Here in Hancock County and across the state, Maine’s Republicans and Democrats will hold caucuses this weekend, all aimed at choosing their party’s nominees for president of the United States. Requests for absentee ballots suggest that turnouts may be greater than usual. That may be a good thing, given the need for thoughtful and informed discussion and deliberation before voting.
But when it comes to the choices available, it’s a dismal proposition. The Republican field is dominated by three candidates who, by their personal demeanor and public utterances, have demonstrated their lack of fitness for the nation’s highest office. On the Democratic side, one of the two major candidates is facing continued federal review of her conduct as secretary of state and could even become embroiled in legal proceedings before that race is decided.
This newspaper long has argued that the process of choosing a president, which now extends for well over a year prior to election, is desperately in need of change. The citizens of Hancock County, Maine and the United States would be well served by a single, national presidential primary election, perhaps in late May or early June, held on the same day in every state. And that primary election should be open to unenrolled voters as well as those who are members of a particular political party.
Every four years, the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries take on an importance that is entirely unjustified. The outcome of those first-in-the-nation votes in early January can make or break many a candidate who might enjoy far greater support in some other state, were those voters given a chance to express themselves. In neither Iowa nor New Hampshire does the voter demographic reflect the broader population of the nation. Under the current system, Americans have no voice in deciding who will even be up for consideration by the time their own primary rolls around.
Two or three small states should not be given a disproportionate voice in deciding who the rest of America’s citizens will have an opportunity to even consider. And, across the country, the presidential primary election should be open, not restricted to the party faithful. All citizens have an interest in helping choose who they’d like to consider as candidates. The quality of candidates would improve as the excessive influence wielded by the more extreme elements of major parties diminishes.
Such changes could not come in time to change this year’s impending debacle, which could result in the nominations of two candidates, neither of whom is fit to serve as our next president. But if enacted, they would at least inject an element of fairness into an election process that has become an anathema to the democratic process.