Sunday, July 26, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: Reading Room

This is part five in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future. You can also find part one (National Primary with a Twist) here, part two (Two Birds, One Stone) here and the first installment of part three (Fair and Representative Presidential Primaries Act of 2009) here (second installment here). Finally, part four (covering the implications for reform based on the National Association of Secretaries of State change-over of power) can be found here.

I wanted to close Presidential Primary Reform Week with a heads up on some great reading out there on the subject. Yes, if you've tuned into this series of posts since last Monday, you've already been given a lot to look at and read, but there are a couple of books (one already out and one to-be-released book) that are on my wish list for the near future -- in times that are less dissertation-dominated.

The first book is an edited volume -- Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process by Steven S. Smith and Melanie J. Springer -- that the Brookings Institution released earlier this year. In fact, a made a similar claim about this book being on my wish list about a year ago before it hit the shelves. Eerie, isn't it? The entire process is seemingly broken down, but the book ends with chapters from Larry Sabato calling "reform by constitutional amendment," Thomas Mann dissecting the reform fallout from 2008 and Dan Lowenstein discussing congressional intervention in the process. I've mentioned the Lowenstein chapter before and it bears mentioning here again. It is the piece that breaks the system of reform down from a legal perspective and has the most usefulness for our discussions here. Highly recommended reading.

The details are sketchier for Barbara Norrander's new book on reform. It is, depending on where you look, it is due out either in September or next year sometime. However, around FHQ, this will be highly anticipated reading. Norrander has made a career in political science out of researching the nomination process (just look at her publications and this thorough list of primaries literature on her website -- pdf) and her upcoming book on reform shouldn't disappoint. Well, it won't disappoint me, anyhow. Here's the publisher's blurb on the book, Can Presidential Primaries Be Reformed?:
"Many people complain about the complex system used to nominate presidents. The system is hardly rational because it was never carefully planned. Because of the dissatisfaction over the idiosyncrasies of the current system, periodic calls arise to reform the presidential nomination process. However, the last major series of reforms from the 1970s produced many unintended consequences. Further, many of the current reform proposals are actually solutions for lesser problems and solutions for more major problems are highly unlikely to be enacted.

The main theme of the book is to be careful what you wish for. Reforming the presidential nomination process is as complex as the current system. In this book Norrander explores how presidential candidates are nominated, discusses past and current proposals for reform, and examines the possiblity for more practical, incremental changes to the electoral rules."

"Be careful what you wish for." Sounds like something uttered around these parts.

Anyway, both of these books get FHQ's seal of approval. If you're interested in learning more about the process, you probably won't have to look any further. Happy reading.

Recent Posts:
Oops! A 2012 GOP Primary Poll FHQ Missed and Another Rant on the Over-Interpretation of These Polls

Presidential Primary Reform Week: The National Association of Secretaries of State's New President

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