Broken Primaries – Suggested Alternatives

| January 9, 2008


I have been highly critical of the manner in which the US Presidential primaries are being conducted for the 2008 elections. In part because I believe, especially this time, that they are organized in such a way (and covered by the media in such a way) that the resulting nominee might be un-electable.

It’s quite unfair to criticize a processes and not offer alternatives, so here for your consideration (and entertainment) are my suggestions on what we could do. I am a firm believer in the rights of States to determine how they will conduct primaries, but lets pretend for a moment that they are all working together.

Option 1 – Presidential Candidate Playoffs

Americans love good competition, we follow the World Series, the Bowl College Series and the Super Bowl more closely and with far more study than the average election. And why not? You get the drama of the best going head to head, and frequently it is all resolved in a few hours; a week at most of the World Series. Here is how we could bring the same enthusiasm and excitement to elections.

Each party selects 8 people to run for President. If any party has fewer than 8 volunteers, we could stage a “Draft Round” (like the NFL) to bring the numbers up. Immediately following the Draft (if needed) the candidates have 30 days to get their messages out via normal means starting July 4th of the election year. The first round of the playoffs will be set for the first Sunday afternoon after the 30 days are up. During the 30 days, polling will rate each candidate’s popularity, and a head to head bracket will be developed. On the first Sunday, each pair of candidates will be in a 30 minute televised contest. During the 30 minutes (moderated by someone like Dennis Miller or Steven Colbert) the candidates answer questions, and can choose to either talk how they are better or the other person stinks. A bracket for this year might looks something like this:


After the contests airs, everyone gets to vote via the internet, with real time numbers and commentary on the usual media outlets. No holding of numbers until after the polls close, this would be an “as it happens” battle!

The following Sunday the survivors would be paired off again, until the final champion for each party is the only person left standing.

Option 2 – Presidential Survivor Series

Shows like American Idol and Survivor are a smash success, people love to become involved with the contest and in some cases they get to vote on who lasts to the next episode. Under this approach the entire primary would be conducted as a series of weekly one or two hour reality TV shows. Each party would have their own group that would be winnowed down to a final candidate.

Each week the presidential hopefuls would face two elimination challenges. The first would be a test of knowledge, diplomacy and policy. For example there could be a quiz format where the candidates are asked who the leader of obscure countries are, or what part of the world certain geographical features are located. Another example would be a test of diplomacy, each candidate would have to get a high ranking official of a foreign country to appear in person or via tape to expound on the virtues of the candidate. The candidate that can get the most questions right, or has the highest ranking official sing their praises wins that test, and would be given some “advantage” for the elimination contest.

The second contest of each episode would be the one that would determine elimination – it would be a political test. I can imagine one such example that each candidate is given 8 hours in the US city or town of their choice to raise campaign money on their own – no staffers, no supporters, no donors present. Just the candidate and their message, whomever brings back the most cash wins that contest and is safe from elimination. Or each candidate could be dropped along some road in “flyover country” and be forced to talk their way into getting rides with regular Americans, the first to make it to the gates of the White House without buying a ticket or bribing citizens for transport would win.

At the end of the episode, America gets 4 hours to vote via text message, phone, email or internet. The American public would vote who got removed from the candidate field one by one, until the strongest candidate remained. Twists and turns could be added, such as a contest that would allow one candidate eliminated early to re-enter the contest towards the end, to give the voters a “second chance” at someone who was not as bad as they thought at first.

Now you may criticize this as a means to trivialize our much revered and time honored process for choosing a President, but you have to admit, these approaches would engage interest and enthusiasm from the American public, and it certainly could not be any more annoying or pointless than what we have now.

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Category: 2008 Election, Commentary, Humor, Main, US Politics

About the Author ()

Bruce Henderson is a former Marine who focuses custom data mining and visualization technologies on the economy and other disasters.

Comments (2)

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  1. loscielos says:

    While we’re at it, I’d love to see some kind of adaptation on the idea of “speed dating” in the Political Survivor Series. 🙂

  2. kmickey says:

    Or an Amazing Race version where they have to pick their VP nominee and rush around the world w/out getting killed by natives or melting down and having a screaming fight where they break up with each other.