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Letter From the Editor

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"One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is the dangers of contraception in this country. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

That's GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum explaining his opinion that states should have the right to ban contraception. Does anyone with half a brain cell think that the country would elect as president a man who thinks contraception should be outlawed? And yet, Santorum came within eight votes of winning the Iowa caucuses. That result says more about the ludicrous way America picks its presidential nominees than anything else I could write.

The process is beyond flawed. In Iowa, for example, less than .4 percent of the general electorate "voted" to make Santorum the nominee. The election took place in caucuses, where die-hard registered Republicans willing to endure a few hours of debate argued for one candidate or another. In New Hampshire, on the other hand, independents are allowed to vote, making it possible for the likes of the more moderate Jon Huntsman to move into contention.

Next, the whole circus moves to South Carolina, where the religious right will make things difficult for moderates — and Mormons — like Huntsman and leading candidate Mitt Romney and will no doubt lift a fringe nutjob like Santorum or Rick Perry back into the mix.

And so it will go, on into February — from Florida to Nevada to Maine to Colorado to Minnesota — each state with different rules, each state with an electorate tailored to one candidate or another's sweet spot. March 6th is "Super Tuesday," when 10 states, including Tennessee, hold primaries. But many of the most populous and important electoral states — Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin — don't hold primaries until April. And California, the nation's most populous state, doesn't hold its primary until June 26th.

How much attention would anyone pay to the Kabuki theater in Iowa if the California primary were the following week? And what if tiny New Hampshire's primary were held a week before the Texas primary? Would anyone care who the New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed? Of course not.

Here's an idea: four Super Tuesdays, one for each U.S. time zone, beginning in January. Unlikely? Yes. But at least it would spare us the absurdity of having to waste brain cells thinking about loons like Rick Santorum.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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