There is little or no reason for Missouri Democrats to feel excited or more than passably interested in the 2020 presidential primaries.
They are not likely to have anything greater than a perfunctory say about which of the 20 candidates who are running at this moment becomes the party’s challenger to Donald Trump in 2020.
Call this “Iowa envy,” “New Hampshire envy” or just an ugly dose of reality, but the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is likely to be pointless to Missourians in terms of helping to pick a winner.
This is how the 2020 primary elections will go, from the perspective of Missouri Democrats:
• First, prior to any of the primaries, a few of the candidates may drop out, but maybe one or two more will join the field, as there is still time;
• Feb. 3, Iowa voters will choose among the Democratic presidential candidates, with Missourians being unable to vote, and shortly after the caucuses, a few candidates may bow out as several of the top vote-getters advance;
• Feb. 6, New Hampshire voters will cast ballots, Missourians again will not, and after the voting ends the candidate list for Democrats again will shrink;
• Iowa and New Hampshire, though having few delegates and doing little to represent American diversity, nonetheless will enjoy huge amounts of press coverage and access to the candidates, giving both states undue influence over which of the many candidates will move to the top of the charts and which will become historical footnotes;
• A few days later, Nevada and South Carolina voters will mark ballots, possibly causing a few more candidates to give up;
• On March 3, Super Tuesday will arrive, sending Alabama, Arkansas, delegate-rich California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, delegate-rich Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia voters to the polls, and while Missourians continue to watch from the sidelines, the top one to three candidates will emerge to fight another day, with the rest, if they are realistic, dropping out;
• Then comes more voting, this time in Louisiana and Maine; and
• By the time March 10 rolls around and Missourians get to cast their ballots, the race may be over, in which case the way this state’s Democrats vote will be largely irrelevant, something that would not be new.
Maybe there still will be a two- or three-way contest and maybe the race will have been decided, but what is certain is many candidates Missouri Democrats could have supported definitely will be out of contention by the time the polls open at 6 a.m. March 10.
The problem is obvious. The primary system is unfair to Missouri Democrats and to Republicans when they have a contested presidential primary. Beyond Missouri parochialism, the system is unfair to about one-third of all states.
There is a solution.
Instead of continuing the present order of primaries, the Republican and Democratic parties should shake up the system. Starting in 2021, the parties should change the order of when primaries occur. Maybe the order could start with Missouri, Florida or Colorado. In any case, a new order for primaries should occur every four years and on a rotational basis so that every state, eventually, has an opportunity to be first.
The change would give voters in different states a chance to help mold some of the issues candidates adopt, to see candidates in person and to cast ballots when doing so makes a difference.
Most of all, doing so would be fair and inclusive – a reform this nation and all political parties should support.