After six interminable weeks of Pennsylvania, the primaries are telling us less and less. If this goes on much longer, we will be in real danger of falling permanently into cable-talk nonsense. We’ve already heard enough about “flag pins” and seen the umpteenth replay of Hillary Rodham Clinton not dodging snipers in Bosnia.
Even the big issue of the last few weeks -- was or was not Barack Obama an “elitist” when he said that people being ignored by the political process tend to cling to religion and guns? -- is getting us nowhere. If you like Obama, as I do, you probably think his comment perfectly rational. If you’re for Clinton or Sen. John McCain, you no doubt think the opposite. Call it a draw.
Pennsylvania’s vote last week showed virtually the same demographic breakdown as that of Ohio and earlier primary states: Clinton, as we already knew, received support from older white women and less well-educated white voters -- what Clinton strategist James Carville intemperately calls the “Alabama” sections of Pennsylvania’s electorate. Obama received overwhelming support from better-educated voters, blacks and young people.
Meanwhile, as the election drags on, the Bush administration is out of gas, and unnecessary life and resources are being lost in an unjustified war. Gen. David Petraeus has a new job. Lame-duck season is upon us.
So here’s a proposal for our primary-weary nation: Let’s just agree that whoever has the lead in the popular vote at the end of the primaries is the Democratic candidate. Then, in the boldest possible campaign reform ever envisioned, let’s hold the national election on Labor Day. Congress sets the election date by statute, so why wait until November (or vote on a workday)?
Democrats -- Americans generally, for that matter -- don’t need a revival of racial or gender politics, yet if the party conventions follow the present trajectory of this ever-nastier primary campaign, we’re headed exactly in that direction. It’s time to call them off.
But if there are no conventions, what’ll we do for a vice president? No problem. Concede Colin Powell to be the universal answer. He is in both parties anyway, and he would be a handy soldier to have on duty no matter who wins. Finally, have both candidates agree to appoint justices to the Supreme Court on the basis of talent and integrity rather than ideology, and we’d be off to a good start.
So let the Hoosiers, the Tar Heels and all the rest have their fun right through June 3, but as a nation, let’s save ourselves from an overextended electoral conversation that will only waste time, money and the goodwill the next president will need to govern.
Thanks to the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, we would have to bide our time with the incumbent until Jan. 20 of next year, but there’s no reason we can’t get a head start on a much-needed transition. That way, we’d really be prepared on day one.