First, a disclaimer. I've been thinking about this post in my mind for a couple of weeks, and I'm finally committing it to electrons, magnetic fields and waveforms. Thinking about it didn't involve writing a draft, mind you, so I'll probably feel that this isn't as convincing as I'd like. But you can insert the passionate depths of my sincerity -- it's real.
Second, this a long post with two themes. If the first doesn't interest you, skip downward and maybe I'll still be able to make my point.
So... right now I'm watching NFL Playoff games on Saturday night. It's January and so college football is over and we've passed through the Wild Card weekend and now have the real playoff teams to contend with. Saw the tail end of the Green Bay game in a snowstorm and Bret Favre giddy as a kid on the field and the sidelines. Now New England is trying to prove that 16-0 wasn't a fluke. Next week is gonna be fun.
So... how many of you out there had a good end to the college football season? Seriously.
New Year's Day
As a kid, New Year's Day was special. It was the only day of the year we ever watched college football on the TV and in the middle of the day, one could click the dial through the three networks and keep track of three different bowl games at once. And them came The Granddaddy of Them All -- The Rose Ball. And the other networks gave up. The Rose Bowl was special. It wasn't a made-up match-up, it wasn't by invitation, it was governed by rules -- the winners of the Big Ten and Pac Ten conferences met every year in Pasadena and played a game.
Alas, such wasn't good enough for some people. First were the bowl games which tried to settle a Mythical National Championship. Then there were grumblings when the Big Ten or Pac Ten (Twelve) winner was ranked #1 or #2 and "couldn't" participate in such a Mythical National Championship. Eventually, even the Rose Bowl caved and allowed itself to host the MNC every couple of years, and allow an odd mixing of teams in the Rose Bowl when a leading team went off to another bowl.
This BCS Bowl Championship Series has NOT settled the debate for the MNC. The big bowl game this year, held a WEEK after New Year's Day, had two teams with three losses. And Ohio State did not look good, despite a #1 ranking.
As far as I'm concerned, I'd go back to the old ways and have a lovely football filled New Year's Day. And a Rose Bowl which doesn't care about the outside world. Sure, the lower divisions of NCAA football have national championship playoffs -- witness Grand Valley State University's recent showings in the last several Division II series. But the big Division I conferences are so different, that I don't think such a playoff and championship would really settle anything or satisfy anyone. Do we really need MORE of a production of football factories pretending to be college students?
I say the debate will never be satisfied, so let others argue about the MNC if they want.
Iowa and New Hampshire. First in the nation. Apparently it sticks in the craw of some states and some people that two "small" states get to go first. And I'm not even going to bring up the nonsense of starting the election races years ahead of 2008. This is only about trying to force an early and shortened primary season.
But here's the thing. In this rush to go early or be first, there's no spread to the primary season. No logical progression from state to state. Super Tuesday becomes Tsunami Tuesday. If this nonsense keeps up, we're either going to have a useless One Primary Day, like a national election, or the candidates will only travel to California, New York, Texas, Florida, and any other big state you want to mention. And the conventions? The national candidates won't officially be picked until the summer and then we have the election in November. Just what's the point of rushing to February 5th?
The parties tried to slow this tidal wave and suggested penalties if a state moved too early. For a while, it looked like the first 2008 primaries would be in... 2007. And Michigan decided to move its primary early -- to next Tuesday, the Ides of January. As a result, none of the Democratic candidates are going to campaign here in Michigan, most are not on the ballot AND write-in votes will NOT be counted. Oh, and no Democratic delegates are going to be seated at the convention. Good going, Michigan.
I like Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but the state's Republicans and Democrats have really missed the boat on the issue of the primary. First, no one WANTS to make Michigan a national election issue. Michigan's economy has been in trouble for a long time and there are no easy ways to fix it. Seems to me that most politicians would love to avoid having to talk about Michigan in order to curry favor with voters elsewhere. Also, no one wants to look too close at the structural reasons for Michigan's economy and realize that as manufacturing jobs go elsewhere, Michigan might be the unoptimistic future for more states... the country... Second, the rhetoric makes no sense. Objecting to two "little states" as having too much influence? Is this the road you REALLY want to take? That might makes right? Okay, Michigan, just abdicate your choice to California right now. It's the only decent thing you can do.
The Republican candidates are hitting and missing Michigan as they want to. Some are moving on to South Carolina or Florida as part of their strategies. The Dems are almost completely absent. And then there's the wrinkle of the Republicans NOT enacting a death penalty against Michigan going against their national party's wishes and moving early -- Dems could cross over and "cause mischief" with the Republican primary. Then there's Sen. Carl Levin, urging Democratic voters to vote in the Democratic primary anyway, and if your candidate isn't on the ballot, you should vote for "Uncommitted" and then the delegates will be free to vote for you candidate at the convention later. Yeah. Right. As if the delegates are going to be seated anyway...
(A Story) Back when we first moved into Michigan, the Democrats had a caucus instead of a primary. Oh cool, we thought, just like Iowa. Stand up and be counted. Real democracy. Uh, no. A Michigan Democratic caucus is a primary that isn't run by a neutral state organization. Our caucus was held at a small law office in Hancock MI. Jammed with people. And one of the volunteers wanted me to give him my marked ballot -- and he'd see it got put in the box. Yeah, right. As I recall, I wasn't voting for his candidate. I'll put it in myself. Had to insist on it. Actually raise my voice and suggest that he was trying to infringe on my right to vote. Got murmurs of agreement around me. The idiot backed down. (/A Story)
But worse, I don't think voting for Uncommitted tells the national party a message at all. On principle alone, I'm going to write in a vote -- even if it spoils the ballot. A massive number of uncountable ballots -- that will send everyone a message. And point out just how stupid Michigan's behavior is.
Frankly, I don't mind Iowa and New Hampshire going first. Someone has to, and having wintery states is a good thing. Left to themselves, those wanting to script an election would shoot only from warm, sunny locations. And small states means small politics. You can still drive around and visit people. Reporters still interested in filing a STORY instead of a sound bite can tag along and report on the dialogue between citizens and candidates -- and not carefully controlled rallies of only the faithful. And lesser known candidates have a chance with a small organization.
Football or Primaries. There are forces who want to script this stuff to make money (football) or control the story (elections). Call me whatever epithet you want -- I want things put back to where they worked. Not this crap today. Period.
Give me back New Year's Day. And give me back the old long primary season...