Yes, 2016 is coming. And that’s okay.
There’s an item in The Post today about a new federal PAC started up by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). Yesterday, we had the news that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) will be making a New Hampshire appearance. Yup, never mind that the 2012 Democratic National Convention is still weeks away: Dem WH 2016 is on. Expect Republicans to join in if at any point they think that Mitt Romney is a loser, and certainly if he actually loses, the next nomination race will begin by mid-November.
This will no doubt annoy lots and lots of people. So be it. It’s actually not a bad thing that presidential nomination politics never stops.
After all, the United States isn’t alone in this – only in the way it’s done. In parliamentary systems, each party typically always has a leader, who is also its candidate for prime minister in the next election cycle. And those decisions aren’t necessarily final; there’s always the possibility of another fight over it, and even in the party in government, maneuvering over promotions and leadership never ends.
Nor should it. Fights over leadership of a political party are fights over the identity of the party, the issue positions the party takes and the group influences within that party. In other words, a whole lot of democracy is going on when parties choose their nominees.
Think about specific issues. What’s the Democratic Party’s position on gun control going to be going into the future? That will in part be a function of what Democratic Members of Congress do, and if Barack Obama wins, he’ll have a lot of influence over it. But if the party’s position is going to change, it may well be because a presidential candidate picks up the issue, runs with it and receives a significant boost from activists, donors or organized groups in the party.
If the campaign really didn’t begin until 2016, then none of that could happen, at least through the mechanism of presidential nominations, until 2016.
So, sure, there will be lots of foolish speculation about all of the potential candidates, and sure, I can understand why people want a break from it, for a while at least. But the bottom line is that there’s no democracy without democratic parties, and there’s no intraparty democracy without open nomination fights. So I say: Let’s get the 2016 cycle going, now!