The importance of the Feb. 5 primaries

by Beacon Staff • January 30, 2008

The mess of primaries on Feb. 5, Super Tuesday

Our View:

These primaries are especially important, and well worth your time.,For the first time since 1928, neither an incumbent president nor vice president is seeking the White House. Add to that the fierce struggles within both parties, a chilly economic forecast and a controversial war, and it's no surprise the primary season has been so dynamic and volatile.

On Feb. 5, Americans will participate in a Super Tuesday unlike any other, enormous in size and implication. That day will feature primaries in 24 states, including Massachusetts. It is imperative that college students participate in the elections, which will be of considerable historic importance in more than one respect.

Traditionally, meaningful primary battles were restricted to the early birds: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Conventional wisdom held that those crucial early votes decided the parties' candidates.

However, a newly compressed schedule nationalizes the effort and lends real significance to millions of voters who are typically mute in the nominating process. The old key states have failed to separate the wheat from the chafe: now it's up to the rest of us.

Some have failed to grasp this reality. There is a strange notion that the general election is what matters, that the choice between Democrat and Republican is all that counts. That assessment is dead wrong.

People often complain that the November vote presents choices that are not only uninspiring, but downright depressing.

If that's the case, then this primary, more so than recent contests, provides an excellent opportunity for voters to select an ideal candidate, someone worthy of standard bearing.

This year, there's an extra element in the mix. In 2008, Americans are not just able to select a potential president, but to change the face of their parties.

Will the Republicans punish their conservative wing by anointing John McCain, who has locked horns with the right on issues like campaign finance reform and immigration? Might the GOP sink further into Christian identity politics by rallying around Mike Huckabee, the one-time preacher from Arkansas? Mitt Romney poses the least threat to Reagan's coalition, but as a Mormon and a probable closet moderate, the governor would still represent a break with the past.

On the Democratic side, voters may choose "change" in the form of Barack Obama, a remarkable orator short on Beltway experience. Or the party could hitch its wagon to the Clinton brand, which is proven though heavy with baggage.

The choices on both sides may well define the character and nature of the respective parties for a generation.

Feb. 5 will be a day of answers, and we are lucky to help in their formation. These primaries will fundamentally alter our nation's political landscape. For your party, but more importantly for your country, cast a ballot on Tuesday.