Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dixville Notch This!

Dixville Notch, New Hampshire is the little out-of-the-way hole-in-the-wall settlement that has made a cottage industry out of being the first folks to vote in that state's "God-given" first in the nation presidential primary election. This arrogant little hamlet is described thusly:(emphasis added)
Dixville Notch is an unincorporated small village in the Dixville township of Coos County, New Hampshire, USA. The town is known for being one of the first places to declare its results for the New Hampshire Presidential primary and U.S. Presidential elections.It is located in the far north of the state, approximately 20 miles (30 km) from Canada.

The village is named for the mountain pass (or "notch," in White Mountains terminology) about a hundred feet (30 m) uphill from it, that lies between Dixville Peak and Sanguinary Mountain, and separates the Connecticut River's watershed from that of the Androscoggin. Dixville Notch is also the location, in dramatic mountains about 1800 feet above sea level, of The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel; one of a handful of surviving New Hampshire grand hotels, it is situated on a 15,000 acre (61 kmĀ²) plot, accommodating golfing in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Dixville Notch is best known in connection with its longstanding middle-of-the-night vote in the U.S. presidential election, including during the New Hampshire primary (the first primary election in the U.S. presidential nomination process). Starting in the 1960 election, all the eligible voters in Dixville Notch gathered at midnight in the ballroom of The Balsams. The voters cast their ballots and the polls officially are closed one minute later. The result of the Dixville Notch vote in both the New Hampshire primary and the general election are traditionally broadcast around the country immediately afterwards.

(Ed's Note:) Here's the "official" tally for this year's primary election in Dorksville Dixville Notch:

Barack Obama received 7 votes. (the landslide winner)
John Edwards: 2 votes.
Bill Richardson: 1 vote.
Hillary "the Countess of Chappaqua" Rodham-Clinton: 0 votes.

John McCain: 4 votes.
Mitt Romney: 2 votes.

Rudy Giuliani: 1 vote.
Mike Huckabee: 0 votes.
Fred Thompson: 0 votes.
If those 17 votebots registered electors who inhabit that cold, God-forsaken, pig trail quaint little hamlet weren't the self-appointed "first voters in the nation," I think that it's safe to say that this hole-in-the-wall wouldn't even be on the map much less garner nationwide attention every four years.

But all sarcasm aside, isn't what they do in Dixville Notch also indicative of three certain small states' (Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina) inordinate amount of influence on the Presidential election process?

Within days of Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's primary, it has been customary for a number of candidates (most often all but one or two) to stop actively campaigning or drop-out of the race altogether.

The usual reason that candidates quit is that following the primary, campaign funds tend to dry-up for those who did not win or at least place second.

The reason why funding is not forthcoming is because the winners of Iowa's caucuses and (especially) New Hampshire/South Carolina's
primaries are historically seen as having the "Big Mo" (Mo is for momentum, a term coined by George H.W. Bush.) and those who are willing to donate money to a candidate usually want to give their cash to a winner.

And money, it has been said, is the "mother's milk of politics."

If the pattern established in the past few election cycles holds true, (and even in an election cycle as interesting as this one, we see no reason why it should not) the nomination process will be finished in-all-but-name-only after South Carolina's primary is held on January 26th.(And yes, we know about Nevada's brand new Jan. 16th caucus; its influence remains to be seen.)

In all likelihood, the nominees will be known long before the primaries and caucuses that are scheduled for February's so-called Super Duper Tuesday, in which voters of at least 24 states will get to participate in what will be, in all probability, a worthless exercise that has historically served as a "coronation" for the one active candidate remaining.

Therefore, Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have an inordinate amount of influence on the presidential election process while those of us who live in states with larger populations (such as Texas, New York, and California) have little or no say in determining who gets to be the standard-bearer for either of the Republicans or the Democrats.

When pressed, the residents of these three (especially Iowans and New Hampshirites) will say that they should always be first so that they can engage in "retail politics." In other words, they want to be first because the can meet the candidates "up close and personal."

They also never fail to assure us that they "take their responsibility very seriously" and that they are in the best position to "put the candidates through their paces." What's unsaid is that they feel that it is their "right" to eliminate less-desirable candidates from consideration so that the rest of us (who live in the other 47 states) won't make the mistake of choosing the "wrong" candidate.

I find the smugness of Iowans and New Hampshirites to be particularly galling.

The argument put forward by those who say that the position of the priviliged three must be preserved doesn't stand up to scrutiny as there are other states with small populations that could just as easily serve as fertile grounds for "retail politics."

How about a "first in the nation" primary in one of the other smaller-population states such as.... Montana, Mississippi, or even Delaware?

Just imagine the fun and pure excitement (not to mention entertainment value) of having a "first in the nation" primary in one of the "interesting" smaller-population states such as New Mexico, West Virginia, or (for real kicks) Louisiana?

If instead of spending two or more years pampering the already-spoiled populaces of Iowa and New Hampshire, (Who've come to not only expect but to demand this pampering by presidential aspirants, even to the point of extracting promises from the candidates to uphold the process if elected.) the candidates had to plan for caucuses/primaries held in any of the states listed above, they would have to prepare themselves to meet a whole new (and different) group of people which are concerned with some very different issues than those issues that concern folks in relatively rural (and relatively affluent) Iowa and New Hampshire.

But that's not going to happen as officials of the "perpetual three who decide" don't hesitate to get together and orchestrate their efforts to maintain their monopoly.

Of course, the inhabitants of these three otherwise insignificant states Iowa, (total population: 2.9 million) New Hampshire, (1.3 million) and South Carolina (4.3 million) couldn't do to us what they do without help. These relative few have the connivance of the leadership of both the Democrat and Republican parties,
who punish any state that has the audacity to challenge the "presidential selection monopoly" that has been (and is) enjoyed by the residents of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

What will be done to democratize the process?

In all probability, nothing.

I'd be willing to bet that in four years, the states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will still insist on picking our presidents for the rest of us while the two major parties, (who actually control the process) will do nothing to alter this demonstrably anti-democratic travesty.

We can only hope that the less than 9 million folks who live in these three little states pick two good nominees for the 291 million of us who don't get the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the nomination process.

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