The governor’s political musings are interesting, but not necessarily in the state’s best interests.
The incompetence and confusion surrounding last week’s Iowa caucuses generated a lot of justifiable criticism, not to mention suggestions as to how the whole presidential nominating process could be improved.
Leaping to the forefront of the debate was Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who contended that Illinois should replace Iowa as the first state in the nomination process.
“We have the most diverse state that you could have for picking a presidential nominee. We have tech industry. We have agriculture. ... We have rural, ex-urban, urban communities all over the state. We have, you know, every swath of different belief across the state of Illinois,” he said.
Pritzker also put in the usual pitch for diversity, a subject that has drawn comments about the lack of it in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“Diversity matters, right?” Pritzker said. “And to have these states with no diversity come first, and somehow that’s going to decide who’s going to drop out?”
Pritzker is certainly correct that Illinois has a more diverse population than Iowa. But he’s most emphatically wrong in his suggestion that it’s mandatory to demonstrate a candidate’s broad appeal.
After all, it was just in 2008 that then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses, demonstrating the voter appeal that foreshadowed his election and re-election as president.
As future first lady Michelle Obama so eloquently stated about her husband’s broad public appeal, “We had a miraculous victory in Iowa. Ain’t no black people in Iowa! Something big, something new is happening.”
Conversely, in 2016, the Iowa caucuses provided evidence of Hillary Clinton’s many weaknesses as a candidate when she barely defeated Bernie Sanders. Her victory margin was the closest in the history of the contest: 49.8 percent to 49.6 percent.
So before Pritzker & Co. start blaming Iowa voters, they might want to think about what their party’s candidates offered. Voters will respond if they’re given someone and something positive to which to respond.
As for Pritzker’s proposal that Illinois hold a January primary, that would be a mixed blessing.
The biggest drawback is that in every presidential election year, the primary process would move up at least one, perhaps two, months.
Illinois did that in 2008. To give the Obama campaign a boost, legislators moved the primary election date from mid-March to Feb. 5.
That, in turn, forced all the other electoral candidates to file for office way early, causing many of them to have to campaign during the holiday season, when few voters were paying attention.
That meant that potential candidates pondering a run in 2008 had to decide by mid-summer 2007 — roughly six months after the 2006 election — that they were going to run. That’s excessively front-loading the process, cutting off the political air supply that the passage of time produces.
Illinois’ March primary is already too early. Held in a winter month, the usually nasty weather holds down turnout. That provides an advantage to party organizations, not traditional political newcomers who deserve an equal playing field.
There are always going to be complaints about process, particularly when things go as they did in Iowa.
People once complained about party bosses picking the presidential candidates. Now they complain about the primary process. Every solution brings new, unanticipated problems with it. It’s the nature of the beast.