The Michigan State Senate has voted to move their presidential primary to Jan. 15, despite attempts by both national parties to place restrictions on the voting schedule. If the bill passes in the Democratic-controlled House, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has already suggested she will sign it in to law, sending the primary calendar out of whack.Michigan’s push forward is certain to spawn legislative action in other states (Arizona is looking to move, as is Florida), particularly Iowa and New Hampshire, who boast of their “First in the Nation” status in holding the presidential contests. If the race continues, we could be voting for ‘08 in ’07 with Iowa’s primary as early as December, sizing up both parties’ nominees by the beginning of February.

The sooner the nominees are determined the less actual say voters will have, which will only benefit the big-money frontrunners who can afford to compete in multiple states simultaneously.

More troubling is the fact that the days of the outsider candidate are pretty much done. Think what you will of the also-ran candidates on both sides of the aisle, they do offer options and speak on issues that otherwise wouldn’t be addressed. With the shortened primary season, candidates without national name recognition from the start will not get any media coverage, therefore no money. The rush to get a nominee will rob the nominators of the options that have marked the primary process from the beginning.

It will also rob voters of opportunity to get to know the candidates, to see them evolve over time and assess their consistency on issues. Pandering may well be the language that carries the day.

The idea of a tsunami Tuesday plays well in the media because they love what they can sell, an event. The bigger the event, the bigger the sale. It also starts the big show, the final campaign, earlier, which they also love. But is it good for the Republic?

We don’t think so.

Yes, long campaigns are annoying and expensive, but they also serve a purpose; weeding out pretenders, leaving only contenders.

Also, with the nominees being decided by the beginning of February rather than June, it doesn’t allow for any potential changes in the political paradigm that may occur, or things found out about a nominee that may change minds before the final decision is made. It’s like the difference between shopping in a catalog and shopping in a store. You may not know if what you bought fits until it’s too late, only you can’t send it back.

The primary system is not perfect and already involves all those concerns listed above, but to lesser degrees. Clustering the primaries will only serve to exacerbate those problems and, in the long run, may serve to harm the country.

Since the conventions will never return what they once were (and what we’d all be better off with them being again), the actual nominating process by the party members, they now will hold even less significance, if that’s possible. They’ll take place at the end of summer, long after the nominees are chosen. They won’t even be the pep rallies they’ve become because, in order to make news and have a partner to blanket the nation with, the Vice Presidential nominees will be named sometime around April or May, so all news will have been made.

The end result will be even lower voter turn-out. That’s the only conclusion when people are given so long to become indifferent towards, and even loathe candidates.

So, as you look forward to the upcoming (faster than ever before) primary season, think about all we stand to lose with our “gains.”

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