06/11/2007 10:53 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Primary Idea: One Election, One Day

The states are rebelling. They are rising up against an antiquated political system that denies them their right to representation: it's called the presidential primaries.

One-by-one, states throughout the nation are taking it upon themselves to insert their voters into the primary process. Georgia and Alaska jumped on the early primary bandwagon most recently, meaning at least 15 states will elect their delegates on February 5th. Florida got even a little cheekier, leapfrogging their primary up to January 29th.

The presidential campaigns are scrambling to figure out how to deal with this development. The candidates must now spend their time campaigning for the votes of people all over the country, from coast to coast. And why shouldn't they? They are running for President of the United States, not Dubuque County Agriculture Commissioner.

Every election, Iowa and New Hampshire play an outsized role in the primary process. If the nominees aren't virtually decided after the first two states vote, they are chosen in the following few primaries. Only once in a blue moon do the states that vote later in the process have any influence. Now, there is a sudden rebellion against the idea that it's OK for the nominees to be decided by voters in just a few states. By moving their primaries, all the states are asking for is a say in the process of selecting the presidential nominees. You know, democracy?

So why not make this a sensible democratic system already, and hold a one-day, nationwide primary? Does this sound crazy? It seems to work for every other election we hold in this country. Imagine if we followed this ludicrous model in other elections.

I propose that in the next race for New York Governor, we let only people in Buffalo and Long Island vote on Election Day. If there is no overwhelming victor then we might let some other New Yorkers vote. In the next New York City mayoral election, we'll ask just residents of Coney Island and the Upper West Side to cast their ballots. Sound fair? Neither one of those situations would be more ridiculous than they way we currently choose our presidential nominees.

Defenders of the Iowa-New Hampshire model argue that it gives a chance for the voters in these small states to hear directly from the candidates in their homes. It creates an atmosphere where grassroots campaigns can succeed. Momentum and ideas triumph over money, power and well-produced television commercials. That's sweet and all, but it's not true.

Putting aside the very un-democratic notion that a small, well-informed group should have the power to select our leaders, the grassroots claim is simply a farce. The candidates who succeed in the current system are never grassroots success stories, but always high budget, high profile campaigns. Whatever the outcome of the primaries next year, one thing is clear: both parties will nominate millionaire elected officials with established national profiles. Will it be considered a grassroots success if a candidate who only spends, say, $40 million, is the one who wins?

The presidential campaign is now a national obsession that is followed 24/7 on cable news and the Internet, and no candidate will win without raising millions upon millions, airing countless television ads, and at some point, playing dirty politics. So why pretend otherwise?

The Iowa-New Hampshire model of presidential primaries just doesn't make sense.

So instead of creating commissions to tinker with it and watching states jockey to outmaneuver the old-fashioned system, why not just scrap it altogether?