A Ku Indeed!

Primaries: What If I Don’t Want Clams?

Posted in Life, Politics by Chris on January 13, 2008

From Dave Barry’s column in the Miami Herald:

The Iowa/New Hampshire system is insane. It’s like a 50-table restaurant with a big, varied menu, except that only two tables are allowed to order. If these two tables order clams, for example, or Michael Dukakis, that’s what gets served to all the other tables.

I have to agree. Why is it so important what two states think? The primary system has always made me shake my head, because it really is a great (and depressing) example of the kind of bandwagon politics so rampant in this country.

Think about it: why should it be important who wins Iowa and New Hampshire (other than to the residents of those states)? Well, because that plays a strong role in who wins the next state. And then the state after that, and so on. As people start to detect a “front runner” many people pile on, not wanting to vote for the loser. If the majority of people truly made up their own minds, primaries wouldn’t mean much to anyone.

So what does that mean? If a couple of people in New Hampshire and Iowa like clams, we’ll all wind up eating them eventually. Bleech.

(H/T to Steven Taylor)

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  1. eyeingtenure said, on January 14, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    I just read a similar topic.


    After Iowa, McCain won New Hampshire in 2000, but the other 48 states decided they were tired of clams. They wanted shrimp. New Hampshire’s first primary has mostly been wrong in deciding a frontrunner, anyway.

    The hard truth for any New Englanders who feel elitist about this is that New Hampshire losers are more likely to become nominees than the winners.

    New Hampshire gets the clam, but the rest of us choose the shrimp.


  2. Chris said, on January 14, 2008 at 5:14 pm


    That’s true regarding McCain. But still the issue primaries in general is a real one: those who get the “big mo’ going” early tend to win. Which seems to speak more to the bandwagon (not just in terms of votes, of course, but also in terms of financial backing) than anything else.

  3. eyeingtenure said, on January 14, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    In that case, if the quibble is with the idea of early contests, I can respond quite differently.

    The candidate who can have a high-energy, long-lasting campaign — the big mo’ — are those who are best able to lead the country.

    I don’t mean those with the best judgment, or those with the best policy choices, but those candidates who are able to get people excited enough to vote at all.

    Also, the early contests create a competitive month-long testing ground — where other candidates have someone to aim for, and where the frontrunner(s) have a target on their back.

    The idea, then, is that whoever is left standing will do the best against the opposition party.

    That it takes the form of bandwagon politics is unfortunate, but the most successful leaders in a given election year are those with the largest engaged constituency — the biggest bandwagon.

    That they’re more successful leaders — again, not most successful in policy or doctrine — is more a matter of them being able to amass wide support.

    Ideally, voters also consider which candidate will lead in the direction they’d individually prefer.

    I hope this is clear enough — I’m fried after a long day of teaching.


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