Convention Reform

(wikimedia photo)

(wikimedia photo)

Democrats are taking a look at reforming their presidential nominating process. Steve Benen is particularly excited by Elaine Kamarck’s proposal to do away with the superdelegates. I think I agree with that, but when it comes to this kind of reform it’s important not to expend too much energy on fighting the last war and also think about elements of the current system that could go wrong but didn’t.

On the top of this list I would put the fact that the quasi-proportional manner in which the Democrats award delegates to the national convention raises the very real specter of a totally indecisive primary campaign. As regular readers know, I’m actually a fan of proportional electoral systems. But that’s as a way to produce a legislature in which post-election coalition-building is an integral element of the process. A proportional system helps ensure that everyone is fairly represented at that coalition-building stage.

But when it comes to a party trying to choose a single standard-bearer the considerations are very different. If there’s anything we saw in the 2008 cycle it’s that the mere fact of an ongoing competition can breed enormous ill will even in the absence of huge substantive gaps. At the same time, bringing the contest to a decisive conclusion sets the stage for reconciliation. Under the circumstances, it makes a ton of sense to try to forge an election system that’s likely to produce a clear winner.