announced he wouldn't run, then-Vice President Humphrey picked up LBJ's gauntlet and ran with it, Kennedy entered the race, Martin Luther King got assassinated, and the Democratic tide turned toward Kennedy. This took months to play out--horrible, tumultuous months--but months, nonetheless.

Just imagine what this nonsense is going to be like. Non-stop fundraising for the next few months, careful positioning and sniping back and forth across the ideological lines just to keep the other side occupied, and then, once the weather cools, all-out assault. The commercials will probably start around Thanksgiving and pile up during the holidays.

By the time we go to sleep on Christmas Eve, we're going to think that It's A Wonderful Life starred Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And wasn't John McCain that nerdy kid who shoots himself in eye with a BB gun in A Christmas Story?

Media outlets will love the ad revenue in January, traditionally a down month. But the average person, not so thrilled. It's an abomination, a bastardization of a process that was always flawed, but at least had a chance to work before the haters in Phoenix decided to let can't-make-up-their-damn-minds independents trespass in party primaries. And now this rush to judgment.

Hey, why wait until Feb. 5? Why not do it on New Year's Day? That lands on a Tuesday this coming time. So does Christmas. Why not Nov. 20? That way, when we sit down to eat a couple days later, we can be thankful that the whole thing is over. The way things are going, the official start of the Presidential race is approaching Jan. 21, four years earlier, as a limit.

This Feb. 5 idea is a bad one. The country and its voters benefit from watching the candidates compete in a marathon, not run a money-fueled sprint. Will we really know all we need to know about these people by then? Will we have the opportunity to watch them (inevitably) screw up and then try to fix things? Heck, this won't even give Fox "News" the chance to meddle in the outcome by showing clips of a few knuckleheads booing Trent Lott at the memorial service for Paul Wellstone or ridiculing Howard Dean's yelp of enthusiasm. (Okay, so those last two would be good things, but still ...)

I assume that this Feb. 5 thing is a done deal. About all we can hope for, then, is for no one candidate to emerge after Really Groovy Tuesday, making the remaining primaries, those that retain some measure of integrity, incredibly important. That would be a delicious juxtaposition.