Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

A primary election with little fanfare

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If a primary election takes place and there are no candidates around to hear it, does it make any noise?

Rumor has it that Maryland will hold a presidential primary election on Tuesday.

With limited exception, the candidates have ignored us. Even more telling is the fact that I have seen no political advertising in local or state media purchased by any of the presidential candidates in either party.

Obviously, Maryland is not a ‘‘battleground” state in the scheme of presidential election strategy. We are obviously an afterthought. They will take our delegates if they can get them, but obviously our delegates are not worth fighting for, or even spending any money for.

The manner in which the two major parties choose candidates for president is long broken and needs major repair. The idea is absurd that a handful of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire play such a large role in selecting the candidates we will vote for in November.

Serious candidates for president are forced to spend many months (in some cases more than a year) wandering the farm fields of Iowa in search of a few hundred votes to put them over the top.

Meanwhile, they ignore states like ours, as though our votes are not as important as those cast in a few small but politically important states.

So, I have two proposals to reform the selection process for each party’s candidates for president.

One option is a national primary. We could hold it on the Monday after the Super Bowl, and make it a national holiday. Half of you don’t go to work anyway, being ‘‘worn out” from your Super Bowl party.

Think about the possibilities. Instead of just seeing beer and car commercials during the Super Bowl, every four years we could see how creative the candidates could be with their own Super Bowl commercials. Picture this: Bud Bowl II between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Or Dick Cheney saying ‘‘Tastes Great!” and Ted Kennedy crying out ‘‘Less Filling!”

The other option is to go back to the smoke-filled rooms. Make the parties’ political conventions actually mean something. Each state would have an election for its delegates. Those delegates would go to the convention unattached to any candidate, and pick the candidate they thought had the best chance of winning in November.

The Constitution gives us the right to vote for president. It says nothing about how the candidates are chosen by political parties.

In fact, when the Constitution was written, political parties were considered a threat to the unity of the nation. I think the Founders Fathers had it right on that one.

And while we’re talking about the Maryland primary, has anyone seen or heard anything from the candidates in the race for the 6th District seat in the House of Representatives?

On the Republican side, it is a foregone conclusion who will be nominee. Among the Democrats, I find it hard to believe that Jennifer Dougherty threw her hat into the ring without intending to make a little bit of noise. Lord knows she made plenty of it while mayor.

District 6 spans eight counties. The ex-mayor is barely known in Frederick County outside the City of Frederick. Where are the campaign ads? Where are the rallies? One has to wonder whether she filed for this seat for the sole purpose of keeping her name in the paper in anticipation of the 2009 city election.

Oh, my goodness! I almost forgot about the school board race. I’m sure we all know where every candidate stands on the important issues in that race. If we only knew what the issues were. So don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. But if you do, don’t worry about it. I don’t think any of the candidates will notice.

Blaine R. Young hosts Frederick Forum on 930 WFMD, and served one term as alderman for the City of Frederick. To submit a letter to the editor in response to this column, log onto www.gazette.net, and click on the Speak Out tab.